Saturday, August 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Army officers beat up recruit
From Ambika Sharma

KASAULI, Aug 4 — Vineet Rana, a 17-year-old youth, hailing from Bakloh village in Chamba district, had least wondered what his trip to 14 Gorkha Training Centre, Subathu, about 30 km from here, for his training as a recruit would yield. Selected on June 12, as a recruit, Vineet’s ordeal started on the evening of July 1 around 9 p.m. when he was talking to his parents from a STD booth in Subathu. It is alleged that Major P.K. Vohra, in a drunk state, entered the PCO and started abusing Vineet who was talking to his mother on the telephone. Vineet tried to explain that he was talking to his mother but it failed to pacify the Major who was not even in his uniform. Vineet told him that he was there to get training at number one recruit training company commencing the next day. The Major allegedly threatened him that he would teach him a lesson there.

Vineet Rana on June 2, reported at the said centre. On June 3, it is alleged he was ordered to go to the GTC office to meet Major Vohra. But due to his non-availability he came back to have lunch. But it is alleged that on instructions from higher officials he was not allowed to eat any thing. Later, it is learnt that Major Vohra called up his native place and verified the recruit’s name. Thereafter, started Vineet’s tale of woes.

On July 3, Vineet was asked to meet Major Vohra accompanied by Subedar Lal Bahadur. It is alleged that Major Vohra along with another officer Amul was playing tennis. On seeing Vineet, Major Vohra started abusing him and later the two officers beat up Vineet with their tennis rackets. Not able to withstand the pain he became unconscious. It is alleged that Vineet was detained in the quarter guard. It was only after his father, Captain Ram Kumar Rana (retd) learnt from the locals through a phone call about his son’s condition, that he contacted the station commander on the telephone. Thereafter, his son was released after three hours of detention, revealed a shattered Captain Rana (retd). Vineet who had not eaten any thing for the past 56 hours was moaning with pain and hunger.

On July 5, it is alleged, he was produced in Major J.S. Khandwal’s office who ordered him to stand for two hours in the scorching sun and then he was pushed into the Major’s office and severely beaten up in the presence of Major Vohra. When he became unconscious he was allegedly thrown into a car and taken to the main parade ground, where the two Majors along with Major S.P. Singh disrobed him and again beat him up with a cane. In the same state he was taken to the main passage where other officers remained mute spectators to his helplessness.

Vineet was morally, physically and mentally distraught when he disclosed his alleged manhandling at the hands of the Army officers to mediapersons. A case was registered on July 7 under Sections 342, 323, 506 and 34 of the IPC for illegal confinement, inflicting international hurt, criminal intimidation and involvement of the three officers with a common intention at Dharampur police station. Brigadier Kamal Sood when contacted on the phone said proceedings were underway and the police was investigating. The accused would be dealt with according to the findings, he added.

On July 6 when Vineet proceeded to the section hospital at Subathu for a medical check-up it is alleged that the doctor on duty examined him but on receiving a phone call asked him to go to the Regiment Medical Officer, Major Shrinivas. When contacted the RMO said Vineet had come to him with a problem related to loose motions and he was advised rest and given the required medicines. He added that no bruises were visible on his body while reports of medical examinations conducted on July 7 at the Community Health Centre, Dharampur, clearly indicated visible multiple injuries on Vineet’s body. The doctor added that since the medical check-up had been delayed by about three days a clear picture of the alleged manhandling could not be testified accurately.

It is alleged that Major Khandwal not only acted as a party to the alleged manhandling but also abused the Gurkha community.

Vineet has lost all zest and enthusiasm to serve the Army. In an application to the Brigadier he has requested that his candidature as a recruit be cancelled. The police is handling the case and some locals have agreed to testify as witnesses. It is alleged that these people are being threatened by the accused. Though the names of these witness were supposed to be kept secret yet the accused have learnt their names. This shows support of the police to the accused. The SP, Mr Rakesh Aggarwal, when contacted said the parents of Vineet Rana had also expressed apprehensions about the support of the local police to the accused. He said he had deputed Inspector D.D. Sharma of the CIA as the investigating officer and the people who had threatened the witnesses would be dealt with.

Mr J.B. Karki, national president of the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Gorkha Morcha Party, has taken a strong exception to the alleged manhandling and attack on the Gurkha community. He has written letters to the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Chief of the Army Staff, General V.P. Malik, the Himachal Governor and the Defence Minister to initiate a court martial against the erring Army officers for the alleged manhandling of Vineet Rana and insult of the Gurkha community.


Uttaranchal’s new victims
From Baljit Singh
Tribune News Service

UDHAM SINGH NAGAR, Aug 4 — Even before the euphoria at the creation of the new state has begun to wear off, there is a sense of disquiet among a set of people who woke up on August 1 to quite unexpectedly find themselves probable citizens of a new state they had never even thought of.

The most obvious among them are residents of three villages of Uttam Nagar 1 & 2 and Sirsa Farm. Most of them Punjabi refugees from the canal colonies of West Punjab (Pakistan), they had believed themselves to be immuned from the tempest that had rocked neighbouring Udham Singh Nagar over the past four years.

However, a quirk of geography will now push then into Uttaranchal. For the three villages sit bang on the national highway on a 6 km stretch where it re-enters Uttar Pradesh in its long passage through Udham Singh Nagar, now part of Uttaranchal.

This anomaly is certain to be ironed out if only to avoid state sales tax barriers at both ends of the 6 km stretch. So before they know, if Uttam Nagar and Sirsa Farm will be part of Uttaranchal.

When this inevitability was pointed out by this correspondent to the residents they expressed disbelief. Though they admitted to the logic of not having the highway weave in and out of the state, they insisted that they had always been part of Baheri, are within its sugarcane command area and would insist on remaining with it. Some of the young men even threatened a (mini) agitation of their own if their wishes were ignored.

Ironically, Baheri itself is a candidate for inclusion as it is part of the Nainital parliamentary constituency and local MP. N.D. Tewari, had asked for its inclusion for this reason and as part of the sugarcane command area argument. However, a quick round of the town was enough to dispel the impression that Baheri residents seriously believed they might be included in the new state.

“This is a Muslim belt,” leaders of local political groups said emphatically. “The hill people want nothing to do with us.” they pointed to UP Minister for Uttaranchal affairs Dr Ramesh Chandra Pokhriyal’s public criticism of Mr Tewari for trying to confuse the Uttaranchal issue by making an issue of new, non-traditional areas.

But while Baheri may or may not be included given the confusion over just what Mr L.K. Advani meant by increasing the number of assembly seats from 60 (the present number of Assembly segments is 22 including 3 from Hardwar, these will be fragmented into 60) to 70 by including new areas. The farmers of Bahariya village (Pilibhit district) a stones throw form the Sitarganj cooperative mill, are far less confident.

They are part of the command area of the Sitarganj sugar mills, almost half of whose cane comes from the neighbouring Pilibhit district, and in all likelihood will be included in the new state as part of the sugarcane command area rationalisation that is an official part of the amended Bill.

When this was pointed out to a group of farmers at the local Farmers Cooperative Society, its director, Mr Rajinder Singh, said with uncharacteristic bitterness. “We don’t want the mill. Close it. We will stop growing sugarcane, but won’t go with Uttaranchal,” Other farmers and the three employees present, two of them from eastern UP, seconded the view, if less virulently.

Another set of new victims whose novelty stems not from geography but from ignorance are the traders of US Nagar. They traditionally backed the BJP yet never took the threat of inclusion seriously due to private assurances from local leaders that it was essentially a political stunt. Now that the inclusion is a fact, they are the new states bitterest critics.

The almost 350 rice millers and backbone of the trading community complain that their economy will be destroyed in the tiny new state. “I buy more then 70 per cent of paddy from other districts,” says Arjun of Jai Prakash Rice Mills, Kiccha. “Most of it from Pilibhit, Puranpur and Banda. So do most of the other mills. In the absence of ‘kachha mall’ we will be ruined.”

After a while, he adds thougtfully: “As will other industry. The vanaspati and solvent industry need rice polish and bran. Their fate is linked to ours.”

The districts six flour mills and plywood firms face similar hurdles. Local transporters though are more philosophical. They say they will relocate their offices (the boundary of UP is at no point than a few km away from this long but narrow state) rather than pay a transport tax of around Rs 20,000 per annum to two states.

Despondent though they may be, the people have not given up hope. After two days of closure, markets in most towns (Khatima and Sitarganj were closed) finally opened today in a probably unintended anti-climax to the rest of the country observing a bandh against the Pahalgam killings.

The Udham Singh Nagar Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and local vyapar mandals, heading the agitation have announced that markets will again be closed for the next three days when the Bill comes up before the Rajya Sabha on August 7. After that, if the Bill is passed as expected, who knows, perhaps indefinitely!

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