Ceasefire pressure on Lanka
Manoj names Kapil with hand on his heart
Life term for five Punjab policemen
Sharad passes the buck
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, May 24 
International pressure is mounting on Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga to sit at the table with Tamil guerrilla leaders as the US today said violence was not a solution to the ethnic problem.

India�s pressure on Sri Lanka to approach the talks table is much more understated because of its strong stance against external intervention in a sovereign state�s fight against terrorism.

However, both India and the US are against carving out a separate nation to accommodate the fighting Tamils. US under-secretary of state Thomas Pickering and foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh made it clear they do not wish to see a dismembered Sri Lanka.

As fighting raged in the peninsula, the focus shifted to Delhi where diplomatic efforts to find a solution were afoot. Lanka figured substantially in the two rounds of talks that Mansingh held with Pickering. The foreign secretary later held discussions with the Norwegian delegation, which included the nation�s deputy foreign minister Raymond Johansen and special envoy to Lanka Erik Solheim.

Mansingh told reporters that both India and the US expressed concern over the existing situation and hoped for a �peaceful settlement� that would �meet the aspirations of all the communities�.

Pickering said that along with India, the US, too, did not support the demand for a �separate independent state�. The US does not believe that a military solution is possible and, therefore, it was entirely �supportive of the Norwegian initiative�.

There has been some misunderstanding between India and Lanka over Delhi�s statement that it was willing to evacuate the troops trapped in Jaffna once the warring sides agreed to a ceasefire. Reports from Colombo suggested that Kumaratunga is upset with the public announcements by Indian officials that forces were being put on alert as she felt that these remarks would demoralise her troops defending Jaffna.

The Indian security establishment believes that though the war could linger on, it would be difficult for the Lankan troops to push back the Tamil guerrillas without fresh supplies and reinforcements coming in. But with their supply line cut off, there was no possibility of arms, ammunition and fresh manpower arriving from the Sinhalese-dominated southern part of the island.

It would, therefore, be difficult for Kumaratunga to come out unscathed by heavy casualties without agreeing to a dialogue.

The Norwegians, who wield considerable influence over the LTTE leadership, spent some time in Delhi briefing the Indian establishment on their talks in Colombo. The terms they had put forward on behalf of the LTTE to Kumaratunga were not found entirely acceptable by the Lanka government.

The Tigers are also believed to be preparing ground for a final blitzkrieg on military positions north of Jaffna as they realise that all overtures for negotiations are being snubbed by Colombo.

Pickering said the situation in Lanka is such that �we clearly believe that the need for humanitarian aid has become paramount. Innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire as fighting continues between the two sides.

Both he and Mansingh, however, asserted that both the US and India continue to view the LTTE as a �terrorist organisation� that has carried out �assassinations and terrorist attacks�.

Solheim told the Indians that all possible �options� were discussed in Colombo, including the possibility of India sending humanitarian aid to evacuate the Sri Lankan troops out of Jaffna to a safer place.

The Norwegians gave a fair indication that they were aware that they could not convince the Lankan authorities to opt for a peaceful settlement alone. India would have to help in the process.    

New Delhi, May 24 
Manoj Prabhakar today publicly named Kapil Dev as the man who had offered him Rs 25 lakh to play his �part� and help �lose� the match against Pakistan during the 1994 Singer Cup in Colombo. But he still did not offer any proof.

After an hour-long interview with the CBI, Prabhakar went over to the office of the newly-launched internet news website, tehelka.com, and had his 10-minute interview recorded on tape.

Prabhakar then made a dramatic appearance from an adjoining room and told the assembled reporters: �Main jo aadmi ka naam lena chahta hun, uska naam Kapil Dev. (The man I want to name is Kapil Dev).�

�I had played well against Australia the previous day. I had taken three or four wickets, made about 35 runs and my fielding was good too � I accounted for two run-outs,� Prabhakar told the interviewer.

Question from tehelka.com: �How did Kapil come to you?�

Prabhakar�s response: �I cannot forget that day even in my dreams and nightmares. I was in the bathroom of my hotel room and shaving. Navjyot Sidhu, my room-mate at the time, came and told me that Paaji (elder brother, in this case Kapil) has come to talk to me.

�Kapil told me that we must lose the match against Pakistan. I was terribly angry and started shouting. I was shouting at the top of my voice telling Kapil: �You want to sell the country to Pakistan, I am not ready for it.� Room-mates from the adjoining room, Nayan Mongia and Prashant Vaidya, heard me. They hopped over. They knew about it. Sidhu, too, knows about it. After I had started shouting, Kapil went back.�

tehelka.com: �Are you prepared for a lie-detector test?�

Manoj: �I�m ready. Jo jhoot bolta hai, wohi rota hai (Those who utter untruths are the ones who weep � a reference to Kapil�s BBC interview during which he broke down inconsolably.) Kapil did not put his hand on his heart to deny it. I am now placing my hand on my heart to say all that I have to say is the truth and nothing but the truth.�

tehelka.com: �Did you not tell others?�

Manoj: �That morning when I was about to arrive on the grounds, I told Azharuddin, the then captain, about what had transpired between me and Paaji. Azhar laughed it away and told me: �Tumne sabko bol dia�Before I walked down to the ground, I noticed the commentators� box. I went in and met Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar. I told both of them. Sunnybhai told me this is too important a match for you. Now you just go in and do your best.�

Asked why he had taken six years to reveal the name, Prabhakar said he had spoken to the management, the Board and even Ajit Wadekar, the then coach and later chief selector. On what he told the CBI today, he said: �I told the CBI whatever I had to. Now it is up to them.�

Why then did he allow Kapil to campaign for him during the 1996 Lok Sabha polls from New Delhi (Prabhakar fought on a Congress-Tiwari ticket)? �If someone comes to you during elections, it is always welcome. I would have done the same in a similar position,� the cricketer shot back.

Prabhakar claimed he has been receiving death threats. He said he was driving back home some time ago when two men stopped his car, put a gun to his head and said: �Pehele to tumhara career tha, ab tumhara life. (It was your career then, now it�s your life).�

Match-fixing inquiry

Delhi police teams are likely to visit South Africa and Britain to gather evidence, including Hansie Cronje�s voice samples.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Five Punjab Police officials, including an IPS officer, have been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of murdering a couple at Tiljala on Calcutta�s eastern fringe in May, 1993.

The 14th Additional Session Judge of Alipore, Sukumar Chakraborty, delivered the judgment on the five accused, now lodged in the Alipore Central Jail, on Wednesday.

The five � SP Sant Kumar Singh, DSP Sukdev Singh Chahal, ASI Ram Dayal and two head constables, Darshan Singh and Sukjivan Singh � were also charged with causing disappearance of evidence.

The incident had kicked up a storm as Punjab Police had not informed their Bengal counterparts that a team would be raiding a suspected Punjab militant hideout in Calcutta. Chief minister Jyoti Basu had taken up the matter with the Union home ministry saying that Punjab Police�s action amounted to violating the �territorial integrity� of Bengal.

In a crowded court room, the judge read out the voluminous judgment running into 148 pages amid pin-drop silence. The accused were later taken back to the jail.

Tapen Roychowdhury, who appeared for the accused, said they would go on appeal in the high court. CBI counsel Soumendra Ghosh represented the prosecution in the trial.

All the accused were on bail when the trial was going on. All of them surrendered before the court on Tuesday.

The accused were found guilty of storming the rented house of an alleged Punjab militant, Basir Mohammed, and his wife, Sakina Begam, at Picnic Gardens in the Tiljala area and killing them on the spot by spraying bullets in the early morning of May 17, 1993. They were staying there as a Sikh couple, calling themselves Lakshmi and Rani Singh.

But before anybody could get wind of the incident, the Punjab policemen fled with the bodies of the couple in a Maruti, keeping Bengal police in the dark.

The nearby Tiljala police station came to know about the gruesome killings only after the policemen had left.

The CBI ordered a probe into the murder following a petition moved by a Supreme Court lawyer, B.L. Wadhara. The CBI subsequently chargesheeted all the five accused after interrogating 112 witnesses.

Records say that Basir Mahammed was declared a dreaded militant after he left the job as a constable in Punjab Police and disappeared from the state with his wife without surrendering his service revolver on October 12,1991. After two years, Basir and his wife came over to Calcutta in 1993 and rented a house at Picnic Gardens.    

New Delhi, May 24 
After explaining to the Prime Minister, Sharad Yadav went public to clear his name of charges of ordering the Alliance Air �hijack� as whispers of an impending Cabinet shuffle grew louder.

Mein airport mein sambhalne tho gaya tha, par flight mere kahne pe bilkul bhi divert nahi hua (I did go to the airport to smoothen out things but did not order the flight to be diverted),� the civil aviation minister today told reporters whom he invited to tea.

The minister is under fire for allegedly diverting a Delhi-Lucknow-Calcutta-Patna flight to Bihar to please some MPs who wanted to be dropped �first�.

Yadav said he had rushed to the airport on May 12 as many flights had been delayed and he was swamped with complaints of �lack of proper arrangement� from several passengers and MPs, including those on �flights other than the one to Calcutta�.

�The inflight area was packed with passengers and I was trying to help out. I did go to talk to the Bihar MPs too. Some of them were quite rowdy. But it is the officials who decided to divert the flight to Patna because Lucknow airport was jampacked and empty bays were not available,� he said.

Airport authorities declined comment on the minister�s statement.

Yadav also denied reports that he had recently ordered Patna airport to stay open late into the night to let an Alliance Air flight ferrying his relatives land. �I don�t have any relatives either in Bihar or on that flight,� he said.

However, he added in passing that some other official could have issued such orders as the relatives of some minister or former minister was on the flight.

Political analysts feel Yadav is rushing to save face as a Cabinet reshuffle is in the offing and adverse reports might force the Prime Minister to change his ministry. He has already met A.B. Vajpayee and given him an explanation.

BA flights to continue

British Airways today announced that it will continue its flights to Calcutta. The Centre called a meeting with the airline where �considerable pressure was exerted on the airline to change tack.� Yadav confirmed this today.

�It�s up to them whether they want to extend the Delhi flight to Calcutta or have a direct link. But we made it clear they just can�t cut off Calcutta,� a civil aviation official said.    

Temperature: Maximum: 33.6�C (-2) Minimum: 25.5�C (-2) RAINFALL: 0.2 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 100%, Minimum: 64% Today: Mainly cloudy sky, with one or two showers in some parts. Maximum temperature likely to be 35�C. Sunset: 6.11 pm Sunrise: 4.55 am    

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