June 17: Deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani said today that the Centre would take a “second look” at whether Peter Bleach, convicted for the Purulia armsdrop, could be freed.
“This is a matter about which the British government had written to the Prime Minister also, and the Prime Minister had replied to that letter, pointing out the legal difficulties that are there in taking this step,” Advani said in London today.
“However, I indicated to Prime Minister (Tony) Blair yesterday that I would once again go back and hold a discussion with the law minister in this regard and find out if we can find a way out. I said I can appreciate that, having taken a certain decision in respect of the Latvians, the constituency of Peter Bleach may be having a viewpoint which may be wearisome for the British government. I can understand that, so I will have a second look.”
Earlier in the day, the British deputy high commission in Calcutta responded to the news from London that Bleach may be released with a mixture of consternation and cautious optimism.
“We’re in a fix since these reports have yet to be confirmed here,” said a spokesman for the high commission. “We don’t know if we can even tell Bleach this news. He would clearly be overjoyed, but without any official confirmation, we would risk dashing his hopes later on if this proves untrue. We always seem to be the last to know these things.”
Aides to Tony Blair said further talks on the subject were likely when Advani meets British foreign secretary Jack Straw today. “The British government’s position is well known, and we have made frequent representations to the Indian government that Peter Bleach should be released on grounds of fair and equal treatment with that of his co-accused,” a spokesman at Blair’s residence said.
Today’s news came only weeks after Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee responded to letters from Blair demanding Bleach’s repatriation.
Acting British deputy high commissioner Paul Walsh said: “His reply contained nothing new. He just said he didn’t agree with the British position and reiterated the Indian government’s reasons for his (Bleach’s) continued imprisonment, which he linked to the case against the fugitive suspect, Kim Davy. We did not believe this was relevant and thought Bleach had been discriminated against.”
Davy, the suspected mastermind behind the operation, is now believed to be at large in Denmark.