Lalbazar gasps in language lockjaw
Miniskirt, ‘cut, cut’ make HS difficult
War zone in city heart
Grow lip hair and get grounded
Vats brimful, staff away
Private car spurt poses snarl threat
Bihar mafia son surrenders
Ex-minister’s plea rejected in LoC scam
19 militants rounded up in Tripura hideout raid
Tales of hardship, torture cloud rebel’s memories

Calcutta, April 19 
The frayed yellow file on the desk of deputy commissioner of police Harmanpreet Singh looked innocuous enough on Wednesday.

But, for the Punjab-born police officer, the contents came as a bombshell. For, neatly typed in Bengali was a message from an investigating officer that read:

Upa Nagarpal,

Bus chalak uhar janbahantike thik moto niyontrone aanitey na parai durghotona ghotey. Ekhane boley rakha abashyak je pathachalak rastar majkhane giya kingkartobyo bimur hoiya daraiya portey badhya hoi.

Though the translation was not appended, the message simply meant that an accident had occurred because a pedestrian suddenly came on to the road and the bus driver failed to avoid him.

“A message like this is taking us hours to decipher,” complained a non-Bengali police officer, so far used to the comfort of dealing with files written in English.

For the 16 non-Bengali IPS officers of the city police, the state government’s decision to introduce Bengali as the official language from April 14 has come as a double whammy.

First, few of them know how to speak Bengali fluently, let alone read and write in that language. As a result, files are moving painfully slowly from their tables.

Second, a number of them who were hoping for plum postings see their chances fading as the prospects suddenly seem to have brightened for officers known for their felicity with the Bengali language.

“Our efficiency will be sharply hit if we have to conduct all investigations in Bengali,” said a senior officer, who hails from Tamil Nadu. “How can we write reports and make jottings in chaste Bengali when most of us can only just about verbally communicate in that language? And most of us are in very responsible positions now..”

In fact, a non-Bengali, Dinesh Vajpai, heads the city police force while three others control three of the five police divisions in the city. While Ranjit Pachnanda is the deputy commissioner for south, the central and port divisions are headed by Raj Kanojia and Zulfikar Hasan.

Close aides of non-Bengali IPS officers complained that disposal of files has slowed down as none of these officers are comfortable in writing orders or making notations in Bengali.

“An enormous amount of time is being taken by them to read five- or six-page-long reports in chaste Bengali,” said one of them. “As a result, investigations and policy decisions are getting delayed.”

These officers have been especially stumped by Bengali officialese like niyontron kaksha (control room), agaradhikarik (sub-inspector), adhikarkhetra (jurisdiction) and porijan porisheba (movement of traffic).

In fact, the personal assistants of these officers, most of them traditional Bengali babus, have swung into action and are now helping their bosses frame their reports.

“To write three sentences in Bengali is proving to be a major headache for me,” confessed a deputy commissioner. “It is really tough going.”

While all IPS officers have to clear a test in the Bengali language within two years of joining the state administration, many of them have taken several attempts to pass it.    

Calcutta, April 19 
A young girl, dressed to kill in passion-red miniskirt and white T-shirt, sashays out of a state-of-the-art library. She runs into a middle-aged man in the corridor. “Papa, tumi ekhane keno” (Father, why are you here)? she demands.

Aami toke bari niye jete esechi” (I have come to take you home), replies the tearful man.

“Cut, Cut” shouts the director, and the camera stops rolling.

The scene has entertainment value for most, including the students and employees of Bhowanipore Education Society College dotting the corridors overlooking the shooting site.

But for nearly 1,000 students appearing for the Higher Secondary examinations at the south Calcutta centre, this father-daughter reunion scene had nothing but nuisance value.

Saat Paake Bandha, starring June Maliah, is being shot on the lawns of the college. The exams are being conducted on the second floor of a wing overlooking the greens.

“Every time the director screams ‘Action’ or ‘Cut,Cut’, we are disturbed. There’s also the commotion between shots. This has been going on for three days now,” complained an examinee.

The examinees and their guardians have blasted the college authorities for allowing a Bengali television serial to be shot on campus. Students of National Girls’ High School, Padmapukur Institution and South Calcutta Girls’ College are taking the Higher Secondary test at this centre.

“Higher Secondary is a critical examination for our children. Who is to be blamed if this unnecessary source of distraction robs them of crucial marks?” demanded Jhuma Bose, mother of a student of National Girls’.

Deepak Sarkar, principal of the Bhowanipore Educational Society College (HS section), however, said: “I have received no complaints. These allegations are baseless. Shooting is always conducted in silence and so how can students get distracted?”

But the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education has decided to take “strong action” against the school. “This is gross irregularity on the part of the authorities. As per the rules, the schools and colleges earmarked as exam venues remain under the control of the council till the end of the exams,” said council president Sudin Chattopadhyay.    

Calcutta, April 19 
There was blood on the streets of central Calcutta on Wednesday afternoon.

The Esplanade area was turned into a battle-field, with the police clashing with supporters of the Trinamul Congress and the BJP.

Nearly 50 people, including seven women, were injured as police resorted to a lathicharge and teargas.

The Trinamul Congress will observe Thursday as a “black day” across the state. Trinamul youth wing activists will demonstrate in front of all city police stations to protest Wednesday’s “police brutality”.

State Congress president ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury, quick to condemn the police action, has extended “full support” for Thursday’s programme.

Trouble broke out around 3 pm after a large number of Trinamul and BJP functionaries turned violent while courting arrest, protesting “deterioration in law and order situation” in Calcutta and other parts of Bengal.

Police lobbed more than 18 teargas cannisters after their repeated lathicharge failed to quell the waves of violent Trinamul and BJP workers who had converged on Esplanade to participate in a “law-violation programme”.

According to eyewitnesses, teargas shells were fired after the political activists began to hurl bombs, brickbats, bottles and other missiles at policemen.

Around six policemen, injured in the attack, have been admitted to hospital. Assistant commissioner of police, central division, Rabin Chatterjee, suffered head injuries.

The demonstrators stoned three police jeeps, passing buses and other vehicles. The battle spread to the stretches between the Esplanade-Lenin Sarani and Esplanade-S.N. Banerjee Road crossings.

With the inadequately-armed police force fighting a losing battle, joint commissioner of police, (organisation), S. N. Sarkar ordered his men to fire teargas cannisters.

This proved effective, as the BJP and Trinamul supporters finally began to beat a retreat.

The area was cleared. But traces of blood, shattered glass and abandoned slippers paved the paths of violent protest.

Traffic in Esplanade and its adjoining areas was thrown out of gear for nearly three hours.

Pedestrians, caught in the crossfire, ran for cover. Metro Rail authorities had to down shutters at Esplanade to prevent people from overrunning the station.

The DC, headquarters, Nazrul Islam, said that altogether, 1,142 persons were arrested for violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC.    

Calcutta, April 19 
Is it time for the Air-India Maharaja to go in for a trim? Ask Jaynath Victor Dey, a flight purser with Indian Airlines, grounded for not trimming his moustache down to size and now waging a lone, and somewhat bizarre, battle in court. All this, to try and keep his employers’ scissors off his prized possession.

Dey had moved Calcutta High Court in December last year, challenging the airlines’ strictures of “dress code” and “personal appearance”.

The IA circular for flight pursers states: “The hair should be neat and tidy and not touch the shirt collar, face should be clean-shaven without long sideburns and moustache trimmed so as to not touch the upper lip.” Sikhs, though, are exempt from these guidelines on religious grounds.

A resident of Circus Avenue, Dey has lodged a contempt petition against his employers, stating that he was not bound to follow the IA directive on the size and shape of his moustache. The matter is pending before the division bench and is expected to come up for hearing in the next couple of days.

“No such guideline was spelt out in the service manual and how I want to wear my moustache is totally my personal choice. My employers cannot run after me with a pair of scissors. Besides, when Sikhs are allowed to grow their moustache, how can they stop me?” demanded Dey.

Justice Pinaki Ghosh had passed an order directing Indian Airlines to allow Dey to rejoin work as flight purser, in accordance with the airline’s service manual of 1991.

But the domestic carrier, which has forced Dey to work on the ground since he took his crusade to court, has refused to allow the “rebel” flight purser back on board. It has filed an appeal demanding quashing of Justice Ghosh’s order.

The airline’s advocate, R.L. Majumdar, maintains that the ’91 service manual had been subsequently upgraded to include the ‘moustache’ clause.

Earlier, IA had barred its airhostesses from wearing glasses, but the court had quashed that notification and the specs stayed on.    

Calcutta, April 19 
Calcutta is stinking, thanks to a pile-up of nearly 1,500 tonnes of garbage, as 5,000 conservancy workers have gone on leave. Vats are overflowing with garbage and streets have been littered with trash for about a week.

Under normal circumstances, about 200 tonnes of rubbish are removed from the roads every day. A children’s park in New Alipore’s OP Block has become inaccessible because of the garbage pie-up.

With the city’s solid waste management spinning out of control, municipal commissioner Asim Barman has convened an emergency meeting of conservancy officials on Thursday and asked all 15 district conservancy officers to submit a list of workers on leave in their respective districts. The situation would have been much worse, but for the CMC’s door-to-door garbage collection service.

Chief engineer conservancy, Arun Sarkar, admitting that garbage clearance has been poor in many parts of the city, said this was a temporary phase, as many conservancy workers had gone on leave to native villages in neighbouring states.

To remove the waste, the councillor of Ward 81, Tulsi Mukherjee, himself led a team of volunteers in a clean-up drive at Sahapur. Heaps of garbage are lying at the crossing of Deshapran Sashmal Road and Tollygunge Road. Refuse is piling daily on almost all the streets of the city, particularly in Burrabazar, Topsia, Tangra, Beleghata, Bhowanipore, Behala and Jadavpur.

Member, mayor-in-council, Kanti Ganguly, said the problem is an annual phenomenon, as conservancy workers go on leave at this time of the year, leaving their nominees to work on leave vacancy.

But recently, the civic authorities have discontinued the nominee system, on a directive of Calcutta High Court.

Leader of the opposition in the CMC Durga Mukherjee alleged that the civic authorities have engineered this leave to recruit party cadre as casual workers on the eve of the civic polls.    

Calcutta, April 19 
Major intersections will soon become clogged because of a recent sharp rise in car numbers.

If the government doesn’t move fast and implement its decision to phase out 80,000-odd old cars, “important city crossings will be choked as Calcutta’s important intersections have almost reached saturation point in the past few months,” warned joint commissioner of police, traffic, V.V. Thambi .

Statistics with the traffic department show there has been a five per cent rise in private car registration during the past year. Officials said nearly 25,000 cars are being registered on an average every year.

Shaken by this registration spree, the police wrote to the state government last week, stressing the need to take old cars off city roads immediately to ensure smooth flow of traffic.

“The problem has now become so grave that it can’t be solved simply by constructing flyovers,” Thambi observed. Nearly 360,000 private cars ply on city roads every day, besides those entering from the outskirts.

Traffic management experts said crossings like Jawaharlal Nehru Road-Park Street, Lenin Sarani-S.N. Banerjee Road-Esplanade, AJC Bose Road near Exide House, Park Street-Mullick Bazar and Shakespeare Sarani-J.L. Nehru Road are likely to be worst affected because of the spurt in car population.    

Dhanbad, April 19 
One of the accused in the Marxist Co-ordination Committee MLA Gurudas Chatterjee murder case, Shiv Shankar Singh, surrendered at the chief judicial magistrate’s court here this afternoon.

Shiv Shankar, son of a coal mafia don “Chora Master,” was remanded to judicial custody after his statement was recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC. The Nirsa police had named Shiv Shankar and Umesh, an employee of Chora Master, as the prime accused in the case.

Bandh hits life: The Dhanbad-Bokaro bandh called by the Marxist Co-ordination Committee in protest against the murder threw normal life out of gear. Nearly all schools and business establishments remained closed.

The bandh, which was supported by all political parties, including the BJP and the Congress, forced the commercial vehicles to stay off the roads. he bandh was peaceful barring a couple of stray incidents.

Bihar Police Association today served an ultimatum to the government threatening “direct action’’ if any official of the Nirsa police station was victimised following allegations of “bias” in the Gurudas Chatterjee murder probe. CPI(M-L) legislator Upendra Singh and the family members of slain the legislator had doubted the role of Nirsa police in the case.

In a meeting held at the local police club today, the association said the allegations were baseless. Chatterjee’s kin had alleged that the Nirsa police had “connived with local mafia gangs and corrupt politicians”.

The meeting, which was presided over by the president of the association, Lal Mohan Singh, resolved to “give a befitting reply if any officer of the Nirsa police station was victimised”.

The association has also decided to constitute a five-member committee to probe the role of the Nirsa police in view the allegations levelled against it. The committee will submit its report by April 27.    

New Delhi, April 19 
The Supreme Court today rejected an appeal by former Assam veterinary minister Dilip Kumar Saikia to quash charges against him in the Letter of Credit (LoC) scam case.

Saikia was veterinary minister in the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta ministry during whose tenure crores of rupees were siphoned off from the department by allegedly forging letters of credit.

Saikia’s counsel Ravindra Bhat argued that his client was not a public servant when the chargesheets were filed and hence, proceedings could not be initiated against him. Saikia said proper sanction was not obtained to prosecute him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

With today’s ruling, the case will now be heard in the special trial court in Guwahati where Saikia would be arrayed as an accused.

Bhat said the charges have not yet been framed against Saikia which means that the trial court is yet to take cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the prosecution against the former minister. Saikia argued that he should not be tried as an accused.

Saikia has been charged under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120-B, Indian Penal Code (IPC), for criminal conspiracy.

He has also been charged with conniving with scamsters and siphoning off money. The prosecution cited an ice cream parlour in the name of his wife in Mumbai which it said was bought with the scam money.

A public interest litigation was also filed in the Supreme Court seeking sanction for the criminal prosecution of the chief minister. The PIL, filed by Nabin Kalita, would be taken up for hearing by the apex court on April 25.    

Agartala, April 19 
Two persons, including a militant, were killed and 19 United Bengali Liberation Front insurgents arrested in Tripura during the past 24 hours.

The jawans also seized a large number of countrymade guns and bombs.

South Tripura police shot dead an unidentified National Liberation Front of Tripura militant and injured three in counter-insurgency operations this morning.

Sources said a group of policemen and Tripura State Rifles jawans raided the remote Putraham Para area under Baikhora police station in South Tripura at noon. The rebels, who spotted the police team from their hideout, opened fire. The team led by sub-inspector Subrato Datta retaliated. After an encounter, which lasted for nearly 15 minutes, the militants fled.

The police recovered the bullet-riddled body of an NLFT militant, a countrymade gun and several rounds of ammunition. The militant is yet to be identified. Sources said blood stains in the area indicated that at least three more rebels were injured.

Deputy inspector-general, Assam Rifles, Brig. B.K. Panwar said in another operation today, officers and jawans of 19th battalion of Assam Rifles raided the remote Daspara area under Kanchanpur police station at 3.30 pm and picked up 19 UBLF militants and seized a cache of countrymade bombs and other weapons.

The jawans were combing the area after a bomb blast killed a tribal youth, Nirajay Reang, at 12.30 pm today. Brig. Panwar said the arrested militants were being interrogated.

In a separate operation last night, a group of Assam Rifles jawans arrested one Biplab Das and three of his unidentified associates from the remote Hawaibari area under Teliamura police station. They are also being interrogated. Dhalai district police also arrested two tribal collaborators of the NLFT from Ghantacherra area under Ambasa police station. The collaborators, identified as Taia Koloi and Lalring Kuki, were involved in a large number of killings and abductions.

Yesterday, Baikhora police arrested a non-tribal NLFT collaborator, Swapan Bhowmik, who was involved in the abduction of Rakesh Malla and Narayan Baidya on March 21 and April 3 respectively. Both of them returned yesterday.

Police sources said the NLFT also freed Autonomous District Council’s sub-zonal committee chairperson Shanti Debbarma yesterday. Debbarma was abducted from Shuknacherra village under Ambasa police station on Monday.

A non-tribal youth, Nikhil Debnath, was abducted yesterday from Bisramganj area in Bishalgarh sub-division. Police sources said Debnath was abducted while returning to Bishalgarh after parking his jeep in the tribal owner’s house.    

Agartala, April 19 
Kill, abduct and extort, but ask no questions. Subsist on two spartan meals a day and a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000, but never complain. This is what life as a militant in blood-soaked Tripura entails.

Given the physical and psychological demands on them, the majority of youth who get sucked into the vortex of militancy are disillusioned after a couple of years in the jungle, according to arrested National Liberation Front of Tripura area commander Ratanjay Debbarma.

“It is not easy at all. Not many survive the grind,” he said.

Debbarma, apprehended in Adibasipara village under North Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division on April 5, said rising in the NLFT hierarchy was the biggest challenge of all. “One has to sacrifice everything, even religion. Conversion to Christianity is mandatory now,” he said.

The arrested militant leader, who hails from Maynama village under Manu police station, said he was “forced” to join the NLFT in February 1997.

“I was reading a book in my house one evening when a group of NLFT militants barged in and ordered me to accompany them. When my mother and other family members protested, the intruders ordered them to keep quiet. They said I had to go with them and play a role in liberating Tripura from foreigners,” Debbarma said.

On his initiation into militancy, Debbarma said he underwent an arduous three-month training course in an NLFT hideout in Dhalai district. “I learnt how to handle stenguns, carbines, 303 rifles and AK-47 rifles. During and after training, we survived on two meals a day. Sometimes we had just snails and monkey meat. We could not even smoke as the punishment for doing so was 50 strokes with a cane,” he said.

The arrested militant said water was also scarce in the jungle. “There is a perennial water crisis in the hilly areas of the state. We were allowed to bathe only thrice a week,” he said.

Debbarma said the NLFT’s arsenal mainly comprised Chinese weapons, including rocket launchers. He said “ordinary militants” were ordered to kill and abduct people, but never told the motive. “Lower-rung militants do not know anything about the people they abduct or the ransom demanded by the outfit’s leadership,” Debbarma said.

The arrested rebel said punishment for failure in any operation was severe. “On August 14 last year, we failed to ambush a CRPF patrol on the Chhawmanu-Chhailengta road. We were caned for coming a cropper,” he said.

Shortly before his arrest, Debbarma was promoted to the rank of “area commander” with a salary of Rs 5,000 per month. He was in charge of the outfit’s Kanchanpur unit.

The arrested rebel told interrogators that he participated in several major operations, including the abduction of four Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists from Kanchancherra on August. Asked if he ever felt repulsed by what he was told to do, Debbarma said, “I wept after killing a person from my village last year. I did not want to kill Harendra, but was forced to do so by my bosses, who said I would die if I disobeyed them.”

Debbarma said he was one of the very few militants in the NLFT to have avoided conversion. “I was under constant pressure to convert, but I kept telling my seniors that my father was yet to perform a particular puja he had promised to do so after my birth,” he said.    


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