Sunday, May 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

BKU not to free hostages
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Kandela, May 25
As a small aircraft went round over this village to reconnoiter, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) supporters assembled below wielding their sticks, spears and other weapons. A young boy even threw a stone at the plane hovering a few hundred metres above the ground.

If Mr Om Prakash Chautala, Chief Minister of Haryana, was expecting that the morale of the BKU supporters would be affected by the state government’s indifference to hold talks with the agitators, no such thing happened at Kandela village today.

There was a large gathering, with a fairly good representation of women, in the school complex at Kandela where the BKU has been holding various programmes in support of its demand. A large number of farmers were seen coming to Kandela from the neighbouring villages, riding atop tractor-trailers, mini trucks etc.

Mr Dharamvir Hooda, president of the BKU’s Rohtak unit, claimed that at least 40,000 persons from various parts of Haryana had assembled at Kandela to lend support to the agitation. A police officer put the number of people gathered at Kandela today at 10,000.

The agitators seem to be well aware of the imminent danger of an operation by the security forces to rescue the police personnel taken as hostages. Virtually all of them said that they would rather give their lives than hand over the hostages meekly. Even if a section of the crowd really mean what they are saying, the hostages cannot be rescued without a bloody clash between the police and the farmers.

A high court order yesterday asking for the release of Mr Ashok Kumar, a Haryana DSP (Home Guard), generated hope that the BKU might use the order as a face-saving device to set free the hostages. Talking to TNS today, Mr Ghasiram Nain, President of the BKU’s state unit, however, said there was no question of releasing the hostages following the court order. “ The BKU activists who are languishing in the jails must be released first. Let it be a give and take process”, stated the 70-year-old Jat leader.

He went on to warn that though the hostages were being taken care of well by the villagers, any provocation from the government’s side might harm the hostages. “ We should not be dubbed as terrorists for taking them as hostages. We did not kidnap them from their homes, rather they landed up in Kandela with firearms”, Mr Nain said.

He claimed that there was nothing wrong about keeping hostage the wife of a DSP along with her husband. “One woman, a supporter of BKU, was shot in her stomach during police firing on December 21 but no one from the government side came to sympathise”, he said.

Police officials, while admitting that massive force will be required for carrying out a rescue operation, said initially attempts would be made to have the hostages released without any violence. However, in case the BKU did not respond to the police’s feelers, there would be rescue operation which could lead to casualties. “Our boys are seething with anger because police personnel are being held as hostages. We are trying to control the boys”, added the sources.

Asked about how they could prevent the police if it wanted to launch a rescue operation, the wily BKU chief admitted that they would be no match for the police but added that Mr Chautala should also keep in mind the political fallout of such an action. “ Mr Chautala should not forget that police action against the BKU would cost him dearly politically. All those who have fought the BKU with the help of the police have perished in the elections held subsequently”, he said.


HC officer, cops in Jind

A 2000-member police force, along with a warrant officer of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, today reached Jind to rescue seven persons, including two DSPs, who have been held hostage by the Bharatiya Kisan Union at Kandela village, near Jind. Mr Justice M.L. Singhal of the high court had appointed the warrant officer yesterday on a habeas corpus filed by a relative of a detained DSP, Mr Ashok Kumar.

Mr M.S. Malik, DGP of Haryana, also visited Jind today and met the DC, SP and other district officials regarding the release of the hostages.

The police force was sent to the area as Mr Justice Singhal had directed the Haryana DGP to provide adequate police force to the police officer to execute the court order.

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