Delhi bid to keep Bihar pot boiling
Fresh vendetta in terror terrain
Twin troubles for rally-bound Atal
Boy dies as police fire on mob
World War cemetery resurrected
Calcutta weather

 
 
DELHI BID TO KEEP BIHAR POT BOILING 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 3 
Having won the battle in the Lok Sabha, the Vajpayee government seems inclined to drag out the issue of President?s rule in Bihar as far as the constitutional limit permits and try and gain as much political capital out of it as it can.

Reconciled to the prospect of defeat in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP-led government?s strategy is to corner the Congress and expose its ?anti-Dalit? face and its ?duplicity? on the Bihar plank.

Two Cabinet meetings today could not decide whether the government ought to table the presidential proclamation in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow. Neither could the Cabinet decide on whether it ought to seek judicial intervention in the Bihar matter and try to scuttle Rabri Devi?s reinstatement. Bihar BJP leaders and their allies in the Samata Party were in favour of this proposal.

The government?s spokesman, Pramod Mahajan, said a decision would be taken after proposals are received from the home ministry.

Mahajan said the government had kept all options open: tabling the Bihar motion in the Rajya Sabha and restoring the Rabri Devi government after a defeat; revoking the proclamation without going to the Rajya Sabha; allowing the proclamation to lapse after 60 days; and seeking the Supreme Court?s intervention in the Bommai judgment, which says an Assembly must be kept alive even after a state government is dismissed under Article 356.

?There are a lot of issues involved which may be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting. The home ministry can think of all options and come up with a formal note for the next Cabinet meeting,? Mahajan said.

He said the government had not yet thought of tabling the Bihar resolution in the Upper House. The Cabinet is yet to decide on the date of its next meeting, he said.

Union urban affairs minister Ram Jethmalani said in Chennai the government could seek no legal remedy on the issue. BJP sources, however, indicated the possibility of seeking a ?review? of the Bommai judgment to see if the Assembly can be dissolved.

The sources admitted it would help the BJP to hold polls under its own regime rather than one controlled by Laloo Yadav when the state government completes its tenure a year later.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee leaves for Bihar on Saturday. The Cabinet is likely to meet before that, Mahajan said. BJP sources said the ploy was to buy as much time as possible so that Vajpayee and other leaders could attack the Congress for going back on its Panchmarhi resolution, in which it had said it would have nothing to do with Laloo Yadav.

It seems unlikely the Centre will hasten the process of the Rabri Devi government?s restoration and allow Laloo Yadav to gloat when Vajpayee is in Bihar.

The Congress warned it would resist the government?s attempts to defer tabling the Bihar resolution in the Rajya Sabha and said such a step was ?politically wrong and constitutionally improper?.

The Centre?s strategy is meant to work on two tracks. It wants to deny Laloo Yadav the advantage of an immediate victory. The BJP believes if the Rabri Devi government is restored too soon, the impact of the party?s ?victory? in the Lok Sabha would be blunted, demoralising BJP as well as Samata Party cadre.

But the BJP feels it may be ?politically advantageous? to draw out the process in the Rajya Sabha. ?We can tell people how irresponsibly the Opposition, especially the Congress, has behaved during the budget session,? BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said.

Downplaying the revenge strikes in Jehanabad, BJP leaders claimed President?s rule had convinced voters that the BJP ?meant business in Bihar?.    


 
 
FRESH VENDETTA IN TERROR TERRAIN 
 
 
FROM FAIZAN AHMAD AND AGENCIES
 
Patna, March 3 
Naxalites stained Jehanabad with blood on Holi, gunning down four persons in the second attack in the district since President?s rule was imposed in Bihar last month.

The victims were upper-caste Bhumihars allegedly involved in the Narayanpur massacre of Dalits, which led to the dismissal of the Rabri Devi government.

Naxalites in police uniform swooped down on Bhimpura village, just over a km from Narayanpur, around 11.30 pm yesterday and shot dead three relatives of the prime accused in the Dalit massacre, Ramadhar Singh.

Ramadhar?s son Santosh, brother Ram Swaroop and nephew Pramod were killed. The fourth victim was Lallan Singh, also of Bhimpura. Ramadhar, a sadhu, is believed to have fled to Ayodhya.

Deposed chief minister Rabri Devi said this proved her point that President?s rule was not an answer to the state?s law and order problems. ?Could they (the Centre) stop Naxalite attacks after illegal dismissal of the state government?? she asked.

Rabri Devi was sacked on February 12, two days after 10 Dalits were killed by Ranbir Sena activists in Narayanpur.

?The people now know about the conspiracy of the BJP-Samata Party to dismiss the democratically-elected government on fake allegations,? Rabri Devi added.

The BJP, however, washed its hands of the incident, claiming it was a legacy of the last government.

?Governor?s rule has only now been imposed. These killings have been going on for quite some time. It will take time before such incidents are curbed,? party spokesperson J.P. Mathur said.

Describing the incident as unfortunate, Mathur said it ?does not mean failure of Central rule in the state?.

But the second burst of killings in less than a month is a slap in the face of the administration, which has deployed forces across the district and even set up a police picket in Narayanpur.

On February 14, two days after Central rule was imposed, seven Bhumihars were killed in an attack in Usri Bazar in Jehanabad.

The police failed to reach Bhimpura on time last night despite hearing seven rounds of firing. They arrived at the carnage site only this morning.

There is confusion about the outfit responsible for the killing. While Jehanabad superintendent of police Abdul Ghani Meer suspects the involvement of Party Unity (now known as People?s War Group), director-general of police T.P. Sinha blamed the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Party. Vinayan, who once headed the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti, said the outfit named by Sinha does not exist.    


 
 
TWIN TROUBLES FOR RALLY-BOUND ATAL 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, March 3 
Come the third week of March, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will have to walk the tightrope again and ensure that he does not hurt the sentiments of two of his most volatile allies, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha.

Both have fallen out with the state units of the BJP in their states. And on March 20-21, Vajpayee has decided to attend two state rallies in Calcutta and Tiruchirapalli, organised by his party?s state stalwarts.

Jayalalitha has already enacted her ?invitation drama?, complaining she had not been invited. Subsequently, she informed the BJP of her inability to attend the party?s state conference because of ?prior engagements?.

Mamata has already dropped broad hints that she might feel let down if Vajpayee chooses to attend the BJP rally instead of following the Bengal itinerary she intends drawing up for him.

The Prime Minister?s Office (PMO) confirmed today that Vajpayee will be present at the rally which the West Bengal BJP plans to host at the Brigade Parade Ground in Calcutta on March 20. A final decision is yet to be taken on his stay that evening in Calcutta.

But with Parliament in session, the Prime Minister may not be able to spend time in the city and will have to rush off to Tamil Nadu to address another meeting the next day.

It is likely that Vajpayee may personally invite Mamata to attend the BJP rally and share the dais with him. Mamata?s aides in Delhi said that she had not received any invitation yet.

Sources agreed it would be somewhat embarrassing for Vajpayee if both Mamata and Jayalalitha stay away during his rallies when he visits their two states.

The PMO is aware that the state unit might not be too pleased if Vajpayee invites Mamata. Even then, for the sake of protocol, the BJP think-tank is toying with the idea of urging the state unit to request Mamata to attend the Brigade rally and share the dais with Vajpayee.

But the Bengal BJP has been insisting on this rally for quite some time and a section of leaders wondered if Delhi should let down the state unit.

Though it remains to be seen how Mamata responds to a possible invitation from Vajpayee, the PMO is resigned to the fact that Jayalalitha will not attend the Tiruchirapalli rally.

When the relationship between the BJP and the ADMK had reached its nadir last year, Vajpayee had scored a point by going over to Chennai to attend a MDMK conference organised by its leader Vaiko.

The BJP in Delhi feels that in turning down the invitation, Jayalalitha is not really speaking out against the Central leadership. She is only expressing displeasure at the state BJP?s closeness to her estranged allies in the state.

To make things easier for Jayalalitha, the BJP even began describing the Tiruchirapalli meeting as a national conference. But she has now sent a letter wishing success to the conference but pleading inability to attend.    


 
 
BOY DIES AS POLICE FIRE ON MOB 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Hooghly, March 3 
A teenager was killed and over 60 wounded when police opened fire to disperse a mob protesting an alleged molestation during a raid.

Jagannath Chowdhury, a 13-year-old student, died during the firing at Bander in Khanakul, Arambagh sub-divisional officer Gopinath Mukherjee said tonight.

Akbar Ali Khandekar, Trinamul Congress MP, alleged that three persons were killed in the firing. But the police refused to confirm this.

The flare-up occurred after villagers alleged that a woman was molested by the police during a raid on Dhanyaguri village last night. A complaint was lodged at Khanakul police station.

As word spread, Trinamul and BJP supporters, mostly women, led villagers to the Bander police outpost and locked up the 15 policemen resting after the raid.

When police reinforcements arrived, the mob blocked their entry, surrounded the vehicles and set three of them on fire. The driver of one vehicle was abducted and released later with injuries.

The police first resorted to a lathicharge. When this did not work, they opened fire. While five persons suffered bullet wounds, over 60 were injured in the skirmish.

Sources said tension had been simmering in the area, with sporadic clashes between Trinamul and CPM supporters.

Trinamul supporters claim the police are ?blatantly? supporting the CPM. They said three boys who are to take the Madhyamik examinations tomorrow were arrested because they back Trinamul.    


 
 
WORLD WAR CEMETERY RESURRECTED 
 
 
FROM MAMANG DAI
 
Itanagar, March 3 
Officials have stumbled upon a mysterious cemetery along an unused road built during the Second World War in Arunachal Pradesh.

A preliminary estimate of the state archaeology department suggests there could be more than 1,500 graves in the cemetery that lines both sides of the historic General Stilwell Road in Changlang district.

Located in the Hongkap reserve forest between Jairampur and Nampong, the graves are laid in neat rows. Walled-in by bricks, each grave is 1.28 metres wide, 2.20 metres long and about one-and-a-half-feet high with an inch-thick concrete slab on top.

Tage Tada, deputy director (archaeology), who is supervising excavation at the site, says the Stilwell Road cemetery could be larger than the famous war cemetery in Kohima, Nagaland. The Kohima Cemetery, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, attracts visitors from across the country and England. It is famous for the epitaph: ?When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.?

The dead and buried of Stilwell Road, in contrast, were known only to villagers near the site who have lived among the graves ? almost entirely hidden in the shrubbery ? without really giving them much thought. A survey was done last year presumably after an officer of the Assam Rifles took an interest in the cemetery. The state government confirmed the existence of the graves recently.

So far, little is known of the men who were buried. An epitaph over one of the graves reads: ?Major Hsiao Chu-Ching, Company Commander of 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion of 10th Regiment, Independent Engineers of Chinese Army stationed in India.? He was born in July 1913 at Wei county in Hopeh province, and died in December 1943. The epitaph is written in Chinese. It was translated by an army officer, Lt. Col. Upadhya.

Stilwell Road, named after Gen. Joseph Stilwell (?Vinegar Joe?), deputy supreme commander of the Allied Forces, South-East Asian Command (SEAC) during World War II, served as a vital supply link to South Asia when the Japanese invasion forces closed in on Myanmar from the north through China, and from the south through Thailand. In more recent times, intelligence agencies suspect the dilapidated road is used by militants travelling from camps to and from Myanmar.

As Japanese pressure from the south increased, it became imperative for the Allies to find an alternative land route from India to supply Chiang Kai-Shek?s Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) Army, which was fighting the Japanese in China. Stilwell proposed the construction of an all-weather two-lane road from India to China through north Myanmar.

The Ledo-Bhamo-Burma Road that passed through three countries stretched for 1,725 km from Ledo in Assam through Myanmar linking Burma Road, built during World War I, in Myanmar. From here, the engineers were required to widen, straighten and re-metal Burma Road for 614 miles upto Kumming, the capital of Yunnan province in China. Many lives were lost during the construction of Stilwell Road, which had come to be called the ?Man-a-Mile Road?.

The 31-km-stretch of the road that passes through Arunachal from the Jairampur check-gate to the Pangsau pass on the Indo-Myanmar border is being maintained by the state public works department. A short drive beyond Pangsau gives a full view of the ?Lake of No Return? that served as an important landmark for Allied pilots on their return missions. Many aircraft were reported lost in the lake which local people believed was poisonous.

Though the graves that have been unearthed till now are mostly of Chinese, Tada said it is possible that British, American and Indian soldiers were also buried here. He thought it most likely that several graves have been built over Indian dead, who worked as labourers on Stilwell Road. Tada said there was still not enough information on where and how they died.

There is no record of a major battle having being fought here. Malaria and tropical diseases surely claimed many lives. It is equally possible that the dead of battles fought elsewhere lie buried along Stilwell Road.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Little change in day and night temperature.

Temperature:Maximum 32?C (1?C below normal)
Minimum 18.8?C (1?C below normal)

Relative humidity:Maximum 84%
Minimum 29%

Rainfall:Nil

Sunrise:6 am
Sunset:5.36 pm
   
 

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