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Tuesday, August 4, 1998
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Terrorists massacre 35 in Chamba
From S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Aug 3 —In the first-ever major terrorist incident in Himachal Pradesh, Kashmiri militants today gunned down atl east 35 persons and wounded 11 others in Kalaban and Satrundi villages of Chamba district bordering the terrorist-infested Doda area of Jammu.

The terrorists, armed with sophisticated weapons, stormed Kalaban village around 3 a.m. and sprayed bullets killing 26 labourers on the spot and injuring eight others.

Later, they killed nine other labourers and wounded three in Satrundi village while returning to Doda.These labourers were camping there to carry ration supplies to the Pangi valley.

The terrorists killed a police constable, Mr Shakti Singh, who was returning Pangi after a vacation.

The two villages are situated at a distance of 1 km. Reports said the bodies were lying scattered in and around these villages and the exact number of toll was not known. The police is searching for more bodies in the area.

It is suspected that foreign mercenaries of the Laskar-e-Toiba were involved in these killings.

The Army authorities at Dalhousie have been asked to comb the entire area.

Reports said the terrorists infiltrated into the village about 15 km away from the Mansa outpost in the Himachal territory and tied the labourers with ropes before killing them.These labourers were engaged in the construction of the Bairagarh—Satrundi road for the Pangi valley in the Tissa area. Initial reports said 23 labourers were killed. However, three more bodies were recovered in the Kalaban area later when the police party combed the area after trekking 20 km on foot.

The place of incident is just near the Gandoh area of Doda district where the terrorists have stepped up their activities in the past few days.The killings at Kalaban are suspected to be the fallout of the pressure which has been mounted by the security forces in the Gandoh area following attacks on Army deployments.

The incident comes close on the heels of the massacre of 18 members of the minority community by terrorists in two villages of the Kishtwar area in Doda district last week. The modus operandi of the militants in these villages was the same as in the Chamba villages.

Reports said the police came to know of the incident only in the morning.The police personnel at the Mansa outpost were unaware of the incident although the terrorists fired several rounds at the victims.The authorities were initially aware of only the killings at Kalaban. It was late in the afternoon that reports of the terrorist strike at Satrundi were received.

Two of the injured were brought to Tissa. They have been referred to the district hospital at Chamba.The other nine wounded are being carried to the roadhead manually as the site of the incident is located in the interior of the area.

Residents of these villages were taken by surprise when they heard gun shots while they were asleep. Further details of the incident were not available as the area is cut off and inaccessible by vehicles.

The Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, who was camping at Chamba in connection with the annual Minjar fair, has left for the massacre site by road. The DGP has also rushed to the site.

This is the second terrorist incident in the district in the past few days. Terrorists had gunned down four villagers while they were plucking herbs on June 27.

The Gandoh area of Doda district has become the area of operation of the ISI in the past few days. Over 150 youths of the area have reportedly been enrolled by the ISI for receiving arms training. The ISI is reportedly operating some terrorist training camps in the high mountains of the Kishtwar area.

Intelligence agencies had alerted the authorities that Kashmiri terrorists were infiltrating into the Kehar area of Chamba district and extorting money and ration from the local people. Militants are reported to have forcibly taken away ration from the house of a Gujjar in the Khundi Mural area on July 20.

The militants had extorted money from 23 villagers of Kehar last year while they were collecting herbs. All these incidents have caused panic in the area as the police has not been able to check terrorist related incidents.

The Governor, Mrs V.S. Rama Devi, and the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, have expressed shock over the killing of innocent people and have condemned the incident.

Expressing shock over the incident, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party and a former Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said this highlighted the deteriorating law and order situation in Himachal Pradesh and the failure of the government to check it.

He said that the Congress had raised the law and order issue in the assembly during the recently concluded Budget session.

The Speaker, Thakur Gulab Singh and BJP MP, Mr Shanta Kumar have condemned the incident. The CPI secretary, Mr Kameshwar Pandit, has urged people not to get provoked by such incidents.

PTI adds: Two of the 11 injured at Kalaban-Dhyan Singh and Beli Ram-with blood oozing from their wounds, trudged 8 km through the dense forests and informed about the mayhem at the nearest Mansa police post.

Dhyan Singh told the police that the militants, accompanied by two local accomplices Sharif Mohammad and Waziroo, took away all money, watches, clothes and other valuables and the detonators and gelatine sticks used by labourers for blasting the mountains for road construction, before opening fire.

Considering the time gap between the two carnages, officials believe the same group of militants could not have struck at both the places because of the distance as well as the time taken to travel through the difficult road conditions.

One company of the Dogra Regiment and a company of the paramilitary Rashtriya Rifles and the Himachal police were combing the site of massacres and adjoining places to apprehend the assailants.

The killings came a week after militants suspected to be of the banned Hizbul Mujaheedin gunned down 17 persons in two villages of Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir adjoining Chamba.

A red alert was sounded in six Jammu and Kashmir districts — Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Kathua and Jammu — following the massacres in Chamba, Inspector-General of Police of the Jammu zone Kuldeep Khuda said.

Meanwhile, curfew was today imposed in Bhaderwah town of Doda district as a precautionary measure following the massacre in Himachal Pradesh.

The police said curfew was imposed at around 4 p.m. and the police and paramilitary troops were patrolling the sensitive areas.back


Stop aid to militants, PM warns Pakistan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 3 — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today asserted in Parliament that India would deal with a "firm hand" attacks on its border and asked Islamabad to immediately cease its support to terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said security forces would be fully backed in their efforts to thwart the nefarious designs of Pakistan. He declared the government would take all measures to safeguard the lives of people along the Line of Control.

Making identical suo motu statements in both the Houses of Parliament, Mr Vajpayee also referred to Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir saying during his talks with Mr Sharif he had emphasised that instigation and support to terrorism was incompatible with our common desire for friendly and peaceful relations. These activities must cease immediately, he emphasised.

Mr Vajpayee described his talks with his Pakistan counterpart in Colombo last week as "cordial and constructive" and said he looked forward to continuing a purposeful interaction with Mr Nawaz Sharif.

The Prime Minister’s statement comes in the wake of reported statements of the Pakistan Prime Minister that his July 29 meeting with Mr Vajpayee was a "waste of time" and its outcome "zero."

Meanwhile, the Opposition criticised the foreign policy of the Vajpayee government and said its diplomatic initiative after the Pokhran II blasts was a failure. In a short duration discussion initiated in the Lok Sabha, immediately after Mr Vajpayee made identical suo motu statements in both the Houses of Parliament, the Congress leader, Mr P.A.Sangma, said "economic might" rather than "military might" was the need of the day in international relations. The Prime Minister will reply to the debate tomorrow.

Mr Vajpayee said during his meeting with Mr Sharif he underlined India’s commitment to developing a peaceful and friendly ties with Pakistan, and our interest in a secure, stable and prosperous Pakistan.

On the future dialogue between the two leaders, Mr Vajpayee said the modalities had not yet been finalised and the foreign secretaries have been directed to meet and complete this exercise.

"We will remain engaged in the process and continue contacts through diplomatic channels to work out an agreement, so that the dialogue could be continued", the Prime Minister said.

He said the dialogue must address the totality of the relationship and not be pursued in a narrow, segmented fashion which would defeat its very purpose which is to build a wide ranging and enduring relationship.

Mr Vajpayee rejected any third party mediation to resolve the Kashmir issue and said the two countries were capable of resolving the issue bilaterally.

Though Pakistan has not accepted this, Islamabad would have to eventually accept that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved bilaterally as there was "no other option for them", he added.

The Prime Minister also gave a resume of the recently concluded SAARC summit. He said there was general agreement to enhance bilateral as well as the SAARC-level cooperation in economic, social and technical fields.

The Prime Minister also spoke about India’s participation in this year’s ASEAN post-ministerial conference as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum meetings. He said the country’s participation in these meetings was important as it provided an opportunity to once again clarify India’s policy on nuclear disarmament in the context of the recent nuclear tests and to demonstrate its continued engagement in the economic and political stability of the region.

Initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha, Mr Sangma said it was unfortunate that at a time when India had launched a major diplomatic initiative, the country did not have a full-fledged external affairs minister. There was confusion as who actually was managing the foreign policy as the PMO, the Home Minister, the South Block, the Planning Commission were all making statements on the foreign policy.

Quoting former Foreign Secretary, Mr J.N.Dixit, he said continued parallel foreign policy mechanism was not desirable.

He said generally governments with sound foreign policy mechanism don’t like to deal with functionaries.

He said the flaw with the present government’s foreign policy was that there was a contradiction in its stand on disarmament and nuclear tests. He said national security alone could not solve the country’s problem. There was a need to address to problems like food security, job security, health security etc, Mr Sangma asserted.

Referring to a poetry written by Mr Vajpayee after the Hiroshima nuclear bomb blast, Mr Sangma said the poet had expressed deep grief over the incident. He wanted the Prime Minister to go back to his roots.

The BJP member, Mr Jagmohan, reacted strongly to Mr Sangma’s observation saying it amounted to eulogising the Pakistan government. He said the Prime Minister’s dignified statement on the outcome of his talks with Mr Nawaz Sharif reflected his dignity whereas Mr Sharif’s statement was a reflection "on their culture."

He said the nuclear tests would enable India to negotiate with its foreign partners from a position of strength. In this regard he cited the example of China.

Mr Vaiko of the MDMK also defended the government’s foreign policy and said even during Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi’s days the foreign ministry portfolio was held by the Prime Minister.

The Samajwadi Party leader, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, said India had surrendered to the USA after conducting nuclear tests.

He said the tests by Pakistan and India were done due to political reasons as both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Sharif wanted to save their position. Both countries had behaved foolishly by conducting the nuclear tests, he said.

He said it was surprising to see top Indian leaders kowtowing to a low-level US official, Mr Strobe Talbott. He said the nuclear tests had internationalised the Kashmir issue.

He advised the government that in case it was preparing for a war it should take the nation into confidence.

Former Speaker, Mr Shivraj Patil said India should continue its efforts to have a dialogue with Pakistan and warned the government not to enter into an atomic race with the neighbouring country. He said economic strength alone was not needed for foreign policy and cited the example of Nehru during whose regime India was heard with respect by the world.

Mr Indrajit Gupta of the CPI warned that the proxy war being waged by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir could escalate as a result of the nuclear tests.

Former Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Natwar Singh said India had not gained anything substantial after conducting the nuclear tests. The post-Pokhran tests period had been spent in damage control and fire fighting exercises. He referred to the condemnation of India’s nuclear tests by the five declared nuclear powers, the group of eight industrialised nations and the United Nations Security Council.back

  More security forces for HP

NEW DELHI, Aug 3 (PTI) — The Centre is rushing additional security forces to Himachal Pradesh where suspected Pakistan-sponsored militants massacred 31 persons in Chamba district last night, Home Minister L.K. Advani told the Lok Sabha tonight.

"Thirty additional companies of the Punjab armed police are being rushed to affected areas in the state. All necessary steps and precautions will be taken", Mr Advani said while making a suo motu statement.

Expressing concern over the two incidents at Kalaban and Satrundi in Chamba district, he said special Secretary, in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, in the Home Ministry and Central Reserve Police Force Director-General are proceeding to the scenes tomorrow morning to assess the situation.

Mr Advani said the authorities of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir had been asked to act in concert and take firm measures to deal with the elements who have targeted innocent persons in such a brutal manner.

Describing the incidents as "shocking", he said one more state had now been affected by militancy. In both incidents, "the hand of Pakistan sponsored terrorists is suspected", he said.

Observing the security forces were focussing on Doda district where two massacres had taken place in the recent past, the minister said the militants had apparently crossed over to Himachal Pradesh to attack "soft" targets.back


US Ambassador meets Dalai Lama
Tribune News Service

DHARAMSALA, Aug 3 — A lot of significance is being attached to the unscheduled visit of the American Ambassador, Mr Richard, F. Celeste , to McLeodganj to meet the Dalai Lama and the Cabinet of the Tibetan government-in-exile, here today.

Officials of the Tibetan Government-in-exile had kept the visit of Mr Celeste to McLeodganj a closely guarded secret and refused to divulge the details of the talks he held with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Cabinet. The American Ambassador drove to McLeodganj from Pathankot, where he arrived this morning by train.

Mr Celeste was received by the Secretary, Department of Information and International Relations in the Tibetan Government, Mr Tempa Tsering, at Pathankot. He met members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile and the Chairman of the Kashag (Cabinet), Mr Sonam Topgyal. The Kashag hosted a lunch for the American Ambassador after which he drove to the palace of the Dalai Lama, to have an audience with the Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader.

Mr Celeste, when asked about the purpose of his visit, refused to comment and said he was running short of time as he had to return to Delhi in the evening.

The Cabinet Secretary for Political Affairs, Mr Tenpa C. Samkhar, said the visit of Mr Celeste was organised on two days' notice. "It was a very sudden and abrupt visit and we really don't know the exact purpose of his visit, he said. He, however, added the meeting with the Cabinet and Parliament was just a courtesy affair and no discussions were held about the Tibetan issue and human rights violations in Tibet. He said since the American Ambassador was very important dignitary the Cabinet thought of hosting lunch in his honour.

Ever since the visit of the American President, Mr Bill Clinton, to China, the exiled Tibetans have been pinning their hopes on USA's role in bringing China to the negotiating table. The Tibetan issue and human rights violations in Tibet figured top in the agenda of Mr Clinton during his visit to China.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, the National Democratic Party of Tibet and other Tibetan organisations have expressed happiness over the visit of the American Ambassador to McLeodganj. They feel ever since the appointment of a special coordinator on Tibet, there has been genuine and growing concern for the Tibetan cause among the American leadership and people. It is being expected since the visit of Mr Celeste comes close on the heels of President Clinton's visit to China important issues must have been discussed.back

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