Buddha gets security rap from Advani
Kamptapur-NE nexus uncovered
Staff surprised, minister miffed
Mob manhandles Nadia DM
One lynched after market hold-up
Chaos over exam paper
Rs 100 crore to match missionary drive
Sniffing polls, BJP allies ready for bargain hunt
Wary troops lift siege on mosque
Delhi banks on ‘safe’ Pervez

New Delhi, May 30: 
Home minister L.K. Advani today told chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that Bengal was not doing enough to curb ISI activities in the state. Bhattacharjee, who had gone to North Block to pay a “courtesy call” on the home minister, assured Advani that his government was ready for a “joint operation” with the Centre to rein in Pakistan’s external intelligence agency.

Mixing courtesy with business, Bhattacharjee began his day early, meeting Advani in the morning and President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the evening.

The chief minister refused to talk about his discussions with Vajpayee and asked reporters to be patient till Friday when he will hold a news conference.

Bhattacharjee was more forthcoming about his talks with the home minister with whom he had a 25-minute meeting. Though a courtesy call, Bhattacharjee discussed security matters with Advani and expressed concern about the increasing activities of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), which is being trained by Northeast militants, including those from the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa). The chief minister voiced fears on the entry of the Naxalite People’s War Group in violence-ravaged Midnapore.

Advani is believed to have ticked off Bhattacharjee on the internal security front and alerted him on the mushrooming of mosques and madarsas along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangla borders. The home minister is understood to have told the chief minister these places of worship, constructed with “unaccounted for foreign funds”, have become a refuge for fundamentalists.

Last year, Advani had conveyed similar concerns to Bhattacharjee when he was the home minister under Jyoti Basu. At that time, an in-principle decision was taken to depute Central intelligence officers to train their counterparts in Bengal on combating the threat from fundamentalists and the ISI. Advani had also asked Bhattacharjee to take steps to stem the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

At today’s meetings, Bhattacharjee appeared to have shared the Centre’s concern regarding internal security in Bengal and asked the home minister for 12 more BSF battalions in addition to the existing 22 manning the Indo-Bangla border. This concern has stemmed from the Pyrdiwah incident in Meghalaya where the Bangladesh Rifles had “captured” the outpost. The home minister has agreed to reinforce BSF security personnel.

Asked whether he had raised Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee’s allegation that the Left Front had rigged the elections, Bhattacharjee said: “The issue never arose in our talks.”

The chief minister will spend the next two days in the capital to attend the meetings of the CPM Politburo and the Central Committee. “We are taking stock of the political situation after the Assembly elections,” said a CPM Politburo member. The party’s main concern is its debacle in Kerala where the CPM-led Left Democratic Front suffered a humiliating defeat.

According to the CPM, the main reason behind the dismal performance of the LDF was the transfer of BJP (read RSS) votes to the Congress-led United Democratic Front. The Politburo also believes the UDF had unfairly blamed the E.K. Nayanar-led LDF government for the economic misfortunes in the state, whereas the policies were actually brought in by the NDA government at the Centre.


Siliguri, May 30: 
After the arrest of a hardcore militant from Cooch Behar, police have established links between the separatist Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and northeast extremist groups.

Cooch Behar superintendent of police Kailash Chandra Meena said, acting on a tip-off, police arrested Dinabandhu Burman (29), a KLO activist, from Matabhanga on Monday night.

“Burman’s arrest has exposed the links between KLO, the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) and the United Liberation Front of Asom,” Meena said.

“During interrogation, Burman revealed that he had been part of a batch of 32 KLO trainees to have received training in the use of advanced arms from the Ulfa in their jungle hideouts in neighbouring Bhutan. His was the second batch.”

Burman was trained to use the 9 mm pistol, AK-56, SLR and universal machine gun (UMG) at the Ulfa’s central headquarters in Sandupjungkar in south-eastern Bhutan.

The district police chief said the batch was trained by senior KLO and Ulfa commanders for two months. Ulfa commander Himanshu Choliya was the main instructor.

He was aided by KLO commander Mihir Das and Pabitra Singha.

Burman revealed that the elusive KLO chairman and commander-in-chief Jeevan Singh alias Tamir Das had supervised the training session at the Ulfa headquarters between July and August in 1997. The KLO activist said the batch was later sent to Ulfa’s Dewthang area camp for training in hand-to-hand combat for another two months.

After that, the trainees spent three years at Ulfa’s central headquarters learning guerrilla warfare and survival skills. The KLO trainees periodically took part in “joint Ulfa-KLO operations” both in Assam and north Bengal over the past two years, Burman revealed.

He admitted that he “surfaced” and returned to his native village, GB Khota in Matabhanga police station, earlier this year.

“We suspect Burman had been acting as a “talent-spotter” for the militant organisation looking for new recruits among the Rajbonshi youths in the district,” Meena said.

“Burman has revealed that while the KLO is the extremist wing, the KPP and the All Kamtapur Students’ Union present the moderate facade. But the three organisations are inter-linked and are closely aided by the Ulfa and a Bodo militant outfit,” Meena said.

Police found out during interrogation that the KLO has at its disposal an arsenal of sophisticated arms, including AK series assault rifles and 9 mm pistols.

“The militant organisation was on a recruitment spree, looking to infuse new blood into the guerrilla outfit. The arrest is a major breakthrough for the Cooch Behar police. We now have some specified information on the KLO and its activists and contact persons in the district. We expect to nab other re-surfaced KLO hardcore activists holed up in the district,” the district police chief added.


Calcutta, May 30: 
Some accounts section employees strolling in late; those who had come on time, reading newspapers; some of them not even recognising their ultimate boss.

When municipal affairs and urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya paid a surprise visit to one of his departmental offices at Poddar Court today, this was what he saw.

Though the minister found “90 per cent” of the employees coming in on time, what many of them did after coming in on time left him fuming.

“Why are you reading newspapers during office hours?” he asked his departmental staff.

“Please read newspapers during tiffin hours,” he told them, identifying himself when some of them failed to recognise him.

What the remaining 10 per cent did didn’t please him either.

There were at least nine employees absent after the government-imposed deadline, the minister told the media after coming back to his Writers’ chamber.

But he promised action on complaints; one deputy secretary of the mutation cell, against whom there were a number of complaints of corruption, has already been asked to go on leave and a probe is on against some of his subordinates.

The urban development minister isn’t too happy about the condition of Calcutta’s hawker-infested roads either.

“Even I sometimes stand the risk of missing trains because of encroachment on the approaches to Sealdah,” he confessed.

A meeting will soon be convened, where general managers of Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway and senior representatives from Calcutta Police and Calcutta Municipal Corporation will be present to discuss the hawker scenario, Bhattacharya added.

He admitted that there were surplus employees in CIT, HIT and CMDA.

“They will be shifted to the municipalities and corporations where more engineers and staff are needed,” the minister said.

Bhattacharya made it clear that his emphasis on work culture would not last only one surprise inspection; he will be meeting chairpersons of municipalities in a phased manner between June 11 and June 22 to discuss ways to speed up municipal work and increase collection of taxes.

Letters have already been sent informing them of the meetings.


Calcutta, May 30: 
Nadia district magistrate Vivek Bharadwaj was manhandled and his car damaged after a cyclist was run over on NH-34 under Shantipur police station last night.

Police had to fire two rounds in the air after an angry mob tried to pull Bharadwaj out of his car. Twenty-four people were arrested after night-long raids on Tuesday and charged with “rioting” and manhandling the magistrate.

Police said two friends, Linton and Samarjit, were returning home on cycles late on Tuesday night, when a truck hit them from behind. Linton died on the spot. Samarjit was seriously injured. The truck driver managed to escape.

Seeing the youths lying in a pool of blood, some local youths stopped a passing car on the highway and took them to a nearby hospital. While Samarjit was admitted to the hospital, Linton was declared “brought dead”.

District police said immediately after the accident, around 200 local residents squatted on the highway with Linton’s body and refused to hand it body over to the police. Local people also stopped Bharadwaj’s car to demand “immediate action against the rising number of road accidents on the highway”.

Bharadwaj got off the car and tried to pacify the mob, but they attacked him. His bodyguards pushed him inside the car and tried to speed away, but they tried to pull him out and blocked his car.

Police fired in the air to disperse the mob. The magistrate was taken home through another route.

Jawan shoots colleague

A BSF jawan was shot dead by his colleague after a late-night drunken brawl inside the BSF barracks at Swarupnagar in North 24-Parganas on Tuesday. The killer jawan is absconding.

Police said Ashok Singh Gaekwad and Bishnupada Sarangi quarrelled after a drinking bout. An eyewitness said Gaekwad stormed into Sarangi’s room around 6.30 am on Wednesday and fired at him from his self-loading rifle (LR), killing him on the spot. Search operations have been launched to nab the jawan.


Siliguri, May 30: 
A mob today lynched a wanted criminal and injured two others when they attempted to rob a shop inside Hong Market here.

Additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, Ajay Kumar, said: “Three criminals came to the busy market this afternoon and tried to rob a shopkeeper at gun-point. On hearing the commotion, other shopkeepers rushed to the spot and beat the three up. While Raju Saha (26), who was wanted in a kidnap case, died in hospital, another miscreant, Roshan Khawas, has been hospitalised in critical condition. The third criminal managed to flee.” He added that a pipe-gun and some live cartridges were recovered from them.


Midnapore, May 30: 
Chaos reigned in examination centres in at least 25 colleges under Vidyasagar University today as no question was set under the old syllabus for the eighth paper of Bengali (Hons) for the BA Part-II examination.

In Belda College, students submitted blank answer papers in protest and rushed to the street to block the Digha-Kharagpur road.

In Egra College, examinees alleged that they were locked from outside by the college authority and made to write answers forcibly. In Sabong College, students were given an extra hour to finish writing their exams.

Examinees in other colleges ransacked their centres and then wrote their answers under protest. SFI demonstrated in front of the controller of examination’s room on the university campus.


Guwahati, May 30: 
The Asom Satra Mahasabha, a federation of nearly 200 satras (Vaishnavite monasteries), today announced the creation of a Rs 100-crore corpus fund to “match” the social work done by missionaries with the alleged objective of luring people to Christianity.

Accusing the missionaries with fuelling secessionism in the Northeast and resorting to forced conversion, newly-elected mahasabha president Narayan Chandra Deva Goswami said his organisation would not sit and watch people’s religious rights being tampered with.

The RSS had earlier branded the missionaries “foot soldiers of the western army”.

Toeing the RSS line, Goswami said forced conversion by the missionaries had led to “instability” in the region. However, he failed to substantiate his allegation that the missionaries were abetting insurgency.

“We are not against wilful conversion. But nobody should be coerced into changing his or her religion,” Goswami said.

The mahasabha president, also the satradhikar of the Natun Kamalabari Satra in Majuli, said the issue was discussed at the biennial meeting of his organisation here recently.

Concerned over the spread of Christianity in Majuli, the seat of Vaishnavite culture, the VHP has launched a campaign against missionaries in the world’s largest river island. Not long ago, activists of the Bajrang Dal barred missionaries entry into certain villages. The Sangh parivar even organised a rally in which nearly 200 Mising families were “reconverted” to Hinduism.

Goswami said the majority of those who had converted to Christianity were poor people who had been lured by the missionaries with money and other material benefits. He said missionaries were active in Majuli, Doomdooma, Goalpara and in hundreds of tea estates across Assam.

The satradhikar, however, admitted that “class division in Hindu society” was partly responsible for the conversions. He said people who were being discriminated against had switched allegiance to the missionaries for “varied benefits”.

Goswami said the corpus fund floated by his organisation would be used to establish schools and hospitals in different parts of the state. He said several other projects were in the pipeline. “Donations are being collected for the corpus fund,” the satradhikar said.

Goswami said the biennial meeting here discussed steps to preserve the identity of Assamese society in general and the satras in particular. “The satras, which have exercised control over the rural masses till now, will try to increase their hold on the urban population,” he added.

The satradhikars who attended the meet also discussed ways to preserve sattriya culture and the need to strengthen it. The mahasabha has already published English translations of kirtans and books in Hindi on the life and teachings of Srimanta Sankardev and his greatest disciple, Madhavdev.


New Delhi, May 30: 
The BJP is working overtime to retrieve the political ground it had lost during the 1999 Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh, but the party could face a tough time from its allies in the state.

Sensing that polls might be held before the year ends, major allies like the Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP) and the Kisan Mazdoor Bahujan Party (KMBP) — better known as the Jantantrik Bahujan Samaj Party— have begun positioning themselves to bargain for seats.

LCP leader and power minister Naresh Aggarwal had hosted a convention of the Vaish Samaj (traders’ community) in the capital last month. The meet was attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who broke a time-honoured BJP convention of not participating in caste-based functions. Vajpayee was the chief guest at the meet.

Aggarwal, who has projected himself as the “de jure” leader of the Vaish community, has also increased its numerical percentage by including backward castes like the Tellis and Sonars, who are also professional traders. The trader community accounts for 3 per cent of the state’s population. BJP sources said Aggrawal has already laid claim on 60 of the 400-odd seats in the Assembly.

Not to be left behind, Choudhury Narendra Singh, the KMBP president and Uttar Pradesh food and civil supplies minister, today called on home minister L.K. Advani and former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre to discuss the political scenario in the heartland. According to KMBP sources, both leaders expressed concern at the BJP’s prospects.

The sources said Choudhury made it clear to Advani and Thakre that while the coalition had to be kept intact until the elections, it was also imperative to evolve better coordination between the BJP and its allies.

“For instance, we are kept in the dark about important moves like the BJP’s talks with Ajit Singh for an alliance in west Uttar Pradesh. For the sake of Uttar Pradesh’s political stability and development, we revolted against our leader (Mayavati of the Bahujan Samaj Party) and supported the BJP. We also ensured that, for the first time since 1989, a government was able to continue for its full tenure in the state. But whether the alliance will continue during the polls depends on the BJP’s thinking,” they said.

Asked if the KMBP had assessed the number of seats it would contest, sources said this would depend on whether it had a membership of at least 10,000 in each Assembly constituency.

The party has convened a four-day workers’ convention at Gadmukhteshwar near Delhi from June 9 to go over its policies and programmes. A special session will discuss its election strategies. Chief among them will be the “viability” of going with the BJP or exploring other options.


Srinagar, May 30: 
Security forces tonight lifted the siege on a mosque in Kashmir where a couple of Lashkar-e-Toiba militants have holed up after a shootout.

The militants took shelter in the Jamia mosque at Kharwara village in southern Pulwama district after security forces raided the hamlet early in the morning.

A security official said army and special operations group troops had been withdrawn. “This has been done to protect the mosque,” the official said. “We will eliminate the two militants at some other place,” he added.

An official of Rashtriya Rifles said the troops, who were tipped off on the whereabouts of the militants, raided Kharwara village — 7 km from Shopian town — and came under heavy firing. “We had specific information on the presence of the Lashkar militants in a house and we raided it. The militants opened fire on the search party,” the official added. A soldier and a special police officer were killed.

The militants then entered the mosque, forcing the securitymen to cordon it off. “Troops will not storm the mosque,” said Pulwama superintendent of police Mukesh Kumar. “We sent village elders into the mosque to talk to the militants. But they refused to surrender.”

The securitymen tried to draw the militants into a battle of attrition. Villagers said the jawans fired teargas shells to force them out. But the commanders were determined not to enter the place of worship. “We will not enter. We are trying to exhaust their ammunition. We will wait,” said the commanding officer of 1 Rashtriya Rifles, G.S. Baidiwan.

The decision to lift the 12-hour siege was taken after a series of meetings between bureaucrats, police and security officials.

Elsewhere in the valley, militants shot dead Majid Rizvi, manager of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, at Nai Basti in Anantnag.

Soldier surrenders

A Pakistani soldier surrendered before the army in Khour sector of Jammu region last night, a police spokesman said here today. Naik Makar Hussain of 2 Sindh regiment also laid down arms, including an assault rifle and its three magazines, the spokesman said. Some Pakistani currency was also recovered from him.    

New Delhi, May 30: 
The assessment that Pervez Musharraf will remain in power for at least the next three years or so appears to be the main reason behind Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s invitation to the Pakistan chief executive.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh indicated as much to members of Parliament’s Committee on External Affairs this afternoon when he tried to explain the rationale behind India’s decision to resume talks with its neighbour.

Although most MPs who attended the meeting welcomed the invitation and appreciated the move to resume negotiations with Islamabad, some were sceptical of the outcome. “Why are you inviting Musharraf when you will only end up with a knife in your back?” Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena MPs asked.

Referring to Vajpayee’s bus-ride to Lahore in February 1999 which was soon followed by the Kargil standoff, they argued that any attempt to engage with Pakistan was futile.

Some also raised doubts about whether successive governments in Pakistan would honour any agreement that Vajpayee and Musharraf entered into. “What is the guarantee that there will not be another coup in Pakistan that dislodges Musharraf from power?” they said. “And will the new regime in Islamabad then honour any agreement that Musharraf enters into with India?”

Singh conceded that it was a calculated risk that India had to take. He told the committee members that Delhi believed Musharraf would stay in power for at least the next three years and there were no indications that his authority will be challenged from any quarters in this period.

“We may have our own views about a military regime. But what kind of a government Pakistan wants to have is an internal matter and should be decided by the people of that country. We are engaging with whoever is the head of government in Pakistan,” Singh is reported to have said.

Muttahida Quami Movement leader Altaf Hussein, who has been a constant irritant and source of embarrassment for successive governments in Islamabad, has also expressed his desire to come to India in the wake of the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit.

In an interview with Newswallahs — a London-based television and radio news production house — Hussein said he would soon write to Vajpayee to be allowed to come to India and tell the people here about the plight of the mohajirs in Pakistan.

Vajpayee today said he is satisfied with Musharraf’s response. “I am satisfied with his reply,” he said after returning from his trip to Manali.


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