Midnight murder by men in masks
‘Taxiing’ on a Trinamul ticket
Tax-free bonds to fix power dues
Businessman beheaded
Police play PR game
Anthrax scare
PM throws to Pak choice between war and peace
Sangh in Bangla blast
Ayodhya cell to get new chief
Sonia in caste survey row

Siliguri, Oct. 23: 
Making a mockery of the stiff security arrangements for the Pujas, masked gunmen in police khakis shot dead RSP leader Rohini Adhikary after midnight on Monday with his wife and children looking on.

The 48-year-old Kumargramduar unit secretary has been on the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation hit list for the past three years for opposing its demand for a separate state. His killing by suspected KLO activists comes barely two weeks after another RSP leader Goyanath Roy was gunned down in Jalpeshhat.

Adhikary’s wife Jonamohi said four men wearing masks and armed with sophisticated wea-pons knocked past midnight, clai-ming to be officers from the Kumargramduar police station and wanting to have a word with the RSP leader. The Adhikarys live in a thatched house amid paddy fields in an isolated area of Uttar Haldibari in Jalpaiguri district.

When Adhikary hesitated to open the door, the gunmen started banging loudly and issuing threats, forcing him to let them in. After catching a glimpse of the men, Adhikary tried to shut them out but one forced open the door with the barrel of his gun, his wife recounted.

The gunmen then started beating him up and forced him to take off his clothes. As Adhikary’s twelve-year-old son Raju and eight-year-old son Rajeev cowered in fear, they pumped nine bullets into Adhikary’s face and chest, leaving him dead on the spot. They then quietly slipped out into the dark.

“They said my husband paid the price for opposing the Kamtapuris, his own people,” Jonamohi said, weeping uncontrollably.

Kumargramduar police said the recovery of nine empty AK-47 cartridges from the murder spot and the modus operandi point to the Bhutan-based KLO-Ulfa combine. The gunmen are believed to have fled into the dense jungles in the Bhutan hills.

Alipurduar additional superintendent of police R. Shiv Kumar said: “The ultras are trying to terrorise and spread panic among the people of Uttar-Madhya-Dakshin Haldibari villages in the volatile Assam-Bhutan-Bengal tri-junction. The KLO militants are believed to have fled into the Bhutan jungles towards Kalikhola where Ulfa and Bodo militants maintain area command camps deep inside the Fifshu jungles.”

Both Kumar and Alipurduar SDPO Tshering Sherpa are camping in the area. North Bengal inspector-general of police N.R. Das and Jalpaiguri SP Siddheynath Gupta have rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.

A massive combing operation has been launched, roadblocks have been set up on the Assam-Bengal border and vehicles are being frisked.

Adhikary was murdered barely a km from the Madhya Haldi-bari house of the elusive KLO commander-in-chief, Tamir Das.


Calcutta, Oct. 23: 
A man in a faded green T-shirt walks up to a parked taxi, a receipt book in his hand. His job: collecting subscription from cabbies belonging to the Trinamul-controlled Progressive Taximen’s Union (PTU).

For Abdur Rahman Mondal alias Baktar, prime witness to the Chhoto Angaria “massacre”, life is now a sedate daily beat on Lindsay Street-J.L. Nehru Road — a long way from the terror that gripped volatile Midnapore in January this year.

Baktar was released from a city nursing home after a prolonged treatment for “shock and depression” but hung around, scared to go back.

“After Baktar was released from Bellona Nursing Home, he had no place to go. He could not think of returning to Chhoto Angaria and was running from pillar to post in Calcutta with his wife and five children looking for a job,” said PTU president Madan Mitra, who has his office at 24 J.L. Nehru Road.

Mitra says Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee asked him “to do something” about Baktar.

“Two weeks ago, I engaged him in our taxi union and gave him the job of collecting Rs 2 monthly subscription from drivers who belong to the taxi union. This way he earns about Rs 25 a day,” he said.

Mitra has found a place for Baktar and his family in the PTU office. The union members also bought Baktar’s wife Anisha Bibi and their three sons and two daughters new clothes for the pujas.

“Didi (Mamata) is looking after me. Now I can at least provide food and shelter to my family,” said Baktar over the mobile telephone of a PTU official.

“We have also asked him to interact with people looking for taxis,” said Mitra. “His duty is to open the door for passengers and hand them a slip of paper with the name of the driver and the taxi number written on it.”


Calcutta, Oct. 23: 
The government is all set to float tax-free bonds to the tune of Rs 1716 crore to settle its dues with Central power utilities before Diwali.

The finance department has okayed the proposal. Yesterday, power minister Mrinal Banerjee referred the matter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for the formal nod of the Cabinet.

A year ago, an expert group formed under the chairmanship of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former member (energy) of the Planning Commission, had recommended a one-time settlement of the state electricity boards’ dues. The report was discussed at a high-level ministerial conference in March. The decision to float the bonds was then communicated to the states.

The scheme envisages a tripartite agreement among the Union government, the Bengal government and the Reserve Bank.

Under the scheme, all surcharges and interest payable by the state electricity boards on the dues shall be written off to 60 per cent. The bonds issued by the state shall be tax-free and carry an interest of 8.5 per cent.

No waiver on the rescheduling of dues towards financial institutions such as the Rural Energy Corporation and the Power Finance Corporation will be applicable. The agreement does not apply to the loan amount and the dues the boards owe to the PFC and REC.

The floating of bonds will, however, put pressure on Bengal as it will add to the public debt account.

“We have been aiming to mobilise more resources to offset the burden. The additional burden will require the SEB to mobilise Rs 12 crore to Rs 15 crore extra per month. I hope the WBSEB can do it because it has already increased its revenue collection by more than Rs 500 crore per year,” Banerjee said.

“The amount collected from the bonds will help us repay the huge loans lying with various agencies,” said an SEB official.


Siliguri, Oct. 23: 
Sword-wielding assailants beheaded a 28-year-old Marwari businessman and wounded his wife after storming their house

The miscreants attacked Lalit Agarwal and his wife Anju, 25, at their Agrasen Road residence in Khalpara around 8.30 pm.

Agarwal was declared dead on reaching the local nursing home. Anju is fighting for life.

Additional superintendent of police K. Jayaraman said “the gruesome incident could be the outcome of an old rivalry”.

Tension ran high in Siliguri’s commercial district. The traders’ association has called a bandh in protest against the killing.


Burdwan, Oct. 23: 
The district police have woken up to the need to better its relations with people after a directive from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The chief minister had urged them to boost their image by being more pro-people. Four police stations — Burdwan, Andal, Ranigung and Aurobindo — have been marked for upgradation into model police stations.

Superintendent of police N. Rameshbabu said people’s complaints are being registered with all these four police stations with greater care.

An officer will be specially assigned to talk to visitors to the police stations from 7 in the morning to 8 in the evening. Police ambulances will be around on GT Road and the national highway to ferry the injured in case of accidents.


Bolpur, Oct. 23: 
The anthrax scare reached Birbhum as well after an inland letter was found containing a white powder in Muraroi post office.

Postman Fazal Sheikh, who found the letter, complained of skin irritation. Burdwan chief medical officer said the letter had been sent to Calcutta for tests.


New Delhi, Oct. 23: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today iterated that the violence in Kashmir is terrorism, not a freedom struggle, and questioned Pakistan’s sincerity about making peace with India.

Vajpayee ruled out resuming talks now and said: “Our neighbour sometimes sings peace and sometimes threatens us. I want to tell them that they should decide what they want.”

Charging Pakistan with opportunism and betrayal, the Prime Minister said the country had trained and armed the Taliban and, occasionally, used them to threaten India.

“Where are the Taliban now? Now our neighbour has waged a war against that very Taliban. Who will trust them? If we are friends, we are real friends. We stand by our friends and are ready to pay any price. There is no opportunism in our policy, nor is it dictated from outside,” Vajpayee said.

“We decide on our own what is good for the country. That is why we are respected and have a place in the comity of nations, and our views are sought on the future of Afghanistan.”

The hard-hitting comments follow Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s interview last night in which he described the militancy in Kashmir as a “freedom struggle” and said his forces would pay India back in the same coin if it opted for “hot pursuit” of terrorists across the border.

Home minister L.K. Advani today clarified that Indian forces would not cross into Pakistan in pursuit of terrorists. “International laws allow us to go across the border but we will not do that,” he said.

Vajpayee is matching Musharraf’s fiery rhetoric to please the domestic audience and also to bring Islamabad’s doublespeak to the notice of the global community, particularly the US. He plans to use this to argue against resuming talks with Pakistan now.

Musharraf’s remarks were seen here as an attempt to tell his audience that the country is on excellent terms with the West — America in particular — and will be able to realise its goal on Kashmir.

The rhetoric from both sides of the border indicates that India-Pakistan relations are back to the pre-Agra summit days.

In the run-up to the July meet, both countries had tried to lower the temperature in the region. Pakistan, then under severe pressure from the West, had used the Agra summit to tell the world that it was committed to talks.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao today said talks would not be meaningful unless cross-border-terrorism ends. This argument, which was put on hold by the Indian leadership, appears to have staged a comeback after the September 11 attacks.

Indian envoy called

Hoping that Vajpayee will change his mind about holding talks with Musharraf, Pakistan today called Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad V.K. Nambiar and sought clarifications on Indian troop movement across the Line of Control and reasons behind the tough-talking done by some Indian leaders on Indo-Pak ties, PTI reports from Islamabad.

Sources said Nambiar met Pakistan foreign secretary Inamul Haq and discussed the latest developments along the LoC.


New Delhi, Oct. 23: 
The Sangh parivar today blasted the Bangladesh government for the attacks on Hindus ever since Khaleda Zia took over as Prime Minister.

Slogan-shouting demonstrators cried “Khaleda Zia wake up, do not harass Hindus” as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its offspring — the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Manch — staged a rally outside the Bangladesh High Commission.

Agitators screamed “Khaleda don’t convert Bangladesh into another Afghanistan” and “Khaleda don’t become a jihadi” as the speakers, including Bajrang Dal chief Surendra Jain and Delhi VHP president Om Prakash Singhal, slammed the government.

Later, a delegation led by Jain submitted a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister at the high commissioner’s office. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal demanded that the alleged atrocities on Hindus must end immediately and their faith, lives and property protected.

The outfits also urged Khaleda to take immediate steps to safeguard the fundamental right of Hindus to pursue their faith and threatened that the community would be forced to secede and create a separate “homeland” if the persecution continued.

The memorandum also stressed that the Hindus, who were reportedly evicted from Bangladesh recently, must be brought back with “adequate safety”.

Addressing the protesters, the Bajrang Dal chief said India had “rescued” Bangladesh from the clutches of the Pakistani army. But the sovereign republic’s Muslims were expressing their “gratitude” by inflicting “atrocities” on Hindus.

The BJP added its bit to the protest by asking the Centre to take up the issue with the Bangladesh government.

“It appears that the influence of Islamic fundamentalism is growing in Bangladesh ever since Begum Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister due to which there has been increasing attacks on minority Hindus,” party general secretary Pyarelal Khandelwal told reporters.


New Delhi, Oct. 23: 
Shatrughan Singh, an IAS officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is tipped to head the special Ayodhya cell, revived by the Prime Minister’s Office to try and “resolve” the “dispute”.

A notification to announce Singh’s appointment is likely to be issued in a day or two. Official sources said Singh, who is from the 1983 batch, was chosen because of his “knowledge and familiarity” with the issue.

He was the Faizabad district commissioner after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and in that capacity was also the receiver of the Ram temple.

According to a Supreme Court directive, a district commissioner has to function as the receiver till a verdict is given on the dispute.

When the BJP had first come to power in Uttar Pradesh in 1991, Singh was a staff officer to the chief secretary and, according to state government sources, had played a key role in behind-the-scenes manoeuvres. He is now the chairman of the Uttaranchal Reorganisation Commission.


New Delhi, Oct. 23: 
Sonia Gandhi is red-faced over a survey that says ministers belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are not efficient.

Commissioned by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, the poll asked party MLAs to rank ministers in order of efficiency. The high command is questioning the rationale of the survey that has put dozens of ministers belonging to the weaker sections at the bottom while reserving the glory for Digvijay and Arjun Singh’s son Ajay.

Deputy chief minister Jamuna Devi was quick to register her protest with Sonia. She told the high command that if “adivasis” and “harijans” are incompetent, they should be thrown out of the Congress government.

“We harijans and adivasis are born to serve Brahmins and Thakurs,” Devi said. “We are there merely to raise hands in support of Diggy.” She alleged that the chief minister was “grooming” Arjun’s son Ajay to be his successor.

If the purpose of the survey was to ask ministers to improve their performance, Digvijay should have communicated with his colleagues directly, Devi said. “But the idea seemed to be to humiliate us,” she added.

Congress general secretary Kamal Nath did not hide his disgust either. “The chief minister seems to be in a habit of looking for things that would amuse him. But I do not think that the central leadership will be amused by the report or its findings.”

Coming soon after state stalwart Madhavrao Scindia’s death, the row is turning into a battle of supremacy between Digvijay and Kamal Nath.


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