Buddha offers Mamata peace talks
‘Hills in blood’, CM fights outsider label
Gujarat damper on Mongia project
Laloo eyes role of kingmaker
Uma vows to clean cricket
Jharkhand rising star outshines warhorse
CPM alerts Annan on VHP
8 killed in Barpeta carnage
Two Tripura militants shot dead
Human rights team visits Malom village

 
 
BUDDHA OFFERS MAMATA PEACE TALKS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 8: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today conceded that the administration alone could not restore peace in the clash-scarred south Bengal and offered to hold talks with the Trinamul Congress.

Asked if he was ready to hold talks with Mamata Banerjee, Bhattacharjee said, “It is for the Trinamul Congress to choose its representative. I have no objection to discuss the matter with him or her.”

Bhattacharjee’s offer came a day after Mamata threatened to organise a sustained dharna to protest against “CPM’s terror” in the districts.

Mamata will address a rally at the Gandhi statue tomorrow to highlight the plight of party supporters evicted from Midnapore, Hooghly and Bankura.

“The state administration alone cannot put an end to political clashes. We need the cooperation of political parties to restore order,” the chief minister told reporters this afternoon.

Trinamul leaders, however, greeted the chief minister’s offer with scepticism. Pankaj Banerjee, Trinamul spokesperson, said there was no point in holding talks with Bhattacharjee on the issue.

“We have discussed the matter with him so many times without any result. We met him for the last time on November 3 when he promised to take firm steps to contain violence. But even after his assurance, four of our party workers were murdered and 27 incidents of arson and looting took place,” he said.

Banerjee said: “Bhattacharjee has no control over the CPM cadre as well as administration. Any further discussion with him will only mean sheer wastage of time.”

Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay felt Bhattacharjee has been “a disaster as the state’s home minister”.

“Now that he has been elevated to the post of chief minister, Bhattacharjee will only follow the diktats of party bosses like Anil Biswas and Biman Bose,” he said.

The chief minister said the violent incidents were unfortunate. “We are trying our best to ensure the safe return of evicted persons to their respective homes. The administration is preparing lists of the evicted villagers. However, it is not possible for the administration alone to put an end to political violence,” he said.

The Trinamul is sparing no effort to exploit the issue against the new chief minister. Banners and posters highlighting

“Bhattacharjee’s failure as the home minister” will be displayed prominently at tomorrow’s mass rally, Tapas Dutta, vice-president of Trinamul’s youth wing, said.

About 1,000 evicted Trinamul workers from Sabang, Pingla, Keshpur and Khanakul areas are already camping at the dharna site and more are expected to join them tomorrow when Mamata will address the rally. Besides, party workers from Calcutta, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas will attend the meeting.

Tomorrow’s meeting will mark a departure from Mamata’s declared stand not to organise any mass rally on week-days as it causes inconvenience to the public.

“It is an emergency meeting being held in extraordinary circumstances. We regret the inconvenience it may cause to the people,” Banerjee said.    


 
 
‘HILLS IN BLOOD’, CM FIGHTS OUTSIDER LABEL 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Dehradun, Nov. 8: 
Till the BJP legislature party elected its leader this evening, Uttaranchal was on tenterhooks about the identity of its first chief minister. Only Nityanand Swami was confident.

Coming out of his hour-long morning puja, Nityanand declared: “Advani se baat ho gayi, main hi CM banoonga”.

Deputy superintendent of police Vijay Gautam said the decision to provide Nityanand security was impromptu.

“Hawa mein hai ki yeh CM ban rahe hain. No one has told us anything, maybe we’ll have to provide security to someone else tomorrow,” he said.

Gautam need not have worried. The BJP unanimously elected Nityanand as its leader in the evening, paving the way for him to be sworn in as chief minister.

Asked earlier why the BJP high command had not yet told party leaders and aspiring chief ministers in Uttaranchal about his new position, Nityanand said: “Ask those at the Centre. I know what I know.”

Nityanand, who has been accused of being “non-pahari”by local leaders, said he is upset about this “whole business of roots”.

The 73-year-old leader, who was Dehradun’s MLA from 1969-74 and worked as deputy chairman of the Legislative Assem- bly from 1991-96, said he has spent almost six decades in the hills.

“Till yesterday, no one thought I was an outsider, but today people are saying I was born in Haryana. It’s not fair. Four generations of my family have lived here.”

“The hills flow in my blood. I will see to it that my people don’t suffer. In fact, the problem of agricultural land going away from the locals is weighing heavily on my mind. A special status under Article 371 should not be ruled out for Uttaranchal. I will definitely talk of that. It’s there in my mind,” he added.

Nityanand, who will be taking charge of Uttaranchal at a time of financial mess and political chaos, said his first priority is to do away with the “mental divisions” of the people.

“Uttaranchal under me will be one. There will be no Kumaonis, Garhwalis and outsiders, he said.” He is confident that Uttaranchal can “take care of itself”.

“Once the political uncertainty dies, the financial crisis will get sorted out. It just needs some time,” he said.

Tourism and energy generation will be promoted in the new state. “Right now, we are producing 533 mw of power when the capacity is 1059 mw. But the truth is we are capable of producing 20,000 mw of power, and we will,” he claimed.

In a bid to stop the exodus of youth from the hills, Nityanand will set up pollution-free industries that will provide employment to locals.

Asked about the other chief ministerial candidates like Uttar Pradesh’s culture minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, Uttaranchal’s BJP president B.S. Koshiari and K.C. Pant, deputy chairman, planning commission, who enjoy a strong following here, Nityanand said: “Yeh decision aise hi nahi liya gaya hain. There was a consensus, In fact, Advaniji On the contentious issue of the new state’s capital being shifted to Gairsain, Nityanand said those who are against Dehradun being nominated as the capital are his “sisters”.

“I will talk to my sisters in the Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, feed them laddoos and chai and convince them that it is the right decision to have Dehradun as the capital of Uttaranchal.”    


 
 
GUJARAT DAMPER ON MONGIA PROJECT 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, Nov. 8: 
The Gujarat government has poured cold water on Nayan Mongia’s dream project.

The wicketkeeper, who was banned by the Board of Control for Cricket in India after being named in the match-fixing scandal in the CBI report, wanted to start a cricket academy in his home town Vadodara.

Now the state government has decided not to allot land to him at a concessional rate. The government has announced a scheme in which sportsmen from Gujarat who have represented India at international games are entitled to get residential plots at concessional rates.

Mongia had applied for a plot under the scheme. He wanted to open a cricket academy there and had plans to invite multinational companies to make the project commercially viable.

Similar projects have been launched by former cricketers Dilip Vengsarkar and Sunil Gavaskar in Mumbai.

The minister for youth and cultural affairs, Mahendra Trivedi, confirmed that the cricketer’s application will not be honoured. “The day the controversy over match-fixing erupted, I made it clear that the government will not approve any project submitted by tainted sportsmen,” he said.

Trivedi also suggested public thrashing of all those cricketers involved in match-fixing.

“Those who cheated the nation should be beaten up,” he said. The minister advised the people to follow the example of Shiv Sena which has banned the entry of Mohammed Azharuddin in Mumbai.    


 
 
LALOO EYES ROLE OF KINGMAKER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Nov. 8: 
The Bihar Assembly’s last joint meet with MLAs from Jharkhand began this morning, but the smile that played on Laloo Prasad Yadav’s lips as he greeted Left and Independent legislators had never been so pregnant with meaning.

The RJD boss is back as kingmaker. Laloo’s manipulative skills were in evidence in March this year when he managed to avert a split in the Congress over supporting a government led by his wife Rabri Devi. This time, to ensure for JMM chief Shibu Soren the Jharkhand chief minister’s post, he might have to split any NDA constituent or even the BJP.

After an early-morning furore in the House over the date of announcing the budget session, Laloo began looking for Congress ministers and Independents in the RJD-led government. Besides the Congress ministers, there are two Jharkhandi MLAs, Joba Majhi and Sudesh Majhi.

Both Majhi and Mahato have pledged support to the NDA, keeping it on course to form Jharkhand’s first government.

Laloo today sent emissaries to Majhi’s house, but she was away. In March, Majhi had been “abducted” by NDA leaders and kept in a house lest she joined the RJD. Laloo’s men had come to her rescue. Majhi later joined the RJD-led coalition.

“There appears to be another need for giving her safe custody,” said a senior RJD leader.

Samresh Singh, an Independent MLA from Bokaro, is also a sought-after candidate for Laloo. But Singh, who has crossed floor to join the RJD-led government, has been playing hide-and-seek since yesterday when he called a press conference in Ranchi only to keep the scribes waiting.

He today resurfaced in Patna but Laloo’s men have been shadowing him. Singh has reservations about Soren becoming chief minister, but JMM leaders are hoping that Laloo would bring him around.

The magic number of 41 — after the effective strength of the proposed Jharkhand Assembly was reduced following the death of a CPI legislator — is still far away. But Laloo, sources close to him said, isn’t giving up so easily.

Sources said he is trying to contact MLAs close to Karia Munda, the BJP leader who lost out to Babulal Marandi. But technical difficulties of making a group of 10 defect has made RJD leaders take a cautious approach.

The JMM is learnt to have appealed to them to help form a government by those who struggled for statehood.

Soren has managed to get the moral support of eft leaders, especially the CPI and CPI(ML) MLAs. The CPI is thinking of giving him outside support. Soren, said sources, has also approached Congress leaders, many of whom are learnt to have given him the cold shoulder.

“You are a bit late, Guruji,” Laloo has been telling Soren. “When I come to Ranchi, the real picture will emerge. I am going there with you on November 13.”

Laloo has his own interest in supporting Soren. Besides the fodder scam cases, he would like to make another effort in south Bihar to regain lost ground. He has at present nine MLAs but there are at least four Assembly constituencies in the region where he came a close second. RJD leaders feel the party can emerge as a force again if it keeps up ties with the JMM.    


 
 
UMA VOWS TO CLEAN CRICKET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 8: 
A day after taking charge of the sports ministry, Uma Bharti today vowed to weed out corruption from cricket.

But that’s about all that she was willing to talk about cricket and the greatest scandal to have hit the game.

It is not known whether the firebrand sanyasin is cricket-savvy, but she refused to comment on match-fixing.

Bharti only said that her predecessor Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who has been shifted to chemicals and fertilisers, will be a good source for tips.

The new minister said she plans to scout for talent in the rural areas and for that, her priority would be to pursue the National Reconstruction Policy.

“The policy will be implemented in villages across the country. But I will do so not as a minister, but as a social worker with a view to usher in a revolution,” Bharti said.

She added that youths from tribal areas and the Northeast would be encouraged as they have performed well in the past despite lack of government aid.

Voicing concern over the country’s poor performance in international sporting events, especially the Olympics, Bharti said training and preparation for the next Games must begin at the earliest to ensure that India wins more medals.    


 
 
JHARKHAND RISING STAR OUTSHINES WARHORSE 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Ranchi, Nov. 8: 
It’s been dubbed the battle between the homesick father and the son of the soil. Only, the younger hero appears to have drawn first blood, leaving the patriarch to lick his wounds.

Karia Munda, the 70-year-old leader of the Jharkhand struggle, refused to join the Vajpayee ministry yesterday to protest the BJP’s apparent decision to give the chief minister’s job to the much younger but dynamic Babulal Marandi.

The mild-mannered Munda has been described as a “towering leader” of the statehood movement who, however, could not make a mark in Delhi despite being a BJP vice-president.

Critics call him a “homesick father who frequently runs away from Delhi to his hut in Khunti (a place near Ranchi)”. They say Munda’s inability to communicate with national leaders has gone against him.

Marandi, on the other hand, is at home both in Delhi and in Giridih, where he was born. His political career took off from the roads of militancy-hit Giridih where he met RSS leaders.

Marandi started as an RSS organiser in the late Seventies and rose through the ranks to become the VHP’s publicity manager in the Eighties.

As he gained in stature, Marandi was asked to take on the region’s most powerful Santhal leader, Shibu Soren.

Marandi defeated “Guruji” in the Lok Sabha elections to become the BJP’s most powerful tribal Central minister.

“He is a grand young son of the RSS groomed into the BJP mould,” said veteran partyman Kailashpati Tripathi.

Though the BJP is yet to formally announce its choice for the top post in the new state, indications are that Marandi will win the race.

He resigned as minister of state for environment and forests to make way for Munda, who, however, refused to take oath yesterday.

The veteran leader did not hide his displeasure. “If I don’t give vent to my anger now, when do you think I’m supposed to do it?” Munda told Mishra, who had gone to pacify the leader.

Munda, too, was heavily influenced by the RSS during his early days. He has been winning elections since 1977 when he was made the minister of state for steel and mines in the Janata Party regime.

In 1996, during Vajpayee’s 13-day government, Munda found a berth in the ministry, but was left out subsequently.

Munda was instead made a BJP vice-president, but despite his long stay in Delhi, he failed to “overcome his inhibitions”.

“Munda failed to cultivate a national image. On small excuses, he would run away to Khunti, giving the impression that he was a perennial dissident. He could communicate best with his followers in Khunti,” said a senior leader.

The supporters have not disappointed him. They took to the streets today in protest against the “humiliation” meted out to their supreme leader.

Munda refused to attend today’s party meeting in Patna, called to “work out a strategy for Jharkhand”.    


 
 
CPM ALERTS ANNAN ON VHP 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 8: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants to become a consultative member of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, but not if the CPM can help it.

CPM Rajya Sabha member Suresh Kurup has sent a letter to Kofi Annan, secretary general of the UN, warning him about the VHP’s “ultra-right” religious leanings. “Keeping your basic guidelines and high principles of the UN in mind I would like to draw your attention towards the VHP,” Kurup said.

He highlighted the “negative” activities of the VHP, punching holes in its description of itself as a welfare organisation. “Since its inception, the VHP has been functioning as a right-wing militant religious group, spreading ill will among the majority Hindu community against minorities,” Kurup emphasised.

VHP media director Manohar Puri scoffed at the criticism. “The CPM looks up to China and Russia. The CPM’s credentials are doubtful,” Puri said. “How can they fling charges at a patriotic organisation like the VHP?” he asked.

Kurup has sent a letter to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, seeking his intervention to stall the VHP’s entry into the UN wing. “An organisation which has been instrumental in demolishing the Babri Masjid cannot represent any segment of our country in a world body like the UN,” Kurup wrote to Vajpayee.

In the letter to Annan, Kurup has written about the VHP’s recent recommendation to “Indianise of Catholic churches”.

“It may be shocking information to you that in the last two years there had been umpteen number of attacks on Christian missionaries, nuns and on the educational institutions run by them,” Kurup wrote.

According to the CPM MP, the VHP is trying project before the UN that it believes ‘all humanity is one family’.

“The Sangh parivar for long has been trying to wash the stains on its hands of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi,” Kurup said.    


 
 
8 KILLED IN BARPETA CARNAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Nov. 8: 
Blood continued to flow in the killing fields of Assam, with militants gunning down eight persons, including a one-year-old baby, in a pre-dawn raid on Sukrunbari village near Sarbhog in Barpeta district.

An unconfirmed report reaching here said suspected Dimasa rebels killed a couple, both employees of a government-run corporation, in another incident in North Cachar Hills district this evening. Officials in the district headquarters town of Haflong could not be contacted over phone due to “a technical snag”. The police top brass could not be contacted either as they are camping in Sivsagar.

The massacre in Sukrunbari, suspected to have been carried out by the National Democratic Front of Boroland, was the fourth in 18 days. It raised the toll in the bloodbath since October 22 to 38.

Of the eight victims, including a minor girl and a woman, five were from a minority community, two from Bihar and one an Assamese. Barpeta deputy commissioner Swapnanil Baruah told The Telegraph over phone from the Lower Assam town that a group of 10-12 NDFB militants combed Sukrunbari for members of the rival Bodo Liberation Tigers. On finding none, the militants vent their anger on the villagers — first lining them up in a field in front of a rice mill and then pumping bullets into them from close range. Seven were killed on the spot, but four lived to tell the tale.

“They asked us to come out of our homes and even assured us that they were ‘government people’ and there was nothing to worry about,” 10-year-old Md Jahatuddin said from his bed at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital. Baruah quoted other eyewitnesses as saying that the militants were masked and came to the village on foot. Since there is no motorable road leading to the Sukrunbari, located about 12 km from the Indo-Bhutan border, a police team from Sorbhog had to trek over six km after crossing the Beki river to reach the village.

Sukrunbari has a mixed population of Bodo, Assamese and minority migrants.

Based on the contents of an intercepted Ulfa radio message, additional director-general of police G.M. Srivastava had said last week that Barpeta could be the militants’ “next target”. The deputy commissioner today confirmed receiving such a warning. “We did anticipate violence in Sorbhog and Barpeta Road,” he said.

However, Baruah said it was “impossible to post police pickets in every village”. He said security forces had launched a manhunt for the killers.

Though the police suspect the NDFB hand behind today’s massacre, no outfit claimed responsibility for the incident till late tonight. An obscure outfit, christened the “Assam Tiger Force”, had emerged on the scene after the Nalbari killings and owned up to the massacres in Naoholia, Doomdooma and Nalbari.

However, the police ruled out the existence of any such outfit and accused the Ulfa of conjuring up the name to divert the state’s attention. Fifteen people were killed in Naoholia and Doomdooma on October 22, while 10 were gunned down in the heart of Nalbari town on October 27. All the victims were non-Assamese.

Police officials said the Ulfa was targeting non-Assamese people to please its “foreign master”, the ISI. The ruling Asom Gana Parishad blamed the “Ulfa-Congress combine” of carrying out the massacres. The PCC countered the allegation by saying that one of the persons arrested in connection with the Nalbari massacre was an AGP activist, something that “proved” the ruling party’s complicity in the crime.    


 
 
TWO TRIPURA MILITANTS SHOT DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Nov. 8: 
Tripura police and State Rifles jawans shot dead two hardcore National Liberation Front of Tripura militants this afternoon. The militants were identified as Putul Sadhan Jamatya (26) and Mistry Jamatya (24).

Police also recovered the body of a tribal youth Subodh Debbarma (31) from Nalicherra village under Ambasa police station yesterday. Debbarma was abducted by suspected United Bengali Liberation Front militants on Monday. In another incident, NLFT militants abducted three non-tribal woodcutters from Santir Bazar police station area yesterday.

The police also rescued two non-tribals abducted by the NLFT and recovered five countrymade guns from the rebels following an encounter at Kalacherra in South Tripura this morning. A police team led by officer-in-charge of Baikhora police station Debjan Chakma stumbled upon a NLFT hideout while combing the hills early this morning.

As soon as the militants spotted the police, they opened fire prompting the policemen to retaliate. The militants retreated into the forest allowing the police team to search their hideout. Two Bengali civilians Tapas Das (22) and Mahadeb Sarkar (50), who were taken hostage by the rebels in August, were rescued from the hideout. Inspector-general (law and order) K. Salim Ali praised the police force.    


 
 
HUMAN RIGHTS TEAM VISITS MALOM VILLAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Nov. 8: 
A three-member team of Manipur Human Rights’ Commission today conducted an on-the-spot inquiry at Malom village on the killing of 10 civilians by Assam Rifles on November 2.

The commission has already registered a suo moto case in connection with the incident.

Union joint secretary, home, (in charge of Northeast), G.K. Pillai arrived here today to assess the law and order situation.

He held a meeting with chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh and other senior officials to discuss the present situation arising out of the Malom incident.

Pillai will also meet top security officials tomorrow.

Three members of the commission, L. Rabindra, Kh. Choujohn and Y. Laba, today made a spot inquiry at the village.

After visiting the site of the incident, the members met the families of the 10 victims and recorded their statements.

They also spoke to the villagers who were assaulted by Assam Rifles in the combing operation.

The team, assisted by superintendent of police, Bishenpur, Chandramani Singh, also studied the medical reports of those injured.

As the commission has no jurisdiction over armed forces, it will now refer the case along with its observation to the National Human Rights Commission.    

 

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