Massacre rerun in soft-target belt
Blurred images of eight-day ordeal
DMK forces judge transfer
Miracle birth dwarfs nature’s laws
Extortion notice to Oil India
Calcutta Weather

 
 
MASSACRE RERUN IN SOFT-TARGET BELT 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Aug. 4: 
Shattering the uneasy calm in insurgency-ravaged Doda, at least 15 people were kidnapped and later gunned down by militants late last night.

Sources said that around mid-night on Friday, a group of militants, carrying automatic weapons, raided Ludhar village near Kishtwar — 300 km from Jammu — where the shepherds have their temporary shelters in the jungles and abducted 22 people.

The villagers were taken deep inside the forest from where two of them managed to escape. But the others were not as lucky. When the captors and their captives reached Shruntidhar Paddar hamlet, the militants lined them up and opened indiscriminate fire. Fifteen villagers were killed on the spot and five were seriously wounded. They were later taken to hospital by police.

The massacre comes less than a fortnight after eight people were kidnapped and killed in Doda, which, due to its remote location, has become a hub of militants. The villagers, most of whom are shepherds, are often sitting ducks for the militants who take advantage of the jungles to take cover.

“The police have recovered 15 bodies and shifted the five seriously injured persons to hospital at Atholli,” said Jammu range police chief R.V. Raju. The five men are being airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment.

Army and police parties were rushed to the area early this morning to mount a search for the abducted villagers. Police officials led by the station house officer of Atholli were the first to reach the spot and recovered the bodies from a nearby jungle.

No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the killings, which have triggered tension in the Jammu region. Sources in Jammu suspect the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pakistan-based militant group that has vowed to intensify its activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

One of the survivors of the mayhem, Chaplok Singh, said he feigned death and saved himself from the militants. Singh said the assailants, eight in number, spoke to the villagers in Urdu as they were unable to understand the local dialect.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor G.C. Saxena, chief minister Farooq Abdullah and director-general of police A.K. Suri airdashed to Kishtwar to take stock of the situation. Police sources said more troops are being rushed to the area to mount combing operations to track down the killers.

Abdullah condemned the “inhuman act”, saying the militants, at the behest of their mentors across the border, were picking up soft targets to “quench their thirst for blood”. “The killings have once again exposed Pakistan’s insincerity with India on its commitment to peace,” he said. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference described the massacre as a “naked attack on the humanity and peace process in Jammu and Kashmir”. “It is the handiwork of those elements who do not want that the peace process should be initialised in the state,” Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in Chennai.

Curfew was clamped on Kishtwar town today. Authorities said the situation was under control but added that “the curfew will not be lifted tomorrow.” “The curfew will be relaxed only after the cremation of the bodies,” a police officer said in Doda. The bodies are being brought down to Atholli. The cremation may take place tomorrow morning.

The incident comes a day after two civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, died when security forces opened fire on a huge procession at Magam. The army has ordered an inquiry into the shooting.

   

 
 
BLURRED IMAGES OF EIGHT-DAY ORDEAL 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
After his abduction at gunpoint from Tiljala, Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman was kept for eight days in a dimly-lit room.

In the first revelations of the kidnap that shook the state, the shoe baron told doctors today that he could not see his captors because of the poor light. Nor could he hear them as they spoke in soft voices, he added.

From the snatches of conversation that a “significantly recovering” Roy Burman has had with his doctors, it seems “the room was not in a hut or small cottage-type building”, according to Woodlands Hospital medical director S.K. Sen.

The doctors had asked him what sort of medication he had been given, to which he replied that his kidnappers had not told him and that whenever they spoke they were out of earshot.

This is the first time that Roy Burman has shed any light on the condition he was kept in since he was kidnapped on July 25. “They did not handle him roughly. He was not pushed around,” Sen said after talking to him today, two days after the businessman was freed.

Roy Burman has also revealed that he was in a stupor for most of the time. “This could have been because of his tiredness, or it could have been because of the medicine that he was given,” Sen said.

“From what he has told us, and from what we have surmised on examining him, he was given some sort of medical attention on the first day itself. The plaster cast was not done professionally, however. It could have been done by an operation theatre technician or helper. But he is very vague about it.”

Roy Burman was well a day after his left arm was operated on. A second, and major, operation has been scheduled for Tuesday at 11.30 am. “We will have to cut and bring out the nerves in his left upper arm to see the extent of damage to them,” the doctor said.

“He has had food and is fully conscious. The doctors have seen him and are satisfied with his condition. We could have allowed him to be interrogated today, but police have not made any inquiries,” Sen said.

A police official, however, said Roy Burman’s family does not want him to be questioned now. “They want him to fully recover before we can approach him,” he said.

The CID, on the other hand, fears that local contacts of the gang behind the abduction could still try to intimidate the family. “We are keeping a strict vigil,” an official said. Raids were con ducted overnight at Arjunpur, Baguiati, Kazipara and pockets of Dum Dum. A CPM councillor of South Dum Dum municipality was also questioned.

Tiljala businessman Md Taslim alias Chunnu, who is now in police custody, has disclosed some names, on the basis of which a CID team picked up seven persons, including a woman.

   

 
 
DMK FORCES JUDGE TRANSFER 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
The Centre has transferred Madras High Court Chief Justice N.K. Jain to Karnataka High Court under pressure from the DMK.

“The file containing the order transferring Justice Jain to Karnataka High Court as chief justice is awaiting President K.R. Narayanan’s hand and seal,” official sources said. The file, they added, has reached the President’s secretariat after it was cleared by Supreme Court Chief Justice A.S. Anand.

Political sources said the BJP acted under pressure from DMK chief M. Karunanidhi. The order has come at a time when at least two crucial cases are pending before Madras High Court — chief minister Jayalalitha’s conviction on corruption charges and the challenge to the transfer of police officers involved in Karunanidhi’s arrest under Jayalalitha’s order.

“It is not yet known whether the President has finally given his hand and seal or not... It is to be seen what Narayanan finally does,” government sources said. For the Centre, however, the transfer is final as the file has already been sent to Narayanan.

Sources said law minister Arun Jaitley made the request to Justice Anand for effecting the transfer.

If Jayalalitha gets even an interim stay on her conviction she would be able to contest the elections to become eligible to continue as chief minister. She was not allowed to contest the Assembly polls by the Election Commission.

The Centre’s move has come a day after Justice Jain issued notices to Delhi to reply within four weeks in the case involving the transfer of the police officers. On a public interest litigation, a division bench of Madras High Court, presided over by Justice Jain, had yesterday issued notices to the government to showcause why its order transferring the officers could not be quashed.

The Centre, with claimed powers under the Indian Police Service rules, had transferred Chennai police commissioner Muthukaruppan and some other officers as punishment for arresting Karunanidhi.

Though the Supreme Court has an “in-house procedure” regarding appointment and transfer of judges, official sources said the Centre, too, at times had made “requests”. But the requests, they added, used to be “only for appointments and not for transfers”.

The apex court had formulated the procedure after a long-drawn tussle between the judiciary and the executive on appointment and transfer of judges.

According to the procedure, in the case of the transfer of the chief justice of a high court, he is either elevated to the apex court or transferred to another high court in the same capacity. “In Justice Jain’s case, the last rule has been cited,” the sources said.

   

 
 
MIRACLE BIRTH DWARFS NATURE’S LAWS 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Bilari (Moradabad), Aug. 4: 
In a smelly cot inside a crumbling house in faraway Bilari, 25-year-old Shanti lies dazed, exhausted and very ill. She has just given birth to a bonny boy and the labour pains have left her with neither strength nor speech. Nothing new or strange about a poor woman giving birth to a shivering, naked child, but as one tears through the surging crowds that have grudgingly settled down outside the broken door of her house, it becomes clear why people are calling what has just happened the “miracle of Moradabad”.

The boy Shanti has given birth to is almost half her size. Shanti stands barely two feet tall.

For miracles to happen, size, it seems, doesn’t really matter. At a combined height of 4 ft 10 inches, tiny Pappu and his tinier sweetheart Shanti are at the centre of a “miracle” so big that amazed doctors are now going through health encyclopaedias all over again and awestruck villagers are looking heavenwards for a possible explanation, or perhaps, even a divine indication.

“It must be the first such case in the world,” says Sangeeta Madan, the gynaecologist who saw through Shanti’s childbirth. “It goes against science, biology and nature,’’ she adds, clearly shaken by what she has achieved. Madan had agreed to take up Shanti’s case only after the little woman refused to give up on her baby, risking her life for the foetus that was painfully forming inside her. All the government hospitals that Shanti’s family approached closed the door on their faces, maintaining it would amount to nothing less than murder to even attempt the delivery.

“She will not survive; we have never done such a risky operation; she will surely die; she is too tiny,” was the common refrain from the various hospital authorities each time Shanti, 32 weeks pregnant at the time of the delivery, approached them. Shanti, and her barely 3-foot tall husband, had almost given up hope and started looking for quacks to help them out when Madan, a consulting gynaecologist at Moradabad’s Vivekananda Hospital and Research Centre agreed as it was an “academically interesting case”. Moreover, by this time Shanti had agreed to sign a bond saying the decision was totally hers as would be the responsibility in the event of a mishap.

“It was tough,” agrees Madan, now looking up for more details that she can lay her hands on about the reproductive system of dwarfs on the Internet and in old hospital records dealing with such cases.

According to Madan’s investigations, supported by the scores of doctors she has solicited help from, the shortest woman to have given birth to a child stands at 3 feet 10 inches, in Jhansi. At 2 feet, Shanti was a “real challenge”. Moreover, Madan says Shanti, due to her extremely small body, had a congestive cardiac failure and severe anaemia at the time of her pregnancy. She weighed just about 20 kg.

“Her fortitude was amazing as everything was against her,” says Madan. “She was unable to carry the weight of the child inside her womb, she could barely stand for two minutes on her own, her chest was too small to expand properly and there was extreme swelling in her abdominal area.”

But now that Shanti has come through with the impossible, people in Moradabad and Bilari, her village, are taking it as a “miracle” made possible by God.

When news of her successful delivery spread, people, hospital authorities say, came in hundreds to see the baby. The rush got so unmanageable that Shanti’s room had to be barricaded. Later, much to the amusement of the proud couple, the hospital fixed up a time for the surging hordes to sneak a peek at the mother and child.

Villagers are still trickling in with cash and gifts, overwhelmed at the tenacity and courage of the little woman. Many say it spells good times for their poverty ridden, stinking village full of filth and pigs.

The news has been greeted by doctors with the same amazement even in Lucknow. “I have never, never heard or seen such a thing happening,” says Dr Shobha Raitani.

Though the baby, who people have named everything from Vivekananda to Shiv, Sagar and Vijay, is normal, his development and growth is being closely monitored by doctors, who say they now want to study the “unprecedented”.

But miracle or no miracle, one thing everybody agrees is that Shanti’s courage at least is nothing short of the miraculous. It has even given renewed hope to Pappu, now working as a helper in a sweetmeat shop in Bilari.

“Everytime I approached the DM for a job, he would tell me I am not good enough and that I should join the circus,” Pappu says sadly. “But now I think they will take me more seriously. If my wife can defy fate and her limitations, so can I. Just let me get a job and I will show what a dwarf can do.”

   

 
 
EXTORTION NOTICE TO OIL INDIA 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
Duliajan, Aug. 4: 
Oil India Limited, a premier oil exploring agency in the country, has received an extortion note of Rs 60 lakh from the banned National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

“This is the first time since its inception in 1959 that Oil India has received a demand from an extremist organisation,” Oil India chairman and managing-director B.B. Sharma said here today.

Operations at Kumsai oil field in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh have been suspended since July 31. Most of Oil India’s 130 personnel, working at the site, have been pulled out.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.9°C (0)
Minimum: 27°C (+1)

Rainfall:

3 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 68%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some parts
Sunrise: 5.12 am
Sunset: 6.14 pm
   
 

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