Body bags in ‘torture-mark’ tussle
Custody deaths, says BSF chief
Rail budget rides voice & noise
Metalled carpet for rally-a-day Basu
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, April 20: 
Preliminary reports suggest the flashpoint of the eruption in the east might have been an attempt to lay a footpath in a stretch “occupied” by India during the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Top officials in Delhi conceded off the record that the BSF had tried to carve a footpath connecting its Pyrdiwah outpost, the Meghalaya border unit which was besieged by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), to another centre in the state. If an attempt was made to “build” a road, it violates bilateral guidelines.

According to official survey records, Pyrdiwah, where the Indo-Bangla stand-off began, is referred to as Bangladeshi territory under the “adverse possession” of India. Similarly, Baroibari in Mancachar, where the BSF jawans were killed, is labelled Indian territory under the “adverse possession” of Bangladesh.

The official records show that 3,000 acres of Indian territory are under the “adverse possession” of Bangladesh, while over 3,500 acres of the neighbour are with the big brother.

Till 1971, Pyrdiwah was considered East Pakistan territory. A BSF outpost was created there only during the Liberation War. Indian security forces had chosen the land for training the “Mukti Bahini” fighting the Pakistani army.

But exchange of territory under “adverse possession” between the two “friendly” countries ran into hurdles due to a number of reasons. Chief among them is the need for a constitutional amendment in India.

Any decision by the government has to be ratified by Parliament where at least two-thirds support is required. This cannot be done in the absence of a consensus among various political forces which fear that any change would affect the status of the enclaves’ people, who are essentially part of the votebank now.

In its muted official response, India has so far termed the BDR action as “unilateral and unwarranted”. It has argued that since the two sides have set up a joint working group to settle the border dispute, the BDR action was not acceptable.

But India has not mentioned in public the footpath controversy. The guidelines stipulate that no “defensive construction”, which includes roads, should be constructed within 150 metres of the “zero line” — the agreed border.

It is learnt that the “defensive construction” continued despite protests from the Bangladesh side. Last weekend, the BDR entered Pyrdiwah and tried to stop the footpath construction by squatting on the area. Initially, there was no confrontation but the presence of a large number of BDR men sparked panic and wild rumours spread.

Reports flew to other areas that the BDR had forcibly taken possession of Pyrdiwah, prompting the bloody flare-up at Baroibari. India and Bangladesh share over 4,000 km of border. Of this, only 6.5 km of stretches in the Assam, Tripura and West Bengal sectors are yet to be demarcated.

The land boundary settlement work between India and Pakistan began soon after Partition in 1947. But the task in the east was left unfinished.

After the creation of Bangladesh, border negotiations were revived. The talks finally led to the 1974 Indira-Mujib agreement under which the two sides decided to demarcate the boundaries and exchange the enclaves. India has 111 enclaves in Bangladesh, while the latter has 51 enclaves.

Around two years ago, a joint survey was also done. However, after bamboo poles were put in place, the Indian side seemed reluctant to formalise the demarcation by constructing pillars.


Pyrdiwah, April 20: 
An inflammatory gust fanned the dying flames on the eastern frontier as Indian officers found “telltale marks of torture” on the bodies of 15 Border Security Force jawans killed allegedly by Bangladeshi troops.

The BSF initially refused to accept the bodies. The force relented late tonight but not before lodging a strong protest.

BSF director-general Gurbachan Jagat said in Shillong the bodies were received in “pathetic condition”. Seven of them were badly charred. Boiling water had been poured on the jawans and their limbs chopped off, he added.

Describing the killings as “a clear case of custody deaths”, Jagat said the jawans were severely tortured before being shot through the eye at point-blank range. He said he had information that the jawans were killed by Bangladesh Rifles, and not by villagers as suspected earlier.

He said a “mass cremation” would be held at Tura in Meghalaya tomorrow as “we don’t want the family members to see the bodies in such condition”.

Of the 15 bodies, seven have been identified, including that of deputy commandant B.R. Mondal. Two injured jawans are still being held captive by Bangladeshi troops.

Jagat, however, said truce will be maintained on the border. Echoing the government, he said: “Our friendly nations could have suffered” because of the “aberrations of individuals”. “But we’re still friends and maintaining excellent relations.”

The heavy artillery fell silent on the border after two days of fierce fighting, but the torture controversy fuelled fears of renewed clashes in Assam’s Mancachar.

The bodies were handed over to Colonel Gurcharan Singh at Mahendraganj in Meghalaya at 7.45 pm by Colonel Saddiqur Islam of the Bangladesh Rifles’ 8th battalion. A sort of a flag meeting was held in Mancachar to thrash out the wrangle over the “cause of death” of the jawans.

Dhubri deputy commissioner Gayatri Baruah confirmed that India had “accepted” the bodies. She said BSF would announce the acceptance tomorrow “after completing certain formalities”.

A BSF officer said Bangladesh Rifles has been asked to hand over the post-mortem reports of the jawans.

BSF jawans posted in Mancachar were furious when they heard of the “mutilation”. One jawan, who identified himself as Konwar, asked: “Why is the government taking such a soft stand? Is it afraid of Bangladesh?”

The Centre, which has so far been restrained in its response to the flare-up, might now be forced to toughen its stand. “No government will be able to accept the torture and mutilated bodies of its security forces,” a foreign ministry official said.

However, officially, the government struck a conciliatory note. A foreign ministry spokesman said the “unfortunate developments” could be the result of “local adventurism”.

In Pyrdiwah, from where Bangladeshi jawans had retreated yesterday, villagers returned to find their homes ransacked. There was graffiti on the walls of a church, saying “aita Bongo desh (this is Bangladesh) and joi Bangla (hail Bangladesh).


New Delhi, April 20: 
Never before has a railway budget been passed in the way it was done today: by voice vote and without a discussion.

As the Tehelka uproar crippled Parliament proceedings again, Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi had the budget adopted in the Lok Sabha by a louder shout of “ayes”.

The budget now moves to the Rajya Sabha and if disruptions continue there it will be considered passed after 14 days. On the other hand, if the disruptions end and the Opposition, which enjoys a majority in the Upper House, defeats the Bill, it returns to the Lok Sabha for approval. The Lower House can then pass the budget again and need not refer it back to the Rajya Sabha at all.

In the past, too, Speakers had been forced to get budgets passed without discussions. But the government and the Opposition had always arrived at an agreement. This is the first time that continuous acrimony between the treasury and Opposition benches have resulted in a budget being pushed through amid pandemonium.

In a last-ditch attempt this morning before the House assembled, Balayogi convened a meeting of parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan and Madhavrao Scindia, deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. But both stuck to their stands with the Congress determined not to cede ground unless the Centre agreed to a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe and the government terming it an impossible demand.

It was all over in 15 minutes. Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs rushed to the well of the House screaming “we want JPC”. Scindia later said the government should have realised that in a democracy, there was always some give and take.

Mahajan retorted, saying: “This is not give and take. This is just take and take. We have a constitutional obligation and had to get the budget passed before April 25.”

Before putting the budget to vote, Balayogi read out a brief statement, saying under the circumstances he was ruling out a discussion and “straightaway putting the demands to vote”. But he made his unhappiness clear. “This is a very unpleasant day for me,” he said.

Sources, however, said the Congress was not entirely against passing the railway budget as it did not want to send any wrong signal to Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee, the former railway minister who is now its ally in Bengal. If there is a discussion later in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress, sources said, might not vote against it.

Balayogi said he hoped the Tehelka standoff would not disrupt proceedings when the remaining money Bills are taken up. “At least, for the remainder of the scheduled business, the House should return to normalcy,” he said. “Obviously, I am very anguished over the way the railway budget had to be passed to meet the constitutional obligation of approving in a specific time frame.”

According to the schedule of pending business, the general budget would be put to vote on Monday and Tuesday and finance Bills on Thursday.


Dhuliyan (Murshidabad), April 20: 
A public rally a day by Jyoti Basu will keep the Opposition away — that must have been the doc’s advice for the Left Front to improve its flagging health.

But there’s a hitch: Jyoti Basu is not in the best of health and isn’t growing younger and the doc must have had certain prescriptions for him as well.

So the party did what it thought best: make Basu address a rally everyday but ensure as much comfort as possible for the 87-year-old comrade.

The result: stone-chips brought from nearby Pakur thrown on the brick-laid path, which would have been enough to take care of the ailing comrade’s back, and PWD rollers pressed into service in double quick time.

Never mind the tidy sum that the exchequer had to fork out so that the CPM’s star campaigner could do his bit for the party.

But there was a slight hitch there as well: evening out only the route Basu would take from the metalled road to the dais wouldn’t have made the villagers of nearby Diyapara overjoyed. So the stretch to the village had to go under the rollers as well, though the evened-out stretch petered out into the old village dirt-track after about 200 metres.

All this trouble, however, seems justified; even the cost of flying Basu into Murshidabad from Malda on Thursday and flying him out to Nadia on Saturday to address another rally there.

Comrade Madhu Bag, CPM district secretary, had just got into the groove as he reminded the crowd of the Left Front’s commitment to certain “fundamental issues” bothering the masses when the siren-wailing cars heralded Basu’s arrival at the Dhuliyan Circus Ground.

The crowd immediately turned its back on Comrade Bag and looked at the new improved road. “Look here, after all he’s going to come upto the dais. Clap when he greets you with a namaskar,” Bag told the crowd after repeated entreaties, underlining the importance of the issues he had raised, failed.

The 87-year-old man walked upto the dais with somewhat less-sprightly steps than of yore. He obliged the crowd — and Bag — by doing what Bag had predicted.

The crowd sat down but Bag spoke for only four more minutes. Basu, meanwhile, stretched out the creases of his kurta.

He mixed up his lines in the beginning, asking people to vote for the Left Front in the sixth West Bengal Assembly polls; the state saw its sixth Assembly polls some decades back. But no one minded.

Basu then glided into the 24-year-old government’s “achievements”: He mentioned irrigation, panchayati raj and even health and education.

Then he tore into the “unprincipled alliance” which had replaced another “unprincipled alliance”. The Trinamul Congress had erred by bringing the BJP to the state and the Congress is making a mistake by allying with them, he said.

The BJP was “uncivilised” as it attacked minorities. The Congress has been reduced to begging for a few more seats from its younger ally, Basu alleged. “But are they really in an alliance? I don’t think so,” he added, before asking the audience to vote for the Left in Bengal so that they can constitute a third front to capture Delhi.

When he sat down after speaking for 35 minutes, his face didn’t show the pain he complained about to his comrades when they asked him in the morning to touch on local issues during the rally.

“I can’t stand on my feet for more than 20-25 minutes at a stretch,” was what he had told them at the NTPC guest-house at Farakka.

But there were some tell-tale signs of his ill health.

“I don’t have the time to go into more details,” he said while going through the Left Front’s successes at the rally. “I’m not going into the statistics,” he said a few minutes later while highlighting his government’s “achievements” in the field of education.

A pressed-for-time ex-chief minister spoke for 20 minutes after the second refusal. His programme for the next 24 hours: More than half-a-day of well-deserved rest at the NTPC guest-house before he is flown to Ranaghat for Saturday’s only Jyoti Basu rally.




Maximum: 37.1°C (+1)
Minimum: 23.9°C (-1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 82%,
Minimum: 32%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 38°C.
Sunrise: 5.14 am
Sunset: 5.56 pm

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