Mamata sets arrest deadline
Birbhum rage clogs city roads
Redfaced Congress flashes red card at Pal
Monitors for puja bookings
Van trail leads to big arms haul
Bihar bishops allege fleecing of minorities

 
 
MAMATA SETS ARREST DEADLINE 
 
 
FROM TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
BOLPUR, July 29 
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has served a three-day ultimatum on the Birbhum district police to arrest the “real killers” of the 11 Trinamul supporters slain on Thursday.

She demanded that the Centre intervene to ensure law and order in the state, but clarified that she was not seeking President’s rule.

“The Centre can intervene in a state’s affairs if members of a minority community or backward class face political atrocity. I keep repeating myself on this,” she said. “The police have not arrested a single person named in the FIR. They have rounded up some rickshaw van-pullers and are trying to present them as the murderers,” Mamata told a crowded meeting here on Saturday.

Mamata announced that the Trinamul will gherao Superintendent of Police Harisen Verma on Wednesday to protest his failure to nab the killers. “I will come here again if the actual killers are not arrested,” she threatened.

“Both the CPM and the district administration are trying to hush up the case, but I will not allow them to do that,” she warned.

Mamata assigned Trinamul MP Jayanta Bhattacharya to look after the party’s organisational affairs in Birbhum. “From now, Jayantada will be with you. You may contact him for any help you require,” she told party workers.

She challenged the CPM to face her party in the political arena. “If the CPM has the guts to face us, they should do so politically and not by killing our innocent supporters,” she thundered.

Mamata reiterated that she does not support a bandh because it disturbs the common people. “I want to work for Bengal’s progress. I am not being allowed to do so because of the CPM, which is slaughtering my supporters almost every day and in every corner of Bengal. You have to remove the CPM from power if you want Bengal to progress,” she told the gathering.

Mamata alleged that the 11 Trinamul men were killed in a CPM party office at Suchpur. “The walls of the office are still stained with blood, but the police didn’t bother to seal it. No sniffer dog was deployed to trace the killers. In fact, one sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) helped the killers flee the spot. He allowed the killers to use his vehicle,” she alleged.

Mamata handed over Rs 10,000 to the family of each victim. Zigira Bibi, mother of Ali Hossein, one of the victims, fainted in the heat.

While Mamata was busy in Bolpur, CPM parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee was addressing a meeting at Nanoor. Chatterjee alleged that “Mamata is trying to disturb every district of Bengal. In Midnapore, Hooghly and Bankura, she is inciting violence. Now, she has entered Birbhum and is trying to disturb the peace there.”

He asked why the 11 had assembled at Suchpur early on Thursday. “They did not belong to Suchpur and had come from villages far away from the spot. I want to know what their motive was,” he said.

Electrocuted: Swapan Mondal, 13, was electrocuted while trying to retrieve a kite from an overhead wire at Canal Circular Road, Ultadanga, on Friday. Police said Mondal was flying a kite when he saw another hanging on the wire. He tried to retrieve it with an iron rod. and was electrocuted.    


 
 
BIRBHUM RAGE CLOGS CITY ROADS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29 
In a series of roadblocks at various points of the city, traffic was disrupted on Saturday. Supporters of various political parties squatted on the streets to protest the killings at Nanoor, Birbhum.

Trinamul Congress men crippled traffic on Mominpur Road for more than half an hour from 2.20 pm. Kalikrishna Tagore Street was blocked for 20 minutes from 11.45 am. Opposite Behala police station, Trinamul men blocked the road for an hour. They set fire to two buses and damaged four more. Traffic was stalled also on the EM Bypass and Howrah Bridge. The protesters damaged a bus on the bridge.

Samajwadi Party activists blocked the Mahatma Gandhi Road-CR Avenue intersection for 10 minutes from 12 noon. They also blocked the Ultadanga crossing for 15 minutes from 12.10 pm.

Chhatra Parishad activists blocked the junction of Deshapran Sashmal Road and Prince Anwar Shah Road for half an hour from 12.40 pm.    


 
 
REDFACED CONGRESS FLASHES RED CARD AT PAL 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, July 29 
In the wake of his unilateral call for a 12-hour Bangla bandh on Monday to protest the killings of 11 Trinamul Congress workers in Birbhum, state Youth Congress chief Paresh Pal is facing disciplinary action.

Even as the state unit distanced itself from the bandh call, the Congress high command faxed a directive to Pal late on Saturday evening to withdraw the bandh call. An adamant Pal, however, has decided to ignore the directive and organised a number of processions in support of the bandh during the day.

“We will go ahead with the bandh, come what may,” said Pal. He claimed he had not received any directive from the high command.

Pradesh Congress officials said this is the second time Pal has embarrassed the leadership by calling a bandh on his own without consulting the party. In September last year, Pal had called a bandh but was forced to withdraw it at the eleventh hour when the AICC blocked his move.

“Pal should immediately revoke the bandh call when we do not approve of it. Moreover, I have been told that Pal has taken the decision on his own, without consulting the PCC office-bearers and chiefs of frontal organisations,” said Prabha Rau, AICC general secretary in charge of West Bengal affairs.

Contacted in Delhi over the phone, Rau said she would ask the all-India Youth Congress president, Randeep Singh Surjyawalla, to seek an explanation from Pal. She said the high command will send a key party functionary to Calcutta on Sunday to discuss the issue with party leaders.

“When the situation is in a flux, a party functionary should take a judicious decision. We severely condemn the gruesome incident in Birbhum but a bandh will not serve any purpose and will only inconvenience the common man,” she said.

Asked if Pal had got the green signal from PCC chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury on the proposed bandh, Rau replied in the negative. “I will definitely talk to Barkat Saheb... But I am convinced he could not have given Pal such a blank cheque.”

In another development, several PCC office-bearers, including vice-president Sougata Roy and general secretary Sultan Ahmed, charged Pal with showing off the organisation in a poor light by calling the bandh.

“Pal had not consulted us before announcing Monday’s bandh. We feel the Youth Congress should not go for a bandh, especially since Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has opposed it,” Roy said. Echoing him, Ahmed said: “Pal has landed us in an embarrassing situation.”

Going a step further, Ahmed’s brother, Iqbal, Youth Congress general secretary, demanded Pal’s expulsion, accusing him of “hatching a deal with the ruling communists” to ruin the Congress in Bengal.

Chiefs of various Congress frontal organisations in the state have reiterated that they will oppose the proposed bandh.    


 
 
MONITORS FOR PUJA BOOKINGS 
 
 
 
 
Eastern Railway has deployed officials at all principal reservation counters in the city to allow only genuine puja bookings, which opened on Saturday, says a staff reporter. The reservation requisition slip will be counter-signed and serially numbered by senior officials. Passengers can also obtain their PNR status from the touch-screen kiosks at New Koilaghat, Fairlie Place and Howrah station’s main enquiry counter. Reservations can be made against credit cards too.    

 
 
VAN TRAIL LEADS TO BIG ARMS HAUL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29 
The police on Saturday busted a gang of criminals that operated in the city and its surrounding districts and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition. The police claim it is the biggest haul this year.

A possé patrolling the Burrabazar-Chitpur area came upon a red Maruti van parked on Tarachand Dutta Road. Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said the police saw three youth getting into the van and slamming the door shut.

The policemen whipped out their service revolvers, intercepted the vehicle and directed the youth to get off. There were five young men in the vehicle. Officers searched the van and found six guns and several rounds of ammunition. They began to interrogate the youth and asked them why they had assembled on the spot.

The youth said they had bought the arms at Munger, Bihar. They were waiting for three others who had gone looking for the address of a transport company in the area.

Three officers stood guard while some of the patrol party went down Tarachand Dutta Road to locate the other gang members.

The five youth — Mohammed Israil Khan, Mohammed Issaq, alias Chikna Anil, Mohammed Akber, Mohammed Akber Junior and Mohammed Pervez, alias Chhota Parvez — were brought to the detective department headquarters in Lalbazar and interrogated for several hours.

Akber joined the gang at Mumbai recently. He had acted as an extra in some Mumbai films and worked as the driver of a film producer.

The youth told police they had hijacked the Maruti van from the north gate of Victoria Memorial on Friday evening. The driver of the vehicle has registered a complaint at Hastings police station.

A police team left for a village in Domjur, where Israil and Chikna had rented a house, and found two revolvers and more ammunition. Ghosh told reporters that in all, 11 guns and 53 rounds of ammunition were seized in the raids.

Officers said the gang operated in Calcutta, Howrah, South and North 24-Parganas. The five have several cases pending against them. Chikna Anil had been arrested and charged with murder but was granted bail in court.    


 
 
BIHAR BISHOPS ALLEGE FLEECING OF MINORITIES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, July 29 
In a joint memorandum to the Bihar law minister, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Ranchi, Telesphore Toppo and eight bishops belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, Church of North India (CNI), and the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church today questioned the credentials of the RJD-led government in Bihar in protecting the rights of the minorities in the state.

The bishops said vis-a-vis the more populist slogans of being the messiah of the minorities, in Bihar the minorities were fleeced and their rights trampled upon.

The joint memorandum, signed by all the bishops of the various Churches in the South Bihar districts and submitted to Bihar law minister Shakeel Ahmad Khan, deputed by the state government to hold talks with minority schools, pointed out that despite the impeccable character of the Church in serving the entire populace through numerous educational institutions, hospitals and other services, the Church and their institutions have been on the receiving end.

The bishops pointed out that hundreds of teachers employed at the 1,153 minority schools set up and run by the Churches and minority institutions all over the state have not been paid their salaries by the government for 28 to 32 months.

Even when salaries are belatedly released, the refusal by the Churches and their institutions to grease the palms of greedy officials have put them at the receiving end with portions of the allotted salary amounts being arbitrarily withheld by local officials without assigning any reason, they added.

The bishops said for the financial year 2000-2001, teachers of all minority schools were unlikely to receive their salaries for at least five months following a reduction of plan allocations by at least Rs 44 crore by the government.

The bishops said since 1988, 200 schools set up by them to cater to the remote tribal areas have not been granted recognition by the government till date though all formalities had been compiled with by them.

Worse still, while the state has been persistently refusing to grant either recognition or even minority status to their schools, a deep-rooted conspiracy has been hatched to surreptitiously take over the management of these schools by the government by appointing its own teachers and transferring the teachers working in these schools to government-run schools, the bishops added.

The bishops further pointed out that the government has even refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision in which the apex court had held that the state had no authority to tamper with the selection and appointment of teachers of the minority schools.

The bishops demanded that all pending salaries of teachers of minority schools be released forthwith, necessary additional allocation be made in the current year’s budget to ensure that their teachers are paid their monthly salaries, recognition be granted to all minority schools which have been kept pending since 1988 and immediate revocation of membership of all state nominees in the managing committees of minority-run schools in Bihar.

Despite the bishops’ tough stance, the law minister refused to give any official guarantees on behalf of the government. However, Khan pledged his support to the cause of the Church and the minority institutions.    

 

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