Hide and seek in kidnap wake
In-laws want to forget the past, get on with life
‘Threat’ to sheriff in heritage fight
Pen a line to Buddha, reply he will
Naxal outfit under scanner in Das murder
Court rejects ‘burial’ plea
Nasscom gift to book-lovers
CPM go-ahead for Subhas censure
Lawyers call Siliguri bandh over HC bench
Naxalites ring Red fortress

 
 
HIDE AND SEEK IN KIDNAP WAKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
A dummy and the ‘real’ one; sharp shower and blazing sun; a flood of tears and a sprinkling of blood — it was an afternoon of high drama at Alipore court on Wednesday.

There was no doubt who the centre of all the attention was — a fair and slender woman in a light brown salwar-kameez, face covered in red dupatta, weeping constantly and pleading her innocence. Swati Pal, arrested in Mumbai in connection with the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman, was making her first ‘public’ appearance.

Swati, alias Mousumi Pal alias Mousumi Sana, her husband Jamil Ahmed, and associate Abdur Rahman were remanded in police custody till August 31 by sub-divisional judicial magistrate Suranjan Kundu. The trio had been rounded up in Mumbai on Monday and brought to Calcutta under heavy security on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the security cordon was even stronger. The home ministry had, after all, cautioned the state government about the probable “snatching of criminals” from the court.

Cops, lawyers, mediapersons and onlookers — numbering around a thousand — were all there, crammed into the court compound. A roar of anticipation rose, then fell, as CID officers made a “trial run” in two Maruti Gypsies and a police van.

Then, around 2 pm, Jamil, in yellow shirt and blue jeans, and Abdur, in red pyjama and blue T-shirt, were driven in. Moments later, Swati arrived in a separate van under “extreme security”. While Jamil kept his head bowed throughout in a bid to escape the cameras, a cloth covered Abdur’s face. Swati hid under a colourful dupatta, as the crowds went crazy.

Jostling to catch a closer glimpse of her, the onlookers and the lensmen surged forward. Some were knocked to the ground as the cops tried desperately to throw a ring around the woman. A mild lathicharge followed, and several in the crowd were seen tending to cuts and nursing bruises.

On their way out, the police sold the waiting multitude a dummy. A woman of similar height as Swati was brought out, face covered in a dupatta. As the cameras made a beeline for her, the policemen whisked Swati away by another route. A few who had anticipated such a move, said she left the court premises in a jeep, not a police van.

Taj Mohammed, public prosecutor, later said: “After the recovery of four mobile phones, Sim-cards and other documents from them, their involvement in the Khadim’s abduction case has become quite clear. They have been remanded in police custody for their role in the kidnapping, for demanding ransom and for the attempted murder of Parthapratim Roy Burman”

Parthapratim Kanjilal, representing Swati, however, said: “On what grounds have the police arrested Swati? There is no evidence to link her to the case. Police have recovered one diary from her possession which has nothing but some lyrics of Tagore. Is that a criminal offence?”

Benoy Roy, another lawyer defending Swati, added: “She has an injury on the forefinger of her left hand. We appealed for her treatment, which was allowed by the judge. We will decide our course of action after we speak to her on Thursday.”

   

 
 
IN-LAWS WANT TO FORGET THE PAST, GET ON WITH LIFE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Swati Pal, arrested in connection with Parthapratim Roy Burman’s abduction, draped a dupatta around her face to hide from the probing cameras and prying eyes at Alipore court on Wednesday.

Away in Kalna, Burdwan, the Dutta family is struggling to shut out these images of crime and punishment linked to their “former daughter-in-law”, bury the past and get on with life.

For the moment, every move they make is being monitored by the Intelligence Branch; all members of the family have been told by the district police “not to venture out of Kalna”.

The ‘crime’ of the “Duttas of Kansharipara”: Swati, then Mousumi or Manu, was married into the family more than a decade ago. CID officials — despite being more or less convinced that the Dutta family had no inkling of what Swati was up to in Mumbai — are not willing to take any risk. “So, the decision to keep them under a very strict watch,” a senior IB official explained.

Tanmay Dutta’s marriage to Manu was solemnised on February 14, 1990. But within a year, the relationship turned sour. “I came to know that she had a relationship with Shasthi, A neighbour,” Tanmay said on Wednesday. “Manu even left home with him, but we brought her back after a month.”

Soon after the birth of their son, Bitu, Tanmay and Manu shifted to Mumbai. It was there that Swati fled home for the second — and last — time. “One day, I returned home to find our front door locked and a handwritten message pasted on it,” recalled Tanmay. “I am going away on my own volition. Bitu ( then only five) will benefit from my move,” was Manu’s parting message to her husband.

Bitu is now 10 years old and studies in Class V of a local school. He lives with his father who, incidentally, is yet to be divorced, and has been told that his mother is “dead”.

Neighbours claimed Tanmay was “still in touch” with his estranged wife. Though Swati once wrote to Tanmay that he was “great” as he had “accepted everything despite knowing everything”, they had crossed swords over the possession of Bitu. Tanmay would receive threat calls as well, local residents added.

Tanmay’s father, Binimay Dutta, is not surprised that his estranged daughter-in-law’s “ended up like this... She had relationships with several men after marriage,” he alleged. “We have not even kept her belongings, except one photograph and a letter.”

Swati’s cousin and family live 18 km away from Kalna. They are “still in touch with Tanmay’s family” but have “nothing to do with Swati any more”.

   

 
 
‘THREAT’ TO SHERIFF IN HERITAGE FIGHT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
“Miscreants have gunned down Sailen Das, also a Rabindrasangeet teacher, in front of his house. I live alone and am an easy target.” It took this dramatic statement from sheriff and Rabindrasangeet singer Suchitra Mitra to galvanise the powers-that-be into action.

Mitra has been crusading to have a Sudder Street house, where Rabindranath Tagore had stayed and worked, declared a heritage site “to save it from the clutches of realtors”. On Wednesday, Mitra called on the chief minister at Writers’ Buildings.

“Night and day, I am receiving threat calls, saying I will be killed if I proceed any further with this,” she told Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “I am not sure who is making the calls, but they are obviously opposed to my stand in the matter.”

It’s been a while since the Sudder Street building was being considered by the Corporation’s heritage committee for preservation. But soon after the sheriff left Writers’ Buildings, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee instructed municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya to “see to it immediately that the building was preserved”.

“We shall implement the government’s decision, whatever it may be,” said CMC commissioner Debashis Som, after he discussed the issue with Bhattacharya. A posse of policemen was despatched to Sudder Street to monitor activity there. Mitra fears, as she told the chief minister, that the “building will be demolished by promoters”. Addressing mediapersons after meeting the chief minister, Mitra appeared determined to thwart “any move” by “unscrupulous realtors with no respect for our heritage”.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has reacted sharply to the sheriff’s demand. “Why didn’t she do anything for so many years? Why has she raised this issue only after being appointed sheriff of Calcutta?” demanded Mukherjee. The mayor had allegedly blocked an earlier move to include the building in the Corporation’s heritage lists.

At least 25 commercial establishments are operating out of 10, Sudder Street. Among them are Hotel Plaza and Hotel Diplomat, owned by Sultan Ahmed and Iqbal Ahmed, both Trinamul Congress leaders. According to the mayor, the hotels in the building are “old and cannot be vacated”.

It was in this building that the young Rabindranath Tagore had penned a series of poems entitled Suprovat, which included Nirjharer Swapnabhanga.

“I will not tolerate hotels and businesses running at such a historical site. I will continue to lobby for the preservation of this building, which is full of the poet’s memories. If someone kills me for that, let them,” concluded Mitra.

   

 
 
PEN A LINE TO BUDDHA, REPLY HE WILL 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Respected chief minister,

Finding no alternative, I am writing this letter to you. I do not know whether it will reach your table or whether you will have the time to read this letter, written by a maidservant. I am a 70-year-old widow and have to survive by cleaning utensils... My son is torturing me and threatening to kill me if I do not leave the house which, legally, belongs to me. I have knocked on many doors, but in vain. Sir, please help me.

Purnalata Das, Purulia

Respected Srimati Das,

I have received your letter and read it. It is most unfortunate that a son is not looking after his old and widowed mother. Though it is a family matter, I am trying my best to sort out the problem. I have instructed the police and local administration to look into your case. Please have patience.

With regards

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, chief minister, Govt of West Bengal

A thousand letters a day keep the critics at bay. Driven by the desire to run “a responsive and responsible government”, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has instructed his office to “reply to each and every letter” that reaches his table every day. A separate wing of 12 employees and two officers is now busy doing just that.

A proper system of reply or redress is followed — an acknowledgement is first sent to the letter-writer; the case is then referred to the person or department concerned; a feedback is received; the complainant is informed of the action taken.

The results are starting to show. Take Purnalata Das’ plea. “We instructed the police to intervene. Mother and son are now living in peace,’’ said K.P. Pal, joint secretary in the CM’s office, on Wednesday.

Bhattacharjee makes it a point to go through letters referring to “matters of public concern” like industry, labour trouble, police cases and appeals for financial aid.

“But most letters involve personal or family matters. Quarrels between father and son or two brothers over land and appeals for jobs are common,” said an officer. “Till a few months ago, people would hardly write to the CM’s office, convinced they would end up in the trash can. But now, the flow of letters is rising by the day.”

   

 
 
NAXAL OUTFIT UNDER SCANNER IN DAS MURDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Another four persons were detained in connection with Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das’ murder, even as the needle of suspicion turned to activists of the banned People’s War group, a Naxalite outfit.

Sources said the police began to probe the outfit’s role after three Dum Dum councillors received death threats a few days after Das’ murder.

North 24-Parganas superintendent Kuldeep Singh told Metro on Wednesday that some councillors had told the police they had received letters from the banned Naxalite outfit.

“The People’s War has threatened to kill them. We assured them of adequate security cover,” Singh said.

The police, however, are not sure why the three councillors have been targeted.

“There are several other councillors with a shady record. It is surprising that the criminals have decided to train their guns on these three,’’ the Dum Dum police said.

However, the police refused to name the three councillors, as it might endanger their lives.

Das was shot dead in front of his house on P.K. Guha Lane, in Dum Dum, while he was getting into his car. The assailants tried to escape in a two-wheeler but it did not start.

Police investigations revealed that the vehicle, which the killers left behind on the spot, had changed hands seven times.

Fifteen persons have been detained so far for interrogation in the case. Four conspirators — Ibrahim, alias Jamai, Dilip Sil, alias Tapa, Poltu and Debu — have been arrested.

But deputy inspector-general of police, presidency range, Gautam Chakraborty, said that the three killers are still at large.

On Wednesday morning, the Dum Dum police received a tip-off that some people connected with Das’ murder were hiding in Khardah and Titagarh.

“A local crimelord was named as sheltering the criminals,” a senior police officer said.

A team, comprising officers from Dum Dum, Titagarh, Belghoria and Khardah police stations, immediately left for the area.

Plainclothesmen closed in on the hide-out, while uniformed officers followed them.

The four youth who were picked up on Wednesday are expected to provide vital leads to the whereabouts of the killers. Sources said there are reports that the suspected killers might have crossed over to Kusthia, in Bangladesh.

“We might have to approach the Kusthia police to flush out the criminals,” a Dum Dum police officer said.

   

 
 
COURT REJECTS ‘BURIAL’ PLEA 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed a Trinamul Congress-sponsored writ petition, demanding action against the police for not allowing “a proper burial” of two persons who died in political violence in Midnapore last November.

Mahabbat Pramanik, brother-in-law of Samibool Mondal and Rabul Mondal, who were killed in a political clash in Midnapore district, moved a writ petition before the high court.

He said the relatives of the victims had decided to bring the bodies to Calcutta for Trinamul Congress workers to pay their last respects. While the bodies were lying at Peace Haven in Calcutta, the police took them away by force and arranged to transfer them to their native village. “The police had acted without authority and violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner, as well as the dead persons,” it was alleged.

Appearing on behalf of the state, advocate-general Naranarayan Gooptu argued that the petitioner had no authority to bring the dead bodies to Calcutta. He said: “The bodies were handed over to the close relatives of the dead persons and local political leaders were present during the funeral.”

The advocate-general said the city police had to take action to frustrate a Trinamul Congress plan to hold a rally with the dead bodies on the city streets the next day, which might have caused a law and order problem. Kalyan Banerjee appeared on behalf the petitioner.

   

 
 
NASSCOM GIFT TO BOOK-LOVERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Two rooms in Webel Bhavan, in Salt Lake. That’s what the West Bengal government is giving Nasscom. A knowledge portal for bibliophiles. That’s what the software services association is bringing to the city.

Nasscom chairman Phiroz Vandrevala met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday to thank him for providing space for the organisation’s first regional office outside Delhi, where it is based.

Vandrevala, who is also executive vice-president of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said the knowledge portal would provide book-lovers with access to publishers and even sites to buy books and CDs. According to state information technology minister Manab Mukherjee, the portal will be a 365-day e-book fair.

“Being a Calcutta person, I know the tremendous knowledge base the city has. TCS will seriously work on this project,” the Nasscom chief said.

“Nasscom wants to work with the state government to project West Bengal as an IT destination,” Vandrevala said. Besides looking at the fiscal aspects of the IT industry, the eastern office will also be of help to its members in the region. “Though the IT sector has taken off much later in your state, compared with others, the chief minister is extremely keen that West Bengal gets our full attention,” Vandrevala said.

Nasscom has also promised Bhattacharjee it will organise a major IT event in Calcutta this winter. “I cannot tell you exactly when this event will be held, but I assure you that it will be in the coming months,” he promised.

Vandrevala said the four per cent sales tax on software was not a happy move. “I am not satisfied as a Nasscom member, but everyone should pay their taxes,” he said, explaining that the rate was fixed by a national committee and applied to the entire country.

   

 
 
CPM GO-AHEAD FOR SUBHAS CENSURE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Determined to rein in recalcitrant transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, the CPM state committee has ratified the party secretariat’s decision to censure him for “making comments on departments other than his own”.

Chakraborty had criticised the police for arresting Gobinda Dey and Pinaki Mitra — in connection with the Salt Lake stadium scandal — and Mohammed Taslim alias Chunnu, an accused in the Khadim’s abduction case. He had even described them as social workers.

Briefing reporters on the outcome of the two-day CPM state committee meeting which ended yesterday, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said this afternoon that Chakraborty will be summoned to a special secretariat meeting.

Though Biswas refused to disclose the date of the apex decision-making body’s next meeting to discuss Chakraborty’s conduct, CPM sources said the body will meet on Friday. Former chief minister and politburo member Jyoti Basu had also hinted on Monday that the controversy involving Chakraborty had to be resolved at the earliest.

“We feel Chakraborty should not have talked about the activities of other departments and, instead, concentrated on his own department,” Biswas said today.

Asked to identify the departments, Biswas evaded a straight answer, saying: “You know very well as you have been writing about it repeatedly.” Going by indications, Biswas must have meant the home (police) portfolio which is looked after by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself.

Taking strong exception to Chakraborty’s description of hooligans arrested from Salt Lake stadium as “social activists”, Biswas had said last week that “it is for a court of law to decide whether a person is a criminal or social worker and a politician has nothing to do with it”.

Yesterday, during his concluding speech, Biswas had said in the presence of the transport minister: “I am telling Chakraborty once again that he should not comment on the performance of other departments.”

During its two-day deliberations, the CPM had worked out a strategy to have greater co-ordination between the government and the party for better governance. The chief minister had mooted the proposal and discussed the issue at length. He also stressed the need for better co-ordination among Front partners in a bid to strengthen unity among its constituents.

The CPM has fixed its next state committee meeting on September 25 to discuss the modalities for block-level conferences as a prelude to the party’s 17th congress to be held next April. Biswas said no party members can be either suspended or expelled without the approval of the state committee.

   

 
 
LAWYERS CALL SILIGURI BANDH OVER HC BENCH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Aug. 22: 
Embittered by the state government’s move to set up a permanent bench of Calcutta High Court for north Bengal at Jalpaiguri — and not at Siliguri —the High Court Action Committee of the Siliguri Bar Association has called a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Siliguri sub-division on Thursday.

The lawyers were joined by traders and businessmen, who criticised the state government, based on whose recommendation the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of Jalpaiguri.

“The state government’s decision will deprive the people of north Bengal of their right to self-determination. Siliguri has the necessary infrastructure to set up the bench. The government should not make the issue into a tussle between the two north Bengal towns,” said action committee convener, Debesh Roy.

“The state government’s recommendation rests on the report submitted by a three-judge panel of Calcutta High Court. The reports on Siliguri’s eligibility are grossly incorrect. (But) we do not believe that the matter is sealed. The recommendation will have to be approved by the Union Cabinet,” Roy said.

The bar association is also demanding that the Siliguri sub-division and its adjoining areas be considered a district. “In the interest of the residents, the added areas of Siliguri Municipal Corporation and the area under Siliguri sub-division should be elevated to the status of a district, in conformity with its status as the principal city of north Bengal. The proposed district should also include areas under Bhaktinagar and Rajgunj police stations,” Roy said.

   

 
 
NAXALITES RING RED FORTRESS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, Aug. 22: 
Residents of four CPM-dominated villages in Salboni are spending sleepless nights following growing activities of the People’s War Group (PWG).

A CPM supporter was shot on Monday night and his body carried away by the Naxalite activists. Police carried out a combing operation in the forests of Salboni today in search of the armed PWG activists. But no arrests were reported till late tonight.

Superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal admitted that the PWG had taken shelter in the dense jungles and targeted Tilaboni, Charka, Rautara and Raigarh villages. “We are told that about a dozen armed people have taken shelter in the forest. We have posted our men there to instil confidence among the people,” Maliwal said.

The Naxalites began tormenting the villagers three days ago, a week after they held a mass meeting in Midnapore town. District magistrate M.V. Rao had refused to meet their delegation on August 12 on the ground that the PWG had not sought prior appointment.

The Naxalite supporters had pledged in the meeting that they would avenge the death of their supporters in Chhoto Angaria on January 4. All four villages targeted by the PWG now are close to Chhoto Angaria.

Ajit Bhunia, Salboni CPM zonal secretary, alleged that the PWG had unleashed a reign of terror in the entire area. “They have practically captured these four villages and have been roaming the area with sophisticated weapons. We have been reduced to house prisoners in our own villages.”

   
 

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