Monday, March 6, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Two killed in Bihar bandh violence
Ex-ministers injured; rail & road traffic paralysed

PATNA, March 5 (UNI, PTI) — A Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) worker was killed in police firing and several former RJD ministers were injured in a lathi charge during the 12-hour statewide bandh in Bihar today which brought life in Bihar to a standstill and disrupted rail and road traffic.

A postmaster was killed at Bihpur in Patna district by agitators last night.

The bandh was called by the RJD and Left parties to protest against Governor Vinod Chandra Pande’s invitation to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to form government.

Official sources here said an RJD worker was killed and several party activists were injured when the police opened fire on an unruly mob in Vaishali district.

The RJD supremo, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, along with hundreds of his party workers and leaders, including Mr Shivanand Tiwari, Mr Ramkripal Yadav and Mr Shyam Rajak, was taken into custody while trying to block roads near the Duckbungalow traffic island here. Nearly 5,000 bandh supporters were arrested in the state.

Mr Laloo Prasad alleged that the state government had used force to crush peaceful demonstrations and warned the agitation would continue till his party was called to form the government.

A report from Barh said RJD supporters torched the house of newly elected Samata Party MLA Bhubaneshwar Singh, alias Pappu Singh, in the town.

Several former RJD ministers were injured when the police used lathis to disperse bandh supporters in the capital town. Sources said former Chief Whip of the RJD in the state Assembly Mohammad Nematullah, former ministers Munshi Lal Rai and Anand Mohan Singh and RJD leader Khurshid Alam Sidiqque were among the injured.

Rail and road traffic was disrupted throughout the state as agitators squatted on tracks and roads. Bandh protagonists torched an air-conditioned coach of the Tata-Patna Express near the Tekabigha railway station on the Patna-Mokamah section.

A couple of coaches of the Kurla-bound Patna-Kurla Express jumped off the tracks following removal of fishplates near the Arrah station on the Danapur-Mugalsaria section. None was injured.

Director-General of Police K.A. Jacob said one postmaster was killed and the DSP of Danapur and some constables were injured when protesters attacked a police vehicle at Bihpur in Patna district last night.

The agitators vandalised railway property and torched an engine, a coach and a brakevan of Danapur-Rourkela Express at Biharsharif, injuring four passengers and as many CRPF personnel.

A report from Gaya said one person received bullet injuries in a clash between rival political groups at Fatepur, while rail and road traffic in the district came to a standstill with no trains plying on either the grand chord section or the Gaya-Patna and Gaya-Kuil sections of Eastern Railway.

Traffic went off the road and factories and other installations remained closed for the day. Bandh supporters also torched newspaper bundles.

A report from Hajipur said road and rail communication between the state capital and north Bihar districts was snapped following the bandh. The railway control room at Sonepur said tracks and fishplates were removed between Hajipur and Bachawara sections.

Train services on the Hajipur-Muzaffarpur and Hajipur-Chapra sections were also disrupted.

The RJD supporters blocked the Gandhi Bridge over the Ganga in Patna, paralysing the road link between Patna and north Bihar.

A Darbhanga report said 10 long-distance trains were stranded at different stations in the district due to the bandh.

A Ranchi report said all shops and business establishments remained closed, while vehicles went off the road. Elaborate security arrangements had been made to prevent any untoward incident, while heavy security had been deployed in sensitive areas.

Police sources said RJD agitators vandalised railway property and torched a coach, an engine and a brakevan of Danapur-Rourkela Express at Biharsharif injuring four passengers and as many CRPF personnel.

An Eastern Railway spokesman said RJD activists removed fishplates and torched sleepers at several places on the Patna-Gaya and Howrah-Patna-Delhi mainline sections between Danapur and Mohama.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said matriculation examinations in the state scheduled for tomorrow had been postponed for a week in view of the continuing RJD-sponsored agitation against his government.

Several long-distance express and passenger trains were today cancelled under the Danapur Division of Eastern Railway.

The trains cancelled were Patna-Surat Express, Danapur-Howrah Express, Patna-Delhi Magadh and Sharamjeevi Express, Amritsar-Howrah Express, Bhagalpur-Dadar Express and Patna-Kurla Express.

All trains going to south Bihar have also been cancelled.


Nitish inducts 3 ministers

PATNA, March 5 (PTI) — Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today inducted three ministers from his coalition partners, including the JMM (S), and appeared to hold out the carrot of speakership to the Congress amidst reports of a possibility of a split in it ahead of the trust vote likely on March 10.

The ministers inducted were Mr Sushil Kumar Modi (BJP), Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras (JD-U) and Mr Stefen Marandi (JMM-S).

Mr Modi was the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Marandi leader of the JMM(S) in the previous Assembly. Mr Paras is the brother of Union Communications Minister Ram Bilas Paswan.

Governor V.C. Pande administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers at a simple function at Raj Bhavan.

Mr Nitish Kumar, who assumed office on March 3, said he would further expand his Council of Ministers after securing the confidence vote on March 10.

He said the Assembly Speaker would be elected on March 9.

BANGALORE: Defence Minister and Samata Party leader George Fernandes on Sunday asserted there would be no horse-trading in Bihar to ensure the survival of the newly installed Nitish Kumar government, but indicated that his party expected a breakaway Congress group to prop it.

“No horse-trading. There is no need for it” Mr Fernandes said.

Participating in a meet-the-press programme at the Press Club of Bangalore, he said the Congress itself was a “divided house” on the Bihar issue.

Asked if the Samata Party was depending on the Congress to bail out the government headed by it, he replied in the negative and said, “there are independents and there are others.”

He hastened to add that the Bihar Congress itself had announced that it would break up.

Noting that 65 per cent of the electorate had voted for change and the mandate was “very clear that an establishment that ruled and ruined Bihar should not be around”, he said: “We will have the requisite votes finally”.

Mr Fernandes said Congress President Sonia Gandhi had “read out speeches” during the election campaign, saying that her party had committed a “great error” in supporting Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and asking the people to forgive the Congress for it.

Strongly defending the Bihar Governor’s action, he said the NDA had fought the poll on a common manifesto unlike its opposition and had given the Governor a list of 146 MLAs supporting it.

Even according to the Sarkaria Commission any platform or formation constituted before the elections should be accepted,” he said.

NEW DELHI (TNS): Despite reports of dissent within the Congress in Bihar over lending support to the RJD, the central party here on Sunday was confident of keeping its flock together.

Party leaders Mohsina Kidwai and Ajit Jogi said here that not one of the 23 Congress members of the Legislative Assembly in Bihar would move away from the party fold. Ms Kidwai, the party General Secretary and in charge of Bihar, said there was no dissent in the party and what was being publicised was actually contrary to the situation in the state unit.

Addressing the media here, she explained there had been no delay on the part of the Congress in lending support to the RJD. However, the Governor showed haste in inviting the NDA to form government and did not wait for the letter of support.

She pointed out that in a similar situation at the Centre, the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, had waited for three days for the letter of support from Ms Jayalalitha. “What was the reason that the Governor of Bihar could not even wait for 24-hours,” she asked.

She said the fact was the Governor had already made up his mind to invite Mr Nitish Kumar.

She explained the Congress had decided to support the RJD as the party wanted to uphold secularism and not communalism.

To a specific question whether all Congress MLAs in Bihar were ready to support the RJD, Ms Kidwai said till date not one MLA had spoken against it. However, she had spoken to a particular MLA and she had explained that what was being publicised was her views three days ago. There was no difference of opinion within the Bihar Congress over support to the RJD, Ms Kidwai emphasised.

Incidentally, of the 23 Congress MLAs in Bihar, 11 are from Jharkhand.

Meanwhile, the local units of the RJD, the JD (Secular), the SJP and the CPM have demanded the dismissal of the Governor of Bihar for the “butchery of democracy” in the state at the “instance” of the BJP led central government.

“The Governor knew that more than 170 MLAs are opposed to the NDA and yet he invited Mr Nitish Kumar to form government. This is nothing but a fraud on the Constitution of India,” the parties said in a press note.

The Samata Party called upon the RJD to wait for a few days and display its strength in the Bihar Assembly instead of “unleashing violence against the people of the state.”

Party President Jay Jaitly said if the RJD had the requisite strength in the Assembly, it would not have indulged in such actions.

She said the police at the lower level was colluding with the RJD in its criminal activities.

“I believe the Congress will face imminent political death if it supports Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, “Ms Jaitly said, adding “a number of senior Congress leaders in New Delhi have expressed their unhappiness over the decision to support Rabri Devi”.

She said the Samata Party did not believe that the 23-member Congress in the Bihar Assembly held the ‘trump card’ for the survival of the Nitish Kumar ministry.

“Either the Congress members would go by conscience or the party could split,” she claimed.


Volte-face by Laloo on Jharkhand

PATNA, March 5 (PTI) — In an apparent bid to woo pro-Jharkhand legislators, RJD President Laloo Prasad Yadav today took a U-turn on the Vananchal issue promising that his party would not oppose creation of a separate state out of Bihar.

He told mediapersons here that the RJD had already said it favoured the creation of a separate Jharkhand state comprising 26 contiguous tribal districts of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

“Now when we (RJD) and the Congress have agreed upon a common minimum programme (CMP) in which the creation of a separate state out of Bihar tops the agenda..., we are bound to support the legislation if the Centre refers it to the state legislature for opinion,” Yadav said.

Charging the Centre with “misleading and cheating” the people of south Bihar on the issue, Mr Laloo Prasad said the authority of division of a state was vested with the Union Government “and until the latter forwards such legislation to us, we can’t do anything.”

“At this stage, I can assure you that my party will not oppose separate statehood legislation in the state Assembly,” the RJD supremo said.

Much significance is being attached to Mr Laloo Prasad’s statement as the JMM-S MLAs have extended support to Mr Nitish Kumar and its President Sibu Soren has already given a written support to the NDA.

However, JMM-S sources claimed that its MLAs who had fought the elections on the anti-BJP plank in Santhal Pargana were opposed to supporting the alliance.

The RJD and the Congress had on Friday agreed upon a 15-point common minimum programme before the latter provided written support to Mr Laloo Prasad.

RANCHI (UNI): The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) (Soren) has given three months to the National Democratic Alliance for the creation of a separate state comprising 18 districts of South Bihar in lieu of its support to the newly elected state government.

Talking to UNI over the phone, JMM President Shibu Soren said statehood was the main issue that his party had bargained in exchange for the support to the NDA in forming the government in Bihar.

However, according to a PTI report from Patna, JMM (S) President Shibu Soren said he had not set any deadline for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to create a separate state out of Bihar, but said, “We want the separate Jharkhand state at the earliest”.

“I am shocked by media reports that my party had set three months deadline for the separate state”, he told PTI here.

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