Music school twist to Sailen Das murder
School board gets new chairman
Varsities resent extension ban
Housewife’s father moves rights panel
Murder sparks bandh threat
Angry BJP in go-it-alone tit-for-tat
Trinamul silent on district divide
CPM cracks whip on terror cadre

Calcutta, Aug. 18: 
Music school versus multi-storeyed building. Serious differences between Sailen Das and a “municipal employee-turned-promoter” over a plot of contention may have led to the murder of the Dum Dum municipality chairman.

Senior police officers said on Saturday that Das had “a series of altercations” with civic employees and party leaders over the sale of some government property. One of them has been identified as a civic employee-turned-builder.

“Das wanted a music school to come up on a particular plot in the Dum Dum cantonment area. But this municipal employee-cum-promoter wanted to build a highrise there,” said a police officer. This person, apparently, warned Das to “keep quiet” about the dispute.

Das had also crossed paths with a section of the CPM leadership over conversion of a cinema hall into a multi-purpose shopping complex and allotment of shops on government property, police said.

Investigations indicate that Das was being “pressured by a section of the CPM leadership in North 24-Parganas” to hand over municipal property to realtors. “Das was murdered for knowing too much about shady deals being carried out by some party colleagues with some unscrupulous promoters,” an officer said.

On Saturday, Dilip Seal was arrested by the North 24-Parganas police. Earlier, a police team had arrested Ibrahim, alias Jamai, for being a “facilitator for the assailants”. “Both Seal and Ibrahim are being interrogated,” said superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, Kuldip Singh. They have been remanded in police custody till August 30.

According to the police, the assailants had taken shelter in a house close to the Jessore Road-Airport Ashok hotel crossing. “It is evident that the assailants hid in a house nearby and left in another vehicle as the second bike snatched from Sandeep Biswas was found abandoned in the area,” an officer said.

Interrogation of hotel owners along Jessore Road, near Airport gate number one, threw up further leads. IG (South Bengal) Prasun Mukherjee said the police have been able to “trace a few goons” who might be involved in the murder.

District police officials spent a long time on Saturday with Das’ wife, Kanan, and son, Aranyabrata, to “piece together” the exact sequence of the attack. Sources said Das had voiced concern over “problems” in the municipality to his wife, days before his death.

“But they both seemed to be in the dark about the details of the problems plaguing Das,” an officer said at Bhabani Bhavan.


Calcutta, Aug. 18: 
The state government has appointed Arun Kiran Chakraborty, president of the Madhyamik Board, as the chairman of the state School Service Commission.

Chakraborty was chosen for his “smooth handling of Madhyamik examinations”. He had also served as the Calcutta University controller of examinations.

The post of the chairman will be vacated on Sunday with the retirement of the present incumbent R.K. Saha. Haraprasad Samaddar, principal of Dinabandhu Andrews College, has been chosen to replace Chakraborty as the Board president.

Nearly two-and-a-half lakh candidates are expected to sit for the School Service examinations.

Sources in the commission said the government felt the need to appoint an “efficient candidate” as the chairman in view of complaints of “disorder and mismanagement” in the commission during the past year.

An “inordinate delay” by the commission in announcing last year’s results had left the government red in the face. Complaints of errors in marksheets and delay in issuing admit cards had also caused resentment among candidates. Many of them complained that the admits cards reached them after the examination.

Hospital drive: Mosquito larvae have been found on the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital premises on Saturday during a joint drive by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the public works department. The team was led by CMC chairman Anil Mukherjee and mayor-in-council, health, Javed Khan. Mukherjee said larvae were detected in drains running adjacent to the students’ hostel, the nurses’ quarters and a swamp pit. “The drains are clogged. The authorities have been asked to take action,” he added.


Calcutta, Aug. 18: 
The vice-chancellors of state-funded universities in Bengal on Saturday resolved to urge the state government to reconsider its no-extension policy for university teachers.

The government has stopped re-employment schemes for employees in institutions availing of state grants. The state higher education department had, consequently, asked the vice-chancellors to consider the implementation of the decision.

On Saturday, the association of vice-chancellors of state-aided universities met at Calcutta University and expressed their dissatisfaction at the decision.

According to sources, the vice-chancellors were opposed to the decision as the universities were autonomous bodies and guided by separate Acts.

“The higher education department cannot ask the universities to introduce a new system by issuing an ordinary order. The rules have to be amended through proper procedures,” said a vice-chancellor.

The university heads were also irked by the government’s move to “curtail substantial grants to the universities in the current year’s budget”. They discussed ways of running the institutions with reduced funds and stressed the need to introduce a system of exchanging infrastructural facilities.

The university libraries will coordinate to help students and teachers exchange books and journals. A decision was taken to computerise library catalogues. An inter-university computer network will also be installed.

“Considering the increase in prices of books and journals, we will have to encourage interaction between the libraries. It is not possible for a single university to purchase all books with limited funds,” said Nityananda Saha, vice-chancellor of Kalyani University.


Calcutta, Aug. 18: 
The death of Aparna Dixit was first reported as a suicide by the police, but after two weeks, the case has taken a new turn with the victim’s father alleging that it was a premeditated murder by her in-laws.

In a letter to the chief minister and the state human rights commission, Santosh Shukla, the victim’s father, principal of a school in Uttar Pradesh, alleged that three persons were arrested but not charged with murder. “The Burrabazar police booked them for abetment to commit suicide and subjecting her to cruelty,” Das alleged.

Aparna Dixit, a 22-year-old housewife, died after falling off the fifth-floor balcony of her MG Road residence on July 31. A suicide case was registered soon after. Aparna was married to Dilip Kumar Dixit, a Burrabazar businessman, in 1997. Shukla stated that he had to pay Rs 50,000 to Aparna’s in-laws on different occasions before the marriage.

According to Shukla, Aparna was pushed from the balcony.

In his plea, Shukla stated that Aparna was killed as he failed to meet her in-laws’ demand. “Aparna’s father-in-law, Santosh Kumar Dixit, would demand Rs 1 lakh and a motorcycle from me to settle the marriage of his daughter, Sashi. When I expressed my inability to do so, he threatened me with dire consequences.”

Shukla also stated that his daughter had been tortured for the past two-and-a-half-years for dowry. “The Burrabazar police may have been influenced by them into passing off my daughter’s death as a suicide,” he added.

Police said three persons had been arrested soon after the incident. “The victim’s father-in-law is still at large,” said a police official.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of the detective department, said he would look into the matter.


Calcutta, Aug. 18: 
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and Trinamul Congress heavyweight Pankaj Banerjee on Saturday threatened to call an indefinite bandh in Rajarhat if those involved in the murder of party activist Sheikh Rahmat Ali were not arrested within the next 48 hours.

Banerjee also demanded chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s resignation for the “deteriorating law and order situation”. “Buddhadebbabu should step down immediately, owning responsibility for the reign of terror,” he said.

Banerjee was speaking at a rally organised in front of Rajarhat police station to protest Ali’s murder. Ali was shot dead on Thursday morning at a tea-stall at Raigachi bazaar.

Banerjee also criticised the police for not being able to arrest any of the FIR-named accused to date. “The police have become the ruling CPM’s stooges. That is why criminal activities have soared everywhere in Bengal,” alleged another Trinamul leader, Idris Ali. Later, a delegation of Trinamul leaders submitted a memorandum to the officer-in-charge of the police station, demanding arrest of the culprits and an impartial probe into the murder.

Senior police officials claimed efforts were on to nab the criminals. “We have already detained four persons in connection with the murder and hope some leads will come to light on Sunday,” said district superintendent of police Kuldeep Singh. He said night-long raids are being conducted to locate the criminals. He, however, declined to reveal the motive behind the murder. “We will be able to confirm the motive only after the probe,” another official said.

Meanwhile, Rapid Action Force personnel patrolled the sensitive pockets of the area. Male members were absent from their homes. “They must have fled to avoid police harassment,” said an elderly lady of the Raigachhi area.


Digha, Aug. 18: 
Stung by Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s announcement that she will go it alone in Bengal despite her understanding with the BJP’s Central leadership, the state BJP in a reciprocal gesture today decided to fight the 2003 panchayat elections independently.

The decision was adopted at the two-day state executive committee meeting which began today at Digha in Midnapore. BJP national president Jana Krishnamurthi and Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar were among those present at the meeting.

The party also came down heavily on Mamata saying that her “whimsical and erratic activities” had led to the BJP’s debacle in the last Assembly elections. The “go it alone” line of the party was supported by all the 145 executive members present.

Sikdar appeared the most vocal. He told reporters that Mamata would have to abide by the code of conduct if she wanted to rejoin the NDA. “But we have no reservations against Ajit Panja. He was with the NDA and he is still with us,” Sikdar added.

Asked whether his party was willing to take back Mamata in the alliance, Sikdar said: “Personally I feel she has no moral right to come back to the NDA because she had done a lot of damage to the alliance. That is why we are imposing some conditions on her to return to the alliance.... She is capable of betraying us again in the future.”

But the BJP’s decision to go it alone in the state will not hamper the functioning of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation or other civic bodies and panchayats run by the Trinamul-BJP combine, the leaders claimed.

“We will not withdraw our support in the CMC. If the Trinamul wants to break the tie, it can do so. But we will continue our support to check the CPM,” BJP state president Asim Ghosh said.

Krishnamurthi, who presided over the meeting, did not comment when state BJP leaders blasted Mamata. The BJP also harped on its old political line — problem of infiltration in the state from neighbouring Bangladesh.

State vice-president Muzaffar Khan said the government will have to identify each infiltrator and “we want to know how many Muslim and Hindu infiltrators from Bangladesh entered West Bengal over the past three years.”


Midnapore, Aug. 18: 
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said at an all-party meeting that the government has given a proposal for bifurcating Midnapore but put the onus of the delayed declaration on Trinamul Congress.

“It’s now only a matter of time before this district is divided into two — Midnapore East with its headquarters in Tamluk and Midnapore West with its headquarters at Midnapore,” he said.

According to Bhattacharjee, all major parties are in favour of the bifurcation except the SUCI —which is against the divide — and Trinamul, which has reserved its decision for the time being. No faction of any Jharkhand parties attended today’s meeting.

The meeting lasted less than half an hour. The chief minister introduced the subject by announcing the government’s decision to bifurcate this district. After that, the parties were allowed five minutes each to speak their minds. While BJP gave the proposal its moral support, the Left Front gave it its full approval. But Trinamul insisted on issuing an approach paper on the subject. The SUCI members were against the very concept of bifurcation.

Later, speaking about the 48-hour bandh in Contai, Bhattacharjee said: “We know that the people of Contai want the district headquarters to be there. We also support it. But Contai does not have any infrastructure at the moment. We don’t have the funds to build the infrastructure required to set up a separate district headquarters at Contai at the moment. We appeal to the people of Contai to understand our problem,” he said.

Trinamul state general secretary Mukul Roy said: “I have told the chief minister that we will take some time to announce our decision.

The Left Front has come prepared with their answer as they are the ruling party and the bifurcation proposal is their own. The former chief minister, at a similar meeting in 1997, had promised that the government would issue an approach paper on the Midnapore’s bifurcation. But this has not yet been published. How could I give our decision? We shall make it known to within the shortest possible time.”

Later, the district Trinamul leaders met Bhattacharjee over the problems of evicted persons from Garbeta, Keshpur, Sabang, Khejuri, Moyna and Bhaja Chauli areas.

They complained that the administration had not attached importance to the chief minister’s directive to arrange for the safe return of evicted villagers.


Midnapore, Aug. 18: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s promise to provide security to homeless Trinamul Congress and BJP supporters, who had fled the district after the Assembly polls, has apparently prompted the district CPM leadership to suspend two party workers for beating up a BJP activist, Aloke Paria, when he returned to his native village, Karasha, on Tuesday.

According to sources, Aloke was mercilessly beaten up by two “militant” CPM workers, Ajit Paria and Sambhunath Paria, as soon as he returned to the village. The two fled after dumping a badly-injured Aloke in a nearby field.

Aloke, whose hands and legs were broken, was rushed to Chandrakona hospital by the local people. He was later moved to the SSKM hospital in Calcutta where his condition is stated to be serious. Police later took both the CPM workers into custody.

Aloke, a known BJP supporter, decided to return to his village after district CPM secretary Dipak Sarkar issued a leaflet assuring “adequate protection and economic rehabilitation” to Trinamul and BJP workers who deserted their homes in the wake of political violence in Midnapore on the eve of the Assembly elections.

Sarkar brought out the leaflet after the chief minister announced in the Assembly about a fortnight back that the district police and the CPM would ensure the safe return of villagers who are Opposition supporters.

The district CPM leadership took a serious view of the attack on Aloke after the local party legislator and secretary of the Chandrakona zonal committee, Gurupada Datta, reported the matter to Sarkar. The latter asked Datta to conduct an inquiry into the incident and submit a report to him at the earliest. Sarkar decided to suspend the two party members after getting a detailed account of the incident from the CPM MLA.

The suspension and subsequent arrest of the CPM workers for assaulting the BJP activist seem to have had a salutary effect on the BJP and Trinamul workers who had been forced to leave their homes in different villages under Chandrakona police station before and after the polls. Many of them have started returning to their villages after hearing of the suspension of CPM workers.

Rafiq Mondal, a Trinamul activist, who was forced to stay away from his home for more than two years, returned to his native village, Kalla, on Friday.


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