Murder in coal belt
21 hurt in Midnapore clash
Security alert in Farakka
Howrah bandh
Five fighters chosen for women of substance award
Bhutan fights shy of rebel crackdown
Ranchi riot toll rises to four
Small is beautiful for big family
Hurriyat-wary Farooq in grassroots gamble

 
 
MURDER IN COAL BELT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Dec. 30: 
A 26-year-old man, Bidyut Karmakar, was gunned down today near Samdi colliery under Rupnarayanpur police station.

The body was found this morning by colliery workers. They immediately informed the police who arrested three persons in connection with the murder.

Inspector-in-charge of Rupnarayanpur police station Sandip Sarkhel said Karmakar was murdered probably because of his “illicit relationship” with a woman. “He was shot thrice — on his head, chest and abdomen — by the killers who used country-made revolvers,” Sarkhel said.

This is the second consecutive murder in two days in the coal belt of Asansol-Ranigunj. Yesterday, Muhammad Zahid, was gunned down at Budha. The police arrested a man named Parvez Ansari today in connection with Zahid murder, an official of Asansol police station said.

   

 
 
21 HURT IN MIDNAPORE CLASH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, Dec. 30: 
At least 21 CPM and Trinamul Congress supporters were injured in a clash at Singda under Pataspur block.

The supporters clashed over Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Keshpur on January 3.

CPM activists reportedly attacked a meeting organised by Trinamul supporters in support of Mamata’s rally.

The injured were admitted to Contai hospital where the condition of nine Trinamul supporters was stated to be serious.

In another incident, a CPM zonal committee secretary, Jagannath Das, was beaten up allegedly by Trinamul supporters at Madhakhali. Das has been admitted to Contai hospital.

   

 
 
SECURITY ALERT IN FARAKKA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, Dec. 30: 
Security arrangements on the Farakka bridge have been beefed up in view of movements by separatist forces in five north Bengal districts.

District police officials of Murshidabad and Malda recently held a meeting with those of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and examined several aspects regarding tightening of security on the bridge.

Police and CISF officials received an intelligence report, alerting them to tighten security arrangements, specially on Republic Day. Superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said another joint meeting with Malda police and CISF authorities will be held soon to supervise the security arrangements.

The police are reportedly worried about the recent movements by separatist forces, Kamtapuris in particular, in five districts of north Bengal. The officials fear the separatists might strike on January 26.

   

 
 
HOWRAH BANDH 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec 30: 
The 12-hour bandh in south Howrah called by the Howrah district Congress and Youth Congress today passed off peacefully, says a staff reporter.

The bandh had been called in protest against the murder of Pravas Dhara, a Congress activist and local businessman. Dhara was shot by unknown miscreants in front of his office.

   

 
 
FIVE FIGHTERS CHOSEN FOR WOMEN OF SUBSTANCE AWARD 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 30: 
They are from different lands, different backgrounds, different generations. Yet they share a common bond: a commitment to better the lives of the women around them. Now, they will form an elite fraternity — the recipients of the Stree Shakti awards.

Next week, Kinkri Devi is coming to Delhi from the remote hills of Himachal Pradesh to soak in the glory of being one of the five women to be honoured by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

She will be joined by 34-year-old K.V. Rabiya from Kerala. Despite being severely handicapped, Rabiya has been at the centre of the literacy movement in the state and has battled the ravages of alcoholism and dowry side by side with other women.

After a delay of more than a year, the Centre has finally chosen five women who will receive the awards in recognition of their work at the grassroots level.

The awards, each carrying an amount of Rs 1 lakh, were instituted by minister for women and children Sumitra Mahajan.

“The minister felt the positive contributions made by women often go unnoticed and the Stree Shakti awards would be a way of highlighting these achievements,” said a senior official of her department.

Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi has announced 2001 as the year for empowerment of women and the awards are expected to add flesh to the Centre’s campaign.

The awards, Mahajan had announced, would go to women who, in the face of adversity, have secured a “place in the sun” and made a difference to the lives of other women.

The government has put in a lot of thought in the selection of the names, culling those which have not been lapped up by the media. The recipients are activists who have worked tirelessly, sometimes taking on moneylenders, sometimes liquor lobbies and often deep-rooted vested interests.

Kamla Bai was a 12-year-old child bride who became a widow barely two years after she was married. Unwanted, she was banished to an orphanage.

However, with determination and courage, she turned the end of her life into the beginning of her story. She learnt the alphabets in the orphanage and 20 years on founded her own school — Adarsh Mahila Vidyalaya — with just six students. Today, the school has more than 2,000 students and a hostel of its own.

Come Thursday, 77-year-old Kamla Bai will be honoured for her resolve, her vision and her efforts to better the lot of women in the country.

She will share the dais with Lilatai Pradkar of Indore who has been working with tribals, and Chinnapillai, who has instituted a savings and credit group for poor women in Madurai district.

Daughter of a scheduled caste farmer, Kinkri Devi took on the powerful coal-mining lobby in Himachal Pradesh. She sat on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the high court till it agreed to curb mining which was devastating the hills.

Lilatai, M.A., B.Ed, had been in academics for three decades. She could have gone on and retired happily with a fat benefit packet. But she chose to give something back to society. Besides teaching, she has been offering vocational training to tribal women.

   

 
 
BHUTAN FIGHTS SHY OF REBEL CRACKDOWN 
 
 
FROM ANUPAM BORDOLOI
 
Guwahati, Dec. 30: 
For the first time since Assam militants set up camps in Bhutan almost a decade ago, Thimpu today put on record its “unwillingness” to launch military operations against the rebels for fear of a severe “backlash”

Replying to a query from The Telegraph, Bhutan home secretary Dasho Pema Wangchuk said Thimpu apprehended “serious retaliation against the Bhutanese people by the militants and their supporters”.

This is the main reason why the Himalayan kingdom is not favouring the use of military force against the Ulfa and the National Democratic Front of Boroland rebels so far.

Chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had held the Bhutanese government responsible for recent attacks on its citizens in Assam, saying that the country’s reluctance to evict the rebels gave them the space to carry out hit-and-run operations.

Resolutions passed in the 78th session of Bhutan’s national Assembly this year, as in the last one, stressed on military intervention to drive out the militants. This was part of a four-pronged strategy to deal with the situation.

However, Wangchuk justified the delay in using force. “The Ulfa and Bodo militants are Assamese people. Using military force against them will mean attacking and killing Assamese. This would create deep resentment and enmity amongst the people of Assam towards the people of Bhutan.”

“If the Bodo Liberation Tigers can carry out unprovoked attacks on our citizens, using military force against the militants will certainly bring even more serious retaliation by the militants and their supporters,” he said, adding that Bhutanese nationals would face serious problems “both inside the kingdom and while travelling through Assam”.

Wangchuk’s comments confirmed the perception on this side of the border: that the kingdom was not keen to take on the military might of the rebels.

The senior bureaucrat also quoted a resolution in the national Assembly to reiterate that “military action would be used only as a last resort if all peaceful efforts to remove the militants from Bhutan were to fail”.

Asked about the national Assembly resolution to ask the militants to leave the country, Wangchuk said his government had two rounds of talks with the Ulfa and one with the NDFB.

“During the talks, we have, in no uncertain terms, communicated to them that they must leave Bhutan peacefully. The talks have not been conclusive so far and they have been asked to come for further talks.”

He also could not substantiate his stand that his government “is making every effort to make the militants leave our territory”. He said Bhutan has spent over Rs 81.2 crore to strengthen security along the Indo-Bhutan border.

   

 
 
RANCHI RIOT TOLL RISES TO FOUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Dec. 30: 
The riot toll in curfew-bound Ranchi rose to four after a youth succumbed to his bullet wounds today.

Md. Naushad, 20, was shot at by the police yesterday after he, along with other youth, pelted stones at a police party and tried to set on fire a police outpost near Sujata Cinema on Main Road.

Stray incidents of attacks on police patrols were reported from at least two different parts of the city even as CRPF columns and Rapid Action Force jawans staged flag marches in the more sensitive and curfew-bound areas here again today.

The district administration today began investigations on a possible Rashtriya Janata Dal hand in instigating largescale violence against the police and paramilitary forces over the past 72 hours. The condition of deputy superintendent of police U.C. Jha, who sustained head injuries on December 28, is still critical.

While many people were today arrested in different parts of the city for violating curfew restrictions, the police were forced to fire teargas shells at an unruly mob at Azad Basti and near Ratan Talkies.

Unconfirmed reports said the police had to open fire to disperse the crowd that had gathered at Azad Basti and had hurled petrol bombs at a passing police patrol.

The district administration has decided to relax curfew for a few hours tomorrow.

Chief minister Babulal Marandi said the situation was gradually returning to normal. “But the curfew will remain in force for some more time. We will review the situation,” he added.

He said he held a meeting with members of the minority community and appealed to them to maintain peace and harmony.

The government today paid compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of eight-year-old Afreen who was crushed to death by an Armed Police vehicle on Thursday. The incident had sparked largescale violence against the police throughout the state capital.

Indefinite curfew was clamped here yesterday following incidents of stoning and arson during a 12-hour bandh. The bandh was called in protest against Thursday’s police firing in which three youth were killed.

Compensation was also paid to the families of Md. Sajjad and Chintu, both of whom were killed in police firing at Doranda on Thursday. However, no compensation could be paid to the family of the third victim, Md. Ali alias Guddu, following a dispute between the various claimants in the family.

The government today began investigations into a possible RJD hand behind the largescale violence following Afreen’s death.

   

 
 
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL FOR BIG FAMILY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIALCORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Dec. 30: 
Their nine notwithstanding, Laloo and Rabri are singing “Hum do, hamare do”.

The chief minister and her husband, ready to bury their past, will inaugurate a family planning campaign early next year in the city by throwing open massive gates bearing the legend “Hum do, hamare do” (We are two, we are for two).

The gates, to be installed between Dak Bungalow Road and Income Tax crossing will be named “Population Control Message Gate”. The campaign logo will also bear the names of the first couple.

“Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi will be involved deeply in the project,” says Hemant Kumar, head of the Population Control Programme Centre, which will launch the project. The organisation has been working in the field since 1991.

The family planning gates will be also inscribed with messages like “Population control programme is not just a slogan, it is a way of life”.

For Laloo, family planning became a way of life only after 1990, when he graduated from Opposition leader to chief minister and his eleventh child was born.

But the population project will help Laloo — who staves off critics with the stock reply that after becoming chief minister, he has fathered only one child — to deflect attention from his brood.

His party agenda had also added to Laloo’s anti-family planning image. The RJD chief had said that interference on this issue would involve human rights questions, suggesting that his government would not like to repeat the excesses of the Congress rule by leaders like Sanjay Gandhi.

Laloo’s officials would “explain” the population explosion in the state — Bihar is one of the Bimaru states — by saying it was linked to poverty and backwardness.

The RJD chief sat up when his advisers recently pointed at the international agencies’ refusal to renew some of their projects, RJD sources said. The ruling party should include population control to silence its critics, Laloo’s managers said.

Hence, Laloo’s new motto: Two for joy.

   

 
 
HURRIYAT-WARY FAROOQ IN GRASSROOTS GAMBLE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Dec. 30: 
The stage is set for an ambitious electoral process at the grassroots level in Jammu and Kashmir.

Contestants spread across the state will battle it out for the posts of village headmen and representatives in 23,000 constituencies, nearly 50 per cent of which are in extremely inaccessible areas.

The gamble seems to be worth it for chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Or else, he would not have timed the elections to the panchayats — which are autonomous bodies — with the resumption of militant attacks on pro-India outfits, workers of political parties and village headmen.

Abdullah, who is opposed to talks between the Centre and the All Party Hurriyat Conference, seems determined to convey the message that democracy in the embattled state has, finally, been restored at the grassroots level.

Abdullah’s determination comes despite anti-India groups opposing the holding of any election under the Indian Constitution.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has chosen to conduct these elections on non-party lines, in a bid to ease pressure from militants who could try and scupper the process by targeting contestants.

However, there is little on the ground to indicate that the polls would be incident free.

Ensuring smooth elections is a daunting task for the state administration. A modest estimate puts the number of contestants at more than 40,000.

Senior government officials, who have been entrusted with security arrangements, say it would be virtually impossible for the administration to provide foolproof security cover to all the candidates.

The officials say that in the 11 years of insurgency, even when a limited number of contestants were in the fray, ensuring smooth and bloodless elections had proved to be a Herculean task.

“It would be like trying to achieve the impossible if the government expects us to provide security to 40,000 contestants,” said a senior security officer who did not wanted to be named.

   
 

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