CPM leader shot dead at doorstep
Trail leads to real estate
DMK at Delhi durbar for probe
A step in time stops the strip
Desam opposes saffron lessons
Calcutta Weather

 
 
CPM LEADER SHOT DEAD AT DOORSTEP 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Sailen Das stepped out of his house this morning like any other day to meet death riding a red motorcycle.

The 73-year-old CPM leader and chairman of Dum Dum Municipality was shot dead in front of his home in a middle-class residential neighbourhood by three unidentified assailants as he was leaving for the municipality hospital.

The killers, who evaded arrest till late evening, could have links with a criminal-promoter lobby Das was resisting, police suspect. Three people were detained in the evening for interrogation.

The murderers fled the quiet suburban road, where Das lived, on a motorcycle snatched from one of his neighbours, leaving the man who was trying to prevent promoters from filling up a pond in the area bleeding and dead five yards from his home.

Das is the eleventh CPM member to be murdered in North 24-Parganas, where the party has faced the maximum dissidence, in the past two years. He is the second CPM municipality chairman — after Sailen Ghosh, who died in May, of Budge Budge — to be killed.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, continued to maintain that his ward, Bengal, was still the “first boy” in law and order in the country, a claim that was hotly disputed by Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee. She said Bengal was number one in political murders, and alleged that Das died because of feuding within the CPM.

The powerful North 24-Parganas district secretariat member, Amitava Nandi, refrained from blaming Trinamul and said he would wait for the truth to come out. Arch-dissident and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said cryptically in Bolpur: “Someone must have engineered the killing.” The CPM has called a statewide protest-day tomorrow.

Dum Dum Trinamul MLA Arunava Ghosh echoed Nandi. Trinamul shared a cordial relationship with Das, who played an important role against the criminal-promoter lobby, he said.

The CID has been entrusted with cracking the case.

The three youths waited 15 minutes for Das to come out around 9.30 am — he leaves around that time everyday — leading police to believe that the murder, at the very least, involved some local persons and local motives.

Das came out a few minutes later to be confronted by the youths who, by then, had got off their motorcycle. They engaged Das in a brief conversation that was becoming heated towards the end, forcing him to try and cool them down. “Tora eta ki korchhish, baba? (What’s the problem, son? Why are you behaving like this)?” Das’ driver, Montu, who was within earshot and inside the car parked yards away, quoted the leader as saying.

That was the last Das spoke. Two of the youths pulled out revolvers and shot him. In the meantime, Montu got out of the car, trying to block the youths. One of them slapped him, another fired in the air while the third ran towards their bike, which did not have a number-plate.

Six kicks later, he knew the bike would not start. All three broke into a run in the direction P.K. Guha Road meets the arterial Jessore Road when they saw one of Das’ neighbours, Sandip Biswas, coming towards them on another motorcycle.

Biswas screeched to a halt on seeing the approaching youths and was pushed off his bike. The assailants made their getaway on his motorcycle. The police have detained Amit Chatterjee, owner of the motorcycle the killers had left behind.Taking Chatterjee with them, the police were conducting raids till late tonight. “We have identified the gang,” V.V. Thambi, DIG, CID, said.

After the killers had escaped towards Jessore Road, Das’ neighbours came out and took him to the municipality hospital. By then he was dead. Tomorrow, his body, which he has donated, will be taken to R.G. Kar Hospital.

Das lost his eldest son, Biswajit, in an accident in 1993 and was fast losing interest in active politics. An MLA from Rajarhat in the 1960s, Das — also a Rabindrasangeet singer — was reluctant to take up the municipality chairman’s post. “When I used to sing Tagore’s songs, I used to look heavenwards. Now I’ll have to bend down,” his daughter-in-law, Tripti, quoted him as saying when he became a consensus chairman candidate in the faction-ridden Dum Dum unit in 1999.

   

 
 
TRAIL LEADS TO REAL ESTATE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
In the end, it seems to be coming down to land, water-bodies and buildings.

There is no clinching evidence yet, but investigations in the initial hours after the slaying of Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das suggest that if there is a reason for the killing, it is real estate.

At the heart, say police, is an 80-acre water-body barely 2 km from the Dum Dum municipality at Gorabazar. Eyed by property developers for many years, efforts have been made on and off to fill it up illegally and construct buildings on it.

There were enough people in the local unit of the CPM to push for it, for a “concession”. Among the few who refused to be “bought” was Das, and on Monday morning, he may have paid with his life for this.

Today’s incident was redolent of another daylight slaying — of Gurupada Bagchi in Kasba — who earned the wrath of a builder-underworld-party nexus as he tried to beat back those eyeing a big plot of land.

Fisheries minister Kironmoy Nanda first brought the threat to the water-body to the notice of Das. Nanda told the chairman he had information that promoters had plans to fill up the water-body near Kumarpara and then get the municipality’s go-ahead for construction. He had even said a portion of it may already have been filled up.

Party sources indicate that on a number of occasions, several CPM leaders had mounted pressure on Das to give in and agree to the proposal. On every occasion, Das had refused to relent, despite the fact that one of the promoters is known to be close to a secretariat member of the CPM’s North 24-Parganas unit.

Das spoke to councillors of the municipality, including those from Trinamul, on the increasing criminalisation of the entire Dum Dum belt. The discussion revolved around some South Dum Dum municipality CPM leaders who allegedly used to shelter criminals. Das, party sources said, would express his “helplessness” in fighting the nexus that was tightening its grip on the area.

Such is the clout of the builders’ lobby that after one of the promoters was arrested last year, the police were forced to release him under pressure from the district secretariat of the party.

“We have information that promoters were very active in the area and that there was considerable pressure on Das to grant them permission to build on the water-body,” said Dum Dum MLA Arunava Ghosh of the Trinamul Congress. “We also know that Das was consistently refusing them. About the rest, the police would have to carry out their own investigations.”

The police say it is too early to jump to conclusions. “But if there is any lead to be followed, it is the one leading to the water-body,” said an officer. “But, of course, this does not mean that other avenues will not be explored.”

Important local CPM leaders like Paltu Dasgupta, Sreehir Bhattacharjee and Rabi Sarkar had held a meeting on Sunday condemning the “criminalisation” of Dum Dum. “But the irony is that some of the people present at the meeting are the ones who provide patronage to criminals,” an official said.

   

 
 
DMK AT DELHI DURBAR FOR PROBE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
Jayalalitha today ordered a judicial probe into last evening’s flare-up in which at least five people died but the DMK, backed by the BJP, scoffed at the action and urged the Centre to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate “police excesses”.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke to DMK leader M. Karunanidhi in the morning. Karunanidhi alleged that his party workers had taken out a “peaceful” rally to protest against his arrest in June when police triggered the violence. The former chief minister said he had again urged Vajpayee to order an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge to look into the ADMK’s “jungle raj”.

“I believe he (Vajpayee) will give a positive response,” said Karunanidhi, who is learnt to have told the Prime Minister that the DMK’s patience was running out.

Shortly after the telephone conversation, a 12-member DMK delegation called on Vajpayee and demanded the immediate suspension of the Tamil Nadu DGP, the Chennai police commissioner and other police officials responsible for the firing and lathicharge on party cadre and media personnel.

Like their boss, the DMK leaders, too, asked the Prime Minister to set up an inquiry commission to probe the “police excesses of sabotaging basic human rights”. Asked what Vajpayee’s reaction was, the team led by DMK MP S. Viduthalai Virumbi said: “Very positive”.

The delegation also called on home minister L.K. Advani and submitted a copy of the memorandum they had given Vajpayee.

BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra supported his ally’s demand. “The Chief Justice of India should name a judge to undertake the inquiry into the incident in Chennai,” he said.

Jayalalitha rubbished the DMK’s allegation of police excesses and said it was the party’s usual practice to trigger violence during its rallies. “Similarly, violence was let loose by the DMK during yesterday’s rally,” she said.

“The DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, had instigated violence because of the anger that the people of the state had not given him another chance to govern,” she said.

Jayalalitha defended the police, saying the officials did not lose their “balance” even when the DMK workers used abusive language against her and the police chief.

The chief minister said retired high court judge K.S. Bakthavatsalam will conduct the inquiry for which no timeframe has been set. It will look into all incidents, including the attack on journalists and lensmen.

Jayalalitha ridiculed the DMK MPs’ protest in Parliament demanding President’s rule in the state. “It is not easy to dismiss an elected government and there is no reason to dismiss this government,” she said.

The BJP stopped short of supporting its ally on the demand.

   

 
 
A STEP IN TIME STOPS THE STRIP 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
Had it not been for Yerran Naidu’s “timely intervention”, the stripping would have continued in the Lok Sabha.

Thiru V. Vetriselvan of the DMK chose to do a Salman Khan in the House to protest against the “police excesses” in Chennai yesterday. He took off his shirt to show the bruises inflicted on him. He coolly placed his shirt on the reporters’ table and made a round of the House to show to all who cared to have a look.

Uma Bharti appeared sympathetic. So were other BJP and NDA members. Chandra Shekhar and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, however, frantically urged him to put on his shirt. Selvan went to the Speaker’s podium requesting G.M.C. Balayogi to have a look at his injuries. He then moved on to “display” signs of alleged police brutality on other parts of his body. Had Yerran Naidu not checked him in the nick of time, the House would have been subjected to more exposure. Selvan reluctantly put on the shirt held together by a single button. A shell-shocked Balayogi abruptly adjourned the House till 2 pm.

Selvan came out of the House and repeated this performance for the benefit of TV cameras. The MP had a hard time holding on to his unruly lungi and simultaneously show marks of police brutality.

Rival ADMK members discounted the charge but were as ridiculous as Selvan had been unmindful of parliamentary propriety earlier. P.H. Pandian, an MP, alleged that DMK leaders had “pinched themselves” to give a bad name to Chennai police. He displayed photographs that showed some DMK members charging at the police.

Selvan again opened his shirt buttons when the House reassembled for the benefit of those who had missed the morning strip. This time, the Speaker was quick to adjourn the House till 11 am tomorrow. The Congress later lodged a protest with the Speaker about the conduct of DMK leaders.

As soon as the Lok Sabha assembled at 11 am, DMK members rushed to the well of the House, protesting against yesterday’s incident. The ADMK was not to be left behind in their defence of “Amma” Jayalalitha. While the DMK kept demanding Central intervention, ADMK members questioned their conduct.

In the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could not give his scheduled reply to the debate on the Agra summit as chairman Krishan Kant adjourned the House till tomorrow when DMK members charged to the well after it reassembled following an hour-long adjournment.

   

 
 
DESAM OPPOSES SAFFRON LESSONS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
The Telugu Desam today joined the Opposition in its fight against the BJP-led government’s bid to “saffronise education”.

The Desam demanded a meeting of chief ministers to discuss the issue and evolve a consensus on the national education policy.

This comes at a time when RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has convened a “maha dharna” here on August 21 to highlight the issue of saffronisation of education. The Desam said it will not accept any deviation from the NDA’s common minimum programme. Its parliamentary party leader, K. Yerran Naidu, pointed out that “saffronisation was not part of the common minimum agenda”.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 34.2°C (+2)
Minimum: 27.5°C (+1)

Rainfall:

Trace

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 69%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.15 am
Sunset: 6.08 pm
   
 

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