Boy beaten, locked in
Police top brass reshuffled
Strike threat as fare talks fail
Clamour for change in council
Barely 10, and worshipped as living devi
Siliguri ban on private buses lifted
Primary schools under Delhi scanner
Boy, 4 others killed by Tripura rebels
Jamatya priests seek Governor’s help
Probe panel pat on back for N-E rights body

 
 
BOY BEATEN, LOCKED IN  
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
A seven-year-old boy in Behala was rescued by neighbours late on Thursday night after being locked in a small, dingy room for around six hours by his employers, out enjoying their Diwali.

The police arrested Lakshmi Mohan Kota, his wife Pramila, and daughter Madhuri from their J.K. Pal Road residence. They were charged under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act for torturing the boy, Ganesh.

All three accused (no charges were levelled against the minor son of the Kotas) were granted bail by a special vacation bench of Alipore court on Friday. The court, however, sent Ganesh to Dhruba Ashram, a rescue home for orphans.

This incident comes close on the heels of 10-year-old Mou being rescued by the police from a New Alipore flat after she had been locked inside without food or water by her employers, who were off on a Puja vacation.

“On Thursday, after 11 pm, we heard cries from the locked house,” said Sunil Halder, a neighbour of the Kotas.

“We peeped in and found the boy standing in the tiny room, begging for water. We could not understand what he was saying, as he was speaking in Telugu.”

But realising that the boy was in trouble, the neighbours decided to break into the flat.

“After we rescued Ganesh, he said that his employers had left at around 6 pm, after locking him in the narrow room,” Halder added.

Lakshmi Mohan Kota had come to Calcutta from Hyderabad with his family three years ago. Ganesh, an orphan, accompanied them. His mother, who worked as a maid in the Kota household in Hyderabad, died when Ganesh was just a year old.

On Friday, the boy broke his silence: “They always used to beat me. Sometimes, it was with a lathi and sometimes with hot tongs. They even dashed my head against the wall. When I would weep and beg them to stop, they would kick me around. They never gave me proper food and threatened to kill me if I told this to anyone.”

Sangita Pramanik, a neighbour, said: “Ganesh was regularly tortured by his employers. They didn’t allow him to eat. And they would tie him up in the bathroom for even minor mistakes.”

On Friday, the officer-in-charge of Behala police station, Subir Chatterjee, confirmed that marks of injuries and burns were found almost all over the boy’s body. He was also found to be suffering from malnutrition.

“The boy narrated his ordeal, with the help of a Telugu interpreter. According to him, he was constantly ill-treated by his employers,” said Chatterjee.

Pramila Kota, however, blamed it all on the neighbours.

She alleged that they were being persecuted by members of the local club, Palli Asar Sporting Club, for having refused to pay up Rs 5,000 as Kali Puja subscription.

“The whole incident is aimed at maligning us. But one day, the truth will come out,” she said.

A member of the club, Swapan Pramanik, retorted: “The allegation is entirely baseless. We never demanded such a heavy amount from them. They have always behaved in a peculiar manner. And everyone here knows how they treat the boy. We knew that Ganesh was being tortured by the Kotas, but we couldn’t take any action as we had no real proof.”

But on Thursday, after Ganesh was rescued, the angry locals waited for the Kotas to return home. When they got back, they were gheraoed by a mob demanding that they leave the locality.    


 
 
POLICE TOP BRASS RESHUFFLED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
The state government undertook a major reshuffle in the city police on Friday with an eye on the Assembly elections ahead. In an order issued by the state home (per) department, a number of senior officers, including inspectors-general (IG) and deputy inspectors-general (DIG), were given new posts.

A section of IPS officers recorded their displeasure at the changes. Unwilling to be named, they said eligibility had not been the criterion for the reshuffle. However, those whose names did not figure in the promotion list did not find anything amiss.

In the new changes, I-G (prisons) Balkar Singh has been made assistant director-general (pollution control). Partha Bhattacharya, DIG, CID, has been promoted to IG-2, CID. He will be replaced by Chayan Mukherjee, DIG (A). Mukul Sengupta has been elevated to the post of DIG, CID (special) from SP, CID. And DIG, CID (special) Kanailal Basu has been made DIG, IPS cell. V.V. Thambi, DIG, IB (border) has been promoted to DIG, IB. He has been replaced by M.K. Mukhopadhyay, senior superintendent, IB.

S.C. Agarwal, IG (training) has been replaced by A.K. Chattopadhyay, IG-2, CID, and shifted to the rank of IG (organisation).

In the rank of deputy commissioners, Nazrul Islam, DC (headquarters), has been replaced by Narayan Ghosh, DC, DD-1, and elevated to the post of DIG (modernisation and coordination). Banibrata Basu, DC (3rd Battalion) has been replaced by Jayanta Basu, DC (5th Battalion) and given charge of DC, DD-1. H.P. Singh, DC, 2nd Battalion, has been transferred as DC, wireless.

Changes have also been made at the district level. R. Shivkumar, additional police superintendent of Hooghly, has been replaced by S.K. Mallik and transferred as additional SP, Jalpaiguri.    


 
 
STRIKE THREAT AS FARE TALKS FAIL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
With Friday’s meeting between the government and private bus and minibus operators over revision of fares proving unsuccessful, bus operators have threatened to go on strike.

The Bengal Bus Syndicate and the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate want the minimum fare of buses and minibuses to be Rs 3 and Rs 3.50, respectively, in place of the present Rs 2 and Rs 2.25, while the Bengal Taxi Association and Progressive Taximen’s Union demanded that the minimum fare of Rs 12 be hiked to Rs 15.

According to transport department sources, the government is ready to hike the fare by 25 paise for both buses and minibuses.    


 
 
CLAMOUR FOR CHANGE IN COUNCIL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
Trinamul Congress factions are lobbying party leader Mamata Banerjee for a reshuffle of the mayor’s council in the Trinamul-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) before the Assembly election.

Though Mamata Banerjee’s office announced on Friday that “she does not interfere in the affairs of the CMC and that the mayor is the only person authorised to take a decision regarding civic affairs”, a section of Trinamul councillors, borough chairmen and mayor-in-council (MIC) members maintain that a reshuffle is inevitable, as “Didi is annoyed with the current council”.

These disgruntled factions have been constantly advocating the necessity of a reshuffle “in the interests of the city”.

They believe that their case is now stronger, following the recent difference of opinion between Mamata and the mayor over the eviction of hawkers in the Chowringhee area.

According to an MIC member and the chairman of a borough committee, three MIC members have been shortlisted for a reshuffle. They are member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Mala Roy, member (drainage and sewerage) Rajiv Deb and member (bustee development) Pradip Ghosh. They said the reshuffle will be effected before the Assembly election.

“Being the seniormost non-left councillor in the CMC, I am ready to take charge of any department given to me by the mayor”, said Pradip Ghosh.

He also pointed out that “Didi” was against any reshuffle in the civic board within six months. The present Trinamul board in the CMC took oath on August 12.

“Some vested interest groups are spreading the rumour,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

“You know there are so many disgruntled elements among the councillors who aspire for the posts”, Mukherjee added.

Mala Roy said: “The mayor selects members for his council and if he desires, he can change his personnel around.”

The chairman of a borough committee said: “A reshuffle is necessary and if it happens, I will not hesitate to lobby for the charge of a department.”

The borough chairman also pointed out that the six-month moratorium on the present structure of the mayor-in-council would be lifted before the Assembly election.    


 
 
BARELY 10, AND WORSHIPPED AS LIVING DEVI 
 
 
BY SOUMYADIPTA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
Midnight on Kali Puja. In a smoke-filled enclosure of Kashi Mitra burning ghat, near Kumartuli, 10-year-old Moumita Roychowdhury sits at the altar, dressed as a bride, awaiting the moment of truth.

There’s a sudden commotion in the crowd gathered outside to catch a glimpse of the kumari puja. Enter, the tantrik.

Moumita instinctively shuts her eyes at the sight of the naked 60-year-old sadhu. But only briefly. After all, she’s used to this annual ritual. It’s her third, and last, year of enacting the role of kumari in a 300-year-old family tradition.

The tantrik prostrates himself in front of the child goddess, and the deity, and starts chanting the mantras — monotonous, yet mesmerising.

Tears roll down Moumita’s cheeks as she struggles to keep her eyes open, with the room filling up with smoke from the pyre in front of her. But she’s not allowed to move.

Suddenly, the tantrik is gripped by a frenzy. He whips out a blade and starts slashing his chest. The blood collects in bel leaves and is placed on Moumita’s feet.

Country liquor is used to wash her feet and then allowed to collect in an earthen pitcher.

The pujapan by the tantrik. Moumita refuses, but has sweets stuffed into her mouth. Then, a sip of water from a glass, which is then mixed with the country liquor used to wash her feet. This will be distributed among the hundreds of bhaktas engaged in a mad scramble for a taste of the charanamrita.

Buro Mitra, a resident of Serampore, the tantrik’s ‘helper’, explains that the charanamrita will be sprinkled over the prasad and offered to all those who’ve stayed back for the puja, after they’ve sought the blessings of the devi.

The kumari puja finally over, a weary Moumita is escorted into a dingy room behind the mandap. “I just want to sleep till late tomorrow,” she whispers.

But why, for the last three years, has the Class VI student of Bagbazar Multipurpose Girl’s School spent Kali Puja nights playing out the part of the ‘devi’ of Kashi Mitra ghat?

“It’s a closely-guarded secret between two families,” says Sipra Roychowdhury, Moumita’s mother.

Another relative, preferring anonymity, explains that this ritual had been started to ensure that no daughters were born into the family again. The belief: A kumari who participates in this puja will never give birth to a kumari.

“It’s all the divine wish of Ma. If she wants another daughter from the same family as her next kumari, a daughter will be born to us,” the relative, however, adds.

“I have become used to playing the devi. I can’t tell this to my friends in school, because they don’t believe me. Even my best friend thinks that I am making things up,” says Moumita. “I see the naked dadu dancing in front of me for months, each night, in my dreams. Ma tells me that it is a very good sign.”

Now, Moumita’s ordeal is over. Next year, her place on the altar will be taken by a younger cousin,

And Moumita can get back to doing what she loves best — traipsing off with friends to the neighbourhood puchkawallah, watching Sachin Tendulkar win matches for India, and going ga-ga over Hrithik Roshan.    


 
 
SILIGURI BAN ON PRIVATE BUSES LIFTED 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
Riding the wave of the sweeping reforms in the CPM, the government has paved the way for the entry of private operators into the longest and most profitable state-monopolised bus route connecting Calcutta with north Bengal.

As many as 18 private operators will commence service on the 600-km Calcutta-Siliguri route in the first phase next month. The sector was declared off-limits to private operators 12 years ago.

The freeing of the Calcutta-Siliguri route represents an end to the year-long tussle between state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and his deputy, Sushanta Ghosh. Ghosh, a young turk in the CPM ranks, with active support from party hard-liners, has been trying to scupper Chakraborty’s plans to open up the route to private operators.

The freeing of the bus route assumes greater significance in the light of the great ideological debate on state monopoly versus private capital in the CPM. “Initially, we will issue 18 permits to private parties for plying buses on the Calcutta-Siliguri route. This will be increased in tune with demand,” said Lakshman Bhattacharya, deputy chairman of the State Transport Authority.

The transport department has decided to increase the frequency of its services too. At least 25 buses will ply the route daily and the number will be gradually increased to 55. After the permits are issued, all the buses plying illegally will be seized.

In spite of the ban, the government could not stop private operators from running buses on the route by bribing police and motor vehicles inspectors. According to transport department officials, 15 state buses ply between Calcutta and Siliguri daily, ferrying about 750 passengers, whereas more than 1,500 people make the trip to Siliguri every day. Several transport operators and bus-owners have managed to convince the transport minister that there are far too few state buses to cope with the heavy rush of passengers on the route.

Chakraborty held a meeting with his department’s officers last month and decided to lift the ban on private operators. “If there are not enough state buses to satisfy the demand in the sector, why shouldn’t we open up the route to private agencies?” he asked.

The tussle between Chakraborty and his deputy came to the chief minister’s notice as well, when Ghosh overruled the minister’s decision in his absence. Chakraborty, however, convinced Basu that it was necessary to lift the ban on private bus operators in the Calcutta-Siliguri sector and got the chief minister’s consent on the issue.    


 
 
PRIMARY SCHOOLS UNDER DELHI SCANNER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.27: 
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has asked the state government to conduct a survey on the academic achievements of students in primary schools in the city and elsewhere in the districts.

The study will cover a large number of state-aided and privately-run schools, particularly those in the slum areas. Besides primary schools located in the rural belt, those run by missionaries and other agencies like the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, too, will be under scrutiny.

The apex body at the Central level has asked its State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) to conduct the survey on behalf of the state government and complete it by next March. “The study is aimed at examining the academic standard of students in language and arithmetic groups before they are promoted to the secondary stage,” said SCERT director Mohammed Repatullah.

However, sources in the state education department said the survey was aimed at painting a poor picture of the quality of education imparted in state-aided and private schools in the city and elsewhere in the districts.

Guardians often allege that the quality of education in the 51,000 state-funded primary schools across the city is poorer than at those run by private bodies and missionaries.

State education department officers appeared ignorant about the development. “This is the first time that a Central body has initiated a move to carry out this kind of a study which provides the state government an opportunity to ascertain the level of achievement of students availing of education in government and non-government schools.”

According to them, most of the earlier surveys undertaken before by Central government agencies like the NCERT, concentrated on the performance of students in government schools.

Education department sources said NCERT wanted to get a comprehensive idea about primary school students across the state. “This is a countrywide survey to collect necessary data on children studying in primary schools,” said an officer, adding that similar surveys were likely to be undertaken in other states as well.

However, the SCERT will be in a position to start the survey after its gets a clearance for selecting the sample schools.

Since several thousand schools are involved, sample schools will be surveyed. The schools will be selected on the basis of NCERT guidelines.

Education department officers said a meeting will be held next month to discuss ways of carrying out the survey. The expense of conducting the survey will be assessed at the meeting. Then the government will approach the NCERT to provide the funds.    


 
 
BOY, 4 OTHERS KILLED BY TRIPURA REBELS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Oct. 27: 
An eight-year-old boy, Mithu Deb, and four others were killed as suspected National Liberation Front of Tripura militants opened fire on a non-tribal house at remote Debendra Sarkarpara under Kalyanpur police station at 5 pm today. Four children were also seriously injured in the incident.

Militants also abducted a senior woman CPM leader and four non-tribal fishermen over the past 24 hours. Police sources said a group of 10 rebels raided the house of Brindamohini Tripura at Tripurapara in North Tripura last night and whisked her away.

The NLFT had warned of dire consequences if she did not hand over 50 per cent of the panchayat development funds at her disposal and quit the CPM. Two activists of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura allegedly directed the militants to the CPM leader’s house.

In another incident, militants of the Bru National Council of Tripura abducted four non-tribal fishermen from near the Dumbur lake. The four hostages have been identified as Sukharanjan Das, Tapan Das, Sukhlal Sarkar and Bishnu Biswas. The rebels have demanded Rs 3 crore as ransom.

Two rebels held: Two hardcore NLFT militants, Rajendra Reang and Tapanjay Tripura, were arrested during counter-insurgency operations in Churaibari and Chhawmanu yesterday.    


 
 
JAMATYA PRIESTS SEEK GOVERNOR’S HELP 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, Oct. 27: 
The Jamatya priests and community leaders have sought the Tripura Governor’s intervention to defend their faith from the conversion drive of National Liberation Front of Tripura militants in the state.

Bikram Bahadur Jamatya and Haricharan Jamatya met Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) K.M. Seth as heads of a delegation of Jamatya tribal leaders, known as the “Hoda Okras”.

They apprised him of the situation faced by the Jamatyas in preserving their traditional faith and culture because of the constant threat, intimidation and forced religious conversion carried out by NLFT militants.

The “Hoda Okras” have been fighting the Church-backed NLFT outfit’s “assault” on the religious faith and practices of Hindu tribals and Bengalis. “Hoda Okra” Bikram Bahadur said the NLFT had banned religious festivals of Hindu tribals and Bengalis like Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja and Garia Puja.

“They want the date and timing of our traditional new year festival to coincide with Christmas,” Jamatya added.

He also apprised the Governor of the firing on the Jamatyas’ Durga mandap on October 3. The Jamatyas are helpless against the conversion carried out at gunpoint by NLFT rebels, he added.

Seth assured the Jamatya “Hoda Okras” that he would direct the state government to look into the matter.

Apart from the Jamatyas, the Hindu Koloi tribals in West Tripura, South Tripura and parts of Dhalai district have also organised themselves against the rebel outfit’s conversion drive.

Though part of the community have embraced Christianity, the remaining majority have taken a stand against the forced religious conversion. The Kolois held several meetings in South and West Tripura districts .

MCC rebel killed: An extremist of the banned Maoist Communist Centre was shot dead by criminals at Saya village under Mali police station area last night.

Police said here today the body of the deceased, Ganesh Singh, had been sent to the local hospital for post mortem. Sources said three persons had been taken into custody in this connection. Sources said further investigation was on.    


 
 
PROBE PANEL PAT ON BACK FOR N-E RIGHTS BODY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Oct. 27: 
The Independent People’s Inquiry Commission headed by former Bombay High Court judge, Justice H. Suresh has lauded Manipur Human Rights Commission for “taking up many human rights violation cases in the state”.

However, the independent inquiry panel was not happy over the functioning of National Human Rights Commission.

In its interim report, Justice Suresh said the Manipur Human Rights Commission had referred more than 20 cases concerning custodial deaths to the NHRC. However, the NHRC has not done the needful in this regard.

“The NHRC appears to have not informed the state commission of the steps taken by it for over one year. Nor has the NHRC bothered to hold a single sitting in Manipur. This is a shocking state of affairs,” the interim report said.

The report is being sent to both the central and state authorities for a reply.

Sources said a final report would be made public as per the response of the authorities. The report also made recommendations on different cases.

The independent inquiry suggested that the police should procure a list of all CRPF personnel posted at Lamdan village regarding the rape of a housewife.

“All the CRPF personnel should be paraded for identification after getting a list of CRPF personnel present on that day”, Justice Suresh recommended.

On July 17, a housewife of Lamdan village was allegedly gangraped by CRPF personnel.

It was also suggested that the assistant commandant of the CRPF who heads the Lamdan post should be considered as an “accused”.

On the “third-degree” torture of one Pranam Singh by Assam Rifles personnel in July, the independent inquiry recommended a High Court probe.

As regards the CRPF firing at Tera Bazar in Imphal in 1993, Justice Suresh recommended prosecution of the personnel involved and their removal from service. Five persons had been killed in the indiscriminate firing. Recommendations also stressed on the need for compensation to the victims’ families.

The independent commission also took up cases on the mysterious disappearance of one Jayab Ali after he was allegedly picked up by Assam Rifles personnel. It also probed the disappearance of Kangangbam Loken, who was allegedly picked up by the Army in 1980.    

 

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