CANHANDIGARH, India, March 6, Reuter: The Punjab State Assembly was dissolved ‘on Sunday to pave the way for an end to a Sikh separatist campaign in which at least 318 people died this year.

The dissolution of the 117member Assembly was carried out by Presidential order from Delhi. It followed the release of Sikhism’s five High Priests and 40 others from prisons where they were held on charges of separatist links.

The two moves are expected to precede reopening of negotiations between the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government and Sikh hardliners on the rights of the religious community and fresh elections in Punjab.

Political sources in the Punjab capital Chandigarh said the moves could tempt freedom fighters who shot dead four people in the past 24 hours, to seek peaceful change.

The victims included a policeman killed in a village ambush near the Sikh holy city Amritsar on Saturday night and a farmer in a nearby village. Two freedom fighters were killed by the security forces.

Freedom fighters boycotted the last state elections in 1985 and caused the fall of the Sikh dominated Akali Dal government in May by stepping up their insurgency in the prosperous agricultural state.

The State Governor, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, took over the administration after the government’s dismissal by Delhi and the Assembly was suspended.

The Times of India, predicting the dissolution, said on Sunday it ‘was part of a package Gandhi was offering freedom fighters to encourage them to take part in the political process.

The concessions appeared to have softened the high priests, appointed by the freedom fighters to oversee the religious and temporal affairs of some 16 million Sikhs.

Bhai Jasbir Singh, told reporters in Amritsar on Sunday the five priests would try to find an honorable solution without causing further harm to the community.

His view in being interpreted as a signal to negotiate with Sikh militants waging a guerrilla war for an independent Sikh nation and was more diplomatic than the priests’ forthright demand on Saturday for total freedom.

CALCUTTA, March 5, Reuter: A starving mongrel strayed into a hospital at Midnapore village in India’s West Bengal state and ate a new born baby, doctors said on Saturday.

They told reporters Uttara Pal complained that the duty nurse was sleeping when her child was born on Wednesday.

“The dog dragged the baby from the senseless mother and ate it in the nearby forest,” a doctor said. The government has suspended four hospital employees.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988