Mystery death of boy in factory
Strike threat in universities
International fair for sex workers
School scandal sparks exodus
CRPF activities in Tripura under cloud
Bru rebels target tribal group
Koijam to oppose truce area plan
Rebels killed in Karbi Anglong
Tocklai chief to quit post
Sulfa leader held for assault

 
 
MYSTERY DEATH OF BOY IN FACTORY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 3: 
A 14-year-old worker of an electroplating factory on APC Road died under mysterious circumstances on Saturday morning. Residents of the area alleged that he was tortured to death by his employer.

The police rescued the boy in an unconscious state and admitted him to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The employer, Tapan Saha, is absconding, police said. The deceased, identified as Samir Samani, had been working in the factory for a couple of years.

As the news spread, local residents ransacked the factory. They were joined by Trinamul Congress supporters, who blocked the APC Road-Sahitya Parishad Street crossing for an hour from 2 pm. The blockade was lifted after officers from Burtolla police station intervened.

A preliminary medical report indicates that the boy might have died of acid-poisoning. But local residents claim otherwise.

Rajeev Samanta, a neighbour, who, along with his friends rushed to the factory on Thursday night, said: “It was around 12.30 am that we heard the boy screaming in pain. We forced those inside to open the gate. The boy was being administered electric shock. The employer had ordered this as punishment for the alleged theft of a small amount of money. We asked him to inform the police but he did not listen,” Samanta added.

Another youth, Prasenjit Ghosh, said: “We informed the police when we came to know of the boy’s death on Friday afternoon.”

City detective chief Banibrata Basu said a case of unnatural death case was started. A number of factory employees were questioned to find out what happened to the boy. “We are now waiting for the post mortem report to ascertain the cause of the death,” a policeman said.

Policemen said if the boy died of acid-poisoning, there should be burns on his lips and body. “But we have not found any mark so far. So, there might be some foul play,” they added.

Criminals arrested: Mohammad Kurban was arrested along with his brother Mohammad Anwar and aide Sanjoy Agarwal at Belur railway station on Saturday, police said. Heroin worth about Rs 50,000 and hand-made bombs were seized from them. Kurban is wanted for more than 20 murders, train dacoities and drug-peddling.

   

 
 
STRIKE THREAT IN UNIVERSITIES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 3: 
Administrative work in all seven state-aided universities is expected to come to a halt from Monday following a call for an indefinite strike by officers and supervisory staff. However, the on-going university examinations will not be affected.

The CPM-dominated West Bengal University Officers’ and Supervisory Staff Association has called the strike to protest the government’s failure to issue an order for the implementation of a career advancement scheme. They have urged the government to introduce career advancement schemes for them at par with those offered to teachers of state-funded universities.

Senior officers of the state finance and higher education departments will discuss the issue at a meeting early next week, a government official said.

“The government had promised to introduce the scheme long ago. While the proposal was okayed by the higher education department, the finance department has yet to approve of it. We have no option but to cease work,” said Nitish Biswas, a Calcutta University officer.

A few hundred officers of the seven universities, including Calcutta University, Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University in the city, are likely to join the strike.

“The officers may have some genuine grievances but an indefinite strike disrupting academic activities can’t be allowed,” an education department officer said.

   

 
 
INTERNATIONAL FAIR FOR SEX WORKERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 3: 
The Millennium Milan Mela, an international fair for sex workers at the Salt Lake Stadium, began on Saturday. The three-day meet, organised by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), was inaugurated by sheriff Suchitra Mitra.

The fair is being attended by over 5,000 sex workers and representatives of organisations working for the rights of the commercial sex worker (CSW), mainly from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Displays have been put up at stalls by participating organisations. A health booth with doctors conducting blood-group tests, physical examinations, and counselling for HIV testing has been set up. Issues of discussion include the effectiveness of community mobilisation in prevention of HIV, the morality of the sex trade, the demand for trade-union rights by sex workers, homosexuality, etc. Simultaneously, song, dance, street plays, and art camps are scheduled to take place.

The DMSC works in 36 red-light districts of the state. Its projects include peer education about human rights of CSWs and their children, HIV/AIDS awareness and promotion of condom usage.

Schools for street children: The civic body will introduce about 100 schools for street children in the city. The Centre will provide funds for the project, a civic body member said.

   

 
 
SCHOOL SCANDAL SPARKS EXODUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 3: 
Guardians of Ramkaran Mahavir Primary School have stopped sending their children to the school after its headmaster Ram Prakash Tiwari was arrested last Thursday for allegedly molesting two Class IV girls in his office.

Tiwari was arrested by the Howrah police on Thursday morning under Section 354 of the IPC (outraging a woman’s modesty). But this has not satisfied the guardians of some of the girl students. “The school has got a bad name. Is that not reason enough for stopping my daughter from attending classes there,” said Sivkumar Shaw, father of a Class II student, adding that he would try to get his daughter admitted to another school in the area.

Most guardians said that they initially did not believe in rumours about the 48-year-old Tiwari. But his arrest has resulted in an alarming drop in the attendance of students.

A teacher admitted that parents were taking their children away from the school.

“The entire establishment is suffering for the guilt of one person. We do not have too many students since ours is a Hindi-medium school. I doubt whether we will be able to run the school under the circumstances,” the teacher added, preferring anonymity.

According to local residents, some classes were not held after Thursday’s incident.

“The area is tense. Some of the students, we hear, are refusing to come to school ever since they heard of the molestation of their school-mate by the headmaster,” said Shyamal Bagh, a resident of the area.

Tiwari was produced in Howrah court on Friday and subsequently granted bail. “He has to come and report at the police station every day,” said Purnendu Acharya, officer-in-charge of Malipanchghara police station.

When approached outside the police station on Saturday, Tiwari looked composed and refused to accept his guilt. “Why don’t you ask the guardians who have lodged the complaint? I will prove my innocence in a court of law,” Tiwari said.

Illegal structure demolished: The Corporation on Saturday demolished a portion of an illegal construction at 6, Brabourne Road, said Swapan Samaddar, mayor-in-council (building). The underground car-parking space and the ground floor had been converted into office premises, violating the CMC building rules.

   

 
 
CRPF ACTIVITIES IN TRIPURA UNDER CLOUD 
 
 
FROM SHEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, March 3: 
The performance of the Central Reserve Police Force in counter-insurgency operations in Tripura leaves a lot to be desired. This is evident from the ambush carried out by the National Liberation Front of Tripura this morning. Altogether 11 CRPF jawans, including two drivers, were gunned down by the rebels in the ambush.

Police sources said altogether five vehicles carrying CRPF jawans had left the Bampur area for Ampi but the gap between vehicles in the convoy was such that when two jeeps came under attack, the jawans in the other vehicles failed to come to their rescue. Worse, the militants decamped safely with nine sophisticated firearms and a wireless set.

The CRPF jawans have been posted in the Bampur area for a long time and the terrain is familiar to them. The CRPF had also received information about rebel movements in the area but when it came to the crunch, the jawans failed to save themselves.

No senior CRPF official was available for comment. But official sources in the state administration hinted that having no real orientation in counter-insurgency operations, the CRPF, 15 battalions of which are currently deployed in Tripura, has failed to properly tackle combat situations.

There are also allegations against the CRPF regarding their lack of alertness and a tendency to take it easy. On February 11, a CRPF jawan lost a carbine while on duty in the Mungiabari area of Teliamura.

Police sources said CRPF havildar Charanjit Singh fell to talking with a group of tribal youth while on duty beside the Assam-Agartala national highway. The youth, actually collaborators of the NLFT, offered him free drinks at a nearby tribal hut. When the jawan moved a few steps towards the hut, he was overpowered and his carbine snatched by the youth. He was later suspended for dereliction of duty but the weapon has not been recovered yet.

Till May last year, senior officials would often complain that the CRPF refused to listen to their orders about going in for operations. All the Opposition parties also levelled allegations that the CRPF was working in a partisan manner, targeting innocent non-tribals deliberately to buy safety in rebel-infested interior areas.

The CRPF’s role during the Bagber massacre in Kalyanpur police station area in May last year drew flak from all parties. The jawans did not move out of their camp in the Dushki area while unarmed non-tribals were butchered by armed militants. Even the orders of senior police officers were flouted. Former CRPF inspector-general George C. Podypura had to extensively tour areas where his jawans were deployed to look into the allegations.

Things appeared to have changed for the better after Bhusan Lal Vohra took over as director-general of police in July and the CRPF started acting on orders passed by police officers in various police station areas.

But this morning’s ambush has once again exposed the chinks in the CRPF’s armour. Highly-placed sources in the administration said the state government was extremely perturbed over the statements by the heads of some paramilitary forces.

Referring to the controversial interview given to a television channel by former Assam Rifles deputy inspector-general Brig. B.K. Ponwar, who had cited wrong demographic figures of the state to put across a “biased viewpoint” early last year, a source said, “The CRPF is okay as they are trying hard but we reserve our comment on the performance of Assam Rifles.”

Sources said officers of the Assam Rifles were quite satisfied that areas controlled by them were relatively peaceful but in reality it was not so. “They do not seem to be going in for proactive operations to break the military backbone of the outlawed militants,” a source added. The sources expressed the fear that once the Assam Rifles are withdrawn, there would be trouble.

   

 
 
BRU REBELS TARGET TRIBAL GROUP 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, March 3: 
In a new twist to the current insurgency problem, the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants, comprising Reang tribals living in Tripura and Mizoram, have turned against Tripuri tribals living in Hailakandi subdivision of Barak valley in Assam.

Altogether seven Tripuri tribal families comprising 46 members have recently taken shelter in Gandacherra subdivision of Dhalai district, after being driven away from Durgapur village under Lalghat police station of Hailakandi district.

These families are eking out a sub-human living in remote Bhagirath para village of Gandacherra subdivision. Sources said more than 200 families of Tripuri tribals have been forced to leave their homes in Katlicherra, Noonacherra and Lalghat areas of Hailakandi subdivision.

These families told officials in Gandacherra subdivision that following reports that NLFT militants were persecuting backward Reang tribals in Tripura and trying to forcibly convert them to Christianity and register them as Tripuri tribes, the armed BNLF activists turned against the Tripuris in interior areas of Hailakandi subdivision in Assam’s Barak Valley and drove away more than 200 families.

The refugee families said tension had been simmering in interior areas of Hailakandi subdivision since July last year, when NLFT militants launched an attack on a BNLF camp in the Thangnan area under Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and killed 12 BNLF activists.

The situation worsened as reports continued to pour into the areas that Reang tribals were being persecuted in various ways by the NLFT. A large number of Reang youth immediately joined the BNLF and issued an ultimatum to all Tripuri tribal groups living there that unless they left their homes, they would be massacred. Fearing organised attacks, the Tripuri families fled their homes. They said many families had entered Chittagong Hill Tracts as well. The seven families that entered Gandacherra are currently surviving on wild vegetation.

Official sources here said that details of the issue were not yet available but they would get in touch with the Hailakandi district administration.

But sources expressed concern over the growing menace of BNLF militancy and the possibility of influx into Tripura. “We are already overburdened with 35,000 Reang tribal refugees from Mizoram, who entered the state in October 1997, and cannot take even one more,” a source added.

However, the sources admitted that the main cause of worry was the possibility of clashes between the BNLF and the NLFT in Tripura’s hilly areas and its inevitable fallout on relations among various tribal groups of the state. The Reangs are the second largest tribal group in Tripura.

   

 
 
KOIJAM TO OPPOSE TRUCE AREA PLAN 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, March 3: 
The proposed extension of the ceasefire between the NSCN(I-M) and the Centre to other contiguous Naga-dominated areas of the Northeast has received a boost after Union home minister L. K. Advani yesterday hinted at getting “a positive response from the chief ministers of some states in the region.”

However, Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam today opposed any move to extend the ceasefire to the Naga-inhabited areas of the state.

In an official statement released from New Delhi, Koijam reportedly mooted the idea of a ceasefire with all the militant outfits of the Northeast to pave the way for bringing about a permanent solution to the insurgency problem. Koijam yesterday met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L. K. Advani separately to discuss the issue.

Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi also discussed the matter with Vajpayee.

Tension mounted in the state after news agencies and some Delhi-based dailies published reports saying the chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, who had earlier opposed the extension of the Naga ceasefire, have toned down their opposition following parleys with the Prime Minister and the home minister yesterday.

In a swift denial, Koijam issued a statement saying, “The people of Manipur strongly oppose the extension of the ceasefire and will, at any cost, protect the territorial integrity of the state.”

Koijam said he told both Vajpayee and Advani that the ongoing ceasefire should not be extended to the Naga-dominated areas in Manipur. He also highlighted the “people’s opposition” to the proposed extension.

For Koijam, the issue has become “delicate” and the survival of his People’s Front government depends on how effectively he handles it. The Rishang Keishing-led Congress government was toppled in December 1997 on the issue of the Naga ceasefire and state’s territorial integrity. The Assembly had earlier passed a resolution to safeguard its territorial integrity at any cost.

Koijam also apprised Vajpayee and Advani of a recent meeting organised by a non-political group—the All-Manipur United Club’ Organisations (Amuco)— which reiterated the people’s stand on the proposed extension.

Koijam today said many rallies against the “extension” had been organised earlier.

State law minister O. Joy Singh, who is also a prominent leader of the ruling People’s Front government, today said the chief minister has not made any statement to the Prime Minister and the home minister agreeing to the extension of the ceasefire. He said the People’s Front government could not allow the ceasefire to be extended to Manipur. However, the state Cabinet has not yet discussed the issue, he added.

State Samata Party leader and health minister Nemaichand Luwang also echoed Joy Singh’s views. He said the New Delhi Press had misquoted Koijam.

Speaking to The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi, Koijam denied agreeing to the extension of the ceasefire to Manipur. He said he had only urged Vajpayee and Advani to declare truce with all militant outfits of the Northeast.

   

 
 
REBELS KILLED IN KARBI ANGLONG 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, March 3: 
Two United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) militants were killed in an encounter with police in Central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district today. Two rifles and some RDX were recovered.

Police sources said the encounter took place at Karlangshu Dolorama under Bokajan police station at 4.30 am. While two rebels were killed on the spot, other UPDS militants managed to escape. They left behind two M-21 rifles and 13 rounds of ammunition.

Police also recovered UPDS fund collection receipts from the slain militants. The insurgent group was suspected to be operating in the area for carrying out an “extortion drive”, the sources said.

Kamrup Exp derailed

Four bogies of Calcutta-bound Kamrup Express were derailed near Nilalung station near Diphu last night. There was, however, no report of any casualty.

Police ruled out sabotage attempt. Investigations are on to ascertain the cause behind the incident which took place at 12.10 am. Senior officials of the NF Railway have rushed to the spot.

The stranded passengers were later transhipped on the Intercity Express, NF Railway sources said.

   

 
 
TOCKLAI CHIEF TO QUIT POST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, March 3: 
Director-general of Tocklai experimental station A.N. Mukhopadhyay submitted his resignation yesterday.

Mukhopadhyay joined as the director-general of the oldest and the largest tea research centre in the world eight months ago. He served as the vice-chancellor of Assam Agricultural University here before joining the Tocklai station.

“It is not a resignation letter. I have put forward some conditions to the board of management to continue in my present post,” Mukhopadhyay said.

However, Tea Research Association chairman Aboni Borgohain said the director-general expressed his inability to continue at the present post following curtailment of “some of his powers”.

Though Mukhopadhyay’s resignation is yet to be accepted, Borgohain said the final decision will be taken after consulting the board of management in Calcutta.

Borgohain, who is also the chairman of the Assam sub-committee of Indian Tea Association, will fly to Calcutta soon.

“The board of management has cut down some of his powers after detecting irregularities in accounts,” Borgohain said. Mukhopadhyay also flouted disciplinary norms, he added.

Inquiry into the irregularities are on, Borgohain said. The director-general will not be spared “stern action” if he is found guilty in the irregularities case, he added.

“The director-general was issued a show cause soon after the 33rd Tocklai conference on February 12 and 13,” he said.

Mukhopadhyay was dogged with controversy during his tenure as the vice-chancellor of the Assam Agricultural University. A section of the university’s teaching staff had alleged that he was involved in financial irregularities and misuse of power.

The House committee of the state Assembly, headed by Dilip Saikia Sonowal, reportedly detected financial irregularities at the university during the tenure of Mukhopadhyay.

The report was submitted to Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha, who is also the chancellor of the university.

   

 
 
SULFA LEADER HELD FOR ASSAULT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, March 3: 
Top Sulfa leader Lohit Deuri and 12 of his accomplices, including three personal security officers, were arrested this evening for assaulting businessmen and indulging in vandalism at the Fancy Bazar.

The former militant’s personal security officers, provided by the government, were also disarmed by the city police. The arrested persons will be produced before a magistrate tomorrow.

Police said Deuri’s personal security officers and a group of Sulfa members went to Fancy Bazar, ransacked some shops and beat up shopowners and employees after an altercation over money matters.

Seven persons were injured as the former militants and the three securitymen went on a rampage. A shop employee received serious injuries when he was hit on the head with the butt of a weapon carried by a securitymen.

The Sulfa members were trying to collect the daily “fees” for the “Care Guwahati” scheme they were entrusted with by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC).

However, the term of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) ended on February 28 as it was undertaken on an experimental basis.

Under the “Care Guwahati” scheme, the GMC had handed over ward numbers 29 and 30 to “Sulfa businessmen” for their regular cleaning operations. The Sulfa men were allowed to collect a daily fees of Rs 10 from bigger shops and Rs 4 from kiosks to carry out the cleaning process.

The Sulfa business enterprise looking after the “Care Guwahati’ programme was led by Deuri, once a top Ulfa leader.

However, the GMC decided not extend the term of the MoU following allegations that the Sulfa men were doing the job in a slip-shod manner and were also forcibly collecting much higher fees from petty traders.

Deuri claimed that the GMC commissioner had “promised” to extend the MoU term and hence they were going about their business as usual. Businessman Prakash Goenka said they were unaware of any such move by the GMC.

“The MoU expired last month and so we have every right not to pay the daily fees till someone is authorised to carry on the job,” he added.

Before his surrender on August 14 last year, Deuri was a “G2” in the Ulfa’s Bhutan-based general headquarters and was self-admittedly involved in procuring arms for the outfit.

The Sulfa has been facing a lot of flak of late for alleged highhandedness with the people. The public outcry against the former rebels reached a peak in November last year when they were accused of targeting innocent relatives of Ulfa rebels.

Residents of the city had come out into the streets, demanding disarming of the Sulfa members. Most of them are said to be carrying illegal weapons under the pretext of self-defence.

   
 

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