P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Father Mark’s sister seeks action against culprits
Ashok Sethi & Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, February 18
The vandalism of Father Mark Barnes’ coffin has tarnished the image of Christians besides sending wrong signals to the youth, this was stated by Ms Anne Waikling, sister of Father Mark. Ms Waikling was in deep shock over the incident.

An inconsolable and deeply anguished over the turn of events during the past 24 hours, Ms Waikling lodged a complaint with the district administration. Copies of the complaint have been sent to the Chief Minister and other high officials.

Talking to The Tribune she said an independent probe should be conducted and responsibility should be fixed to nail the culprits who had shown disrespect to a person who had served the people of the border areas of Punjab, with devotion.

She strongly pleaded in her representation that the administrating should take appropriate action and register a case against the persons found guilty of this criminal act.

She also said that steps should be taken to ensure that her brother’s body was not defiled in any way by those who were inimical to him and that he got the respect due to him.

Copies of the letter have been forwarded to the President, the Prime Minister, Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, Foreign Secretary of England, Mr Jack Straw, the Pope, the British High Commissioner, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Recalling the sequence of events on her arrival from the UK on February 16, she said she had received the body from the mortuary of Escorts Hospital and had handed over the mortal remains of his brother to his followers who had buried the body on St Mary’s School premises as per Catholic rituals.

She added that Father Mark was finally laid to rest amongst those whom he loved and she had felt that he would rest in peace there.

But when on February 17 she went to take possession of her brother’s personal belongings, people of the area told her that some persons had exhumed Father Mark’s coffin at night and had taken it to an unknown place. She said the people suspected that the coffin had been taken away by those who had objected to the burial at Gumtala.

Meanwhile, the Christian Vikas Manch (Rashtrawadi), United Garib Janta Party and Christian Sewa Front today suspected that it was the handiwork of diocese of Jalandhar. However, this was refuted by Father Emanuel Diwan and Father Roby of Jalandhar diocese. They claimed in a press conference that the court had granted status quo on the burial of body of Father Mark in St Mary’s School premises.

The police too had to face embarrassment as the police guards who had been posted at the burial site had failed to protect the grave of Father Mark.

Denying any negligence on the part of the policemen, Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, DIG, Border Zone, in a press conference today said police would investigate the vandalisation of Father Mark’s grave. He said the culprits would be traced soon and would be taken to task. The investigation has been entrusted to the SP (Detective), Mr Makhan Singh, and he has been directed to submit the report within one week.

He said as it was a religious matter, the police had to proceed very cautiously. Moreover, he said, two Christian groups had divergent views on the matter of burial and matter was sub-judice. He explained that on the day of burial SP (HQ) Dinesh Pratap Singh had gone with a copy of stay order but the body had already been buried.

He said policemen had been deployed only at the time of the burial as the situation was tense. However, after the peaceful burial policemen were removed from the cemetery.


Probe ordered

Amritsar, February 18
The police today ordered a high-level inquiry into the disappearance of the coffin of Christian missionary Father Mark Barnes under mysterious circumstances at Gumtala here.

“A high-level enquiry headed by the Senior Superintendent Police, Mr R.P.S. Barar has been ordered. The SSP will deliver his report within seven days,” Deputy Inspector General of Police P.S. Gill told reporters here.

The last rites of Father Barne, 74, was performed on the St Marry’s School premises on Wednesday amidst protest by a section of the Christian Community which was demanding that the burial take place at a public graveyard instead of the premises of the school.

The coffin has now been finally laid to rest at the public graveyard.

“Now, nobody would be allowed to dig up again the grave of Father Mark unless the police gets any court orders in this regard,” the DIG said adding that a police team has been deployed around the public graveyard. — PTI


News analysis
Coffin issue led to Sinha’s transfer
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
What led to the sudden transfer of the most powerful bureaucrat, Mr S.K. Sinha, from the all important Home Department of Punjab? This question remained in the limelight today at all small or big official and non-official gatherings in the Punjab secretariat and other places directly and indirectly associated with state’s power structure.

Sources say that “ mishandling” of the issue of the coffin of Father Mark Barnes, a Christian missionary, by Mr Sinha led to his transfer from the Home Department, where he dominated right from February 28, 2002, the day he took over as the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

On the demand of the dissidents, he was removed as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister but continued as Principal Secretary, Home, till yesterday, when through a sudden order he was shifted to the Cooperation Department.

Father Mark was a close friend of Mr Sinha, who came in touch with him at Ajnala where he served as SDM a few months after joining as an IAS officer in Punjab long back. Immediately after the passing away of Father Mark, a popular figure in the Ajnala belt, a clash between the two factions of Christians started over the question of his burial.

While one group was adamant for the burial of his coffin at St Mary School, a prime property at Gumtala, near Amritsar, the other wanted to take the coffin to Jalandhar. For over 24 hours, a lot of bad blood was created between the two factions. At last the burial ceremony was performed on the school premises but the next morning the coffin was at some other place. Mr Sinha, sources said, was in close touch with one of the factions of Christians. Sources said that Mr Sinha had some arguments with some officers of the district administration of Amritsar on this issue.

All that was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was also in Amritsar. As Capt Amarinder Singh has been engaged in one of the toughest byelection battles at Ajnala, where Christians have a significant presence and the solid vote bank, all these happenings having a direct bearing on the election were not liked by him. He called Mr Sinha on the phone but he was not available. It further added fire to the fuel as it had become very difficult for Capt Amarinder Singh to handle the emerging situation which was turning fast into a big controversy. He immediately acted against Mr Sinha and removed him to “defuse the crisis” at Gumtala.

It is important to mention here that even top Christian Congress leaders are involved in Ajnala byelection. Even Oscar Fernandes, a senior Congress leader, has campaigned at Ajnala. More over, Christians of Punjab have a very powerful support base in the Congress High Command at Delhi. 


Ajnala byelection
Captain, Badal confident of win
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Ajnala, February 18
While the Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, is confident of completing a hat-trick of by-election triumphs, the leader of Opposition and president of Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is also optimistic about retaining the Ajnala Assembly seat in the February 23 election.

Both are slogging it out here, addressing a series of election meetings everyday. They are meeting leaders of various communities, village elders, representatives of various sections of society here in their endeavour to woo them on their respective side.

For both Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the stakes are high as they think that the future of Punjab politics hinges on the outcome of this byelection.

The Tribune talked to Capt Amarinder Singh as well as Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Here are some excerpts :

What are your chances here?

Capt Amarinder Singh
I am confident of a big win here. We have been getting overwhelming response from each and every section of society. People are endorsing our policies and programmes.

Parkash Singh Badal
It was in 1994 that revival of the Akali Dal started from here. At that time our main opponent was the then Chief Minister, Mr Beant Singh, who himself was a tireless campaigner and a hard worker. At that time we won by a margin of more than 17,000 votes and subsequently got into power in 1997. It will also depend upon how much official machinery is misused here. They used police and official machinery in both Kapurthala and Garhshankar.

What are the main issues in this by-election?

Capt Amarinder Singh
Normally, there are no major issues in any by-election. We are seeking votes on the plank of all round development that we have ushered in during the past three years. People in the area are unhappy with the previous legislator of the Akali Dal. There has been no development of the area in the past 10 years. People are happy with the neat and clean, besides transparent governance. Hassle-free lifting of foodgrains during the past three years has been a major factor. This time we hope to get at least 60 per cent of Jat Sikh vote. Farmers are no more the vote bank of the Akalis.

Parkash Singh Badal
Failure of the Congress government to keep any of its pre-poll promises is the main issue here. You visit the villages and see for yourself the poor upkeep of basic amenities there. Discontinuation of welfare schemes, like shagun scheme, old age pension and other schemes for weaker sections of society, have distanced the people from the government. All other projects for border area development have been discontinued. No compensation is being paid to them for the loss of crops. Further, levying of electricity duty and increase in stamp duty are the other major issues that have alienated people from the government.

How about Rai Sikhs and Christians?

Capt Amarinder Singh
Rai Sikhs are very happy as we have got them included in the Scheduled Caste list. The last SAD-BJP government did nothing for them. Even the Christian community has unanimously decided to support the Congress candidate. We held meetings with representatives of the Christian community, which sought inclusion in the Scheduled Caste list.

Parkash Singh Badal
The previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government pursued their case for inclusion in the SC list to the final stage. Only the final notification was left. Not only that, we also allotted land along the Ravi river to their present occupants at a nominal rate of Rs 6,000 an acre payable in easy instalments. We not only made a nominee of the Christian community as a member of the State Subordinate Services Federation but also allotted funds for construction of Masih Bhavans in Ferozepore, Gurdaspur and Amritsar. We started celebrating Christmas as a state function.

What about the arrangements for the conduct of the election? Are you happy?

Capt Amarinder Singh
We are committed to a free, fair and smooth byelection. We will not tolerate any attempt to disrupt law and order. All arrangements for a fair conduct of election have been completed.

Parkash Singh Badal
There cannot be a free and fair byelection. We have been demanding deployment of paramilitary forces and Election Observers. But so far there is neither any PMF or observer here.


Young villagers prefer cricket kit to booze, money
Prabhjot Singh and Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Ajnala, February 18
Shun booze, drugs and money and go for cricket kit, appears to be the catchword of young voters in this border town which is in the middle of a byelection.

A couple of days ago, a worker of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, Mr Zorawar Singh, was caught while “gifting” a cricket kit to a group of voters. His arrest led to a dharna and strong protest by Dal workers outside the police station. Dharna was lifted only after Mr Zorawar Singh minus the cricket kit was released.

Bribing of a voter is an offence under the electoral law, maintained the police officers on duty, holding that gifting a cricket worth around Rs 2,000 was tantamount to a bribe.

The policemen admit that there have been instances where cricket kits were brought for distribution to young men in various villages. “Cricket kit is the most sought after thing in villages these days. Even gram panchayats have been demanding from the Sports Department cricket kits. There is hardly any one asking for hockey sticks, footballs, basketballs or volleyballs any more,” says a police officer.

The policemen deployed in the constituency are at a loss to understand against whom they should act. On the one hand are a large number of bootleggers and illicit distillers. Also in the same group are those distributing drugs, including opium, bhuki and charas to woo voters. Contrary to them are those distributing cricket kits in villages to make young men utilise their free time in playing the sport, which, until a few years ago, was alien to them.

“Distribution of cricket kits may be in violation of the model code of conduct and election laws but it has at least some positive facets. On the other hand, distribution of booze, drugs or even gur (basic ingredient for illicit distillation) to woo voters is a serious offence. Either way, we have to act. So far there has been only one case in which SAD-BJP candidate has been accused of distributing cricket kits.

“Youngsters also value the kit more as they think it comes from former Test cricketer and local MP, Mr Navjot Sidhu,” admits a village school physical education teacher. The SAD-BJP workers, however, deny it outright. “We respect and abide by the model code of conduct,” they say maintaining that if we have to help and encourage young men from rural areas to take to cricket, we have all the time and opportunities to do so. “Why should we do it at election time?” they hold.

Chief Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and Sports Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi had in a recent TV programme admitted that there was a big demand for cricket kits everywhere in rural Punjab. “Young men in rural areas want plain playfields and cricket kits,” he said.

“Whatever be the implications, young men in Punjab in general and in villages in particular must be encouraged to take to sports than opt for drugs,” says Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, president, Punjab Olympic Association, revealing that both the SGPC and Akali Dal were working on eradicating this social menace of drug addiction from face of Punjab.


Prabir case
Kidnappers were in touch with family
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 18
Near and dear ones, classmates and teachers of Prabir Singh Guddu, a student of DAV Public School, who had been released by his kidnappers yesterday, made a beeline for his house to congratulate him following the breaking of the news about his release in The Tribune today.

After the initial hiccups, the jovial parents of Prabir, Mr K. S. Dimpy, and Ms Kulwinder Kaur, admitted that their son had been released by his kidnappers. Later, they danced to the drum beats and there was atmosphere of festivity at their house in Shastri Nagar.

The mother, brother and other relatives of Prabir have left for Delhi through Shatabdi Express to meet the boy. The family has arranged the akhand path, bhog of which would be performed on February 20.

A kidnapper, who identified himself as a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh, had been calling the family for ransom since last Friday. With a view to misleading the police and intelligence agencies, one of the kidnappers had made first call for ransom from Noida, then Gurgaon and Nainital etc.

Though the family had denied that any ransom was paid to secure the safe return of the boy, sources claimed that the deal was struck between Rs 1 and 3 crore. Mr Dimpy, father of the boy claimed that it was the grace of the almighty that the boy had been released and no ransom was paid.

However, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and DGP S. S. Virk had directed the police to exercise restraint despite the fact that it was established from the record of telephone/mobile phones that the kidnappers were constantly in touch with the family only after three days of the kidnapping.

The last call was stated to be made from Sangrur district in Punjab. After the deal, the kidnappers had allowed Prabir Singh to talk to his parents on Monday. It is reliably learnt that the police party and the counter-intelligence agencies had spotted the kidnappers and were in a position to kill them at the time of striking deal, yet they did not act as Capt Amarinder Singh had given a promise to the family that their son would be returned safely. Earlier, the Chief Minister had told this correspondent that the boy was held captive in Punjab itself and any news about the movement of the kidnappers could endanger the life of the boy.

The killing of Abhi Verma, a student of DAV School, Hoshiarpur by the abductors had put a challenge before the police who resorted to a wait-and-watch policy.

The release of the boy has come as a big relief for the ruling party as the issue was politicised during the Ajnala byelection. Like, Kislay Komal, who was released a few days before the elections in Bihar, Prabir Singh’s release has also come five days before the crucial Ajnala byelection. 


Shocks in Punjab power board
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Shocking facts about the functioning of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) — even though 19 employees right from junior engineers to executive engineers were convicted in corruption cases, they were not dismissed from service for upto two years. As a result, they continued to enjoy the perks and other benefits despite conviction.

In fact the action taken report was not handed over to PSEB’s internal vigilance wing till about four reminders were shot by the authorities concerned. This was not all. The PSEB authorities could not provide information in at least 12 cases.

The employees, booked by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, were convicted by different courts. The allegations ranged from amassing wealth beyond the known sources of income to the demand and acceptance of bribes for getting sundry jobs done. A substantial number of employees were booked after being nabbed in trap cases.

Quoting the provisions of law, legal experts asserted that employees convicted in corruption cases were liable to be dismissed from service forthwith. Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate S.K. Garg added that employees could only be reinstated if they succeed in appeals filed against their conviction.

He further added that the sentence could be suspended, but conviction in corruption cases could not be stayed or suspended. Referring to a Supreme Court judgement, he asserted that once a public servant was convicted in a corruption case, he should not be allowed to hold public office till acquitted.

Taking a serious view of the matter, Punjab’s Director-General of Police Lalit Bhatia — looking after the PSEB’s affairs — today met Vigilance Chief-cum-Additional Director-General of Police A.P. Pandey and Director of Vigilance Bureau S. Chattopadhaya. The DGP reportedly told the two officers to bring the facts to the state government’s notice for necessary action.

The sources added that the DGP has also written to PSEB’s Chairman for taking action against appropriate disciplinary authority for alleged delay in initiating action after looking into each and every case.

Mr Bhatia, when contacted, said the meeting with the Vigilance Bureau authorities was aimed at “strengthening its internal functioning and to bring about a culture of integrity.

The board’s internal vigilance wing had recommended major penalty proceedings against 40 employees in 2004. The allegations ranged from embezzling employees’ provident fund to disconnecting power supply for harassing the consumers.

Besides major penalty proceedings, the registration of criminal cases against two employees — under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act — has also been advocated.

The wing has further suggested minor punishments in at least four cases, besides the transfer or removal of 12 employees from sensitive posts. At least three of the employees — to be transferred out — belonged to the Patiala circle.


Dreams of better life shattered
Illegal immigrant returns after undergoing
20-year-long ordeal in Lebanon
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Kaniawali (Faridkot), February 18
Balwinder Singh has returned home after spending over 20 years in Lebanon, but he has no happy memories to relate. Instead he has a horrifying story of exploitation to tell, one that would send shivers down the spine of those dreaming to go abroad with the ‘help’ of travel agents.

Narrating his story to The Tribune here today, Balwinder said he had left for Lebanon in May 1982 with the dreams of making it big abroad.

His travel agent, Jarnail Singh, first made him board a flight from New Delhi to Turkey where he stayed for a few days before heading towards Syria. Later, when his visa for Syria expired he was bundled into a caravan of trucks loaded with cement, which took him to Lebanon in a discreet manner.

He finally reached his destination after three months. All this while he had to hide himself from the prying eyes of Lebanese authorities. Bereft of any good educational qualification and unaware of languages spoken there, he worked as a daily wager for about three-four years.

He was always scared of getting caught, as he didn’t have proper travel documents and his worst nightmare of getting caught actually came true. He languished in a Lebanese jail for a few months.

Following his release, he came across an Arab farmer who employed him, but didn’t pay him a single penny for 18 years. He simply used to get two square meals a day as wages for all his hard work. Besides working on the farmer’s fields, he also did household chores and babysitting at his home. Balwinder told that he had also learnt Arabic language and had lost all hopes of returning home.

But, destiny took a new turn and one day his employer decided to send him back. He got in touch with the Indian embassy and got his travel documents prepared. Balwinder landed in New Delhi on February 14.

When he reached home the next day his younger brother, who opened the door, could not recognise him, as according to him, Balwinder looked like a “Pakistani spy” and was speaking Arabic.

His family identified him from a mark on his neck. He was mentally disturbed to some extent and it took him a couple of days to become normal. Even while talking to this correspondent in Punjabi he uttered some Arabic words in between.

When asked what took him to Lebanon, Balwinder said prior to leaving for Lebanon he had a temporary job with Punjab Agro and was earning about Rs 150 a month. He left the job to take up farming, but wasn’t content with the meagre income. He then sold off his share of two acres of land for Rs 20,000 and handed over the amount to the travel agent for passport and other documents.

He didn’t even get married thinking that he would marry only after making good money abroad. But, now he doesn’t want to talk about living abroad. “I would not allow anyone from my family to go abroad until and unless he/she has proper travel documents,” said a sentimental Balwinder who now plans to engage himself in farming along with his two brothers.

He also lost his father and a sister during his absence.

Meanwhile, his family is ecstatic to have Balwinder back. “We had thought that we had lost him forever, but God has been very kind to us.

His return is God’s biggest gift to our family,” said his mother, Surjeet Kaur, with tears in her eyes.


Amir Khusro’s verse shines in his repertoire
Pakistani qawwal shares a glorious tradition
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 18
Farid Ayaz exerts a strange influence over his listeners. Even when the qawwal is not singing, his references create the desired impact on those who absorb his Sufi music philosophy. And before one realises, the world of qawwali has been revisited from source to destination.

“We follow the traditions set by Amir Khusro and owe allegiance to Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia of the Delhi gharana. For centuries we have been preserving qawwali in the purest form as conceived by Amir Khusro,” Farid Ayaz from Pakistan made a humble introduction on his first visit to Patiala, a city that inspires him endlessly. He is here to perform for the heritage festival.

“I wish I could live here forever. This place has more richness than we can ever take,” said the qawwal who is among the few to have preserved a classical base. He traces his lineage to Samaat bin Ibrahim, the first disciple of Amir Khusro who bound the word of seers into rhythm. Until then, divine verses were sung, but not in ragas.

In the clan of Ayaz’s legendary father Munshi Raziuddin, who was also the Pride of Pakistan, qawwali is rated as the purest form of music. The qawwal explained, “It’s imperative for a qawwal to master all forms of classical music. But the reverse is not vital. We consider Sufi verse the best representation of love and a qawwal the guide of saints. His vocation is to sing Sufi text and help audiences relate to its richness.

“Often our listeners enter a trance where consciousness of existence ceases. Some even strip naked. That’s when we protect their dignity with our rumaal. Even the ‘rumaal we sport has a purpose,” he explained.

Headways into the conversation revealed the history of qawwali. Ayaz shared various unknown aspects about qawwali’s evolution — how Amir Khusro never sang in the presence of Nizamuddin Aulia; how Aulia restored the senses of a deaf and dumb boy Saamat Ibrahim and ordered his musical training by Amir Khusro. Ayaz belongs to the family of Samaat Ibrahim, who was the first to sing qawwali. He is naturally celebrated across the world and has several foreign students.

But success is not Ayaz’s goal. He is driven by purpose alone and by his rich heritage. That’s why he is not concerned about the distortion of qawwali. “We practise the form at another level. In Pakistan it is brimming with life,” said the singer while also referring to the origin of “rang” in qawwali. “‘Rang’ is the last component of qawwali rendition. It symbolises that there is only one colour — that of spirituality. Bulle Shah, Shah Hussain and Kabir have immortalised this concept. We sing of its greatness. Also, in our fraternity only men sing. Women observe the purdah,” he stated.

A firm believer in pre-ordained roles for men and women, Ayaz winds up by confessing his love for India. Once a year he visits Delhi where his ancestral home still stands in the Chandni Mahal area. The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zaffar, gifted this property to his ustad Tanras Khan who is among Farid Ayaz’s ancestors.


Indian, Pak poets delight
by Aditi Tandon

The poetic symposium organised at Central Library yesterday coincided with the 125th birth anniversary of Prof Puran Singh, the poet who has sung Punjab most extensively. Also by some stroke of chance, the symposium entered the heritage festival schedule for the first time this year, which is also being observed as the centenary celebration year of the noted Punjabi poet Mohan Singh.

Mohan Singh is best known for his legendary nazm" Kudi Potohar Di.' Representing India were poets Dr Mohan Jeet, Bijender Chauhan, humorist Hari Singh Dilbar, satirist Jaswant Zaffar, Akademi award winner Dr Manjit Tiwana, and Dr Gurminder Sidhu among others. Pakistani participation was also heartening with poets like Sarvat Mohi-ud-din, Nasreen Bhatti, Shamim Ikram-ul-Haq and Kanwal Mushtaq offering rich verse. Dr Kanha Singh from Chandigarh wove a nostalgic spell with her famous Potohari nazm, which had the guests craving for more.

A date with "Chitra Veena"

Sarod player Aashish Khan, the son of legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan impressed the audience with his sarod recital today. Visiting Patiala after about 20 years, Aashish Khan played the sarod, seldom seen in the concerts circuit in India. An eight stringed instrument, it is called the Chitra Veena or the Adi Sarod. Different from the one that Ustad Amjad Ali Khan plays, this sarod has one special feature.

The tough 'dhrupad ang" and "beenkar ang", special to Mian Tansen's Senia Beenkar gharana can best be rendered on this sarod. This instrument was mastered by Acharya Alaudin Khan, grandfather of Aashish Khan, who belongs to the Senia Maihar gharana. The musicians of this gharana are now settled abroad.

Boys dressed as girls

Young boys dressed as girls have been charming the visitors to Sheesh Mahal. Trained in Gotipua dance tradition of Orissa, they sing praises of Radha and Lord Krishna and dance to devotional tunes. The best feature of this dance is Bandha Nritya, a unique presentation where Gotipuas form different yogic postures create images of Radha and Krishna.

Earlier, Gotipuas (boys dressed as girls) used to dance in temples all night on occasions like Dola Utsav, Chandan Yatra (boat riding festival) and Jhulan yatra (swing festival). The theme was Radha-Krishna love. Now the dance is more precise, and has more features — Vandana (prayer); Sarigama (pure dance number) and Abhinaya (enactment of a song).

Hotels jam packed

Thanks to the heritage festival, visitors to Patiala are facing dearth of accommodation. All good hotels are packed. Even the second rung hotels have no space to offer. Such is the rush of booking that the organisers of friendly match between India and Pakistan had to settle for the second choice while arranging accommodation for the visiting Pakistani cricket players.


Show of Company art and miniatures
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 18
“Company” art today revisited this princely city and was amalgamated with miniatures from various states, including Punjab, from the same era, to showcase how the tradition of painting changed after the East India Company was set up, in India, especially after 1850.

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by the Punjab Governor, Lieut-Gen S F Rodrigues (retd), and his wife Jean, is definitely a heady mix. It represents the post-mutiny era when an inter-mingling of styles took place after the advent of the British. The British wanted their art to be more real while the traditional Mughal and Rajasthani miniatures were more conceptual in nature and seemed to be frozen in time.

It is this inter-mingling of the various styles of miniature paintings which is also termed as the “Company School” which is on display at the Banasar Ghar in the Sheesh Mahal complex.

A work of the Punjab school depicting King Edward and his queen in Indian dress exemplifies the changing styles. The king comes across as a genial but firm ruler who is in command as he holds a bejeweled sword lightly. A plump queen is seen trying to imitate the Indian sitting style for ladies.

There are other interesting examples also like a lithograph of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Emily Eden. The attempt to maintain the traditional symmetry of Indian miniature painting even as life is infused in the miniatures is best depicted in a miniature of Amjad Ali Shah.

The National Gallery of Modern Art Curator Rajiv Lochan, who could not come for the opening, while talking on the phone, said the whole idea of the exhibition was to include works from Patiala and to present an exhibition which talked about the amalgamation of styles. When asked about less number of paintings from Patiala, he said paintings from Capt Amarinder Singh’s personal collection could be taken in future and this attempt was just a beginning.

The Governor and his wife appreciated the paintings. However, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur’s favourite was a painting titled “Indian Toilet” showing a woman with a partially naked back adjusting her hair.


CPI supports Congress Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 18
In a significant development, the Punjab unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI) today extended its support to the Congress in the Ajnala Assembly byelection and asked the voters to cast their votes in favour of the Congress candidate to defeat the “communal” forces.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune today, Dr Joginder Dayal, state secretary of the Punjab CPI, said though the Punjab unit of the party had extended its support to the Congress in Ajnala byelection, it would not campaign jointly with the Congress for its candidate.

Dr Dayal said the CPI was of the firm opinion that the Left parties should have fielded a common candidate in Ajnala. He further said though the CPI did not approve the methods, namely muscle power, money power and liquor power, allegedly adopted by the Congress and the SAD in the Ajnala Assembly byelection, in the broader prospect and keeping the national scenario in mind, the CPI would certainly work for the defeat of the Akali-BJP combine in Ajnala.

Dr Dayal said that the recent kidnappings and murders were the result of continuous deterioration of the law and order situation in Punjab. 


Controversy remains, even after recounting of votes
Tribune News Service

Nangal Lubana (Kapurthala), February 17
The dispute over the outcome of panchayat elections at Nangal Lubana village of Bholath, held in 2003, does not seem to have defused even after recounting of the votes by the district administration.

The recounting has vindicated the stand of the complainant, Ms Amarjit Kaur, a Congress candidate who has now won the elections by 160 votes. However, Ms Surjit Kaur, a candidate of Shiromani Akali Dal who had been sarpanch since June, 2003, after she won by a thin margin of 17 votes, is not satisfied as she suspects foul play.

After the declaration of the panchayat elections in 2003, the losing party had filed an application with the Deputy Commissioner demanding recounting of votes.

The recounting was to take place in May, 2004, but it was withheld for a while as the winning party had filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking a stay over the process.

However, the court had dismissed the petition and recounting has now finally taken place.


BBMB staff protests against official apathy
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, February 18
More than 400 employees of one of the major power generation units of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) at Ganguwal and Kotla hydel plant at Anandpur Sahib today went on a strike for five hours. They were protesting against the indifferent attitude of the BBMB authorities towards their demands. This was first time when the employees left their work to protest against the authorities.

The incident took place in the morning when some of the employees objected to a raid by an official of the BBMB at their houses to find out how many of the employees had rented out their government accommodation to outsiders.

The employees went on a strike about 9.30 am claiming that many of the employees had not got promotion for a long time and about 20 to 25 per cent posts were lying vacant in the control of the S.E. (Nangal).

The president of the Bhakra Power Employees Union (Ganguwal Unit), Mr Satpal Sharma, said the union had called off strike at about 2.30 pm after getting an assurance from senior officials.

The Chief Engineer BBMB (Nangal), Mr Amrik Singh, said we had taken note of the employees problems and these would be solved soon. 


Suspended DSP levels charges against Birmi
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 18
DSP-cum-Jail Superintendent, Ropar Sub-Jail, Jagir Singh Yadav, who was yesterday suspended by the IG (Jail), Punjab, has levelled an allegation of corruption against the Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Jail), Punjab, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi.

It is learnt giving reasons for Mr Yadav's suspension, the IG (Jail), Mr S.K. Dutta, in a communication to all departments concerned yesterday stated that he was making a deal with three inmates Satnam Singh, Buta Singh and Roshan Singh, who were lodged in the Sub-Jail, Ropar, to purchase their plot in Kansal village at a low rate. He even rang a Congress leader up to know about the plot rates in Kansal.

It is also mentioned in the suspension letter that while Jagir Singh was talking to the Congress leader about the plot, Mr Birmi was also present there. The Congress leader handed over the phone to Mr Birmi and when he questioned the idea to purchase the plot from the inmates, the DSP allegedly used abusive language.

The DSP has been ordered to join the Central Jail, Ludhiana, during the suspension period.

Mr Yadav told The Tribune over phone that he was being pressured by a member of the Jail Reform Committee "to pay monthly funds to Mr Birmi." I had declined the request of the member several times earlier. I had even filed a complaint against him in the Vigilance Bureau, Punjab.

The action against him was taken by the IG at the behest of the minister, he alleged.

"I had waited outside the residence of the Chief Minister in Patiala since morning to meet him or his wife Preneet Kaur to present my case," he said, adding that till 6 pm, I was not able to meet anyone of them.

He said the allegations of use of abusive language against the minister and purchase of the plot from the jail inmates were also false.

Mr Birmi denied the allegations and said the DSP was levelling false allegations as he was caught red-handed. Parminder Singh, the Congress leader, was travelling with me when he received the phone call from Mr Yadav seeking information about plots rates in Kansal, he added.

Jagir Singh was pressuring jail inmates to sell their plots at low rates to him, Mr Birmi said. The member of the Jail Reform Committee also denied the allegation levelled against him.


2 girls run over by train, die
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 18
Two girls were run over by the Ludhiana-Ferozepore Satluj Express yesterday. One girl died on the spot, while the other breathed her last on reaching Ludhiana.

Sources said that the incident occurred when the deceased, Bhupinder Kaur and Sonia, both students of Class XI, were on their way back home from Bhim Nagar Higher Secondary School.

When they were crossing the rail track in front of their school, the train coming from Ludhiana ran them over, killing Bhupinder on the spot. Sonia sustained serious injuries and was referred to Ludhiana after giving first aid, but she died on reaching there.


Anticipatory bail granted
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, February 18
Additional Sessions Judge M.S. Virdi has granted anticipatory bail to the former sarpanch of Aulakh village, Mr Sukhmander Singh, who along with Mr Udham Singh, a block samiti member, has been charged with selling 563 coins dating back to 1840.

The coins were found during digging at the village. 


Four held for planning kidnappings
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 18
The police arrested Thawinder Singh Thana, Jaswant Singh Raji, Gurtej Singh and Harmanjit Singh, all local residents, for planning four kidnappings in the Malwa region.

The SSP, Mr Amit Prasad, said the police arrested kingpin of the kidnappers, Thawinder Singh, at a check post. He told the police that they were planning to kidnap four persons in the coming weeks in the Malwa region. Following this revelation the police arrested the other persons, he said.

The SSP said Thawinder Singh and Jaswant Singh Raji had links with Khalistan Commando Force during the militancy period. Thawinder Singh owns a cement bricks factory in Lakhi Colony at Barnala, he added.

The accused also tried to rob Kanshi Ram petrol station last week. 


Kharar child ‘kidnapped’, recovered from Zirakpur
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 18
A schoolboy suspected to have been kidnapped from here today was found at Zirakpur late tonight.

The child, Ajay, a class I student of Arya School, did not reach home after the school closed at 2 p.m. His father Dharam Singh Yadav, who works as a labourer, found the child missing when came back from work after 6 p.m.

They are living in a rented accommodation on the Badala road.

It is learnt that after a marital dispute the mother of Ajay, Shakuntala, had separated. She is reportedly staying in Zirakpur.

The father had made a complaint to the police in this regard. The SHO, Mr Gurcharan Singh, said the child was recovered from the mother at Zirakpur late tonight and was being brought back to Kharar.


Five arrested, 2 kg of opium seized
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 18
The district police achieved major success when, in two separate cases, five accused were arrested and about 2 kg of opium was seized from them.

Mr L.K. Yadav, SSP, said that while 1.5 kg of opium was seized from the Gidderbaha police station area and 500 gm of opium was seized from the Lambi police station area. He added that the arrested persons were identified as Bachhittar Singh, Didar Singh, Gurnam Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Gurdeep Singh.

He said that while three accused, Bachhittar Singh, Didar Singh and Gurnam Singh, were smuggling the opium in a Toyota Qualis vehicle, the other accomplices were using the scooter for transporting the narcotics from one place to another place.

He said that two separate cases had been registered in this connection under the NDPS Act.


Cop shot at, injured
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 18
Unidentified persons shot at a police constable at Lopo village, near here, yesterday. The injured, constable, Mr Jasbir Singh, suffered a bullet injury.

According to sources, Mr Jasbir Singh, who is posted as munshi at Lopo police post, was standing at the main bazar chowk at Lopo when he spotted a blue Santro car. He got suspicious about the occupants of the car and started following them on his scooter. The car stopped on Maleana road where the constable reportedly had an altercation with the car occupants. They then fired at him and injured him in the throat. However, he was lucky that another bullet grazed past him.

Mr Jasbir Singh was rushed to a hospital in Badhanikalan from where he was referred to the Civil Hospital in Moga. The police has launched a manhunt to nab the assailants.


PSHRC moved on students’ caning
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
The International Human Rights Centre has moved the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), seeking action against the management of a Patiala government school for caning 15 girl students last month.

Basing its application on a report published in the Chandigarh Tribune on January 16, the complainant, Mr Paramjit Singh Goraya, has stated that under the Punjab School Education Board code, no punishment is permissible to girl students. He demanded that Rs 1 lakh compensation be paid to each of the families of the girls caned by the headmaster of Manjholi Government Elementary School.

Notices have been issued by the PSHRC to the Secretary, Education, Punjab, the DPI and the headmaster for March 16.

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