Bullets, not rights, for criminals
Girl’s body found in well
‘Nobel’ aim for trauma care
Silver streaks, memories and golden roots
The party never ends at Bow Barracks
Shanti Bahini twist to ‘strike’ on Ulfa boss
Bhutan claims proof of BLT role in killings
Sombre Xmas in Manipur
New rules for Sattriya
Bhutan reiterates stand on BLT

 
 
BULLETS, NOT RIGHTS, FOR CRIMINALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 25: 
The message from the chief minister to his police force on Monday was clear — use whatever measures you want to tackle criminals, don’t worry about human rights. While inaugurating a new building for Kasba police, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “Human rights are for human beings and not for criminals and dacoits, who terrorise or kill people with guns and other weapons. You (the police) need not worry about the human rights commission while dealing with them. Use your guns, which the government has given you to tackle organised crime.”

Kasba police station has been functioning out of a rented house for the past 25 years and the new building had been constructed at a cost of Rs 22 lakh. Bhattacharjee also laid the foundation stone for the East Jadavpur police station, near the Jadavpur stadium, and inaugurated the new building of Ashoknagar police station, in North 24-Parganas.

“I have heard many senior police officers worrying about the human rights commission and the police’s inability to use tough options in dealing with criminals... I want you to combat the criminals and anti-socials with guns... I will take the responsibility of facing the rights panel. I know my human rights very well,” thundered Bhattacharjee.

Chairman of the human rights commission, Mukulgopal Mukherjee, who had been invited to the Kasba function, could not attend due to “other engagements”. While he refused to react to the chief minister’s radical remarks, Sujata Bhadra, of the Association For the Protection Of Democratic Rights (APDR), demanded Bhattacharjee’s resignation.

“As the head of a government, he cannot make such unconstitutional comments. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects the ‘right to live’ of every Indian citizen... So, Bhattacharjee should step down,” Bhadra declared.

While exhorting the police to take a tough stand against criminals, Bhattacharjee reiterated that they “must behave properly with the common people and try to win their trust”.

“The common people want to see the police as their friend and they should not develop any fear about the force. But unfortunately, ordinary people prefer to maintain a distance from the police and I think a section of officers is responsible for this. These officers have never behaved properly with common people, and they even refuse to listen to their problems when they come to lodge complaints,” Bhattacharjee said.

The government has set up 13 new police stations in the state during the past year and has plans to expand a number of thanas. But Bhattacharjee warned that just “increasing the number of police stations and deployment of more policemen will not reduce the crime rate”

   

 
 
GIRL’S BODY FOUND IN WELL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 25: 
Twelve-year-old Rita Pal, was allegedly gangraped before she was murdered at Natun Palli, Purba Putiary, in the Regent Park area on Monday. Her body, bearing injury marks on the neck and other parts, was recovered by fire brigade personnel from a well. Two persons were arrested and one detained for interrogation.

Rita had gone out to fetch bread early in the morning and when she did not return even after 8.30, her parents got frantic. “We became worried and started looking for Rita everywhere,” said the victim’s mother, Bachhu.

A mason, who found the girl’s body floating in a well inside a building under construction, informed Rita’s parents.

   

 
 
‘NOBEL’ AIM FOR TRAUMA CARE 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec. 25: 
The 1999 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation, Doctors Without Borders, is exploring the scope for setting up on a collaborative basis modern trauma-care centres in Calcutta, which is among the cities with the highest number of road accident deaths.

A member of the organisation, Dr Peter Meade, is in the city for this purpose on the invitation of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine (Calcutta branch).

He is also here at the initiative of the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), whose senior member, Dr M.S. Balasubramaniam, will be meeting several city-based doctors, hospital representatives and NGOs on Tuesday to begin a joint effort in setting up dedicated trauma centres.

Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, was set up in 1971 by a group of private French doctors with the purpose of sending medical personnel to the most destitute and dangerous parts of the world. It has since become an international organisation, based in Brussels, with over 2,000 members. The Nobel committee, in its citation, recognised the willingness of its volunteers to rush quickly to scenes of disasters, regardless of the political situation.

“We understand that the largest number of fatalities as a result of road accidents in the world is in India,” Meade told The Telegraph after a lecture on the initial management of trauma at the National Medical College.

The death rate is two persons for every 10,000 vehicles in the US, 32.5 persons in Pakistan and as high as 140 persons for every 10,000 vehicles in India. Studies by the World Bank, National Academy of Sciences and the World Road Association have shown that, with an automative density of about four million, over 56,000 people die every year in India, compared to less than 35,000 in the US, which has over 175 million vehicles.

“There is no denying that a lot of people are dying unnecessarily here because of a lack of trauma-care facilities, be it on the way to hospital or at the hospital itself. And solutions need not involve a lot of money, but just some organisation,” said Meade, who is director of the surgical intensive care unit at the Martin Luther King (Jr) Medical Centre and Drew Hospital in Los Angeles.

Meade, alongwith Dr Saurabh Kole, Calcutta branch secretary of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, and Dr Bharati Ghosh, paediatrician and member of AAPI, propose an emergency medical council in Calcutta. “If required, we will start from scratch. The government can help with land, industrialists could help with funding of special ambulances, and we would require coordination of ambulance services with which hospital to go to from the spot of the accident. And it need not be just government hospitals,” Meade said.

Tuesday’s meeting at 6 pm at Taj Bengal will follow a day-long workshop on emergency and critical care medicine, is open to all like-minded people

   

 
 
SILVER STREAKS, MEMORIES AND GOLDEN ROOTS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 25: 
It was a very merry Christmas for the class of ’75, Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta. The third and final day of a reunion to remember. For this, the first batch to pass out of the Joka campus was back “where it all began” for a three-day trip down memory lane after 25 long years.

Twenty-five of the 109 students, all movers and shakers in various fields today, were back on campus from several parts of the world, a return to Silver Roots. “The name of the reunion has nothing to do with our greying hair,” warned Ajay Shrikhande, now with Lintas in Dubai, who flew down to Calcutta for 72 hours, “just to meet up with old friends”.

Most of the 109 batchmates are still “in touch”. “The whole idea of the reunion was to meet on campus once again and having a few days of fun,” smiled Pia Promina Dasgupta Barve of Kewpie’s. She was there with classmate-turned-husband Hemant Barve, and was “thrilled” to discover the names of three friends,“Mouse, Ninu, and Pari”, etched in the cement of the basketball court, a testimony to “a prank played while the court was being laid so many years ago”.

The ‘oldies’ sang songs and danced, played carrom and cards, stuffed themselves with Debu-da’s dim-roti and ada-cha, and even caught up with their favourite professor, Biswanath Sarkar.

Their’s was the 11th batch from IIM-C. Explained Abhay Kale, a Denver-based IT consultant: “We spent part of the two-year programme on the Baranagar campus before being shifted to Joka.” A move that did not go down too well with the likes of Sreekanth Gupta. Now a top-shot with Marico Industries, he recalls the settling-down blues, “The campus was totally cut off from the city, and the bus 12C was the only vehicle we could afford to take us to the outside world.” At night, the buses “from Park Street” would come up to Thakurpukur, from where the B-school boys and girls would walk back to the campus.

There was “very little water”, “no electricity” and “big machhars” to begin with, but life on campus was “a riot”. There was rivalry, too. As Alka Kapoor, an HR consultant now settled in Indianapolis, put it: “We were at war with IIM-A (Ahmedabad) students, who had a great campus. We used to say, they are the guys with the buildings, we are the ones with the brains.”

As the reunion drew to a close, there was laughter, there were tears. And there was the resolve to be back on campus in 2025 — for ‘golden roots’.

   

 
 
THE PARTY NEVER ENDS AT BOW BARRACKS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 25: 
Even a couple of blocks away, Bob Marley is making himself heard above the din of honking vehicles, clinking rickshaws and playful children. As one rounds the corner off the Indian Airlines building to confront the old army garrison mess, scores of young boys and girls are seen dancing to the supreme rastafarian’s signature Buffalo Soldier blared from two large speakers set off at an angle on the pavement.

“It’s always party-time at Bow Barracks, and all are welcome,” smiles Merlyn Sevil, who has spent all her 61 years on this street. But the Bow Barracks Festival, from December 16 to January 1 next year, is distinctive and significant. It’s a “community festival for conservation of Bow Barracks”, expected to generate revenue “to make the Barracks better and livelier” for its inhabitants.

The Sevils are among the 132 Anglo-Indian families sharing the 1918-built red-brick housing blocks with Chinese, Gujaratis, Goanese and Bengali Muslims. “Bow Barracks is all about sharing and caring,” says Merlyn’s husband Mervyn.

They share the festivities and the music this Yuletide season like every year. They also share the anxiety that stems from the uncertainty about the future that has gripped the Barracks ever since the Calcutta Improvement Trust stopped accepting rents since last year.

“They had declared the houses condemned way back in 1981, but life went on in the Barracks very much in the same festive vein. But now, as they have stopped accepting rent, we don’t know where we stand,” says Lionel Kenneth William, kid daughter on his lap, furrows creasing his forehead.

Lionel’s mother-in-law Beatrice Rogers, 73, among the oldest inhabitants of the Barracks, fears for the future of her children and grandchildren. “It gladdens my heart when I peep out of the window to see the kids dancing in the streets, but what will happen if they bring the buildings down? Where will we all go?” she asks, propping herself up on her sickbed.

But, the spirit of Bow Barracks is indomitable. “They have reduced water supply to just a trickle of 15 minutes now. The band from Burrabazar, which used to travel from door to door on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve, doesn’t play anymore. Nor can we light the traditional bonfire these days for security reasons. But still, the party never stops here at Bow Barracks,” says Lionel who believes this is the “safest place in town” for Anglo-Indians.

If anything, Christmas has become more vibrant here. “We can’t wait for the Christmas Ball tonight and the piping hot soup and noodles tomorrow morning,” giggles pretty Krystal Chen, 15, who, like her friends Kimberley Gomes and Andrea Govindraj, sing in the local choir.

“It’s cakes, ale and non-stop fun for two weeks as we can jive to the music whenever we want to,” adds Mathew Nathaniel, 13, who along with his friends, will serve snacks and organise games for the elderly on Senior Citizen’s Day on December 30.

A day when the young ones entertain the grannies and grandads, inspiring them to live for the moment and forget about the cares of tomorrow.

   

 
 
SHANTI BAHINI TWIST TO ‘STRIKE’ ON ULFA BOSS 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, Dec. 25: 
Splashing a fresh version of the supposed attack on Ulfa chief Paresh Barua on its front page, Tripura’s largest-circulated newspaper today punched holes in all official accounts of the “ambush” and claimed that a Bangladesh security agency made arrangements for the militant leader’s telephonic interaction with the media from his hospital bed.

The newspaper, Dainik Sambad, said Barua was indeed seriously injured and his long-time deputy, Raju Baruah, killed in the “ambush” at Khagracherri in the Chittagong Hill Tracts on December 16.

However, it dismissed the Assam Rifles’ claim that the Ulfa commander-in-chief was targeted by his own men.

“Barua and his deputy were attacked by assailants owing allegiance to the Jana Samhati Samity, a political offshoot of the now-defunct Shanti Bahini,” the newspaper claimed.

Dainik Sambad extensively quoted “sources across the border” to substantiate its claims. It said Barua had begun “interfering in tribal politics”, which was one of the reasons why he was a marked man in Bangladesh.

“A group of former Shanti Bahini rebels broke away from the Jana Samhati Samity early last year in protest against their leader, Santu Larma’s failure to force the Bangladesh government to implement the peace accord signed in December 1997. Helped by Barua, they formed a rag-tag outfit to challenge Larma, who is a pro-Awami League leader,” the newspaper said.

It reported that the Ulfa even supplied a huge consignment of weapons and paid Rs 5 lakh in cash to the former Shanti Bahini rebels recently.

“This infuriated the Jana Samhati Samity leadership and an armed group owing allegiance to Larma ambushed the Ulfa chief’s convoy on the Khagracherri-Maicherri road at 4.30 pm on December 16. The militant leader was seriously injured in the attack, while his deputy was killed on the spot,” Dainik Sambad said.

The newspaper said a “Bangladesh agency that keeps tabs on anti-India militants” shifted Barua to a hospital in Dhaka shortly after the attack.

“The same agency made arrangements for Barua’s interaction with newspapers and two television channels. The Ulfa leader’s denial of any attack on him was intended to prevent panic in the outfit’s ranks,” it added.

A senior Assam Rifles official said the report in Dainik Sambad backed what the security forces had been saying all along. However, he declined to comment on the newspaper’s version of the circumstances leading to the supposed attack on Barua and his aide.

   

 
 
BHUTAN CLAIMS PROOF OF BLT ROLE IN KILLINGS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Dec. 25: 
The Bhutan government today reiterated its claim that it has “concrete evidence” to prove Bodo Liberation Tigers’ involvement in the recent attacks on Bhutanese people in Assam.

Thimpu’s “re-affirmation” of the claim came a day after the “pro-talk” Bodo Liberation Tigers categorically denied that it had anything to do with the attack on Bhutanese nationals and blamed the rival National Democratic Front of Boroland for the violence.

The state government also endorsed the BLT denial saying the banned National Liberation Front of Boroland was carrying out the attacks as a “pressure tactic”.

So far, 14 Bhutanese nationals have been killed and many injured in a series of attacks by militants in various parts of the state. Two vehicles, belonging to Bhutanese officials, were also set ablaze.

Reacting to the BLT denial, Thinlay Penzor, councillor at the Royal Bhutanese embassy in Delhi, said the “Royal Bhutan government and Royal Bhutan police have concrete evidence to prove BLT’s involvement.

“We have nothing more to say ... BLT’s involvement has been proved beyond doubt”, he added.

Bhutan also dismissed the state government’s claim that the December 21 attack took place inside the Himalayan kingdom and the bodies of the 10 Bhutanese killed in the violence were dumped inside the Indian territory by NDFB rebels. Thimpu claimed that the killings took place inside the Indian territory.

Kinley Dorji, editor of Bhutan’s state-owned newspaper Kuensel, told The Telegraph from Thimpu that the “police have definite information about the BLT’s hand in the killings”.

However, chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today gave a clean chit to the BLT once again and blamed the Bhutan government for “sheltering NDFB militants, which has now boomeranged on the kingdom.

“The Bhutan government has no alternative but defend the NDFB because it has been sheltering the militants. The emboldened NDFB is now resorting to arm-twisting to stop the kingdom from taking any steps to evict its cadre from the camps in Bhutan,” Mahanta told newsmen during an informal chat here this evening.

Mahanta’s ire against Bhutan stems from the fact that despite its “promise” to use force to drive out the Ulfa and NDFB rebels from their jungle camps in the kingdom, the Bhutan government has not done anything in this regard so far.

   

 
 
SOMBRE XMAS IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Dec. 25: 
It was a dull Christmas in Manipur this year with the state government unable to pay the salary of its employees. As the government is the biggest employer in the state, which has no industries, non-payment of salary has robbed the festivities of colour.

Of the 82,000 state government employees, nearly 30 per cent are Christians. For these employees, Christmas is the biggest festival. These employees are now fighting for November’s salary. For the first time, W. Nipamacha Singh-led United Front of Manipur (UFM) coalition government broke the tradition of paying advance salary for December before Christmas. Left with no money, the Christians found it difficult to celebrate the festival.

Deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh, who went to New Delhi to lobby for funds, returned empty-handed. He, however, told newsmen on Saturday that the government would be able to pay November’s salary from December 27 onwards. But sources said it was unlikely as the Union finance ministry was in no mood to release Manipur’s funds. When asked about the advance Christmas salary, Chandramani Singh said it will not be possible to pay this year and December’s salary will be paid in January. Despite deputy chief minister’s claims, the state employees are unlikely to get their salaries in time because to the prevailing financial crisis.

Only one set new clothes were purchased by the Christians for the festival and the traders here faced a tough winter. They could not clear their stocks as there were few shoppers. Many parents “cursed” the Nipamacha Singh-led government for this year’s lacklustre Christmas. Muslims may also face the same fate if the government fails to pay the salary from December 27 as Id-ul-Fitre will be celebrated the following day.

The government is hoping to pay the salary once the Union finance ministry sanctions the state’s monthly entitlement of Rs. 50 crore. Though the current overdraft position of the state at the Reserve Bank of India is nearly Rs. 32 crore, the government thinks the RBI will allow encashment of salary once it receives the Rs 50 crore from the Union finance ministry.

   

 
 
NEW RULES FOR SATTRIYA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Dec. 25: 
Sattriya dance experts have emphasised on the need for evolving a uniform set of rules for the dance form for its development and popularity.

At a seminar here today, experts of Sattriya dance and music said a uniform set of rules is the need of the hour as Sattriya has been recognised as major Indian dance form.

Inaugurating the two-day seminar, Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta urged the experts to put their heads together in formulating the rules through a consensus so that these are strictly followed by the performing artistes. He expressed hope that the seminar would arrive at a consensus on the issue.

He also urged the Sankardeva Kalakshetra authorities to take the initiative of publishing a book in both English and Assamese incorporating all the aspects of Sattriya dance and music.

The chief minister recalled that the Sankardeva Kalakshetra authorities have already decided to set up an academy of Sattriya culture for its systematic study, research and expansion through a set curriculum. The idea behind setting up of this academy was to build a bridge between the satras and the outside world through the activities of the Kalakshetra, he added. Noted intellectual Bhabendra Nath Saikia said national recognition of Sattriya would be meaningful only if it becomes popular in every part of the country.

After getting the national recognition, the first and foremost task is to popularise the dance form throughout the world, said moderator of the seminar Keshabandna Goswami.

Satradhikars of different satras like Kamalabari, Bar Alengi, Samaguri, Khatpar, Nikamul, Bordua Than and many performing artistes and research scholars took part in the seminar.

   

 
 
BHUTAN REITERATES STAND ON BLT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Dec. 25: 
The Bhutan government today reiterated its claim that it has “concrete evidence” to prove Bodo Liberation Tigers’ involvement in the recent attacks on Bhutanese people in Assam.

Thimpu’s “re-affirmation” of the claim came a day after the “pro-talk” Bodo Liberation Tigers categorically denied that it had anything to do with the attack on Bhutanese nationals and blamed the rival National Democratic Front of Boroland for the violence.

The state government also endorsed the BLT denial saying the banned National Liberation Front of Boroland was carrying out the attacks as a “pressure tactic”.

So far, 14 Bhutanese nationals have been killed and many injured in a series of attacks by militants in various parts of the state. Two vehicles, belonging to Bhutanese officials, were also set ablaze.

Reacting to the BLT denial, Thinlay Penzor, councillor at the Royal Bhutanese embassy in Delhi, said the “Royal Bhutan government and Royal Bhutan police have concrete evidence to prove BLT’s involvement.

“We have nothing more to say... BLT’s involvement has been proved beyond doubt”, he added.

Bhutan also dismissed the state government’s claim that the December 21 attack took place inside the Himalayan kingdom and the bodies of the 10 Bhutanese killed in the violence were dumped inside the Indian territory by NDFB rebels. Thimpu claimed that the killings took place inside the Indian territory.

Kinley Dorji, editor of Bhutan’s state-owned newspaper Kuensel, told The Telegraph from Thimpu that the “police have definite information about the BLT’s hand in the killings”.

However, chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today gave a clean chit to the BLT once again and blamed the Bhutan government for “sheltering NDFB militants, which has now boomeranged on the kingdom.

“The Bhutan government has no alternative but defend the NDFB because it has been sheltering the militants.

The emboldened NDFB is now resorting to arm-twisting to stop the kingdom from taking any steps to evict its cadre from the camps in Bhutan,” Mahanta told newsmen during an informal chat here this evening.

Mahanta’s ire against Bhutan stems from the fact that despite its “promise” to use force to drive out the Ulfa and NDFB rebels from their jungle camps in the kingdom, the Bhutan government has not done anything in this regard so far.

He, however, refused to comment on Thimpu’s decision to stop its vehicles from plying through the state. “The Centre will comment on this,” he said but added that the state was ready to provide security to vehicles from the Himalayan kingdom.

Yesterday, BLT publicity secretary Mainao Daimary reacted sharply to Thimpu’s allegation and said the massacre of Bhutanese people was “an international design, well planned by the Royal Bhutan government and the NDFB, to gain unknown diplomatic mileage.”

He said either “the NDFB is trying to blackmail the Royal Bhutan government and has put the blame on the BLT” or “both the NDFB and Royal Bhutan government are trying to blackmail the Centre to achieve certain objectives at the cost of innocent lives.”

The BLT also sees an increasing “conflict and misunderstanding between the NDFB and the Royal Bhutan army” as another reason behind the “NDFB resorting to retaliatory killings to whip up fear psychosis among the Bhutanese people.” The Army also claimed that the attack on Bhutanese people was the handiwork of the NDFB.

   
 

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