Centre frowns on Dhindsa overdrive
Sena keeps promised date with dance of death

New Delhi, June 17: 
The A.B. Vajpayee government is not too happy with sports minister S.S. Dhindsa�s off-the-cuff remarks on match-fixing. The minister yesterday said the Centre could consider offering amnesty to cricketers if they agreed to come clean.

Sources said the Prime Minister had not uttered a word on cricket because a high-level probe, agreed upon by parliamentarians across party lines, had been ordered and the CBI was handling the case.

Dhindsa has made several faux pas in the past. When the scandal first broke, inspired by a theory being propagated by a particular cricket lobby, the minister suggested that betting could be legalised. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had then got information technology minister Pramod Mahajan to talk to him and have a denial issued.

At present, neither the BJP nor the Prime Minister want to meddle with the match-fixing mess. The BJP has, however, said the CBI inquiry should be time-bound.

The government was waiting for the investigating agency to submit its preliminary report before setting a time-frame. But now that Azharuddin�s name is figuring in the case along with Kapil�s, the government believes the CBI needs to be given more time.

Therefore, it is surprised that Dhindsa went ahead and made a statement on the possibility of dealing leniently with cricketers or granting them amnesty along the lines of South Africa.

Sources said the situation in the two countries cannot be compared. While in South Africa a large number of fans would like to see Hansie Cronje pardoned, the popular perception here is different. Cricketers lost a large section of their fan following when the needle of suspicion was pointed at them. Showing leniency towards the tainted cricketers, therefore, may not go down well with the public.

The government, which has so far adopted a hands-off policy, has also reacted strongly to Dhindsa�s other statements. Soon after the tehelka.com tapes came out, the minister had said Manoj Prabhakar�s candid camera interviews were �unethical�.

Then, after Cronje declared that Azharuddin had introduced him to a bookie, Dhindsa went on air to suggest that the former captain should not play cricket till he was cleared. He changed his stand the next day and said both Azharuddin and Kapil should stay away till the air cleared.

It is likely that either Vajpayee or home minister L.K.Advani will speak to Dhindsa and ask him to either not speak to the media at all or, at the least, be as guarded as possible.    

Aurangabad, June 17: 
On the way back from Wasaligunge, where 12 Bhumihars were massacred last week, our car was stopped just outside the village. A strapping 19-year-old came up and said: �We will meet again at a new carnage site. The death toll will be higher.� The youth went back whistling.

Visiting the site of today�s bloodbath in Aurangabad, the stranger�s voice resonated as I trudged the 5-km stretch from Goh to this village through vast green fields. The death toll is set to cross 45 as several of the injured may not survive the point-blank range firings by the Ranbir Sena.

The encounter with the stranger at Afsad village in Nawada, 3 km from here, had made it clear that the killings by gangsters in Nawada had recharged the caste revenge spree in Bihar. �No one knows where this will lead to,� said Sanjay Singh, a deputy superintendent of police, Mianpur.

Police officers in Aurangabad said that immediately after the Bhumihar killings, Ranbir Sena chief Brahmeswar Singh had approached Nawada�s upper caste gangster Akhilesh Singh. Brahmeswar offered his services to Akhilesh so that the Bhumihar deaths could be avenged.

On June 15, over 1,000 Ranbir Sena activists left their stronghold in Bhojpur and arrived at the Nawada-Aurangabad border through Biharsharif, intelligence sources said. But this went entirely unnoticed by the police.

Brahmeswar had been busy tackling organisational problems in the Sena after the outfit failed to avenge the massacre of 34 Bhumihars in Senari in March 1999. The Sena had managed to kill only 12 backwards in retaliation.

�The Sena took one long year to complete its mission. But it is a humiliation for the Rabri government that she failed to stem the march of Sena,� said Rameswar Singh, a former CPI MLA.

�Brahmeswar wanted to put his house in order and he needed a massacre, he did it to survive,� said a senior police officer.

The Ranbir Sena was wracked by dissent on the eve of the Assembly polls when a large section of its cadre, led by Sunil Pandey, left to contest the elections.

The organisation then went on a fresh recruitment drive and got 200 cadre trained by former army personnel. Brahmeswar also went on a shopping spree, buying sophisticated weapons.

State chief secretary V.S. dubey today admitted that automatic rifles were used to spray bullets on innocent villagers. �You may call it an administrative failure if you want to. But how many villages can the government protect?� he asked.    


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