Friday, March 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mixed response to Gujarat bandh
Ultras-underworld nexus behind killing: Advani

Ahmedabad, March 27
The Gujarat bandh, called by the VHP and the Congress to protest against the murder of former state Home Minister and senior BJP leader Haren Pandya, evoked a mixed response and passed off peacefully.

The bandh, also supported by the NCP, was by and large peaceful and evoked partial response in sensitive Godhra town, while most of the shops and other establishments remained open in Vadodara city, official sources said.

“At least 30 per cent shops opened their shutters, while banks, schools and other establishments remained open”, Panchamahals District Superintendent of Police Narsimha Kumar said. Meanwhile, Bhavnagar police had to lathicharge a group of persons, allegedly belonging to the Congress, after they pelted stones to forcibly close down a showroom.

In Ahmedabad, most of the shops in the walled city area remained closed even as tight security arrangements were made in view of the bandh. Schools, colleges, examination centres and local transportation were unaffected by the bandh.

The mortal remains of senior BJP leader and former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, who was shot dead by two unidentified persons yesterday, were consigned to the flames today.

As hundreds of his supporters chanted ‘Haren Pandya amar rahe’, Pandya’s eldest son 13-year-old Namr lit the pyre in the presence of senior central and party leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, party national President Venkaiah Naidu, Union Ministers Kashiram Rana and Arun Jaitley and a large number of senior Cabinet Ministers, Speaker of the Assembly Mangaldas Patel, MLAs, bureaucrats and supporters of Mr Pandya were present when the last rites were performed.

State BJP office-bearers were seen busy consoling a number of party workers, who burst into tears as Pandya’s mortal remains were consigned to flames.

People surged forward to pay floral tributes when Pandya’s body was kept on the pyre even as party workers relentlessly appealed on the public address system to “let the family members perform the last rites peacefully”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today said terrorist-underworld nexus appeared to be behind the killing of former Gujarat minister and BJP leader Haren Pandya here as investigators questioned people who were in the vicinity of the assassination site.

Mr Advani, who visited the site near Law Garden where Mr Pandya fell to assassins’ bullets yesterday, told reporters that “terrorist-cum-underworld nexus seems to have been responsible for the murder of Haren Pandya”.

Though Mr Advani did not name any group or individual, BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu, who along with the Deputy Prime Minister attended the funeral of Mr Pandya, did not rule out the possibility of the involvement of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim gang in the murder.

There was information that Dawood Ibrahim gang could be behind the assassination which prompted the state government to order a CBI inquiry into the incident.

Mr Naidu said there were also reports that an inter-state gang could be behind the incident and Mumbai underworld connections may be there in the incident.

As investigators searched for a clue to the killing, Gujarat Home Secretary K Nityanandam said witnesses such as shopkeepers and others, who were in the park, where Mr Pandya had gone for morning walk, were being identified and questioned.

He said the assumption that there were two motorcycle-borne assassins was based on prima facie investigation.

The post-mortem examination report of the body of Mr Pandya had revealed that bullets of only one .32 revolver were used in the killing, City Police Commissioner K.R. Kaushik said.

The report mentioned the time of Mr Pandya’s death to be two-three hours before his body was taken to hospital, which indicates that he was shot at “around 7.30 am or 8 am”, he said. PTI


Don’t touch body, father tells Modi

Ahmedabad, March 27
A disconsolate Vitthal Pandya openly blamed Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the state government for his son’s death.

When Mr Modi came to pay tributes, Pandya’s father bluntly charged: “Six months ago you had already finished his political career. Now you have finished his life too.”

Haren Pandya’s widow, Jagrutiben also cried out: “What about your promise of ensuring security to 50 million people of Gujarat?”

When Mr Modi, flanked by Black Cat commandos, approached Pandya’s body, the elder Pandya burst out: “Don’t you dare touch my son’s body. What kind of bravery have you come here to perform with your Black Cat commandos? Go away. There is no need to shed crocodile tears for my son.” IANS

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