Eye surgery for the poor
Murders spark violence
NSCN militant killed by rivals
Manipur leaders oppose ceasefire zone extension
NLFT rebel killed in encounter
3 held for rape
AGP opposes fiscal reforms
Militants surrender
BSF companies leave Shillong
3 Khasi hamlets to be project villages

 
 
EYE SURGERY FOR THE POOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Over the past three years, about 1,741 needy patients living on the outskirts of the city have undergone intra-ocular lens (IOL) implant micro-surgeries free, thanks to the city-based Dr Nihar Munsi Eye Foundation.

The IOLs, by which cataracts were removed, were carried out on the foundation premises in Dover Place after the patients were identified by specialist teams that visited four neighbouring districts of the city. The detection camps were held in association with several NGOs like Helpage India, Lokenath Divine Mission and Rotary clubs, among others.

On the eighth anniversary of the foundation, 25 free micro-surgeries were conducted. “There are still so many poor people who require their cataracts to be removed and delays can lead to permanent blindness,” said the foundation’s managing trustee Capt. P.K. Munshi.

   

 
 
MURDERS SPARK VIOLENCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Three youths were brutally murdered and their bodies dragged through a crowded market in Sonarpur by the killers on their motorbikes on Friday evening.

On Saturday morning, police had to fire six rounds to rein in the victims’ neighbours, who had assembled at Kheyadaha market on Sonarpur Road, to seek revenge. Three policemen, including a sub-inspector, were injured in the clash with the mob.

The victims were identified as Dinabandhu Mandal alias Mithu, 24, Uttam Mondal, 18, and Sanjit Naskar, 19. All three were residents of Diara village.

The incident took place around 8.15 pm at Kheyadaha market. Mithu had gone to the local burning ghat with Uttam and Sanjit to cremate his uncle. On their way back, they were followed by some youths in a red Maruti Omni. The assailants were joined by a local criminal and his accomplices. The three were killed barely 200 metres from their homes, police said.

The assailants stopped the three and attacked them. Later, they were shot dead from point blank range. The killers then tied the bodies to their motorbikes and dragged them along the road for about four kilometres. The bodies were later found behind some bushes in a field on Saturday morning.

Samir Mondal, Mithu’s brother, said: “Some schoolgirls told me that my brother was being assaulted.” Afraid to go to the spot alone, Mondal contacted the Sonarpur police station. But the police could not trace the bodies that night.

The murder is reportedly a fall-out of infighting among CPM activists of Diara and Kheyadaha over possession of vested land near the Calcutta Leather Complex, though the south 24-Parganas CPM leaders deny the charge. Police said about six months ago, Mithu was involved in burning down shops belonging to Kheyadaha residents. Peace meetings were organised, but tension simmered. There was also a dispute over wresting the contract for the supply of building materials for a housing complex coming up in the area on a 40-bigha plot of land.

On Saturday morning, Diara residents ransacked seven huts in Kheyadaha. Fifteen persons were arrested. The killers are still at large.

A police team and a Rapid Action Force contingent have been posted at Kheyadaha market. Shops remained closed and traffic went off the road all through Saturday. Trinamul Congress leaders will visit the area on Sunday.

   

 
 
NSCN MILITANT KILLED BY RIVALS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, Feb. 3: 
A National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) activist was killed yesterday by rivals on the outskirts of Alongkima village under Mangkolemba sub-division in Mokokchung district.

In the first week of January, 29 villages there had declared the sub-division as a “peace zone”, asking the rebels to leave the area. But last week, fighting broke out between the two factions of the NSCN, vitiating the atmosphere in Mangkolemba town.

Security forces apprehend an escalation of violence as both the rebel groups are engaged in turf battles.

In another incident, unidentified gunmen yesterday shot at two persons here. The injured were admitted to the Naga Hospital. Police today said one of the victims was a student of the Baptist College here, while the other has been identified as an activist of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang).

Inspector-general of police (intelligence) C. Kikon said the police would check incidents of bomb blasts. Two such incidents in the last two months resulted in the death of five civilians.

After the bomb blast at Wokha in December, in which four bus passengers died, another explosion rocked Mangkolemba on January 29. One person had died while three others sustained injuries when a bomb exploded at Longphayimsen village.

The NSCN (I-M) has accused the security forces of violating the ceasefire ground rules by picking up its functionaries randomly.

However, it reiterated its “commitment” to the ongoing peace efforts. It also criticised as “intelligence gathering strategy”, the civic programmes launched by the Army.

   

 
 
MANIPUR LEADERS OPPOSE CEASEFIRE ZONE EXTENSION 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Feb. 3: 
Political leaders in Manipur have opposed any move to extend the Naga cease-fire to the state’s territory.

At a “People’s dialogue” organised by the All-Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation here, leaders of various parties opposed the Centre’s latest move to extend the Naga ceasefire to other states of the Northeast.

The two-week debate aims at clearing the apprehension prevailing in the state that it may lose its territory in the bargain for a solution with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). The Amuco has been opposing any move to destabilise Manipur’s territorial integrity and extend the ceasefire to the state.

Former Lok Sabha MP and veteran Congress leader N. Tombi Singh, who participated in the dialogue, asked the Centre to clarify its position on the extension of the Naga ceasefire to Manipur.

Reacting to the comments by Union joint secretary (home), in-charge of the Northeast, G.K. Pillai that the ceasefire would be extended to all the northeastern states, Tombi Singh said it seemed to be Pillai’s personal view.

The Congress leader said extension of the ceasefire was not in Manipur’s interest. He warned of serious repercussions if the Centre forcibly tried to impose the truce in the state. Extending a similar warning, Samata Party leader Radhabinod Koijam also said the ongoing ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) should be limited to Nagaland.

Koijam welcomed the talks between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M), but opposed any move to disintegrate Manipur. “People will not compromise even an inch of our land,” he added. Koijam and Chungkhokai Doungel, an NCP MLA and a prominent Kuki leader, criticised the Centre for holding talks with only the NSCN(I-M). Koijam said there would be social disorder if the Centre agreed to the NSCN(I-M)’s demand for a “Greater Nagaland”.

Doungel said other outfits of the Northeast should also be included in the peace process as holding talks with the NSCN(I-M) alone would not bring lasting peace to the region.

State CPI secretary Pheiroijam Parijat demanded unilateral ceasefire with all Manipur militant outfits. He called for public debates in the hills and rural areas of the state to spread awareness on the issue. Alleging that the Centre was taking the Northeast’s insurgency problem lightly, he said there could be only a political solution to the problem.

   

 
 
NLFT REBEL KILLED IN ENCOUNTER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 3: 
A hardcore militant of the National Liberation Front of Tripura was killed and arms and ammunition recovered as police and paramilitary forces continued special search operations in different parts of South Tripura district to flush out militants.

Police sources said a combined force of police and Tripura State rifles jawans led by inspector Gopal Brahma launched intensive combing operations in interior areas of Killa police station of South Tripura.

As the police team approached an NLFT hideout in remote Jainbari area at 10 am today, the militants holed up in the hideout opened fire. The police team dodged the initial fusillade and retaliated. After a 15-minute exchange of gunfire, six NLFT militants fled into deep jungles.

The police team stormed the hideout and found the bullet-riddled body of a hardcore rebel. The police recovered a 9 mm carbine, three magazines of ammunition and incriminating documents. The slain militant, however, is yet to be identified.

In a separate incident yesterday, a Bengali trader, Subodh Sutradhar, was abducted by a group of NLFT militants from the remote Fatikcherra area under Fatikroy police station of North Tripura. Police sources said the trader had gone to purchase bamboo and cane and was abducted on his way back in the afternoon. Despite combing operations, the hostage is still untraced.

Civic action: Various Army units and battalions of Assam Rifles stationed in Nagaland have taken up development projects in villages at the “initiative” of village councils or panchayats. Besides construction of roads, water tanks, school buildings and market sheds, different units under the 64 Mountain Brigade have set up vocational training centres for unemployed youth, reports our Kohima correspondent.

   

 
 
3 HELD FOR RAPE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Silchar, Feb. 3: 
Police in south Assam’s Karimganj district have so far arrested three persons, including a student leader for their alleged involvement in an incident of gangrape of a Mizo woman at Karimganj town on Monday.

A top police official in Karimganj today said the district police could arrested only three culprits after extensive search operations. Two others are absconding.

Police said the 25-year-old Mizo woman, a ginger and chilli trader, was accosted by the gang while she was walking on the busy station road at Karimganj town at night. She was dragged to a lonely spot inside the sprawling Karimganj college campus and gang raped. The victim is a resident of Aizawl.

On Thursday, students took out a procession to condemn the incident. The woman, who underwent a medical test, will be handed over to the Mizoram police here today.

   

 
 
AGP OPPOSES FISCAL REFORMS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Feb. 3: 
In a populist move aimed at garnering support on the eve of the Assembly polls, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has demanded the withdrawal of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for fiscal reforms signed between the state government and the Centre.

The AGP’s opposition to the fiscal reforms programme has come as a surprise since the party is heading the coalition government in the state and the president of the party is the chief minister.

A resolution to this effect was passed at the four-day AGP convention held at Nagaon recently. The party said the MoU was “anti-Assam” and blamed the BJP-led National Democratic Front government for mounting pressure on the government to sign it.

The signing of the MoU has also been criticised by the Opposition parties, including the Congress. The Opposition alleged that it was signed in “complete secrecy” without taking the people into confidence.

Observers feel that the AGP’s move to oppose an agreement signed by its own government is aimed at “garnering public support on the eve of elections.” The signing of the MoU will lead to abolition of government jobs which has already become a source of major concern for the political parties.

Fearing public outcry, the government also passed a Cabinet resolution recently ordering that no muster roll worker could be dismissed or suspended from service. The MoU stated that there would be no fresh engagement of muster roll employees even on a temporary basis after April 1993.

Though the MoU was signed in 1999, the party never opposed it or uttered a single word against the government for the past couple of years. The representatives of the state government and Union finance ministry had discussed the state’s fiscal situation on November 18.

The National Development Council had recommended to the Centre that it would provide immediate assistance to the “needy” states but would link the aid to the specific fiscal reforms aimed at strengthening the financial condition of the state.

According to the MoU, the state government would impose a ban on the creation of posts or upgradation of the existing posts under the Plan budget. The government would have to initiate austerity measures including a ban on the purchase of new vehicles and slashing of travel allowances by 10 per cent and consumption of fuel by 20 per cent in government vehicles.

The state government has also agreed to embark on a privatisation programme in the non-essential sector and undertake institutional reforms to promote more effective regulation, lower transaction cost and greater efficiency in the public sector.

   

 
 
MILITANTS SURRENDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Feb. 3: 
Thirteen Ulfa militants laid down arms before Army authorities at the Missa Army camp in Nagaon district today.

Two hardcore rebels trained in Burma — Baba Kalita and Ratul Das, a camp instructor — were among those who came overground today. They surrendered before Brig. R.S. Sujlana of the Red Horn division.

Those who surrendered include Nabajyoti Hazarika, Kripa Handique and Dadul Senapati alias Walson.

Army apprentice: An Army apprentice cadre organised by the EME Battalion of Red Horns division completed its training at Changsari today.

   

 
 
BSF COMPANIES LEAVE SHILLONG 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Shillong, Feb. 3: 
The two companies of Border Security Force requisitioned for maintaining law and order in the Meghalaya capital during Republic Day celebrations have been sent back for frontier duties.

Sources said the state government had been trying to retain the two companies for some more days.

It had requested the BSF to “assist” the state police force following a 36-hour bandh called by militants.

State chief secretary J.P. Singh had told The Telegraph on January 27 that the two companies would stay in the capital for a few more days for maintaining law and order in the state.

R. Silkuti, commandant (communication), who is also officiating as the additional deputy inspector general of BSF (operations), said the two companies were called back last Sunday for primary duties. “They have been sent to the borders for normal duty,” he added.

However, the three additional companies of the CRPF — requisitioned for the Republic Day — were retained. “The additional companies would stay for some more time,” said B.K. Kaushal, commandant of 65th battalion of the CRPF.

Sources said the BSF was not keen to send their troops for general law and order duty in Meghalaya.

At present, there are six BSF battalions deployed along the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border.

Officials said deploying two companies for internal security is difficult as the BSF needs to guard the porous 442-km-long Meghalaya-Bangladesh border in full strength.

Observers did not rule out a face-off between the border guards and the Meghalaya government following the hurried withdrawal of troops from internal duty.

Sources said the BSF has alleged that the state government has not allocated them any land for raising a new battalion. Senior BSF officials have been “repeatedly” requesting the government to assist them in getting land for its headquarters.

The state government, on the other hand, has accused the BSF of aiding and abetting timber smuggling to Bangladesh.

Principal chief conservator of forest Balvinder Singh had written a letter to the BSF inspector general in February last year about the involvement of a jawan in timber smuggling from the Angratoli reserve forest, the sources added.

However, terming it a “baseless allegation”, the BSF has ruled out the charges against the soldier.

   

 
 
3 KHASI HAMLETS TO BE PROJECT VILLAGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Shillong, Feb. 3: 
The R.S. Lyngdoh Training Centre has adopted three East Khasi Hills hamlets — Syniasa, Umsning and Tanglei — as project villages for the Integrated Rural Development Programme.

The three villages, which make up a cluster, are situated about nearly 45 km from the capital city.

At a public meeting held at Umsning yesterday, the sordars of the villages welcomed the training centre’s team led by director Banteilang R. Lyngdoh Nongbri.

They said the villagers, who were poor and illiterate, were in need of assistance. The area had been long neglected by the government, they alleged.

Nongbri said the training centre had been engaged in gathering information on the three villages for the past one year. “The people here have really been neglected. Though the villages are only 45 km away from Shillong, the villagers are really downtrodden,” Nongbri added.

Secretary of the Syniasa village Pulin Myrboh said the villages should have been adopted long ago as they were reeling under poverty. The villages lack basic amenities like electricity, dispensary, drinking water and roads.

According to the villagers, transportation was another major problem. Though they were basically farmers, lack of modern agricultural equipment, a market and transport facilities had affected agriculture, they added.

The training centre undertakes commendable development work in rural areas of the state. Its workers reside in the villages they work in.

Nongbri said the organisation had received a project from the Indo-German Social Service for work in the villages. The centre’s role was mostly that of a catalyst, he added.

During the past year, the centre conducted seminars and workshops on various issues like health and nutrition, legal aid, and also undertook various government programmes.

The organisation, with its headquarters in Smit, also runs a vocational training centre on carpentry.

The organisation is a self-sustaining one with revenue coming from proceeds of the workshop-cum-training centre.

   
 

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