The missing G in the Subhas jigsaw
Probe team punches holes in police trail
Opp. rethink on boycott
Subhas targets ‘jilted’ Trinamul
Muck whiff in playground
Stadium shadow on Panja meet
SCHOOL COLLAPSE KILLS 2 CHILDREN
Flare-up jute mill reopens
Hooghly fears flood, yet again
Delhi, Islamabad on nuke truce road

 
 
THE MISSING G IN THE SUBHAS JIGSAW 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Bada Khokha said he knew only Gobindo; Jayanta Biswas said people stayed incognito at the Salt Lake stadium youth hostel courtesy Gobindo; most of the others arrested in Tuesday night’s swoop on the stadium premises also confessed that they were “taken care of” by Gobindo.

So who is this Gobindo?

Gobindo Dey is a free-wheeling land dealer operating from Beleghata, say police. But Gobindo has another, and more important, identity. He is one of transport and sports minister Subhas Chakraborty’s henchmen, controlling musclepower in Tiljala, Topsia, Kadapara, Chingrihata and other areas surrounding the Salt Lake stadium and parts of Howrah. Gobindo is also a member of the Beleghata local committee of the CPM.

“He harbours criminals and puts them to good use for political purposes,” said a police official investigating the case. The “political purposes” would no doubt be to the benefit of his mentor, Chakraborty.

So what about Chakraborty’s claim that he doesn’t know any of the criminals arrested by Howrah police? “That’s possibly correct,” the officer said. “It is not possible for him to know all of them personally, even if they have been working on his political agenda.”

Sources at the stadium confirmed that it was on Gobindo’s recommendation that people used to stay indefinitely at the youth hostel. “He simply informed the caretakers there that some people would stay in one of the dormitories and the doors would be opened for them,” a groundsman said.

Police say most of the criminals arrested from the stadium had, in fact, been provided shelter by Gobindo. “The stadium is the transport minister’s backyard. So, since he was closely associated with him, Gobindo wielded tremendous clout in the stadium,” an official said.

The police suspect that one of the criminals who managed to escape from the stadium on the night of the raid, Meghnath Haldar, is currently in Gobindo’s “safe custody”. Meghnath had been on the run for the last few months after he shot another antisocial, Indra Dolui, near Ruby Hospital.

According to investigations conducted by the police, Meghnath was sheltered in the stadium until the heat died down. Some of the criminals arrested on Tuesday have in fact told the police that both Haldar and Toton were staying in the youth hostel though their names did not figure in any of the registers. “It is just not possible that Subhas Chakraborty was not aware of this practice of harbouring criminals at the stadium,” an officer admitted. “To be fair to him, he perhaps did not personally know these people. But this had become such a common practice that I would be surprised if it had escaped his notice.”

Police sources said Goutam Roy, alias Bada Khokha, who was on the run after killing Shibpur gangster Bapi Dhara last March, had confessed during interrogation that he had sought the help of Gobindo. It is still not clear when the patronage was provided, but sources confirm that he was picked up from Salt Lake stadium on Tuesday and not from anywhere else as the police say officially.

Another criminal, Tarun Chakraborty, alias Toton, of Dum Dum is known to be “extremely close” to one of Chakraborty’s private secretaries. He has confessed as much to the police. “The nexus between politicians and criminals is no secret,” said an official. “It is just Chakraborty’s bad luck that they got picked up from his backyard.”

The others who have been arrested have more than a dozen cases of murder, extortion and rioting against them at Bally, Shibpur, Golabari and Malipachghora police stations.

   

 
 
PROBE TEAM PUNCHES HOLES IN POLICE TRAIL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Arms and the men. This is the point that the probe team is investigating and are coming up with gaping holes in the theory put forward by the Howrah police.

In the wake of Howrah police’s sensational swoop on the Salt Lake Stadium and “elsewhere” which netted 16 criminals and its subsequent “clarification” that only four of them were picked up from the “ramps” of the stadium and not from the youth hostel, the director-general of police had ordered a probe. The inspector-general of police (south Bengal) was entrusted with the job. One of the first things that they set about checking was the modus operandi of the entire operation and cross-checking it with their own findings.

Initially, the Howrah police had said that 16 criminals had been arrested. It was scaled down to 11 a day later. Of them, they said, only four were picked up from the ramps of the stadium.

But what was not altered was their initial briefing about the arms seized. The Howrah police had said that nine revolvers and 24 rounds of bullets were seized from the criminals “from the premises of the Salt Lake stadium”.

So, were only four of the criminals brandishing the nine pistols and the other seven, all “deadly” antisocials with murder charges against them, roaming around unarmed? Most officials find this a bit difficult to believe. As also the Howrah police’s apparent “whitewash” of Tuesday night’s events.

On Wednesday morning, when a team from the Bidhannagar (south) police station visited the stadium to confirm the details of the Howrah raid, this is what they were told by the staff: the police encircled a dormitory, broke through the window and finally arrested the criminals.

The Bidhannagar police found the broken window, inspected the room with its sagging mosquito nets, slippers lying strewn all over the place and clothes lying on the floor. All this to suggest some “sudden activity” —- either the inmates were taken by surprise and then captured or even of an escape in a hurry. The Howrah police disclaim that they raided the dormitory and say that they picked up the four criminals from the ramps. So, where are the inmates of that particular dormitory which people claim was broken into?

Since the night of the raid, no one has returned to the dormitory. So, where have they disappeared leaving their clothing and footwear all over the place? Ask the staff today and they look at you in amazement as though wondering why they are being asked such obvious questions.

But more amazing is the fact that the wife and child of one of the criminals was picked up by the police on Tuesday night. Till now, the Howrah police have not denied this piece of information. So, what were they doing there all by themselves?

Ask the Howrah police and they sidestep the issue by simply saying: they were innocent people, so we just let them off. Not a word on the criminal himself even though there was enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that he had been staying there with his family.

   

 
 
OPP. RETHINK ON BOYCOTT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Sensing that the government is in a bind over the stadium scandal, the Opposition today sent out signals that it was reconsidering the decision to boycott the Assembly for effectively confronting the Left Front.

On the first day of the three-day boycott today, the Opposition appeared to have realised that its absence from the House, especially on Monday when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya will make a statement, would actually provide the beleaguered government with precious breathing space.

Leader of Opposition, Pankaj Banerjee, today indicated that the Trinamul legislature party may call off its boycott on Monday to attend the Assembly House. The party will have discussions with ally Congress on this issue.

“We have two more days to go before the chief minister gives his statement. Also, there is the education budget which is very important for us. We will take a decision after holding a discussion among ourselves,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee said his party will also hold talks with the Congress Legislature Party and seek its opinion.

The decision to boycott the Assembly proceedings for three days was taken jointly by both parties before it was announced by Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee at a news conference yesterday.

Banerjee held a meeting with Atish Sinha, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, this afternoon where the possibility of a rethink on the boycott was discussed. “I told Pankaj (Banerjee) that frequent changes of decisions does not speak well. A decision should be taken carefully and whatever it is should be adhered to,” Sinha said.

He said Banerjee informed him about the chief minister’s statement and the education budget and said a rethink on the boycott was necessary.

“There are so many important things in the House on Monday that we are really undecided on the boycott,” Sinha added.

He is leaving for Delhi tonight and has asked Banerjee to contact senior Congress MLA like Gyan Singh Sohanpal and CLP chief whip Asit Mitra, if there is a decision to call off the boycott.

Trinamul’s decision to boycott the House in protest against the “attack” on its MLAs by Assembly guards yesterday was perceived as “hasty” by several Congress leaders.

They pointed out that Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim asked the chief minister to make a statement in the House on Monday on the basis of the demand of SUCI legislator Debaprasad Sarkar.

“If we had not boycotted the House, we, as a much stronger force, could have extracted the statement from the chief minister. We missed the opportunity by not attending the House,” said Abdul Mannan, Congress MLA.

Banerjee criticised Bhattacharjee saying that he should have made a statement suo moto yesterday itself.

   

 
 
SUBHAS TARGETS ‘JILTED’ TRINAMUL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Transport and sports minister Subhas Chakraborty today said the raid on the Salt Lake stadium on Tuesday night was a deep-rooted “political conspiracy” instigated by the Trinamul Congress.

Chakraborty, who has an office in the stadium and who has been alleged to have been harbouring criminals there, said no one was arrested from the youth hostel.

The minister, who returned from New Delhi today, blamed the media as well for “playing to the Trinamul’s tune”.

“They (Trinamul) had thought that I would be expelled from the CPM before the elections and fight alongside them. They are very disappointed with the poll results and have hatched this plot against me,” he said.

“The very issue of antisocials staying in the country’s largest youth hostel is a lie. The CPM is not in such a bad shape that we will harbour criminal elements,” Chakraborty added.

The minister was piqued by the police, who, he said, should have informed his department before entering the stadium. “If it was a question of arresting terrorists, I would have stood by the police. But this is a routine, local law and order matter and the police have to inform us,” he asserted.

Initially dismissing queries on the entire episode by pointing out that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would make an official statement in the Assembly on Monday, Chakraborty later decided to hold forth.

According to him:

The Howrah superintendent of police has not said that arrests were made from the youth hostel

No arms were seized from the stadium premises

Some of those arrested on Tuesday night ran inside the stadium after being chased by the police and were arrested from there

There was also the possibility that Trinamul could have “planted” antisocials inside the hostel

Broken window panes are a regular feature in the youth hostel which is crying for maintenance money

Chakraborty said he had spoken to Bhattacharjee and other leaders such as Anil Biswas and Jyoti Basu. “Why should I tell you what we spoke about? I can only tell you that my party and the government are standing firm beside me,” he said.

Chakraborty said he did not know why he was targeted by the “conspirators”. “I have been in politics for the past 43 years and I do not know why I was singled out,” he wondered.

“There is not even a remote connection which anyone can draw between me and the arrests. I do not care what eyewitnesses have said. This is the truth as I know it,” an irritated Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
MUCK WHIFF IN PLAYGROUND 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
11.30 pm: A team of policemen from the Bidhannagar (south) thana spotted three boys and two girls, all aged between 20 and 25, roaming on the bypass near Salt Lake stadium. The youths went towards the Swabhumi heritage park on Narkeldanga Main Road and the policemen gave no more than a cursory glance. But half-an-hour latter, the cops smelt a rat when they saw the five youths heading towards the bypass again.

The policemen told them to stop, but the five started running. The cops gave chase but when they came near the stadium’s VIP gate, they found that the youths had disappeared.

The policemen interrogated the securitymen — from a private agency — who keep watch on all the stadium gates, but nothing came out. “We entered the stadium and started searching the lawns. Finally, we found two boys and two girls hiding behind a bush,” said a police officer. They were taken to the police station but could not be prosecuted.

“A few minutes later, we received a phone call from an influential person with strong political links. He directed us to release the four immediately. We had no choice but to release them,” he said.

A security guard described the murky goings-on inside the stadium premises. “It has become a regular routine for the last two years. A group of boys and girls come and show us a special recommendation paper. How we can resist them? They come, take a room, stay for a night and leave the place the next morning.” he said. The guards said most of the boys who come here with their “girlfriends” have strong links with politicians as well as with stadium employees.

An officer of Bidhannagar (south) police station, who refused to be named, said: “If the government allows us to work as an independent agency, we can do a lot. We can stop these kind of crimes within a few hours.”

Police claimed that in last few months, they had managed to curb the crime rate in Salt Lake and the number of personnel had been increased. But some officials are unhappy, because “our main duty is to protect the VIPs”.

A section of policemen described Tuesday’s raid as mysterious. “It was strange that the Howrah police raided the stadium without informing us. They did not even inform the North 24-Parganas SP,” said an officer.

   

 
 
STADIUM SHADOW ON PANJA MEET 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
The overwhelming response to Mamata Banerjee’s proposed rally tomorrow to highlight transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s alleged nexus with criminals is expected to cast a shadow on rebel Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja’s much-hyped convention at Mahajati Sadan on the same day.

Mamata will lead a procession from Subodh Mullick Square to the Esplanade Metro Rail station to reiterate her demand for chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s resignation. She will be joined by party MPs, MLAs and councillors.

Trinamul leaders confirmed tonight that Mamata had contacted some Panja loyalists in a last-ditch effort to prevent them from attending the Mahajati Sadan convention.

At a meeting in Howrah today, the Trinamul leader said, “We have eight MPs in our party.” This is being seen as a clear indication that Mamata is no longer counting Panja as one of her party MPs.

Convinced that tomorrow’s convention will be a flop show with no key party functionaries participating, a desperate Panja tried to rope in party dissidents from far-flung districts. However, those close to Panja said efforts proved abortive as none agreed to attend.

They were also not sure whether any representatives from the NDA would attend the convention. “We have no feedback as yet from NDA convener George Fernandes even though Panja had urged him to send at least two representatives from the coalition,” said an official.

As expected, all five Trinamul MPs today spurned Panja’s invitation. Those available reiterated that the question of attending Saturday’s convention did not arise as it amounted to “anti-party activity”. Panja’s elder brother Ranjit Panja, who made a last-ditch effort to broker peace between the rebel MP and Mamata, regretted that it could not materialise due to Ajit’s stand on the NDA. “Ajit is in a hurry to rejoin the NDA,” he said. He felt that the convention was ill-timed.

Two MPs, Krishna Bose and Bikram Sarkar, on whose support Panja is banking, will be unavailable tomorrow. While Bose is abroad for a week, Sarkar is preoccupied with his daughter’s illness. Ananda Mahan Biswas, another party MP from Nadia, turned down Panja’s invitation.

However, Panja today tried to put a brave face by claiming that the convention would be a “grand success”. He was alone overseeing the arrangements at Mahajati Sadan this afternoon. He was assisted by two former Mamata loyalists, Tapan Dasgupta and Bani Sinha Roy.

   

 
 
SCHOOL COLLAPSE KILLS 2 CHILDREN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, June 29: 
Two primary school students were killed and two others were injured when a concrete slab of the school building collapsed this morning at Goronga village in Garbeta.

The condition of the two injured students who are being treated at the Garbeta Hospital is critical.

Before classes began, a group of students was playing in front of the school gate. They were jumping down from a concrete slab to the sand below. But this slab, weakened by rain, gave way and fell on the students who were standing below it.

Anjana Chourey (8) and Kata Chourey (5) were killed on the spot. Guardians rushed to the school premises, gheraoed the teachers and demonstrated against the school authorities. Officer-in-charge of Garbeta police station, Nikhil Bose, arrived and persuaded them to leave.

A pall of gloom descended on Goronga village as the two bodies were taken for burial. Hundreds of tearful villagers followed the bodies in silence with flowers in their hands.

Lakshmikanta Chourey, father of Anjana, and Haradhan Chourey, father of Kata, were numb with grief. Both fell senseless.

Villagers virtually carried them to the burial ground.

“Anjana is my only child. I am a daily labourer and toiled from dawn to dusk to pay for her education.

“My wife fainted and has yet to regain consciousness after she heard about Anjana’s death,” said Lakshmikanta, breaking down in tears.

   

 
 
FLARE-UP JUTE MILL REOPENS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, June 29: 
Ganges Jute Mill, which closed after a worker was killed in police firing on June 20, reopened today after a tripartite agreement.

The pact was signed on Wednesday evening by the deputy labour commissioner, district magistrate Subrata Biswas, the mill management and the workers’ unions. Biswas said the agreement put an end to the uncertainty among the workers.

P. Someshwar Rao, a casual worker of the mill, was killed and seven others were injured when police opened fire to disperse an unruly mob that stormed the jute mill demanding provident fund money and a rollback of the management’s decision to nearly halve daily wages from Rs 150 to Rs 80.

Immediately after the incident, the management had issued a work suspension notice.

“We are extremely happy that the mill reopened today. Ever since the mill closed down after the mishap, the additional district magistrate, the subdivisional officer and I were determined to reopen the mill as quickly as possible,” said Biswas. He said that according to the agreement, a status quo as on June 20 will be maintained.

The management paid all pending salaries today. Biswas said the district authorities would now keep a close watch on the mill and “all conflict would be sorted out through a democratic process to keep the mill running”.

The mill has about 6,000 employees and about 1,500 casual workers. Additional district magistrate Khalil Ahmed said the district administration would not allow a re-run of the June 20 incident.

“We will not permit any kind of vandalism or militancy in the name of trade unionism at the mill. We have made elaborate security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident,” said Ahmed.

“We will visit the mill from time to time and monitor the situation. We will also hold regular meetings with the management and the workers’ unions to keep abreast of the latest developments in worker-management relations. Industrial harmony has to be maintained at any cost,” said SDO Subir Chatterjee.

   

 
 
HOOGHLY FEARS FLOOD, YET AGAIN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, June 29: 
Authorities in Hooghly district, the memory of last year’s flood still fresh in their minds, fear another catastrophe as they feel the state government has done precious little to ward off a deluge, despite repeated pleas by residents and the district administration.

“The government has virtually done nothing to allay the fears of people. All assurances from Writers’ Buildings remained on paper. When I assumed office a few months ago, I found that not a single flood prevention measure had been taken,” said district relief officer C.A. Hossain.

The district is flood-prone and was one of the worst-hit in last year’s deluge. This year, too, a flood is likely if the monsoon is normal, said R.N. Goldar, director of the meteorological office in Calcutta.

“Arambagh, Goghat and Khanakul areas of Hooghly are low-lying and shaped like a basin. So, the area is flood-prone. If there is heavy and concentrated rainfall for a few days at a stretch, the water can’t be drained out and so floods are a regular feature,” says Goldar.

   

 
 
DELHI, ISLAMABAD ON NUKE TRUCE ROAD 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, June 29: 
The Agra summit between A.B. Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf may lead to an agreement between the two sides on confidence-building measures in the nuclear and conventional fields, though Delhi does not want to enter into a no-war pact with Islamabad unless it gets concrete assurance from Pakistan that it will check cross-border terrorism.

Much of the confidence building measures in the nuclear and conventional fields formed part of a memorandum of understanding between the two sides during the Lahore peace process of February 1999.

However, with the Kargil conflict erupting within a few months, these measures could not be implemented. A fresh start may begin after the Agra summit.

These measures involve bilateral consultations on security concepts and nuclear doctrines aimed at avoiding conflict. The memorandum of understanding also precludes ballistic missile flight tests unless the other side is given prior information. If everything goes well, this can be turned into an agreement.

India would, however, not want to enter into a no-war pact with Pakistan at this juncture. A no-war pact was first mooted by Pakistan ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the early 1980s when Islamabad had become the main base for the Americans in their fight against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. As India was known to be a close ally of the Soviets, Zia was keen to guard the eastern front. The issue has come up a number of times since then but no agreement was signed.

South Block officials also point out that the situation has undergone a sea-change with the escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s support to cross-border terrorism.

“The low-intensity conflict going on in Kashmir for the past one decade or so is also kind of a war. How can we agree to enter into a no-war pact with Pakistan unless it gives a categorical assurance of giving up cross-border terrorism,” a senior foreign ministry official said.

Besides, in 1999, Pakistan attempted to “unilaterally alter the Line of Control” through the Kargil intrusion. Islamabad’s use of the “element of surprise” during the Kargil intrusion has made Indian officials more cautious about a no-war pact with Pakistan.

This means that India will also not agree to any Pakistan proposal for reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir and along the LoC. A major reason is that Indian cantonments, unlike the Pakistani ones, are far away from the international border and the LoC. If war breaks out soon after troops are withdrawn from these areas, India will be at a disadvantage.

In Kashmir, the quantum of security forces deployed by India is directly linked to the assessment by Delhi on the violence in the strife-torn state.

In the absence of militants abjuring violence and concrete steps from Pakistan to rein in rebels, there seems to be little chance of India reducing the number of security personnel deployed in the state.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company