Rights team grills witness
Mamata for joint secular manifesto
ISI suspect arrested
Buddhists for tribal status
Election for Tripura PCC chief in Feb.
Parties slack on bypoll nominations
BJP smells graft in relief claims
Tight vigil for Republic Day
Shillong police draw flak for HNLC attack
Meghalaya not to ‘take’ Assam land

 
 
RIGHTS TEAM GRILLS WITNESS 
 
 
BY KUNAL SEN GUPTA AND PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Jan.20: 
Abdul Rehman Mondal, star witness of the Garbeta affair, was finally declared fit to face interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is probing the January 4 incident.

The declaration came just before Shivaji Singh, additional director-general of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), visited Bellona Nursing Home in Ekbalpore on Saturday evening to question Mondal. Singh and NHRC director-general (investigation) Y.N. Srivastava are here to investigate the incident.

A 12-member medical team formed during the day, examined Mondal and found he was stable enough to face the police. “The CID can talk to him on Tuesday. The police wanted a particular date and time when they could question Mondal, so I told them to come on Tuesday at 11 am,” M. Kasem, one of the doctors attending to Mondal, said.

Asked why the NHRC team and not the CID, which has wanted to meet Mondal ever since he was brought to the nursing home from Garbeta’s Chhota Angaria village six days ago, was allowed to grill Mondal, Kasem said: “The NHRC team has come from a distant place. The state police can wait as they operate from the city itself.”

He said Srivastava had asked the doctors treating Mondal if they could question him on Friday. “We told him that Mondal was not fit for interrogation. But today, the medical team found him fit and allowed Singh to speak to Mondal,” Kasem said.

The NHRC officer spent about 40 minutes with Mondal when Kasem acted as an interpreter. Singh declined to elaborate on what Mondal said.

Later, Mondal, speaking in monosyllables, admitted he had “said all” about the alleged incident. Sitting on his bed, Mondal said Singh spoke to him in Hindi which he understood perfectly well.

The findings of the two-member NHCR probe team have apparently concurred with those of the CID, according to state director-general of police Dipak Sanyal.

Both Srivastava and Singh went to Writers’ Buildings on Saturday afternoon and met chief secretary Manish Gupta and police chief Sanyal. Both Srivastava and Singh declined comment on the Garbeta incident. Gupta described the visit as a “courtesy call.”

“We are here to get to the facts behind the incident and we will submit our report before the commission in three days,” Srivastava said. He said the state human rights commission’s reservations about the NHRC team’s visit will be mentioned in the report.

“We are trying to trace either the living or the dead in connection with the alleged Garbeta clash,” he said. The director-general of police admitted “some incident” did take place in Garbeta. “It could have been an incident where people were killed, injured or abducted. Till we get concrete evidence of what actually happened, how can I say anything for sure,” Sanyal stressed.

   

 
 
MAMATA FOR JOINT SECULAR MANIFESTO 
 
 
BY SATTAM GHOSE
 
Calcutta, Jan.20: 
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee is taking the initiative to draw up a joint Trinamul-BJP election manifesto based on “secular principles”.

Mamata, who has welcomed the BJP’s proposal to fight the Assembly polls on the basis of a joint manifesto with her party, intends to go in for “the common agenda of governance of the National Democratic Alliance” and avoid contentious issues like the Ram temple.

The Trinamul leader, who is still hopeful of an electoral understanding with the Congress, feels such a manifesto would attract other “secular parties” and help create an anti-CPM platform.

She will address a rally at Phurphura Sharif in Hooghly on Wednesday. The rally is being organised by the Trinamul’s minority cell. Sultan Ahmed, a leader of the cell, said the two-day convention, beginning on Tuesday, will be attended by about 10,000 Muslims. Mamata will also speak at a rally at Shahid Minar in end-February or early March under the banner of Qwam-e- Tanzeem.

   

 
 
ISI SUSPECT ARRESTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.20: 
A person with suspected ISI links has been arrested in Howrah on Thursday afternoon.

The police said the 27-year-old man, whom the police refused to identify, was detained when he was sending a parcel to someone named Zaheer Khan in Lahore.

The police have contacted the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to translate the speech recorded in the cassette, which the police believe to be in Pushtu, a local dialect of Afghanistan.

“There are Lahore, Karachi and Jammu contact numbers in his diary”, said a Howrah police officer. The case has been taken up by RAW and the district intelligence branch. The police will let the person go free so that he can be tailed.

Hitman probe: A five-member police team from Mumbai, led by inspector Bijay Basudev Gowkar, arrived in the city on Saturday to take Abdul Rauf, a hitman of the Dawood Ibrahim gang, in custody. Rauf was produced in Calcutta High Court on Saturday and remanded in police custody. He will be taken to Mumbai on Sunday.

   

 
 
BUDDHISTS FOR TRIBAL STATUS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, Jan. 20: 
The Mogh Barua Buddhists of Assam have demanded tribal status for the community on the lines of the Mogh tribals in West Bengal.

The eighth biennial conference of the Federation of Mogh Barua Buddhist Welfare Association of Assam held recently, said the community should be re-enlisted as “Mogh” Barua tribe in the Tribe Schedule list of Assam as in Tripura and West Bengal as per the Schedule Tribe Order (1950) Part I rules and other provisions under the Constitution.

In a memorandum to chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the federation also demanded land pattas for landless Buddhist villagers and supply of adequate potable water. The government should set up libraries at Buddhist temples in Assam and provide for reservation facilities, the memorandum stated.

Other demands include setting up of Pali schools in the state and representation in the Assam Minority Board. The Mogh Barua Buddhist also demanded representation by an MLA of their community along with preservation of historical monuments of the community. The memorandum also assured all support to the government in containing terrorism.

Tea workers’ memo

Plantation workers affiliated to Shram Parishad, the regional body of tea garden labourers, have given a three-month ultimatum to the government to confirm the services of employees who have served for more than five years.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting at Tinsukia under the chairmanship of the former MP Purnanarayan Sinha.

A release issued by the Chah Shramik Parishad alleged that tea companies concealed the actual figures of permanent and temporary workers in the annual statements to the government.

The reports of various estates managements to the state labour department showed that out of 5,20,106 labourers, only 1,08,631 were permanent. Out of 1,78,079 non-resident workers, only 38,593 were permanent (garden and zone-wise), the release stated,

The meeting resolved to launch an agitation if the government implements the wage agreement entered into between the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association and the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha.

   

 
 
ELECTION FOR TRIPURA PCC CHIEF IN FEB. 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 20: 
The Congress high command, at the behest of AICC president Sonia Gandhi, has decided to hold elections to the post of PCC president by February 9. This will fulfil a long-standing demand of the dissident members of the PCC, led by Samir Ranjan Barman.

The final decision in this regard was taken by Sonia Gandhi when a delegation of dissident Congress leaders, comprising MLAs Sudip Roy Barman and Kashiram Reang, former MLA Tapas De and minority leader Abdul Motin Chowdhury met her in New Delhi recently and pressed for election to the post of PCC president in a formal memorandum.

The memorandum, signed by 37 of the 64 elected Pradesh Congress members, sought the removal of Birajit Sinha from the post of PCC president on the ground that he had failed to revive the party. After giving the delegates from Tripura a patient hearing, Sonia Gandhi assured them that even if one PCC member sought an election to the post of PCC president, the high command would oblige. Sonia Gandhi also immediately directed office-bearers of AICC in charge of Tripura to make preparations for polls.

Sources in the dissident camp here said P.C. Chacko, the principal returning officer for Tripura, would arrive here on January 31 and take a final decision about the election after discussion with elected members of the Pradesh Congress.

Sources said the principal contenders for the post of PCC president are former chief minister and sitting MLA Samir Ranjan Barman and the incumbent Birajit Sinha, with the former being the “hot favourite to clinch the post.” Two other aspirants, Gopal Roy and MLA Surajit Datta, both known to be followers of former Union minister of state for steel Santosh Mohan Dev, have fallen behind in the race and are likely to opt out of the contest.

A source in party president Birajit Sinha’s camp said, “We are as yet unaware of any such decision but we are ready for anything.”

The sources said their consistent stand was that the final decision on the issue of election or nomination should be left to the party high command. “Now if the party’s supreme body decides anything we will definitely obey the diktat but we will also communicate our views to the central leadership,” a source added.

   

 
 
PARTIES SLACK ON BYPOLL NOMINATIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 20: 
The byelection to the Kadamtala Assembly constituency of North Tripura is likely to be held on February 24 as proposed by the state government to the Election Commission. The seat fell vacant following the death of sitting CPM legislator Ramendra Nath last year.

Official sources here said the notification for the polls was likely to be issued on January 24 and the last date of filing of nominations would fall on January 31.

No party has taken any initiative so far in matters of nomination of candidates. However, sources in the ruling CPM said the party’s Dharmanagar divisional committee has been asked to discuss the issue and communicate the name of the candidate with the best winning potential to the party’s state secretariat.

The Congress is riven by factional feuds while Trinamul convenor Ratan Chakraborty has expressed his willingness to go for an alliance with the Congress for the coming bypoll.

BSF drive: Border Security Force (BSF) today launched Operation Sakriya (alertness), a week-long special drive against insurgents, in the Indo-Bangla border areas in Tripura, BSF inspector-general Arabinda Ranjan said here.

The operation is aimed at flushing out militants from the 856-km-long Indo-Bangla border area in the state.

   

 
 
BJP SMELLS GRAFT IN RELIEF CLAIMS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Itanagar, Jan. 20: 
The Arunachal Pradesh BJP unit today said senior politicians, in connivance with bureaucrats, had siphoned off crores of rupees in Lower Subansiri district through fictitious bills of fire accidents and crop damages. It also asked the ruling Congress government to constitute a special vigilance committee to probe the matter.

“The situation is alarming. The government should set up a special vigilance committee to enquire into the matter,” state BJP secretary Khiren Rijuju said in a press release here today.

To substantiate his allegation, he said a false claim from the relief department was made for nearly 5,500 houses supposed to have been damaged in fires in the Nyapin, Palin, Sangram and Chambang areas of the district. “This is beyond imagination,” he said, adding that the number of houses burnt was much less than what was shown in official figures.

In a recent report, the district administration showed that 68,000 people were affected due to damages to crops, while statistical reports tell a different story, he added.

He alleged that such practices have become a common phenomenon in Lower Subansiri district.

“It seems that burning of houses and crops damages are taking place regularly,” he said, adding, “The BJP wants to know who those claimants are and also the (names of ) officials who verified on the spot and submitted the factual report”

The BJP leader demanded that the state government come out with the actual figures and take punitive action against officials and politicians, whom they allege as being involved in the racket.

Mizoram clash

Two persons were seriously injured in a clash between personnel of a local Army unit and civilians over a case of alleged theft in Aizawl last night, reports UNI.

Police said trouble started when some Armymen, patrolling the brigade area on the outskirts of the capital town, detected some locals allegedly trying to steal military supplies, including tin sheets and wooden logs.

When the soldiers tried to catch the culprits, several locals opposed them and allegedly started pelting stones. In the ensuing clash, two people, including a schoolteacher, were critically injured.

Later, Army authorities paid a compensation of Rs 15,000 to the injured to settle the matter.

A night before the clash, a local resident was arrested and sent to judicial custody for stealing Army property from the same area.

   

 
 
TIGHT VIGIL FOR REPUBLIC DAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Jan. 20: 
Security in the city along with other parts of the state was beefed up to foil any attempt by militants to sabotage the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations.

The Judges’ Field, the traditional venue for the main function, was taken over by the Army for military preparations. The civil administration also held meetings with the security forces and reviewed the security scenario in the state.

Twelve rebel outfits of the Northeast, including the Ulfa, have called for a strike on January 26.

The strike has been called to protest against the “illegal occupation” and “brutality” of the security forces on the people of the region.

Security forces started patrolling vital installations like the Railways, refineries and police headquarters. Police said precautionary measures have been taken to pre-empt any untoward situation or militant action.

“All strategic points in the state have been put under red alert and instructions have been issued to keep tabs on suspicious movements,” a senior police official said. Sniffer dogs have also been pressed into service.

Union home minister L.K. Advani also arrives on a two-day visit to the state on Monday to review the law and order situation. He will meet chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. The Union home minister will also meet the top brass of the unified command, the counter-insurgency edifice in the state.

A few political organisations are also scheduled to hold demonstrations in the city on Republic Day.

The decision was taken at an all-party meeting by the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, representatives of the Nationalist Congress Party, Purbanchaliya Lok Parishad, Asom Gana Sangram Parishad and the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samity.

The organisations expressed concern over the worsening law and order situation in the state and called for a “united voice” against violence.

The demonstration will be held from 9 am to 2 pm.

   

 
 
SHILLONG POLICE DRAW FLAK FOR HNLC ATTACK 
 
 
FROM LINDA C.
 
Shillong, Jan. 20: 
It was not sympathy but stringent criticism that was heaped on the state police at a high-level meeting held to review the situation after the HNLC attack on a police beat house here yesterday. Three persons, including two policemen and a driver of a requisitioned vehicle, died in the incident.

Meghalaya chief minister E.K. Mawlong blasted top police officials and demanded action and results. His government is already facing flak on the spate of killings with no tangible counteraction.

The meeting, held at the Pinewood hotel, was attended by Mawlong, chief secretary J.P. Singh, director-general of police B.K. Dey Sawian and inspector-general of police W.R. Marbaniang. Singh told The Telegraph that the current situation was entirely a police problem and laid the blame on the “inadequate leadership” in the police department.

“These things happen because of the total lack of preparedness of the police. There is indiscipline, they need to change their style and orientation and generally prepare themselves to face a very tough fight,” Singh said.

The chief secretary noted that when the HNLC gunmen came to the police outpost, the policemen on duty were playing cards. He felt that if a sentry had been on duty outside, as is the norm, only one person would have died as the militants would have had to fire on him, sending a warning to the others inside. How the policemen would defend themselves without arms and in a dilapidated building which passes off for a police beat house, he did not say.

Singh said the police had been directed to “organise and restructure” itself to find a better approach to stop the spread of the menace. He said the police had absolutely no excuse, not even that of a lack of funds.

He, however, admitted that the state could not take full advantage of the central scheme for the modernisation of the police force.

Police chief Sawian said there had been no acrimony among the officials at the meeting which discussed measures on how to ensure peace and normalcy on the eve of the Statehood Day and Republic Day. Commenting on the series of HNLC strikes, Sawian said the militants had become like a wounded animal which was hitting out at random.

The DGP, however, brushed aside all criticism against the police for unpreparedness, saying, “We are fighting a battle in which the enemy is within the society and cannot be identified.”

Opp. condemns killings: Leader of the Opposition D.D. Lapang lambasted the E.K. Mawlong-led Meghalaya Parliamentary Forum (MPF) coalition government for its total failure in tackling militancy.

“How can people have faith in this government when they cannot even ensure protection for their own policemen who are supposed to protect the citizens’ life and property?” Lapang wondered.

Police chief’s call: Smarting under militant onslaught, director-general of police, B.K. Dey Sawian urged the police to take the “bull by the horns” and fight back. In an emotional speech at the guard of honour for the two slain policemen, head constable Harihar Ram and constable Shiekh Osman today, the DG said the honour of the police force was at stake and the time had come to fight the militants tooth and nail.

The police chief has reportedly taken charge of the IG (law and order) desk in addition to his other duties which, sources said, heralded major changes in the department. Sources said that the DGP had demanded a free hand to tackle militancy without interference by politicians.

   

 
 
MEGHALAYA NOT TO ‘TAKE’ ASSAM LAND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Shillong, Jan. 20: 
Meghalaya government today clarified that they would “not ask for” even an inch of Assam’s land while resolving the three-decade-old boundary dispute with its neighbour.

A senior leader of the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC), Holiram Terang, had yesterday threatened that not an inch of Karbi land would be transferred to Meghalaya as chief ministers of both the states had not taken the views of the people residing in the disputed areas.

Reacting to Terang’s threat, vice-chairman of Meghalaya land revenue committee Sayeedullah Nongrum said, “I can assure Terang that we are not going to take even an inch of land from Assam.”

Nongrum, a former MLA and member of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), said the people just wanted their land back. He claimed that the disputed areas in Block I and Block II had been part of the undivided Khasi Hills district and were transferred to Karbi Anglong in 1951 for “administrative convenience.”

“We only want the Khasi-Pnar (Jaintia)-inhabited villages in the disputed area to be transferred back to Meghalaya,” Nongrum, who has taken the lead in resolving the boundary dispute, said.

“There should not be any problem in re-transferring the area to Meghalaya,” he maintained.

The UDP leader said Meghalaya’s demand was legitimate. “We hope the issue will be resolved amicably,” he added.

Meghalaya hopes to get back 13 to 14 Khasi-Pnar-dominated villages. Talks between the two neighbours started on March 15 last year after E.K. Mawlong took over as the chief minister.

Terang, who is the public representative of the disputed area, had made the hard-hitting statement in reaction to both the governments’ decision to resolve the issue in a “give-and-take manner”. The “understanding” was a sequel to the joint aerial survey conducted by Mawlong and his Assam counterpart Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in May last year.

“As both the chief ministers are sincere about the issue, we are optimistic that an amicable settlement can be arrived at very soon,” Nongrum said.

Mawlong and Mahanta last met in Dispur on December 22 to discuss the issue.

Speaking on the status of the proposed joint survey, Nongrum said Mawlong and Mahanta had agreed that the deputy commissioners of Karbi Anglong and Jaintia Hills districts would officially record the ground realities in the disputed area.

“A solution will be arrived at after the deputy commissioners submit their reports,” Nongrum said.

Subsequently, the decision will have to be ratified by the respective state Assemblies and local residents, he added.

The views of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council (KAADC) would also be taken into consideration before the final settlement, Nongrum added.

   
 

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