Mamata calls for ballot battle after killings
Toilet caretaker hacked to death
Borders to be sealed for polls
One killed, 2 injured in car crash
Jewellers refuse to shift base
Mob assaults suspects, 1 dead
Bengali authors brought to book
Militants kill seven Kukis in Manipur
Congress bickers over Tripura bypoll nominee
Two NLFT insurgents gunned down

 
 
MAMATA CALLS FOR BALLOT BATTLE AFTER KILLINGS 
 
 
FROM PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
The mood was apparent when Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee’s convoy was at least 10 km away from Jagannathpur. At Jangipara More, Trinamul supporters had blocked the approach road with trucks and buses and were refusing to let any vehicle pass.

The previous day, two party workers had been hacked to death at Jagannathpur, allegedly by CPM supporters, and the mood in the Trinamul camp was one of anger and frustration.

As Mamata’s Tata Sumo came to a halt, Trinamul workers rushed to her, demanding “instant action against the culprits”. But Mamata decided instead to proceed without a word.

Putting up her hand and indicating to her supporters to remain quiet, she instructed the driver to proceed to their destination.

Then her car went in circles around the hamlet for about half-an-hour. She was sizing up the situation as her security car remained stuck in the blockade.

At Jagannathpur, stepping out of the car and pushing through crowds of angry supporters, Mamata straightaway entered the house, where the two brothers, Haradhan and Dayal Singhroy, were murdered the previous day.

She inspected the broken tiles of the hut through which the assailants had apparently entered the house and bludgeoned them to death. She saw the trail of blood and stood quietly in the courtyard, immersed in her own thoughts.

Finally, she moved towards a corner where the bodies of Haradhan and Dayal were laid out. At this, their wailing mother, Madhabi, rushed out and grabbed Mamata’s feet, relating how her sons were killed.

She cried: “They were butchered to death in front of me and I was covered with the blood of my sons.”

Mamata did not react, while other relatives too narrated how the two were killed. It was the culmination of earlier attempts. The day before they were killed, a CPM group had attacked the house.

Later, a police picket was posted there. After the picket was removed, the alleged CPM supporters struck again.

Outside, her supporters were baying for the blood of the killers. At this, Mamata went up to a broken verandah of the house and addressed the gathering. “We will not indulge in the politics of blood for blood,”

Mamata told her supporters as well as members of the press assembled below. “You just have to wait a few more days. Then you can give a fitting reply to the CPM’s blood battle with ballot battle. You will retaliate with the ballot paper and not the bullet.”

“The chief minister sits in Calcutta and tries to give the impression that he is a bhadralok, but in reality he is encouraging the people over here to indulge in violence,” Mamata said. She added that the police were encouraging the Left cadres to indulge in violence. “Don’t you see that the police picket here was intentionally removed to let the Marxists carry out the killings?” she said.

Then instructing her partymen once again to remain calm and not to get worked up, she got into her car and left for Calcutta.

A short distance away, a crowd of CPM supporters was quietly watching the proceedings. As Mamata’s car sped away, fresh trouble erupted in this quiet village.

Later, denying Mamata’s allegation, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said the killings were the outcome of vendetta. No politics was involved, he said.

   

 
 
TOILET CARETAKER HACKED TO DEATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
A 60-year-old caretaker of a public toilet at Lake Avenue, in south Calcutta, was hacked to death early on Saturday. He was identified as Kanailal Haldar.

Around 4.30 am on Saturday, some locals, who were out for a walk, found the toilet locked. They decided to call the caretaker, who lived alone in a quarter adjacent to the toilet for the past few years.

When there was no response even after knocking at his door for several times, they informed the Lake police station and the Association for Better Calcutta, the agency responsible for the toilet’s maintenance.

Policemen broke open the door and found Halder lying on the ground with blood splattered all around him. Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said the assailants had hacked Halder brutally with a sword. “They have slashed his stomach. There were sharp cuts on his hands indicating that he had tried to resist the killers,” Basu said. The sword has been recovered from the room of the killing.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the murder took place around 3 am when Halder was drunk. “Our investigations and the medical report confirmed that Halder had invited some of his acquaintances over to his place for a party on Friday night. When Halder became inebriated, his “friends” attacked him, said a police official.

A team of detective department officials inspected the site of the murder throughout the day but failed to pick up any clues.

“We are still in the dark about the motive. It was not a case of dacoity. We are trying to get the names of Halder’s friends. If necessary, we will collect the finger-prints of all of them,” said the city detective chief. No arrests have been made in this connection.

Power for Sunderbans

The West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) will generate power from the wind blowing along the coastal belt. WBREDA director S.P. Gan Chowdhury said the project will be implemented in Frasergunj.

Chowdhury said the power would be supplied to the remote islands of the Sunderbans. He said a large number of people in the Sunderbans do not get power as it is impossible to instal transmission lines over the rivers. “We have no alternative but to go for renewable energy in order to supply power to these areas,” he said.

   

 
 
BORDERS TO BE SEALED FOR POLLS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
Bengal will hold the Assembly elections with its borders sealed. This decision was taken on Saturday in view of fears that the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) will indulge in violence to disrupt polling. Steps are being taken by the state government as well as the state election office to maintain strict vigil on the Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand borders.

The Commission has also been asked to consider the deployment of Border Security Force jawans from other states along West Bengal’s international border.

The law and order situation in the state was discussed at a meeting at Great Eastern Hotel attended by chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen and senior government officials. Chief secretary Manish Gupta, who was at the meeting along with state police chief Dipak Sanyal, will write to the three states, requesting them to patrol the border and stop inter-state movement of people and vehicles well before polling begins in West Bengal on May 10.

“The threat posed by these Left groups is being taken seriously. We will not allow the voters to be intimidated,” Sen said, referring to the PWG’s campaign for a vote boycott.

At the district-wise scrutiny of the law and order situation, special attention was paid to “disturbed” areas like Bankura, Midnapore and Hooghly. Central forces are likely to be deployed in these areas immediately on their arrival on April 20. “The forces will march in the areas so that their presence provides a sense of security to the voters,” Sen said.

The process of identifying sensitive areas has also begun. A list will soon be sent to the chief electoral officer’s office.

The communication network of the police and the district administrations is being spruced up. Satellite phones will be installed in districts like Bankura, which are beset by communication problems. The Election Commission is trying to procure wireless sets for distribution among the police and polling personnel.

Sen pointed out that reports of violence incidents, like the one in Jangipur on Friday, were being sent to the Election Commission. “I am satisfied with the action taken by the police,” Sen said.

Apprehending an escalation in poll-related violence, Sen said he would hold another round of talks with the parties in the fray. “I will convene two meetings very soon — one with the recognised political parties and another with the non-recognised ones,” he said.

   

 
 
ONE KILLED, 2 INJURED IN CAR CRASH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
The driver was killed and two others were seriously injured when an Ambassador carrying over eight people was hit by a truck, early on Saturday morning in front of Maheshtala Dakghar, South 24 Parganas.

Swapan Dey, a doctor, was travelling with his wife, children and in-laws when their car was hit by a truck on Budge Budge Trunk Road at around 5.30 am on Saturday.

The rear of the truck rammed into the front right side of the car, immediately killing the 35-year-old driver Debesh Mallik. Sister-in-law Sonali Ghosh, 32, was taken to hospital, where she is in a critical condition. Mother-in-law Pratima Ghosh, 60, too was admitted to hospital with severe head injuries.

Eyewitnesses said due to the impact of the collision, the roof of the car was smashed. “The truck was travelling at a very high speed, when, all of a sudden, it swerved right into the path of the car in the opposite lane,” said a local resident, adding: “The driver lost control and the car mounted the adjacent footpath.”

The truck driver fled with his vehicle. Local residents helped ferry the injured to nearby hospitals. Swapan Dey and his family were on their way to Dharmatala, where they were to board a bus for Mayapur, when the accident occurred.

   

 
 
JEWELLERS REFUSE TO SHIFT BASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
The jewellers of Bowbazar are reluctant to shift to the Bypass, where the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) is developing a jewellery park.

The Swarnakar Bachao Samity has cited security reasons for its refusal to shift. “It is unfortunate that the government is developing a project for us without taking our opinion. The project, as planned by the government, is faulty,” said Pradip Ghosh, the Samity secretary.

The jewellers want to discuss the issue with the government before construction of the park starts. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had laid the foundation stone of the park, called Mani Kanchan, in March.

WBIDC managing director D.P. Patra said he would hold a meeting with the jewellers in this regard soon.

   

 
 
MOB ASSAULTS SUSPECTS, 1 DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
One person was killed and another sustained serious injuries on Saturday morning when they were assaulted by a mob, under suspicion of involvement in the murder of a schoolgirl at Garaipur village in the Islampur police station area.

According to the police, Papiya Chowdhury, a student of Class IV, had been missing since April 7 from the village. Papiya’s neighbours suspected some villagers, including Babulal Mondal and Anil Mondal, who allegedly had connections with a flesh trade racket.

The body of the girl was found in a nearby bush on Friday. As the news spread, the villagers raided the houses of all four suspects. While two of them managed to flee, Babulal and Anil were caught and beaten up.

Babulal succumbed to his injuries while Anil is fighting for his life at a hospital. According to sub-divisional police officer Prasun Banerjee, a picket has been posted in the village.

   

 
 
BENGALI AUTHORS BROUGHT TO BOOK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 14: 
Authors put in a ritual appearance in College Street on Saturday to usher in the Bengali new year. Writers like Sunil Ganguly, Dibyendu Palit, Shankar, Prafulla Roy and a host of others joined the adda sessions and were treated to sandesh and coconut water. But that didn’t improve matters for the beleaguered Bengali publishing industry. The figures speak for themselves.

Ananda Publishers brought out 11 new titles this Poila Boishakh, while another major publishing house, Dey’s, had only four to their credit.

However, both Ananda and Dey’s appear to be unfazed. “It would be wrong to draw the conclusion that there is a decline in the number of books published,” says Badal Bose of the Ananda group. “The fact is that ever since the Book Fair came into existence from 1975, both authors and publishers have been pressured to bring out new books at that time.”

Till the mid-80’s, Dey’s would bring out at least 20 to 25 new titles on Poila Baishakh day. By the mid-90’s, it had dropped to only 10 to 12, and the situation remains unchanged. The Ananda group brought out 60 new titles for the book fair, against 11 for Poila Baishakh, while Dey’s brought out 100 during the former and four for the latter. The major publishing houses in the city aim at bringing out about 80 to 100 new titles each year. However, most fall short of this target by about 10 titles. Titles which fail to make the deadline are released during Poila Baishakh.

Some of Ananda’s new titles include Sunil Ganguli’s first comic book titled Bhayankar Sundor and the Bengali translation of Tintin and the Lake of the Sharks (Hangor Hroder Bibhishika)

“The decrease in the number of new publications for Poila Boishakh is nothing new,” said Sudhangshu Dey, managing director of Dey’s Publishing. “One should keep in mind the fact that the sale of new titles at the book fair has increased.” Dey feels that the trend of eight to 10 per cent of a house’s new titles coming out during the Bengali New Year will not decrease any further.

   

 
 
MILITANTS KILL SEVEN KUKIS IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, April 14: 
Seven Kuki villagers were shot dead and nine others seriously injured in a joint attack by suspected National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and Kuki Revolutionary Army militants in Awang Keithelmanbi village under Kangpokpi subdivision on Thursday night.

The bodies of six villagers were found yesterday, while 10 injured persons have been admitted to hospital at Kangpokpi.

Though three persons were later shifted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences here last night, one of them died.

Sources said over 40 heavily-armed militants raided the village at 10 pm, seeking Kuki National Front (Military Council) rebels in the area.

The militants surrounded the village and blocked all escape routes before overpowering the village guards and systematically searching the houses for cadre from the rival outfit.

They took away 16 men from Awang Keithelmanbi to the adjoining village of Phoibung, three km away. There the victims were shot at after they were made to lie on the ground.

Six of them died on the spot. Police sources said some village guards were among those killed.

The villagers informed the Kangpokpi police station yesterday afternoon and a team, led by additional director-general of police C. Peter Ngahanyui, rushed to the site this morning.

Security has been tightened in the area and a hunt was launched jointly by the Assam Rifles, CRPF and Manipur Rifles personnel to nab the assailants.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) A. Romenkumar Singh told The Telegraph today that the situation is under control. A case has been registered at the Kangpokpi police station and investigation into the killing has started, he added.

Singh said the security forces deployed in the area have been alerted.

Awang Keithelmanbi is a large village with more than 500 houses. The villagers denied sheltering any Kuki militant in their midst.

Observers said Thursday’s attack may create a serious setback to the Naga-Kuki conflict. More than 2,000 people died in the ethnic violence that erupted in 1992. But tension between the two minor tribal groups in the state has subsided over the past couple of years.

However, this week’s killing may not spark off a fresh ethnic conflict because the Kuki Revolutionary Army and the NSCN (I-M) — outfits belonging to the Kuki and Naga ethnic groups respectively — conducted the raid jointly, the observers added.

   

 
 
CONGRESS BICKERS OVER TRIPURA BYPOLL NOMINEE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 14: 
Complications have surfaced over the issue of Congress nomination to the crucial Banamalipur Assembly constituency, which will face byelection in less than a month.

The PCC has forwarded the name of Mahitosh Saha, brother of slain sitting Congress MLA Madhusudan alias Bhola Saha as the party’s nominee for the bypoll. But the dissident faction of the PCC opposed to president Birajit Sinha later sent the name of reputed dental surgeon and chief of the doctors’ cell Manik Saha.

Besides, the women’s front of the party has also demanded the nomination of state unit president and former minister Laxmi Nag for the byelection.

Sources in the PCC said the followers of the slain MLA were demanding nomination in favour of his brother Mahitosh Saha on the ground that a latent “sympathy wave” would help him sail through. However, sources described the idea of sympathy wave “illusory” and said Saha was a “greenhorn in politics and in a constituency dominated by educated middle class voters in the heart of the town required a candidate with a clean image and good educational background.’’

Sources also said Saha’s followers had mounted pressure on senior party leaders, including the sitting MLA and former working president Kashiram Reang, to sign a letter proposing Mahitosh Saha’s name. Reang has reportedly complained to the party high command regarding it.

Sources said the AICC general secretary had categorically told Mahitosh Saha’s supporters that had only one name been proposed he would have cleared it but a decision had to be taken “carefully” now because two names had been forwarded to the party high command. Saha’s followers have started making frantic telephone calls to Manik Saha and Laxmi Nag asking them to withdraw their names, sources added.

The state unit of the Trinamul Congress is fielding party convenor Ratan Chakraborty as the candidate as party supremo Mamata Banerjee has already cleared his name. She has also addressed a letter to AICC president Sonia Gandhi requesting her to allot the seat to the Trinamul Congress.

Sources in the Trinamul Congress said even in a triangular contest, Ratan Chakraborty would win the seat which he had won twice in 1988 and 1993. During his tenure as sports and information minister for five years Ratan Chakraborty was the lone minister of the Congress-TUJS coalition government.

Koshala demand flayed

Orissa revenue minister Biswabhushan Harichandan has condemned the demand for a separate Koshala state, saying the people of Orissa would never allow its division, reports PTI from Bhubaneswar.

This type of attitude should be condemned and the people of the state should remain united, Harichandan said while speaking at a seminar in Bhubaneswar yesterday. Former MP and a prominent leader from western Orissa, Patitapaban Pradhan, said he also never supported carving out of the separate Koshala state.

However, Pradhan urged the state government to look into the issue sincerely while pointing out that regional imbalance and disproportionate investment of funds had given rise to separatist attitude in the minds of the youth.

The government should undertake development works to remove regional imbalance, he said.

The issue hit the headlines once again after the statement of a ruling BJP member, Balgopal Mishra, sparked a furore in the Assembly.

   

 
 
TWO NLFT INSURGENTS GUNNED DOWN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 14: 
One NLFT collaborator was shot dead by rival All-Tripura Tiger Force militants while CRPF jawans gunned down a hardcore NLFT rebel in South Tripura.

Police sources said Tiger Force rebels, trying to regain lost “areas” from the rival NLFT, raided the Madhya Bisrambari village under Jirania police station yesterday.

The militants stormed the house of one Ranjit Debbarma (35), a listed collaborator of the NLFT and shot him from point blank range. Police personnel from Jirania later visited the spot and recovered the body.

In a separate incident, a group of CRPF jawans shot dead Sadhan Jamatya (25), a hardcore NLFT rebel, following a brief encounter in Toiharchong area under South Tripura’s Taidu police station.

Police sources said jawans of the CPF’s 23rd battalion reached Toiharchong to carry out combing operations. On seeing the patrol party, the militants opened fire from the top of a hill. The CRPF retaliated killing Jamatya.

A large quantity of ammunition and “tax” receipts were recovered from him. Sources said the slain militant was involved in an ambush on CRPF jawans on March 3 in which 11 CRPF jawans and two civilian drivers were killed by NLFT rebels.

Security forces would continue their operations to flush out militants from the base areas, sources added.

Besides, a major realignment of forces among the militants is also on the cards as a large section of NLFT rebels, specially those belonging to the Jamatya tribal community, have clashed with the outfit leadership.

“They have already started negotiating with the rival All-Tripura Tiger Force and may join it soon,’’ sources said, adding that “fear of clashes between the Tiger Force and the NLFT also continues to stalk the hills as eight militants belonging to the official and the dissident factions of the NLFT have died in a series of clashes.’’ Sources said further clashes were likely.

Gas agent killed: An LPG gas agent and kerosene dealer of Tadubi was shot dead on Thursday in front of his shop at Singjamei in Imphal, reports our Imphal correspondent. He has been identified as Chongtham Iboyaima. Five thugs, who came in a Maruti car, fired on Iboyaima from a carbine. He was declared dead in hospital.

   
 

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