Hunt for kidnapper’s Mumbai link
Party unit sends out boycott-Subhas signal
Traffic stands crippled after twin mishaps, campus
Trinamul bandh over Burdwan murder
Bloc sore with Big Brother over north Bengal panel
Saffron bounty for Northeast
Tripura rebels kill five jawans

Calcutta, Jan 22 
Police investigations have revealed that kidnapper Ajay Singh, arrested from Patna and brought to the city late on Friday, was part of a larger, nationwide criminal group, headed by Umesh Singh.

Ajay and Ashim Singh, one of his henchmen, have been charged with kidnapping Exide chairman S.B. Ganguly and businessman Sajjan Jalan. Ajay and Ashim were produced in the court of sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Alipore, amid tight security on Saturday. Both were remanded to police custody till January 28.

The police on Saturday sent messages to their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra to be on the alert for Umesh Singh, believed to be the mentor of Ajay Singh. Police believe the core of the group may be in Mumbai and Ajay may have carried out the S.B. Ganguly kidnap at the behest of his masters there.

According to the deputy commissioner of police, detective department special cell, Manoj Malaviya, a team of senior detectives specialising in anti-crime operations were briefed on the activities of Umesh Singh on Saturday.

The detectives will shortly fan out in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in an effort to close in on Singh.

“We had gone to Umesh Singh’s house in Gaya and Hazaribagh last year to arrest him, but he was absconding,” Malaviya said. “We are looking for three more of Ajay’s associates. We have left the warrants for their arrest with the Bihar police,’’ he said.

Detectives said Umesh had been living with a girlfriend from Varanasi for the past two years. But with the police hot on their trail, the pair split up, the girl staying on in Varanasi and Umesh heading for Mumbai.

The police have some clues which suggest that Umesh is in close touch with Fazlu-ur-Rehman, Dubai-based don who operated in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, before making his way to Mumbai and finally leaving the country.

Detectives said Ajay was the main negotiator of the Umesh Singh gang. He would convey to the victims’ families the ransom amount and the mode of payment.

The Singh duo was brought to court on Saturday amid tight security in an Ambassador. Heads covered in blankets, Ajay and Ashim were whisked away to the court inspector’s office.

Ashim was limping from injuries sustained while trying to escape from the police in Patna.

Officers L.N. Pan, Sudhendu Chakraborty and Mukesh Singh of the anti-rowdy section of the city police brought the Singhs to Calcutta in a Tata Sumo.

Police said they travelled 735 kilometres in 18 hours. Sources said detectives interrogated Ajay and Ashim during the journey.

Ajay Singh was defended in the court by Lakshman Singh and Tarun Roy Chowdhury. The lawyers argued that he has been framed by Calcutta Police. “They have arrested our client without any evidence,’’ they told the judge.    

Calcutta, Jan 22 
The North 24 Parganas district committee of the CPM has called for a virtual boycott of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s official functions and political programmes.

An informal directive to this effect has been sent to local committees at the behest of the anti-Subhas faction, which dominates the district committee led by Amitava Nandi and Amitava Bose.

The minister, however, seems unmoved by the directive. “People usually throng my rallies and functions. This may be an eyesore for some persons. No such directive or conspiracy can prevent people from attending my meetings,” he asserted.

A two-day meeting of the committee, which ended at Barasat on Friday, even called for Chakraborty’s expulsion. Politburo member Sailen Dasgupta and central committee member Niren Ghosh were present at the meeting.

Chakraborty’s detractors felt it was not enough to reprimand him publicly. “He and his associates must be driven out of the party,” they said.

A number of committee members also suggested that efforts be made to “free Salt Lake stadium of Chakraborty’s control, since he is using it as the centre of his political activities.”

Chakraborty, also sports minister, has a chamber in the stadium where he meets aides to draw up programmes. His detractors believe they will be able to corner him further if they can “dismantle his den at the stadium.”

Asked for his comment on the move, the agitated minister said: “Let us see if they have the guts to throw me out of the stadium.”

Apparently undeterred by the moves of his detractors, Chakraborty on Saturday succeeded in mobilising a 5,000-strong crowd of party workers at an official function at Panihati. The function was organised by the transport department to inaugurate a ferry service between Panihati and Konnagar and two new jetties.

Earlier, the Panihati local committee had warned party members against attending the programme or face disciplinary action.

However, hundreds of party members and leaders of frontal organisations disregarded the warning, turned up at the venue and felicitated Chakraborty.

The official function turned into a typical Chakraborty rally, with district party leaders as well as those from the SFI, DYFI, Mahila Samiti, Citu and local clubs bringing slogan-shouting hordes to the venue. Some carried posters saying: “Subhasda, carry on your struggle, we are with you.”

Chakraborty’s felicitation continued for almost half an hour while state transport officials looked on. An emotionally-charged minister said he was overwhelmed by the people’s response to the function. “I could never imagine so many people will come to attend this humble programme,” he said.

Sources said the Panihati local committee was angry with the minister as its approval had not been sought for the function.

Chakraborty, however, was not ready to accept the contention, saying: “There is no question of seeking party permission for official functions on development projects.”

A local committee member and Chakraborty loyalist said: “It concerns development of our locality. Why should we not be present?”    

Calcutta, Jan 22 
Two persons were injured in two accidents on Saturday.

The first mishap was reported from Rajabazar, on APC Road. The other took place near Curzon Park, in Esplanade.

Police could not confirm the names of the two victims, who are still unconscious in hospital.

In the first incident, a speeding private bus knocked down a middle-aged man near the APC Road-Rajabazar crossing, where four buses were set on fire after an accident last Sunday. The man was admitted to NRS Medical College and Hospital. The bus driver fled with his vehicle.

In the other accident, a man, about 35 years old, was run over by a tram near Curzon Park. One of his legs had to be amputated in hospital.

Both accidents caused disruption in traffic for about half-an-hour. Policemen on duty, however, managed to keep the situation under control.

Gol Park blockade: Traffic was also crippled in Gariahat and its adjoining areas for nearly two hours on Saturday afternoon by SFI students of South City College, who blocked the road near Gol Park. They were protesting an attack by students with Trinamul Congress affiliation.

The SFI group took over the street around noon, shouting slogans and demanding the arrest of Trinamul Congress activists who, they said, had “unleashed a reign of terror on the college campus” in the past few months.

They also alleged that the local police station had not taken any action despite specific complaints being lodged. “The police have become Trinamul agents,” the agitators claimed.

The SFI activists refused to negotiate with the policemen sent to the spot to lift the roadblock. Instead, they heckled and jeered at the policemen. The agitation was lifted around 1.30 pm, after senior officers assured them of prompt action.

Robbers held: Six youth were arrested on Saturday from a bus bound for Howrah. The armed youth were robbing traders of their money and valuables on the bus near Arabinda Sarani.    

Churulia, (Burdwan), Jan 22 
Trinamul Congress supporters observed a 12-hour bandh on Saturday protesting the murder of a party activist on Friday night. The killing and the bandh sent ripples of tension across Churulia and adjoining villages in Burdwan district.

Basu Ruidas was killed and four bystanders were grievously wounded at Churulia, in the Jamuria police station area, when at least six powerful bombs were hurled at them on Friday.

The situation took a turn for the worse on Saturday morning when the police came to remove Basu’s body. The villagers had not allowed the police to carry away the body on Friday. It has been sent for post-mortem.

The murder occurred at 8 pm on Friday when Basu was talking to Kalusona Ruidas, block Trinamul president, at Hatkhola More. A gang of four arrived on the spot, their faces hidden behind black cloth masks. Sensing trouble, both Basu and Kalusona ran for life. Kalusona managed to escape, but the miscreants got Basu. His body was blown off by the impact and fell 20 metres away.

Balai Mukherjee, a Class IX student; Nilmoni Ray, a veterinary doctor, and two others sustained splinter injuries. All of them have been admitted to hospital.

Ashish Sadhu, a Trinamul worker also injured in the incident, said Bhola Ray, in charge of the Churulia police camp, was present on the spot when the attack took place. He, however, fled. Ray returned with reinforcements after an hour and a half, according to Ajay Chatterjee, officer in charge of Jamuria police station.

Three persons have been taken into custody for interrogation. A police picket has been set up.

Moloy Ghatak, district Trinamul chairman, blamed the CPM for the attack. But Bikash Roy Choudhury, CPM MP, denied the charge, saying the incident was a result of a feud between the Trinamul and local Naxalite groups.    

Siliguri, Jan 22 
Talk of a development council for north Bengal has put the CPM at loggerheads not only with the Trinamul Congress and the BJP, but also with ally Forward Bloc.

Trinamul and the Forward Bloc feel the constitution of a council will boost development in the region, besides curbing separatist demands like that of Kamtapur.

The Forward Bloc appeared more bitter with the CPM for its confusing stand on the council. It will begin a mobilisation campaign from Sunday, Netaji’s birth anniversary, to back its demand for a development council duly approved by the state Assembly.

As part of its preparations, the Forward Bloc has organised party workers’ meetings in Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and several other places. Some of these meetings were attended by Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas. Former minister Kamal Guha, who returned to the party last year, has been made convener of the committee for running the council agitation.

Guha recently announced that Bloc workers would lay siege to Siliguri on February 27 to highlight the council demand. In his speech, he targeted deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya and finance minister Asim Dasgupta for “attempts to mislead the people.” During his first visit to north Bengal as deputy chief minister last month, Bhattacharya had said a council had already been formed for development work in north Bengal.

Whitener fraud: One person was arrested on Friday from Siliguri, in north Bengal, by the state enforcement branch for selling spurious containers of a clothes whitener. The deputy inspector-general of police, EB, Deben Biswas, said five containers were impounded from Shabji Bazar, in the Khalpara police station area.    

Shillong, Jan. 22 
Taking a leaf out of H.D. Deve Gowda’s book, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today unveiled a Rs 10,271-crore development package for the northeastern states and Sikkim.

Billed as the “agenda for socio-economic development of the Northeast”, the programme envisages completion of projects launched earlier and introduction of new schemes in various sectors. The Prime Minister said at a rally here that one of the priorities of his government was to resuscitate trade with the countries bordering the northeastern states. “We are committed to reviving border trade because it can provide a fillip to the economy of the Northeast,” he said.

Vajpayee said 330 housing schemes had been worked out in collaboration with the Housing and Urban Development Corporation, which will set up a zonal office here. “We have earmarked Rs 1,681 crore for these schemes,” he said. The Prime Minister said the Centre would also focus on the health sector. He said the Indira Gandhi Institute of Health and Medical Science would be upgraded to the status of a national institute soon.

Asserting that there would not be paucity of funds for development, Vajpayee said implementation of all “viable projects” would be expedited. However, he expressed concern over diversion of funds by most northeastern states. The Prime Minister said Mizoram, which bagged the lion’s share of the new economic package, was the only northeastern state to properly utilise the funds released by the Centre.

Union home minister L.K. Advani, who also addressed the rally, echoed Vajpayee’s views.

Lauding Mizoram as “a model state which is on the right track to development’’, Advani said the “peace bonus’’ provided to the hill state would be given to other northeastern states as well if they succeeded in maintaining peace.

Addressing a press conference at Raj Bhavan before leaving for New Delhi, both Vajpayee and Advani expressed dismay over the law and order situation in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. The Prime Minister said the Centre had realised that the problem of unemployment was one of the main reasons for the continuation of insurgency. He said a meeting of chief ministers would be convened soon to discuss this issue in isolation.

Asked how the Centre proposed to prevent diversion of funds, Vajpayee said the Prime Minister’s Office would directly monitor implementation of the new development package. He said a Bill pertaining to upgradation of the North-Eastern Council was also on the cards.

On the deadlock in peace talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the Prime Minister said the militants should realise that “there is no question of compromising on the sovereignty of the nation”. He said the Centre was trying its best to “stabilise” the ongoing ceasefire in Nagaland and begin a “meaningful dialogue” with the rebels.

Earlier, presiding over a security-related meeting, the Union home minister said three India Reserve Force battalions would be raised for Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Chief of Army Staff, Gen. V.P. Malik, and the chief ministers and Governors of the seven states and Sikkim attended the meeting.    

Agartala, Jan. 22 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants killed five CRPF personnel and injured seven in an ambush in Tripura’s Dhalai district today.

The militants also snatched three self-loading rifles, a grenade firing rifle and seven grenades in the first major attack on security forces this year.

Sources said two CRPF jeeps had been escorting a convoy of civilian vehicles from Gandacherra to Ambasa, headquarters of Dhalai district. At 7.15 am, militants opened fire on the rear jeep near remote Jagabandhu para in the Bonabari area under Gandacherra sub-division.

Lance naik Jamaluddin Sheikh, constables Ram Dhan, Kuldip Rai, Mukul Deb Sharma and driver (constable) Pramod Debnath died on the spot while seven others sustained serious injuries. Before the front jeep could turn back for help, the militants escaped with arms and ammunition.

Officers and jawans of the Gandacherra police station, who reached the site first, rushed the injured to G.B. hospital here. The condition of three jawans was stated to be critical. A CRPF deputy inspector-general and district superintendent of police T.B. Roy rushed to the spot with reinforcement and launched combing operations. No arrests have been made so far.

Official sources here said militant outfits were planning to launch major strikes on Republic Day. Two outfits have already circulated leaflets in the interior areas warning people and government employees against observing the day. Security has been beefed up in the state.    


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