‘Detached, we have become weak’
Laxman throws mahajot bait at Cong
Basu puts people before politics
Junta in Delhi return visit
Soldiers die in suicide squad strike
Priya U-turn on Pranab protest rally
Students’ plea to stem rot in education
Doomed cattle find safe custody
Rally threat on Jharkhand birth
Police recover two bodies

Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Today, Jyoti Basu ceases to be Bengal’s chief minister after a 24-year reign. He spoke to The Telegraph on his successor, on life after retirement and on granddaughter Doel whose advice he sought before deciding to step down. Basu is India’s first politician to retire while in power.

Question: Finally, it has happened. No more rushing through an evening with the thought at the back of the mind that you have office tomorrow? Basu: Yes, it has indeed happened, no more going to office at Writers’. It could have happened earlier had my party accepted my proposal for retirement one-and-a-half years ago.

Q: In retiring, you have become a rare Indian politician to relinquish office when you could have clung on to it for some more time? Basu: The post of chief minister was given to me by my party, by the Left Front, with the definite understanding that I will serve the people to the best of my abilities. I did not seek the chair. For the past couple of years I have been feeling that I cannot do justice to the work of chief minister because of my poor health. My point is that if I had not hankered for a chair 24 years ago, why should I hanker for it now. I have retired because I was finding it difficult to serve the people as much as I should. Thanks to my poor health, I was forced to spend less and less time in office, about one to two hours in the morning. You cannot hope to oversee the governance of Bengal, where seven to eight crore people live, spending so little time in office.

Q: How would you like to be remembered — Jyoti Basu, a politician who showed how to give up power? Jyoti Basu, the emblem of Indian communism? Or, Jyoti Basu, the best prime minister India never had? Basu: These are your views, and I have no comments to offer. But let me tell you, history has no reason to remember individuals. And, it does not .

Q: How would you sum up your 24-year innings? Basu: I was asked to do a job by my party. I tried to do it with utmost sincerity and earnestness. The innings you’re referring to is a collective one, which witnessed achievements in many areas as well as failures in some. The new chief minister, the party, the Front, I am sure, will strive to better things in the days ahead.

Q: Let us imagine a situation: they have indeed done their best, yet the CPM, the Front do poorly in the elections. Responding to their demands, Jyoti Basu emerges from retirement to pick up the reins again, even if for a short while, to put things back on the rails? Basu: No, no, and no. There is no question, I repeat, no question of my returning to any kind of office. The situation you are talking about is absolutely impossible, because I have no doubt the Front will be re-elected for a sixth term.

Q: Your voluntary retirement has sparked off a debate: should not a politician holding office either in government or party retire after reaching a certain age.What is your opinion ? Basu: My view is unimportant. I have retired on the grounds of ill health. But, it is true, in our party, we have tried to look at this issue a few times in the recent past. We have tried to find out whether we should retire from the positions we hold in the party or the government... (smiles) As you can guess, our discussions did not lead to any unanimity. However, we broadly feel that you can continue as long as your health permits, your brain functions. A communist works for the people, he does so till the last breath.

Q: Talking about yourself... ? Basu: As I said earlier, I am not leaving politics. I have been a party wholetimer since its inception. I will make myself fully available for party work. Why, if my health permits, I will try to be fully involved in the campaign for the elections coming up in another six months. I have asked them to find out if we can use a helicopter for campaigning. I will be visiting the party office on fixed days every week. I have to go because my comrades are there, I may help them in many areas. They (party) are now working out the modalities.

Q: If you were to take a self-critical view, what, according to you, are the party’s negative aspects ? Basu: I will be frank. Our people are showing complacence in some districts where they have become detached from the people. Earlier, when our party was small, the cadre used to be in constant touch with the people on a daily basis. We would be fully aware of their needs, aspirations, anguish, struggles. We would deal with them in the proper way, listening to them, their criticisms. We would not always be in a position to mitigate their problems, but we would be honest and tell them about our inability. In many areas, we have stopped going to the people, listening to their woes, their criticisms. As a result, we have become weak. The sooner we correct the situation, the better.

Q: Which areas are you talking about? Basu: I have to admit that the party has become weak owing to intra-party differences over issues in North 24-Parganas and Calcutta. We have set up a committee to look into the issues at stake. I am also a member of the committee. In North 24-Parganas, they were divided on participation in a Central government. Things are improving and the debate on participation is behind us because we have been able to address it in last month’s Thiruvananthapuram conference.

Q: Where the Jyoti Basu line finally triumphed ? Basu: (A quick smile) No, no, no, there is no such line. That is your view. All that we have is an updated party programme and I am very happy about it. I had said something (favoured participation in a Central government) in 1996, but I had been in a minority which had lost. Yes, I had called it a “historic blunder”, because I always thought that we could do a lot more for the people by running a government at the Centre. I had also felt that in the present times it is difficult to oust an elected government from office without paying a political price for it. However, they said “it is a closed chapter”. But it was proved later that the chapter was not a closed one. Even though I was in a minority, I did not start regarding those who voted against me as my enemies. Why should there be bitterness, this is not the way to build a communist party.

Q: Those who had voted against participation now understand that they had committed a mistake ? Basu: (Smiles) Yes, of course, they have learnt from their mistake. Earlier, we had this section 112 in our party programme which only visualised participation in a state government. But we changed its wording — I cannot recall the exact words — at Thiruvananthapuram, so that there is no problem in future on participating in a Central government. Our experience shows that it is possible to remain in power with the help of the people, as we are doing in Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. See, the point is we must be able and receptive to change. Earlier, we used to tell the people, “give us your votes, we will articulate your grievances in Parliament or the Assemblies”. Now, we should be able to change our slogan and say, “give us your votes, we will form the government”.

Q: Do you think history will be so kind as to give the CPM a third shot at the Centre ? Basu: (Laughs) It is very difficult to say. We had a big opportunity in 1996. The Congress then would not have withdrawn support as easily as it did in 1997-98. However, the participation issue is back on our agenda. We have to work towards re-forging the third front. Our party resolution is that we will have a general understanding with the Congress whose candidates we will support in states where we are not a major force. Besides, there are many NDA allies who are not communal and can be persuaded to join a future third front.

Q: What time have you (the CPM) given yourself for reviving the third front? Basu: No time-table, because the job is difficult. We have to take into account the rise of the BJP as well as the fact that we need like-minded allies in different parts of the country. Janata Dal, AGP, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav... we are in talks with many people. But it is very difficult this time.

Q: The job will be easier if only Atal Behari Vajpayee steps down? Basu: (Laughs) Vajpayee had called just now (last Friday). He said he had learnt from newspapers that I was retiring. We exchanged health notes... I told him that you are still a young man.

Q: Now that you are quitting, leaving a level playing ground, suddenly it seems there are too many leaders in the CPM? Basu: There may be some, but I cannot comment on them.

Q: You were like an umbrella? Basu: As Marxism says, individuals do play a role, but up to a point. I played my role to the best of my abilities, with a lot of help from the party, the organisation. They are also critically important. My successor too will play the role being assigned to him.

Q. How do you describe Buddhadev Bhattacharya? Which of his qualities impress you most? Basu: He is going to be a fine leader. He has blossomed in politics after his induction into it through the Sixties’ student movement. He has seen struggles from a close range, has lost and won elections. He understands the nuances of parliamentary politics very well. People will say Buddha is only interested in stuff like culture, but that is not true.

Q: What is not true ? Basu: You people (newspapers) have no idea how he has changed in the past two years. Go and find out from the chambers of commerce how well he is handling complex subjects. Even before becoming deputy chief minister, he was carrying out very important tasks. Not very many people know that it was Buddha who took the initiative in information technology after we called and told him that we are already late, you take charge. He gets things done.

Q: Do you see any resistance to the change in the face of the government? Basu: No. Buddha is acceptable to the people, the party, the Front, the industry. He talks, he mixes with people, he is open to ideas. Please give him time. It is unfair to expect him to do in six months what I could do in 24 years. Anyway, we will be around to help him.

Q: Won’t the party expect Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s government to tackle the growing popular disaffection with the government in rural Bengal? Basu: I don’t agree that there is growing public disaffection in rural Bengal. What gives you the impression that rural Bengal is not with us? Newspapers like yours are trying to project such an impression on the basis of the unexpected outcome of the Panskura by-election. The outcome is still a mystery. The newspapers are not writing about the role of money and muscle-power being used by the opposition in rural Bengal. I don’t know how my party was also in the dark. However, all that has changed now. We are holding regular all-party meetings.

Q: Is the CPM going to split? Will people like Subhas Chakraborty, who are known to have been cornered in the party as well in the government, stay put or quit? Basu: If newspapers had their way, the CPM must have split many times by now. Tell me, where will they (people like Chakraborty) go? What is the future outside, except for a few photographs or news reports in papers? I don’t think any of them will leave. Well, a few individuals may, but that always happens.

Q: There is a feeling that the CPM’s new-generation leadership is not as modern as Jyoti Basu to address Bengal’s problems in the contemporary context. Basu: It is a wrong impression. People like Buddhadev, Anil (Biswas) or Biman (Bose) are all realistic people. They are Marxists, therefore scientific in approach and attitude. (Smiles) If you sincerely believe that people, and not God, make history, I suggest have trust, give them a little time.

Q:A generation of new voters who have come into existence in the past 24 years are believed to have turned away from the Left — what is your opinion? Basu: That is why I tell my party to ensure that we don’t lose touch with the people. Many may think that we will win elections or popular support on the basis of our performance. As I see it, performance alone cannot be a factor, otherwise, we should have won the Calcutta civic poll, considering what we have done for the city. Therefore, we have to look at other aspects as well. The new voter has to be viewed in a different context — that of unemployment, capital and talent outflow, technology, all-pervading television culture, media hostility and so on. So, we have to constantly wage an ideological battle to touch the heart of the new voter.

Q: After retirement, you are going to have some free time — how are you going to use it? Basu: I do a great deal of writing, the demand for which I am sure will increase in the days ahead. I don’t get to watch films, but I manage to read.

Q: What are you reading now ? Basu: I am reading the translated works of a Portuguese author. I can’t recall the name, but I’m told he is quite a literary figure. Buddha has given me the book. In fact, I get most of my reading material from Buddha. O khub pare-tare, khub boi-patra, natak, chhabir khabar rakhe (Buddha reads a lot, besides, he keeps himself abreast of new writers, films and plays).

Q: Will you be travelling? Basu: I hope to. They (the party) were asking me to visit Hyderabad (in connection with party work), but I cannot undertake a tour right now. Let’s see.

Q: You love to watch plays — you had dropped your official plans and gone to watch your granddaughter Doel on stage? Basu: (Leans forward, face creasing into a big smile) Aha, Doel. Mark my words, she is going to evolve into a very fine actress, and I am saying this not because she is my grand-daughter. Find some time and go and watch her act, she is incredible.

Q: You are extremely fond of her —- how did you break the news of your retirement to her? Basu: Tui aamar ekmatra bandhu re, tui-i bol, aami retire korbo na? (You are my only friend, you tell me what you think of my decision to retire).

Q: What did she say ? Basu: She clapped and said, ‘Dadu, tomar to sharir kharap, tumi jadi retire karo tahale thik aache (You are unwell, it’s okay if you retire). I have promised her that I will take her to the swearing-in function on Monday.

Q: You stopped the move to preserve your chair. But they are thinking of a statue and such things. How will you stop that ? Basu: Just imagine what an absurd idea it was (preserving the chair). I have told them not to do anything to deify an individual. Talking about statues, let me tell you an anecdote on Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and his widow Basanti Devi. When some people installed a statue of Deshbandhu and tried to get Basanti Devi to inaugurate it, she declined, saying, “What good is a statue, except for being another place for bird-dropping.” I hope you understand what I mean.    

Hyderabad, Nov. 5: 
BJP president Bangaru Laxman today said the Congress was welcome to join the BJP-Trinamul Congress mahajot in West Bengal to defeat the Left Front.

The CPM’s rout was inevitable with Jyoti Basu relinquishing power, Laxman said. “Jyoti Basu’s exit and the Left’s lack of a dynamic party programme to attract the youth and its misrule over the years paves the way for the Left’s rout in the coming polls,” the BJP chief said.

Accusing the Left of losing relevance, he said the Congress rank and file were joining the Trinamul. Laxman lashed out at the CPM for its “nexus” with the Congress, adding that with the BJP and the Congress as its allies, Mamata Banerjee could give a good fight to, and even defeat, the Left party.

Congress sources quoted Ghulam Nabi Azad — in charge of the party’s Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal affairs — as saying “the AICC was not averse to the idea”.

Laxman dismissed reports of a rift between the BJP and the Telugu Desam at the state level. “Chandrababu Naidu has not raised the issue with us after his Japan trip.” He felt that the Desam would join the NDA government on its own political compulsion rather than at the BJP’s bidding.

There was also no misunderstanding between the BJP and the VHP, Laxman added. Stating that both had different and independent agenda, Laxman said the BJP did not agree to building the Ram temple at Ayodhya. “If the VHP did not agree with the Centre or the BJP, it will have to accept the terms and conditions of the law,” he said.

On the Uttar Pradesh crisis, Laxman said there was no discontent among the cadre and the change of guard was an administrative one. He denied that Dalits were sidelined.

BJP office-bearers’ meet

The first meeting of the newly-appointed Central office bearers of the BJP will be held here tomorrow to discuss the political situation in states going to polls early next year, reports our special correspondent in Delhi.

The team will also discuss party chief Bangaru Laxman’s Nagpur message and the ongoing campaign to spread it across the country, the need to maintain discipline in the party and developments on the economic front.

Apart from Laxman, other leaders attending the meeting are senior vice presidents Jana Krishnamurthy and Pyarelal Khandelwal, as well as general secretary (organisation) Narendra Modi.

West Bengal and Sikkim incharge Madan Lal Khurana, Kerala and Lakshadweep in-charge Ved Prakash Goyal and Assam in-charge Sunil Shastry are expected to discuss the political situation in their states in the run up to the Assembly elections slated for February-March next year.

Sources said the Central leaders are keen to effect a rapprochement between the party’s Bengal leaders and Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. Recently, BJP leader and Union minister Tapan Sikdar had charged Mamata with trying to split the party in Bengal.

The BJP has also started a month-long countrywide campaign from November 1 to “properly explain” to the people the import of the Nagpur message.

The message aimed at expanding the party’s base by wooing the Dalits and minorities. Public meetings, seminars, workshops, community feasts are being organised to ensure that the message reaches all sections of society.    

Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Barely 24 hours before stepping down from office, chief minister Jyoti Basu today urged his ministers and partymen not to mix politics with development issues.

“Before elections, political parties often speak against each other, criticise policies and even indulge in personal attacks. But once the government is formed, we should devote ourselves to nation-building,” Basu said at New Town in Rajarhat this afternoon.

Basu, invited to oversee the progress in Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation’s New Town project, also asked his ministers to take up some schemes to provide jobs to unemployed youth. He recounted the difficulties he had faced in carrying out some development projects, including Haldia Petrochemicals.

The octogenarian leader advised his ministers to seek “co-operation from all political parties, social organisations and others while carrying out any development projects”.

“We had to vacate two villages to acquire land for Haldia Petrochemicals. There were a number of legal cases against us, but we won all of those and the Petrochemicals has come into existence,” Basu said.

About 40 per cent of the projects out of the Rs 48,000 crore investment proposals in the state had been completed and the units had started production, Basu said.

“Our state is trying hard to improve the industrial scenario and is ready to take foreign investment if necessary,” he added.

He also advised his partymen not to “tell lies to the people to get votes”. “We have to take the side of common people and toiling masses to win their hearts and if we can follow this strictly, I believe people will stand by us,” Basu said.

Basu praised housing minister Goutam Deb, who was present at the function, for accepting the challenge of providing homes to the poor and middle-class people at New Town.

“Many years ago, former chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy had set up the Salt Lake township. But my housing minister’s job is more difficult than that of Roy because the new project will provide shelter to about 10 lakh people and will be three times bigger than the Salt Lake township,” he added.

However, Basu, who was supposed to visit some areas in New Town, could not do so as the roads are yet to be laid. “Goutam (the housing minister) urged me to visit New Town today itself. I told him that I will visit the township after some time. But he insisted that I should visit it as the chief minister. So, I came here,” Basu said. “But you know I will be the chief minister till 4 p.m. tomorrow,” he told the ministers sharing the dais.

Apart from Deb, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, environment minister Manab Mukherjee, PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and other members of the Cab- inet were also present at the gathering.    

New Delhi, Nov. 5: 
Myanmar home minister Colonel Tin Hlaing’s visit to India suggests the growing closeness between the countries and indicates that more high-level bilateral visits are in the offing.

Hlaing met foreign minister Jaswant Singh on Friday and held detailed discussions with his Indian counterpart L.K. Advani yesterday on measures to curb terrorism and trafficking in narcotics and small arms.

Last month, Indian home secretary Kamal Pande was in Yangon to participate in the annual secretary-level dialogues that the two sides have put in place against terrorism and drug trafficking.

For India, the eagerness to improve ties with the junta in Myanmar indicates that Delhi is willing to adjust its foreign policy according to ground realities.

But it has been not easy for the Indian leadership. The initiative was taken by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1994, though a few years ago it bestowed the Nehru Peace Prize award on Aung Sang Suu Kyi for her effort to bring back democracy in the country.

Under the ruling BJP in Delhi, contact between the two countries has become more frequent and wide-ranging. The tightrope-walking that India has been doing to maintain a balance between the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar and improving ties with the junta there has often created confusion.

Indian officials maintain that though Delhi is committed to the principles of democracy, it will not interfere in the internal matters of another country.

The growing Chinese presence in Myanmar and Beijing’s attempt to build a long-term strategic partnership with Yangon has forced Delhi to improve ties with the Myanmar junta.

Another factor that helped change India’s attitude to Myanmar is the growing clout of Northeast rebel groups in the region.

As part of its policy to tackle insurgency in the Northeast, India has been trying to convince Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar not to give refuge to armed rebels in their territory.

With Dhaka showing positive signs of helping Delhi, most Northeast insurgents — barring the Ulfa and the Bodos who are still camping in the Bhutanese jungles —started moving towards the Myanmar border.

But over the last four years, Yangon has decided to come down heavily on the rebels, forcing them to shut their camps and move elsewhere. Many insurgents have been forced to either surrender or temporarily suspend their fight against India.

The success rate and the co-operation it has been receiving from the Myanmar junta has forced Delhi to develop and strengthen bilateral ties.

The economic and investment potential of Myanmar and its entry into the Association for South-East Asian Nations (Asean) has also helped Delhi stem domestic criticism on why it should improve ties with the neighbouring country.

Improved relations with Myanmar can also lead to closer economic and technological co-operation between India and other Southeast Asian nations. The roads that Delhi is building to connect Manipur to Myanmar may help ferry goods to the Southeast Asian region.    

Srinagar, Nov. 5: 
A couple of heavily-armed militants stormed an army camp at Magam Handwara in northern Kupwara district, killing four soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer.

In the gunbattle, the militants, who are members of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s fidayeen (suicide squad), were also killed.

Police said last night two fidayeens sneaked into a heavily-guarded camp of the 24 Rashtriya Rifles at Magam village and began firing in all directions. They also hurled several grenades, killing four soldiers on the spot. Three armymen received serious injuries and were shifted to hospital.

The troops took position inside the camp and retaliated. The gunbattle continued for two hours. Armymen surrounded the camp and the authorities sent for reinforcements from adjoining areas. Later, the troops recovered two AK-47 rifles, a large quantity of explosives and ammunition.

Army and police officials visited the spot. The condition of the injured jawans is reported to be critical. Last night’s attack comes close on the heels of the Beerwah incident, in which 13 jawans, including an army major, was killed.

Lashkar rules out talks: Lashkar ruled out talks with India, alleging the “talks offer is a trick of the diabolic forces”, reports PTI. Amir Hafiz Saeed, a militant, added that activists of the outfit will continue activities against India.    

Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
In a desperate bid to stem dissent, Congress chief whip and MP Priya Ranjan Das Munshi today asked rebels not to proceed with tomorrow’s rally to protest against state president Pranab Mukherjee’s move to drop some key functionaries from the PCC panel.

Disgruntled party leaders, including Sougata Roy and Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, had lined up the rally to “expose” Mukherjee’s gameplan to drop those who work for the organisation.

“We are hurt at the way some important party faithfuls are being dropped from the PCC panel. But if we organise a rally to protest against it, this will send a wrong signal to the rank and file and also weaken the organisation,” Das Munshi said before leaving for Delhi.

Sources said Das Munshi, who had asked the rebels to go ahead with the rally, changed his mind after he met Mukherjee yesterday. He also prevailed on Mukherjee to restructure the PCC panel to induct those dropped.    

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 5: 
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Sangh Parivar, today criticised Orissa’s higher education department for the sorry state of affairs. Higher education minister Prasanta Nanda is a BJP member.

Addressing a news conference, ABVP national general secretary Atul Kothari said the higher education department has got its priorities wrong as far as higher education was concerned, he alleged. “At some of the colleges there are very few students in comparison with the number of courses offered. Elsewhere, there are not enough teachers for the students,” he said.

Kothari also urged the Centre to set up an Educational Development Bank of India on the lines of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI). The bank will help the poor but meritorious students in pursuing higher education.

Kothari said since most banks do not advance educational loans, the EDBI should take up that role.

Kothari said his organisation has proposed setting up the National Education Foundation, a statutory autonomous body. The foundation would be the nodal authority to deal with higher education in the country. The human resources development department of the Centre should put higher education under the proposed autonomous foundation, he said.

Kothari said regulatory authorities should be set up in each state to look into the self-financing courses of several educational institutions.    

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 5: 
Animal welfare activists saved a herd of cattle on Friday which was on its way to West Bengal for slaughter. But police took no action against the trader.

The cattle, tied with thick nylon ropes and packed like sardines, were bleeding. But as soon as the truck carrying the cattle passed through the city limits, it was stopped by the activists of People For Animals and handed over to the police. An FIR was lodged against the truck driver.

The cattle, mostly milch cows, were mercilessly beaten up before being loaded and being transported by a Muslim trader to West Bengal in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Transport of Animal Rules, 1978. Before reaching Bhu-baneswar, the truck had travelled 20 km from a cattle market in Balipatana. They were still 400-odd km to go. However, the ordeal did not end there. Instead of taking the cattle to the municipality kinehouse, the Mancheswar police released the truck.

Though the truck driver was arrested under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, no ny action against the trader. A police officer said, “If necessary, we will take action.” People For Animals secretary Jiban Das said, “The police are hand-in-glove with the cattle traffickers.” Last week, Mancheswar police had seized another truck carrying 52 cows. They were released later.

The police also did not take action against the trader who was transporting the cattle in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The Transport of Animal Rules, 1978 stipulates that not more than six heads of cattle can be transported at a time in a goods vehicle. On an average, 50 trucks of cattle ply from Orissa everyday to other states. Animal rights activists have threatened to sit on a dharna in front of the office of the Bhubaneswar superintendent of police. They also demanded the suspension of police officers responsible for Friday’s incident.

BJP flays Orissa govt

The state BJP today criticised the state government for assigning village headmen the duty to monitor food-for-work programmes in drought-hit areas of the state. At the Legislature party meeting held today, BJP MLAs expressed apprehension that the headmen could act in a biased manner or show favouritism as most of them were Congressmen.

“At some of the villages of my constituency, there were complaints of the sarpanch favouring his supporters,” a BJP legislator said. The government had asked the sarpanch of each villages to be on alert for any cases of starvation deaths last week.

They were also assigned the responsibility of providing test relief for 10 days to drought-affected families.

The government should immediately constitute block-level committees in each block, which should be headed by the MLA concerned, the legislators said. Block development officers and gram panchayat officers may be included in the committees, they added.    

Ranchi, Nov. 5: 
Mounting pressure on the administration with repeated attacks on policemen and rivals, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) has now prodded its frontal organisation for a rally in Ranchi on November 15 — the day when the new Jharkhand Assembly will take oath.

The MCC has killed at least 25 people in the south Bihar districts over the past couple of months.

Jharkhand Mukti Manch, the MCC’s overground organisation, expects a turnout of nearly 50,000 people at its November 15 rally. The organisation plans a movement against the “influx of neo-colonialists on the virgin terrain of Jharkhand once the BJP elects its first chief minister in the region”.Though the organisation welcomed the creation of the new state, it said the people of the region would have to fight a fresh battle to liberate the area from the clutches of reactionary politics preached by parties like the BJP. The MCC has already issued a death warrant against Babulal Marandi, who is being projected as the new chief minister by the BJP. Many parties including the BJP, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Jharkhand Vikash Party will hold rallies on November 15.

Large number of BJP workers are expected to attend the oath-taking ceremony when the new chief minister will be sworn in.

The JMM, which is likely to be dumped by the BJP, will also stage a mammoth rally, which has been nicknamed the Mukhya Mantri Darshan.

“We have asked the people to see for themselves what kind of a chief minister is elected,” JMM national general secretary Deosaran Bhagat said. The JMM threat to the National Democratic Alliance is clear. Irate JMM supporters had raided the Lenin Hall and ransacked it. The Jharkhand Mukti Manch threat also stands.

The MCC has been involved in violent clashes with its rivals in Palamau district.

While five persons were killed in clashes between the MCC and People’s War in Chatarpur block last week, two were kidnapped after gun battles in Chandua. Six police personnel had also been killed.

“The spurt in MCC activities is an effort to increase its influence. The emergence of the new state might have given their own justification for the acts,” inspector-general of police Rameshwar Oraon told The Telegraph.

The IG held a meeting with superintendents of police in his office yesterday to chalk out strategies to maintain law and order on November 15. The 18 SPs said the situation could be controlled if more forces are deployed.

The police officials suggested that Manch activists should not be allowed to reach Ranchi, but this is not possible since the organisation is not banned.

The police will conduct raids to prevent any violence. The IG said all possible steps were being taken to ensure smooth oath-taking.

Astrologers’ prediction

Astrologers in Ranchi have said November 15, Birsa Munda’s birthday, will not be auspicious for the swearing-in. According to the Hindu almanac, it will be the Krishna Chaturthi and not a favourable day to begin something new. The swearing-in ceremony is expected to begin around November 14 midnight.    

Agartala, Nov. 5: 
Officers of the Santir Bazar police station recovered the bodies of two non-tribals, who were abducted and killed by National Liberation Front of Tripura militants last year.

Police sources said a patrol party from Shantir Bazar arrested a hardcore NLFT militant Brindajay Reang from Padma Khola area. Reang was wanted in at least 15 cases of murder and extortion.

Reang confessed that his gang had abducted Laxmikanta Debnath (30) and Sukanta Das (19) from Santir Bazar Paikhola Road in February 1999. The families of those abducted paid a huge sum for their release. But the hostages were killed even before the payment was made. In a separate incident, NLFT militants abducted a CPM worker Karan Debbarma (28) from Lalcherra village under Ambasa police station yesterday. The youth is still untraced.    


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