Friday, December 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Protect Indians, Nepal told
Vajpayee speaks to Koirala

Tribune News Service and UNI

NEW DELHI, Dec 28 — With Kathmandu setting up a high-level committee to probe into the l’affaire Hrithik Roshan, India has strongly urged Nepal to take all necessary steps for ensuring the safety and security of the life and property of its nationals.

Kathmandu has conveyed to India that the “situation, though tense, was under control” in areas where Indian nationals were staying and the Nepalese Government was taking all necessary precautions, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said here today.

The Nepal’s Charge d’Affaires, Mr M.K. Bhattarai, was today called to the Ministry of External Affairs where he had a meeting with the Joint Secretary (North), Mrs Meera Shankar, the spokesman said, adding that the latter expressed concern over the safety and security of Indian nationals and the former assuring that his government was taking all necessary precautions.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Ram Chander Poudel, who also holds the Home Ministry portfolio, has reportedly told the House of Representative’s Committee on State Affairs that a high-level committee was being set up to go into the alleged statement purported to have been made by Hrithik which resulted in anti-India riots. Mr Poudel has also reported to the above committee that necessary instructions have been given to the government to take immediate and effective steps to stop the violence, according to reports appearing in the Nepalese media.

Briefing newspersons, the spokesman said Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh was assured by his counterpart Naryan Shamsher Thapa yesterday evening that the government of Nepal was taking all necessary steps towards safety and security of the Indian nationals.

Asked whether Pakistan’s ISI was behind the entire incident, the spokesman said: “It is difficult to make a judgement. We can at the moment say that it is orchestrated by elements inimical to the further development of Indo-Nepalese relations and to create distrust between the two countries and the peoples.”

The spokesman said Kathmandu had also been asked to look into the genesis of the problem and to take precautionary measures to avoid their recurrence.

Describing the Hrithik episode as “entirely fabricated”, the spokesman said it was baseless and had no foundation. It has been firmly denied by the actor himself, he pointed out, adding that “it is a clear case of disinformation spread by vested interests. The events were orchestrated and not spontaneous”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today spoke to Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to convey India’s serious concern over the outbreak of violence directed specially against Indians and urged him to take firm steps to put an end to it.

Mr Vajpayee, who is currently holidaying at Kumarakom resort in Kerala, also conveyed his condolences over the tragic death of four Nepalese citizens in the riots engineered by anti-India elements in Nepal.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Koirala told Mr Vajpayee that the violent incidents appeared to be part of a conspiracy aimed at harming the traditionally close ties between India and Nepal.

“We have set up a commission to inquire into its origins and find out if it has any external dimensions,” Mr Koirala said.

Meanwhile, in a rare occurrence, Indian Airlines had to operate an empty A300 flight to Kathmandu as no passenger wanted to travel to the city because of the disturbances there over the alleged anti-Nepal remarks made by Hrithik.

For the second day running, the domestic airline also had to cancel its Varanasi-Kathmandu-Varanasi flight today.

Airport sources said the airline had to operate IC 813 empty to bring back stranded passengers. The 245-seater A300 on the return journey would be a plane-load as IC 814 was booked to the last seat, the sources said.

Being the Christmas-New Year season and Kathmandu being a hot destination for celebrations, the trouble in the Himalayan kingdom has come as a big blow to tourists.


Rebels introduce no-trust move

KATHMANDU, Dec 28 (AP) — Anti-Hrithik protests took a serious political turn today with half of 113 ruling Nepalese Congress mps revolting against Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala filing a no-confidence motion against him in the party.

“We were compelled to file the motion seeking Mr Koirala’s ouster to prevent the country from plunging into a crisis and save the country, democracy and restore peace and security,” Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba, leader of the dissident group, told reporters after 57 rebel mps appended their signature to the motion.

The dissidents are believed to be one mp short in their campaign against the Prime Minister who has been in the office since March. The party, which has a majority in the 205-member Lower House of Parliament, is expected to call a meeting of mps within 15 days to settle the leadership issue.

The revolt came as a general strike called by the Left-wing student groups paralysed life in the Nepalese capital today with schools, colleges, businesses shut down for the second day.

An AFP report quoting Mr Deuba said the 57 dissident mps would be joined by three state ministers who resigned from the government today.

Mr Deuba has publicly criticised Mr Koirala, who is also the Nepalese Congress President, for failing to keep campaign promises to maintain law and order, check rampant administrative corruption and control inflation.

On Tuesday, the police shot and killed four persons while trying to control a rampaging crowd that attacked shops and a theatre screening the latest movie of Hrithik.

Nearly 180 persons were injured, including 30 police officers.

Violence erupted as rumours swept through Nepal claiming that Hrithik told a television interviewer that he hated Nepal and its people.


Probe media firm’s role: India
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 28 — The dubious role of a newspaper and virtually monopolistic cable television company in Nepal appears to be at the centre of the frenzied anti-India campaign leading to disturbances and rioting in the Himalayan kingdom over the past three days.

Stung by the out-of-the-blue tirade in Kathmandu and some other parts of Nepal, a concerned New Delhi is believed to have briefed Kathmandu about the highly suspect credentials of the owner of the media company. The needle of suspicion points to this person known as one Jameem Shah who is said to be an associate of the notorious Karachi based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim responsible for the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.

Though authoritative sources emphasise that the imprint about those responsible fanning such vitriolic anti-India sentiments is clear, it is for that sovereign country in India’s neighbourhood to take the necessary steps in dealing with this cancer.

Considering India’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country, the machinations of those inimical to India across the border in Nepal is bound to have an adverse fallout in this country. India has assured Nepal of rendering any assistance that Kathmandu might require in bringing to naught the machinations of elements seeking to drive a wedge in the cordial and friendly ties between the two countries.

At the same time authorities here are perplexed that anti-India feelings were allowed to simmer and come to a boil though indications of trouble brewing in Nepal first came to light on December 23. This despite the fact that there was not a shred of evidence either on videotape or audiotape to even remotely suggest that the new Bollywood icon Hrithik Roshan had spoken disparagingly either about Nepal or the people of that country.

The forceful denials by a shell-shocked Hrithik Roshan carried by Indian television networks were conveniently blacked out in Nepal. Further, some local Nepali language papers purportedly published Hrithik Roshan’s interview without going into the specifics or giving details of when, where and what the young actor had allegedly said.

These along with other papers had, however, duly reported the protest marches. That compounded matters and fuelled the already pent up feelings among the Nepalese, especially among the youth and students.

With the news of deaths in police firing in Kathmandu on December 26 spreading fast, violent protests were witnessed in Pokhra, Nepalganj and other places in Nepal. Its impact was also felt in western Nepal, the stronghold of the Maoists.

The Indian mission in Kathmandu sent an SOS here yesterday wanting the transcripts and videotapes of Hrithik Roshan’s interview to sooth ruffled feathers and put the record straight. It was only on New Delhi’s intervention that Hrithik Roshan’s interview was shown on the state owned Nepal Television yesterday evening but by then much water had already flowed under the bridge.

New Delhi has suggested to Nepal that it might be revealing to probe the linkages of the newspaper and cable television company. Intelligence agencies in this country are convinced that Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is increasingly using Nepal as a staging ground for cross-border terrorism against India and some other countries.

Sources said Pakistan had been seeking to build pro-Pakistan and anti-India public opinion in Nepal on important issues like Kashmir. An important component of this exercise involved manipulation of the local press. The ISI has been seeking to create mistrust and promote ill-will between India and Nepal by encouraging known anti-India elements belonging to various political parties and non-governmental organisations.

The most important and visible change brought about by the ISI in Nepal pertains to the Himalayan kingdom’s demographic pattern. With no known indigenous Muslim population in Nepal till 1960, the number of this community has grown to more than half a million settled mostly in the Terai area along the Indo-Nepal border.

Official statistics reveal the Muslim community in Nepal has grown from a mere 2 per cent of the population in 1981 to 3.5 per cent in 1991.


Biharis flee homes after attacks
From Santosh Jha

BIRGANJ, Dec 28 — Sanjay has never seen a Hrithik movie but he had to face the wrath of his fans-turn foes yesterday. The angry mob of students looted his shop in the town near the Indo-Nepal border and his house was gutted. He is still in search of his family. He is not alone in the hour of devastation as, hundreds of Indians have been left with the same fate in the past two days ever since the outrage of the Nepalese students over the alleged anti-Nepal remark of the latest heartthrob of Bollywood.

The massive Indian population living in the border areas of Nepal is on the firing line of the Nepalese students. As the Left wing parties and the underground Maoist organisations joined hands with the agitating students yesterday, the Indian settlers were forced to flee the Himalayan kingdom. More than 30 persons have been hurt so far, mostly Indians.

The activists of the Maoist groups along with the students attacked Indian vehicles and looted shops belonging to the Indian community in and around Birganj town. The activists took out a protest march that started from Mai Asthan and reached Bhansar along the border. Violence has taken place in the Chhouradano, Raksaul, Adapur and Sikta areas falling under Champaran district of Bihar. Tension prevails in the areas. The local police has not so far come to the rescue of Indian lives and property. 


Hrithik’s denial placates fans

KATHMANDU, Dec 28 (IANS) — Streets of the city were deserted today due to a general strike in protest against the violence on December 26, even as fans of Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan appeared to have accepted his denial of making derogatory remarks that triggered the rioting.

The government, which had set up a three-member high-level committee to probe the violence that left at least two persons dead and scores injured, also issued orders for the arrest of Mohan Niraula, an actor-turned politician who is the leader of a nationalist organisation, for allegedly inciting people to take to the streets.

The police had issued an arrest warrant against Niraula a couple of months ago also after he said at a public meeting that he was ready to shoot Prime Minster Girija Prasad Koirala if the people asked him to do so. He was, however, let off on the orders of the Supreme Court.

The general strike that brought life to a standstill, was called by five Leftist students’ unions.

The government’s decision to publicise Hrithik’s denial through the media that he ever made any derogatory remarks against Nepal or the Nepalese in a television interview appeared to have cleared the air of misunderstanding created by unknown elements and defused the tension considerably. Also, the beginning of a wave of sympathy for the actor, particularly among his fans, was discernible.

In a move to defuse the tension, the state-run Radio Nepal said the government had issued orders for the treatment of those injured in the violent incidents and decided to pay compensation to the families of those killed.

Although the government said only two deaths had occurred due to police firing, hospital sources put the toll at five, including two children under the age of 14. In yesterday’s clashes, at least 500 protestors and more than 100 policemen were injured, some of them seriously, a source at Bir Hospital told IANS.

A police source said that some lower rank police personnel, instigated by ultra nationalist elements, had also contributed to the situation taking a turn for the worse.

“The Constables had started firing on the crowd even without proper orders”, the source said.


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |