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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Relatives plead for Fiji PM
Chaudhry relatives with the Indian Prime Minister
The relatives urged Mr Vajpayee to use diplomatic pressure
Relatives of Fiji's captive Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, have pleaded with the Indian Government to help secure his release.

Mr Chaudhry, who hails from a village in northern India, has been held hostage by gunmen in the Fijian parliament since Friday.

Now family members from his ancestral village have met the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in Delhi and urged him to take diplomatic steps to help free Mr Chaudhry.

If his captors do something drastic... I will kill myself

Brother-in-law Mahavir Singh
One family member has even threatened to burn himself if the Indian Government does not respond.

Mahavir Singh, who is Mahendra Chaudhry's brother-in-law, said he would die with the Fijian prime minister if he was killed.

"First I will go on a hunger strike but if his captors do something drastic like killing him, then I will kill myself," Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh was accompanied to the prime minister's residence by his three daughters.

They said they had requested Mr Vajpayee to take up the matter with other countries and the United Nations.

"The prime minister assured us that appropriate steps would soon be taken at the diplomatic level as also through other necessary means to end the crisis in Fiji," said Mr Chaudhry's niece Mukta Chaudhry.

The Fijian crisis has been closely followed in India, with daily newspapers devoting front-page stories on the unfolding drama.

Ancestral ties

The Fijian Prime Minister hails from Bahujamalpur village in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

Mahendra Chaudhry
Mahendra Chaudhry has often visited his village
Mr Chaudhry's grandfather migrated to Fiji in 1912 when the colonial government of India shipped migrant labourers to work on the island's sugar plantations.

"Mahendra Chaudhry... rose from the ranks of a common man to uphold the tradition of democracy in that country," said Suresh Rathi, a villager in Bahujamalpur.

"But now there is tremendous resentment in the whole of Haryana, in fact, in the whole of India over the treatment that has been meted out to him," he said.

Although Mahendra Chaudhry was born and brought up in Fiji, he has maintained close contact with his sister and her family in India.

He has often visited his village, his last trip being in 1997.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji chiefs back president
21 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tense stand-off in Fiji
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ethnic split haunts Fijian politics
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Foreign 'horror' at Fiji coup attempt
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