Bail comes easy for jewel thief
State to seek Omar arrest order
Mamata restricts roadshows to weekends
New mayor for CMC, reshuffle at Writers’
Desperately seeking Dracula
Four boys drowned
Army officer killed in Tamenglong ambush
Manipur yet to serve notice on churches
N-E rebelsdisenchanted, says George
Ex-minister dies

Calcutta, Aug.30: 
Rafiqul Islam, awaiting sentence for looting a jewellery shop two years ago, traded places with a petty thief to get bail and walk out of Presidency Jail last week.

The jail authorities confessed to the goof-up on Wednesday. Jail superintendent Parimal Das has appealed to the city sessions court and the chief metropolitan magistrate to issue orders to recapture Islam. The authorities have blamed the disappearance on “a conspiracy hatched by two prisoners”.

Rafiqul Islam is no petty thief. He was in custody while the police were trying to prove in court that he had masterminded a Rs 35-lakh heist from a jewellery shop on Bidhan Sarani, in north Calcutta on September 1, 1998. The police recovered about Rs 11 lakh of the stolen amount and some gold jewellery.

After being arrested on January 13 this year, Islam hatched a plot to appear in court as Panchu Miyan, an undertrial in Presidency Jail.

On August 25, Islam was taken to Sealdah Court, where he pleaded for bail as Panchu Miyan. The magistrate granted him bail and Islam walked out, a free man. Panchu Miyan, a victim of mistaken identity, continues to languish in Presidency Jail.

Biswanath Chowdhury, minister for jails, was informed of the mix-up on Wednesday. He has asked inspector-general of prisons Balkar Singh to probe the case and submit a report “as soon as possible”.

The jail authorities have despatched copies of their court appeal to the three police stations — Amherst Street, Burrabazar and Burtolla — in areas under whose jurisdiction Islam had been operating till he was nabbed.

DC (DD-I) Narayan Ghosh confirmed that he had been informed about Islam’s escape. “I have written to the police chief,” Ghosh said.

The city sessions court had sentenced Islam to judicial custody on January 28.

Sources at Presidency Jail said Islam was lodged in cell number 7, while Panchu Miyan, picked up for petty theft by Beleghata police last September, occupied cell number 14. The two, apparently, hardly spoke to each other.

But curiously, Islam was sent to Miyan’s cell on Thursday night. The next morning, several prisoners were herded into vans and taken to court.

A jail official, apparently, “identified” Rafiqul Islam as Panchu Miyan and allowed him to board the vehicle, which took him to Sealdah Court and freedom.

The police raised serious questions about the role of the lawyers and clerks present in the court.

“How could this have happened without some connivance on the part of the lawyers and the clerks?” demanded a senior police officer.    

Calcutta, Aug.30: 
A day after the Supreme Court sentenced Mohammedan Sporting Club secretary Mir Mohammed Omar and five others to life imprisonment, the state government said it will move court for an arrest warrant in case they did not surrender before the sessions judge within 48 hours.

Omar and the five others were sentenced for the murder of Mahesh Agarwal 14 years ago. The Mohammedan Sporting official is absconding.

State advocate general, Nara Narayan Gooptu, said in case of such an order, it is “mandatory” for those convicted to appear in the sessions court where trial had first begun and hand themselves over to the law.

On Tuesday, a division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice R.P. Sethi, set aside a judgement of Calcutta High Court acquitting the six accused.

The high court had said that there were “lacunae” in police investigation and there was no evidence to prove that they were involved in a murder.

However, the Supreme Court judges observed: “The function of criminal courts should not be wasted in picking out lapses in investigation and by expressing unsavoury criticism against investigating officers.” Instead, the judges observed, “Efforts should be made by the courts to see that criminal justice is salvaged despite defects in the investigations.”

Mohammedan Sporting Club officials, however, refused to comment on the issue on Wednesday.

The only senior club official present on the club premises on Wednesday evening, Suleiman Khurshid, said there was “nothing to say” about the judgement.

But a handful of club supporters, already enraged by the 5-0 drubbing against Mohun Bagan at Salt Lake Stadium, raised angry slogans and held up banners against “criminal” Omar “for making a mess of the club affairs”.

“We are losing matches only because the club affairs have been so badly handled,” said Khalil, club supporter. “All the current office-bearers of the club should be ousted to make way for others. Otherwise, matters will go from bad to worse at the club,” he said.

But there were others who were not so sure. After all, Omar’s name has been synonymous with the club for the last two decades.

“His was such a towering presence that no one in the club would dare oppose him,” an official said. “But now, with him gone, there could be a free-for-all in the club.

This could well signal the beginning of the end for the club.”    

Calcutta, Aug.30: 
Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, synonymous with mammoth rallies, seems to have done a volte face. Rallies and meetings only over weekends, unless they are tied to a particular date, she announced on Wednesday.

“I do not want to disturb people by holding processions and meetings on workdays,” Mamata said, in direct contrast with other political parties, which are holding daily roadshows with an eye to next year’s assembly election.

Mamata, who stands to gain mileage through this decision, said the decision on rallies was a measure of her seriousness in introducing a new culture of politics.

“I am also opposed to bandhs,” Mamata said, approximately seven months before the election. Significantly, the decision came at a time when Calcutta High Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on this count.

Mamata opposed the Bengal bandh called by the former Youth Congress president Paresh Pal last month to protest the massacre of Trinamul supporters. Mamata’s move may embarrass rival political parties and put pressure on them to follow her example.

However, Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Sailen Dasgupta reserved comment. “We have been made a party to the PIL, and we have also received a notice in this regard. So, we will give our view in court after discussing it within our party,” Dasgupta said.

Other Left Front leaders like Forward Bloc state secretary Ashoke Ghosh felt there was no point holding rallies on Sundays when there would be nobody around.

Trinamul sources clarified that programmes tied to a particular date cannot be held on Sundays. For example, Trinamul Martyrs’ Day will be observed on July 21, whatever be the day, they added.

The PIL petition has requested the court to direct chief minister Jyoti Basu to call an all-party meeting to adopt a scheme or make a law to ban rallies on city streets on weekdays. The petitioner urged the court to restrict political rallies to Sundays only.

Mamata’s mahamichhil —— from Raja Subodh Mullick Square to Mayo Road —— was held on August 13, a Sunday. The maha maha michhil is slated for September 3, also a Sunday.

At the mahamichhil meeting, Mamata had initially announced that another huge procession would be organised on August 30. But realising that the procession —- from the foot of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on Mayo Road to Shyambazar —- would paralyse life in the city, she shifted the date to September 3.

It is apparent that this is a populist decision. “We have realised that with changing times and liberalisation people do not want bandhs. We consciously want to change the style of protest demonstrations. Mamata has even told us not to resort to road blocks and rail rokos,” said Tapas Dutta, vice-president of Trinamul youth wing.    

Calcutta, Aug.30: 
Debashish Som will be the new commissioner of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Outgoing commissioner Asim Barman will assume office as secretary, animal resources development.

This has prompted a bureaucratic reshuffle at Writers’. Som, presently director of cottage and small-scale industries, has, apparently, been chosen in consultation with state urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya and mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Balbir Ram, an officer of the Bengal cadre, now attached to the government of India, will replace Som as director, small-scale industries.

Ajoy Sinha, secretary, animal resources development, is being appointed food commissioner replacing Dipak Rudra, who is retiring on August 31. Samar Ghosh, secretary of excise, will replace Kalyani Chowdhury as secretary of small-scale industries. P. Das, special secretary, transport, is also making way for a senior IAS officer.    

Calcutta, Aug.30: 
Wanted: A robust, efficient, honest-to-goodness Dracula, preferably with ISO certification, by an equal-opportunities employer. The job offers a ‘bloody’ challenge. If you feel you fit the bill, mail your CV to Javed Khan, Calcutta Municipal Corporation, at

The advertisement is fiction, but the requirement is fact. And so is the city’s member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Khan’s growing anxiety.

The reason is not hard to find. Khan and his men are desperately seeking an outlet for the blood piling up at the Corporation’s slaughterhouses. Nearly 10,000 litres of blood from slaughtered cattle at the Tangra abattoir need to be disposed of every day.

“It is going to be a colossal task, for which I do not mind engaging a private company or even hiring a Dracula. I don’t see any other solution in sight,” confessed Khan.

For the past 30 years, Wardex, a Chennai-based pharmaceutical company, had been collecting the blood and processing it into an ingredient for a haematinic tonic for patients with iron deficiency.

But last year, the Centre issued a ban on the preparation of such tonics throughout the country. After that, apart from an average annual loss of Rs 2 lakh, the Corporation has been saddled with its blood waste.

The problem of disposal is “critical” as there are no underground drains in the Tangra area.

Using the surface drains for disposal would certainly trigger a public outcry.

“Moreover, it is not safe and could be a health hazard, as raw blood facilitates bacteria culture and growth,’’ chief municipal health officer Sujit Ghosh pointed out.

So what have CMC’s abattoir workers been doing for the past few months? They wait for the blood to clot before mixing it with other refuse of the slaughterhouse and carting it off to the Dhapa dumping ground.

Khan has turned to the civic body’s project and development department for a possible solution. The department’s chief engineer Nilangshu Bose, however, said that some consultants have to be approached, “as we don’t have the expertise to build an effluent plant that would take care of the blood.” One of the consultants to be sounded out, Stup, has recently set up such a plant in Aurangabad.    

Ranchi, Aug. 30: 
What was intended as a full day of fun, turned tragic as four school boys were drowned in the Hundru Falls of the Subarnarekha today. Sources said nine boys of Class XI in the Commerce stream of the Ranchi Guru Nanak School bunked classes today for a day out at the Falls, 45 km from here.

Though none of the boys were accomplished swimmers, two of them ventured into the river which was in full spate after last night’s heavy downpour. As the two began to drown and cried for help, another pair jumped into the river to rescue their friends.

However, all of them were swept away by the strong current. One of the boys — Ranbir Singh, who did not join his friends for the fatal swim —rushed to the school late this afternoon to narrate the incident. The school authorities sent an ambulance and a medical team to Hundru. Efforts are also on to recover their bodies.

The boys have been identified as Apurba Choudhury alias Raja of Harihar Singh Road, Vikas Kumar of Indrapuri, Ratu Road, Sunil Kumar Agarwal of Mahavir Chowk, Upper Bazar, and Krishanuj Mukherjee of New Anantpur. The parents came to know about the incident only after calling the school when their sons failed to return home till late in the evening .

Bodies found

Six bullet-riddled bodies were recovered in Kokrajhar district of Assam today. Neither the bodies nor the killers could be been identified by police, adds our Guwahati correspondent. The bodies were spotted between Lalkhora and Deodaba area in the Kokrajhar district by village defence force personnel.

The personnel informed Basugaon police station following which police officials rushed to the spot and the bodies were collected. Combing operations have been launched throughout the district.

A cache of arms including three .12 bore single-barrel guns, one pistol and three Chinese-made grenades were recovered from a hut in Soronhong, 9 km west of Kherani. The cache is suspected to be of the United Peoples’ Democratic Solidarity.

Four Ulfa militants were apprehended by the Army in Kamrup district. The Army recovered one pistol with three rounds, two detonators and Rs 11,000 in cash from the militants near Guabari in the district.

Our Dhubri correspondent adds: A hardcore Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam rebel was arrested from Belguri area under Agomoni police station.    

Imphal, Aug. 30: 
Capt. Hemant Prem Kumar of 15 Jat Regiment was killed and two jawans seriously injured when militants ambushed their convoy in Tamenglong this afternoon.

Two other jawans sustained minor injuries when the vehicle they were travelling in overturned due to the attack. Capt. Kumar died in the Army unit hospital. Commander of 59 Mountain Brigade, Brig. I.D. Singh, told The Telegraph that the Army team lead by the young officer was proceeding towards their battalion headquarters when militants fired from three directions near a Baptist church. Army sources claimed that the rebels had apparently fired from the church campus. The organisation behind the ambush is yet to be identified.

A massive combing operation has been launched to nab the rebels. Tamenglong is a Naga-dominated district and both factions of the NSCN are active in the area. The attack coincides with the visit of Union defence minister George Fernandes here today. He discussed with chief minister Nipamacha Singh the overall situation and the security problems faced by the Border Roads Organisation due to militancy.

Amsu denial

The All-Manipur Students’ Union and Lamyanba Pakhang, a prominent Manipuri social organisation, have denied links with any militant outfit.

The denial is in response to claims by the proscribed Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (Oken) that both these organisations are a “cover” for its arch rival, the United National Liberation Front. The KYKL(O) had triggered a blast in the publishing unit of Lamyanba Pakhang here last week.

Expressing concern over the allegations, Amsu general secretary Premananda Yumnam said his organisation had only student members and was not involved with either militant outfits or political parties. He said the Amsu was primarily a pressure group on issues concerning the student community.

Requesting the KYKL(O) not to take any step that would cause panic among students, the Amsu leader said his organisation would continue to maintain a safe distance from all armed outfits.

In a similar statement, Lamyanba Pakhang denied links with any militant outfit and said its sole aim was promotion of sports and sportspersons in the state. “Lamyanba Pakhang is a registered organisation that has been training children in gymnastics and playing an important role in developing polo,” a release said.

Owning up to the blast at the Lamyanba Pakhang complex here last week, the KYKL(O) accused the organisation of being a “front” for the UNLF. It “banned” the organisation and all its units, including Lamyanba Communications, which publishes a Manipuri fortnightly.    

Imphal, Aug. 30: 
The Manipur government has not yet served any notice on the 30 churches constructed without permisssion in the residential quarters owned by the Public Works Department in Imphal’s Lamphel and Langol complexes.

However, some instructions have been received by lower ranking officials of the PWD department from their higher-ups to prepare a detailed report on the matter. A senior Cabinet minister today told The Telegraph that the government has sought a report on the controversy.

The government is, however, yet to send a formal notice to these churches or the employees who have allowed the constructions in their quarters or campus.

Junior officials and engineers of the PWD department have completed their investigation into such church constructions and sent their reports to the department’s top authorities. Their reports also include other unauthorised constructions on government-owned property of Lamphel and Langol.

“We have been sending such reports regularly, but no concrete action has been initiated,” said a PWD official. He said the department has sent three detailed reports in the past four years, which include the location of the church, the name of the employee to whom the government quarters was allotted and a blueprint of the area.

The churches have come up despite the government’s rule that no permanent structure can be erected in the quarters or its compound by government employees.

“Every time we made a report, top officials at the secretariat asked us not to pursue the case,” said an engineer. Another junior engineer said the government should take action and check the constructions immediately.

The churches, however, feel that the government should stick to its instructions. “We have not received any official notice from the government,” said Pastor K. Thuambung of Evangelical Baptist Convention. “Our church is running on public donation for the welfare of the people,” he added.

Thuambung said the Lamphel Churches Forum was formed recently when the controversy was raked up. “We have not yet submitted any memorandum or demands to the government. We have just met some ministers and Opposition members to protect our churches,” the pastor said.

Most of the churches in Lamphel quarters have their headquarters at Churachandpur while some are under the Manipur Baptist Association, Imphal. Officer assaulted from our correspondent Guwahati, Aug. 30: A new row erupted today involving Rajya Sabha MP Jayashree Goswami Mahanta after a CISF deputy commandant was physically assaulted by unidentified men.

Deputy commandant Uma Shankar Pradhan was in charge of security at the Borjhar airport on August 20, the day when Goswami Mahanta, wife of Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, was allegedly harassed by the airport staff and security personnel.

The assailants came in a Tata Sumo, bearing no number plates, and assaulted the CISF personnel near Maligaon on Monday evening when he was returning to his Noonmati guesthouse from duty at the airport. Pradhan, who sustained injuries, was admitted to a private hospital here.

The Tata Sumo at first hit Pradhan’s Mahindra-Armada jeep and forced it to stop. Immediately, 4-5 youth alighted from the vehicle and beat up Pradhan.

He was rushed to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital and later shifted to the private hospital.    

Agartala, Aug. 30: 
Defence minister George Fernandes today claimed several militant outfits in the Northeast were awaiting an opportunity to come overground.

“The mass surrender of militants in Assam is an indication of the fact that the backbone of insurgency has become fragile,” he told newspersons here.

Fernandes, who arrived here today from the Nagaland capital of Kohima, said various parts of the region were witnessing a silent revolt against militancy.

On the peace talks between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the centre, the defence minister said, “It is an ongoing process. In spite of certain problems, we hope to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the Naga problem.”

Fernandes earlier held discussions with Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, Governor K.M. Seth and security officials.

Asked whether Sarkar’s demand for deployment of additional security forces would be fulfilled, the defence minister said the Centre was aware of the situation in Tripura and would taken “an appropriate decision” in this regard soon.

However, Fernandes declined to specify whether the state government’s demand for deployment of five Army battalions was being considered. Ruling out imposition of President’s rule in West Bengal, the defence minister said, “We are not in a position to bring any state under President’s rule for obvious reasons.”    

Silchar, Aug. 30: 
Former Assam minister and Congress stalwart Lutfur Rahman Majharbhuyan died last night at his Masimpur Road residence here following a prolonged illness.

He was 85 and left behind a son and six daughters.

A doctor by profession he was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly in 1972 for the first time. He was a Cabinet minister holding forest, tourism, health and PWD portfolios in two consecutive Assemblies.

Majharbhuyan was also an accomplished short-distance sprinter during his youth.    


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