Kamtapur rebels gun for public works minister
De pulled up for assault in hospital
Hooch tragedy near pandal
Anthrax shadow over tiger death
Pilot held for powder letter
Terror Ordinance gag on freedom of expression
Amma absence tells on results
Terror tops BJP meet agenda
Centre alert on fake tablets
Rao friends join Cong, fuel rumours

 
 
KAMTAPUR REBELS GUN FOR PUBLIC WORKS MINISTER 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Oct. 25: 
The minister of state for public works department, Dasarath Tirkey, has started receiving threat calls allegedly from Kamtapur Liberation Organisation militants.

The calls come close on the heels of the Tuesday murder of Revolutionary Socialist Party leader Rohini Adhikari in the separatist cradle of Kumargramduar in Jalpaiguri district.

Tirkey, who also belongs to the RSP and is from Kumargramduar, has been on the KLO hit list ever since he bagged the Kumargramduar Assembly seat this May.

“Anyone who answers the telephone at Dasarath’s house is being threatened,” Tirkey’s foster father and political mentor Salim Toppno said over telephone.

“This is not the first time such calls have been received. Threatening calls were also made to Dasarath before he became a minister,” Toppno said, adding, “We suspect that the KLO is behind the calls.”

Toppno, a former RSP legislator from Kumargramduar, added that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been told of the threats. The RSP leadership, he said, would be urged to take up Tirkey’s security with the state government.

Police, however, said they were not aware of any threats to Tirkey but that security in Kumargramduar had been beefed up. Kumargramduar’s Uttar, Madhya and Dakhshin Haldibari areas have long been the stronghold of Kamtapuri separatists.

“We are not aware of any threat calls to Tirkey. Neither has the minister lodged any complaint regarding the threats nor has he asked for additional security,” Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said. He added that six armed personnel were posted at Tirkey’s Kumargramduar residence.

Gupta, however, revealed that Tirkey had earlier requested the police for a permanent police camp at Madhya Haldibari.

Commenting on investigations into Adhikari’s murder, Gupta said although no arrests have been made, the police had intensified search and combing operations in the area.

“Security has been beefed up in the region,” Gupta said, adding that a permanent camp of the Central Reserve Police Force had been stationed at Sankosh tea garden on the Assam-Bhutan-Bengal junction and special district combat force commandos and armed police deployed.

“We intend to seal off the Kumargramduar-Haldibari-Kalikhola-Sankosh corridor used by the militants. Security patrol in the area has been deployed round the clock,” Gupta said.

Intelligence sources in Alipurduar said Adhikari’s killing was a retaliatory strike by the KLO rebels.

“Information suggests that one of the top KLO leaders, either its elusive commander-in-chief Tamir Das (alias Jeevan Singh) or his second-in-command, Tushar Das, has been killed in a covert operation deep inside the Bhutanese jungles,” an official said. “The KLO strike was carried out with the help of their Ulfa comrades to avenge the reported death.”

The KLO and their Ulfa associates have been under pressure from both the Indian army, stationed at Sankosh, and their Bhutanese counterparts posted in the Nichula-Fifshu forests in the Bhutan hills he said.

The official added that the Bhutanese security forces have been trying to flush out Bhutan-based militants.

   

 
 
DE PULLED UP FOR ASSAULT IN HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 25: 
The CPM leadership today publicly reprimanded Laxmi De, Left Front chief whip in the Assembly, over the October 7 assault on Medical College superintendent Sachchidananda Sinha inside the hospital premises.

It also condemned Aloke Majumder, a member of the party’s Calcutta district secretariat, for his role in organising the demonstration before the superintendent’s chamber, which led to the assault.

“We are unhappy with De for he had informed neither us nor the Calcutta district committee before going to the hospital,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said.

“We feel that instead of leaving the place when the demonstrators turned violent, he should have stayed back and protected Sinha from the protesters, if necessary, at the cost of his own life.”

The disciplinary measure against the two came contrary to a perception, following the clean chit given to De by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the state CPM leadership, that they might be let off the hook to spare the government and the party any embarrassment.

The two were pulled up based on the findings of the one-man inquiry committee the party had set up under Prasanta Sur, former health minister and a member of the Calcutta district committee. The state leadership had constituted the inquiry panel on October 8. Sur had submitted his report on October 18.

Biswas said De had gone to the hospital to submit a memorandum to Sinha regarding eviction of illegal settlers, but had left the place soon after noticing that a number of protesters had turned violent.

“His leaving the spot without trying to pacify the crowd cannot be condoned. No CPM leader or worker is expected to stay away in such situations,” Biswas said.

The inquiry committee’s findings also suggested that Majumder had played a role in organising the demonstration inside the hospital premises.

“Though Majumder was not present during the incident, we came to know that he had organised the demonstration which turned violent. We also condemn the role played by him. Like De, he too had not obtained any permission from the party,” the party secretary added.

It is learnt that the state leadership has not taken any hard decision against De considering his 50-year association with the party.

“He is our chief whip in the state Assembly. But his position in the Assembly does not have any importance to us. We considered his long association with our party while reprimanding him,” said an influential CPM secretariat member.

Sources said the CPM leadership tried to maintain a balance by condemning both De and Majumder, known for their rivalry in the Calcutta District Committee. They said the leadership was probably convinced that Majumder had tried to embarrass De by organising the demonstration indirectly.

The party, therefore, condemned both to convey to members that the state leadership will not spare anyone if he is caught on the wrong foot.

   

 
 
HOOCH TRAGEDY NEAR PANDAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 25: 
Four persons died and 52 were admitted to hospital after consuming country liquor near a puja pandal in South 24-Parganas today, police said. Unconfirmed souces, however, put the toll at eight.

Sources said the liquor was served from a stall near a puja pandal at Naipukur village under Jaynagar police station. Nine persons have been arrested.

Villagers said over 80 persons had consumed the liquor served in plastic pouches last night. Many people began vomiting immediately after having the drink even as others complained of severe stomach pain.

As the news of people falling ill spread, the puja organisers, who had given permission to set up the stall, arranged to shift the affected to the hospital.

Seven persons, whose condition deteriorated, were shifted to different hospitals in Calcutta during the day.

Residents of Naipukur complained that the sellers of the country liquor had the “blessings” of the local police station. They have been carrying on with this business with impunity, they said. They also complained that the police did not arrive at the spot even after a message was sent to the police station.

“We had approached the local police station to assist us to carry serious patients to Calcutta in a police jeep. They simply turned down our request. Had they helped us with a vehicle, we could have saved a few lives,” lamented Swapan Dolui, a villager.

Dolui added that the local panchayat had never protested against the sellers of country liquor.

   

 
 
ANTHRAX SHADOW OVER TIGER DEATH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Oct. 25: 
After cattle, the deadly anthrax bacteria has claimed its next victim in the district — the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Nearly two weeks after 25 heads of cattle succumbed to the “strange disease”, a circus tigress died and two other tigers fell ill at Festival Ground, about 15 km from Burdwan town yesterday morning.

Veterinary doctors suspect the disease to be anthrax.

The Famous Circus, which started here on October 20 at Bankar Math, has been closed down indefinitely following the incident and the other tigers shifted to a separate cage to prevent any infection from spreading.

Asim Bhowmick, the circus manager, said the tigers were given beef brought from Galsi. He said he was unaware of the ban imposed by the local administration on buying beef from Galsi. “We had purchased beef from Galsi as it is easily available there,’’ he added.

Barely 15 minutes before the show was to start yesterday, the circus employees found the tigress and the two tigers lying on the floor. They called a local veterinary doctor, who declared the tigress dead.

District veterinary officer Jayanta Ghosh said the symptoms found on the dead tigress and the ill tigers indicated anthrax.

“It can only be confirmed after carrying out pathological tests which will take three to four days. However, we have asked the circus company to wind up immediately,’’ he said.

The district administration has started an inquiry as to how the circus company was travelling with tigers after the Supreme Court banned the the use of the animal in shows.

Famous Circus has nine lions, 19 tigers and seven elephants. Bhowmick said they were aware of the Supreme Court judgment but used the animals to draw people.

   

 
 
PILOT HELD FOR POWDER LETTER 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
Delhi Police have arrested a commercial pilot in the capital for allegedly sending a letter with a powdery substance to a friend in Canada. The letter was seized at Vancouver airport.

The 22-year-old pilot, Vikas Sharma, who was produced before a local court today, has been remanded in police custody for two days.

According to the Delhi Police, Vikas had sent a mail through his friend Gurwinder Singh to another friend based in Canada. Gurwinder was travelling to Canada to train as a commercial pilot.

During the security check, an immigration officer found a suspicious mail containing powdery substance. When the airport authorities opened the envelope, they saw anthrax written in bold letters.

Gurwinder reportedly told the immigration officers that Vikas had handed the letter to him two days ago. According to him, Vikas wanted the letter to be delivered to Captain Cheema, who lives in Canada.

The Airport Authority of Canada immediately informed Interpol. Interpol contacted the Delhi Police, which picked up Vikas from his residence this morning. The pilot was booked under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code for causing false alarm and spreading rumour.

Vikas’s uncle Kamlesh Rao, who met his nephew today, said: “Vikas told me the envelope contained money that he had earlier borrowed from Cheema.”

The pilot’s arrest came as a shock to his friends and relatives, who described him as a fun-loving and cheerful person.

“I refuse to believe Vikas could be involved in sending a suspicious letter to anybody. If Vikas wanted to play a prank why would he write his name and address on the letter,” said Gaurav, his younger brother.

“My parents are in a state of shock,” the National Institute of Fashion Technology student said. “This incident has wrecked all our lives.” Vikrant Singh, a former schoolmate of the commercial pilot, described Vikas as a “responsible boy”.

“He was the head boy of his school. He completed his pilot training exam in nine months, while most people take five years,” Vikrant said.

   

 
 
TERROR ORDINANCE GAG ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
If television channels in India want to follow in the footsteps of al-Jazeera, they may now have second thoughts. Under the new draconian anti-terrorist Ordinance introduced by the Vajpayee government, freedom of expression may go for a toss.

Reporters are likely to be severely constrained in putting out information about the views of “terrorists”. Newspersons’ right not to disclose their source will not apply when it comes to matters dealing with terrorists. An interview with a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed or the Lashkar-e-Toiba may create problems for a reporter under the new Ordinance.

The reporter can be summoned by the authorities and asked to give out every detail about how the “terrorist” was contacted, where and through whom. Refusal to divulge this information is liable to get the journalist into serious trouble for withholding information “which could be of material assistance in preventing any terrorist activity as soon as reasonably practicable to the police”.

The only exception to this rule is lawyers engaged in the defence of a “terrorist”. Despite the government’s attempts to project the new Ordinance as an improvement on the old Tada, which was vehemently opposed by human rights activists, few will be convinced.

Besides giving sweeping powers to the police, the Ordinance is tough on granting bail to suspected “terrorists”. A person may not be allowed bail for at least a year. After a year, ordinary bail provisions under the Indian Penal Code would apply.

The government, however, says that though stringent, this is certainly an improvement on Tada. “In the past, the magistrate had to make a subjective decision regarding the innocence of the accused and whether he would in future commit a similar offence.”

An accused can also be put behind bars without trial for six months.

The Ordinance defines a terrorist act as any action against the integrity and national interest of the country. Membership of any banned organisation will also be considered terrorism, so would financing of terrorism.

“Provisions have also been made for punishment of whoever threatens any person who is a witness or any other person in whom such witness may be interested. This is a salutary provision for protection of witnesses.”

Gauging the popular mood in the country since the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US, the Vajpayee government had hoped to bring the new anti-terrorist Ordinance and force it through Parliament on the grounds of national security.

But political parties, including the Congress, have said the draft will not be passed in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA does not have the required numbers.

Terrorist organisations

The new Ordinance brands Deendar Anjuman, the Students’ Islamic Mmovement of India and most Kashmiri and Northeast militant outfits and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as terrorist organisations and makes supporting them an offence, says PTI.

Outfits operating in Kashmir which have been listed terrorist organisations include the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pasban-e-Ahle Hadis, the Jaish-e-Mohammed/ Tahrik-e-fuqran, the Harkat-ul Mujahideen/Harkat-ul-Ansar/ Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami, and the Hizb-ul Mujahideen.

   

 
 
AMMA ABSENCE TELLS ON RESULTS 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Oct. 25: 
Besides boycotting the swearing-in of new Chennai mayor M.K. Stalin, whose victory helped the DMK recover face lost in the Assembly polls in May, the ruling ADMK is gearing up for fire-fighting after the mixed verdict in the local body elections.

Though the ADMK-TMC-CPI combine fared better than the other two fronts in the local body elections, Jayalalithaa’s absence from Fort St. George, the seat of power in Chennai, has the ADMK circles concerned.

Despite the fact that the ADMK enjoyed the advantage of being the ruling party, it failed to sweep the polls.

Fearing that the mixed results at the municipal elections could hurt the morale of the ADMK cadre, chief minister O. Panneerselvam fell back on history to assure partymen of the inevitability of Jayalalithaa’s return to the helm of affairs.

Panneerselvam, particularly encouraged by the ADMK’s breakthrough in certain DMK urban pockets, tried to dispel any notions of organisational slack even though the ADMK chief had hardly stepped out of her Poes Garden residence in the last one month.

The only time Amma appeared in public during this period was to visit her party office for its 30th anniversary.

With an eye on consolidating the Thevar OBC-minorities-Dalit axis, the chief minister yesterday assured his audience in Sivaganga district at the bicentennial celebrations of the 18th century freedom fighters, the Marudhapandiyar brothers that Jayalalithaa’s present predicament was only a passing phase .

Her position was no different from that of the valorous queen of Sivaganga, Velu Nachiyar, who became a “victim of political cunning by unscrupulous adversaries” while fighting the British.

The Marudhapandiyar brothers, commanders of Velu Nachiyar’s army, took on the mantle to continue the fight against the British forces, Panneerselvam said.

“Brave women like our Puratchi Thalaivi, cast in the Velu Nachiyar mould, will adorn the flower of victory soon and come back to rule Tamil Nadu,” the chief minister said.

   

 
 
TERROR TOPS BJP MEET AGENDA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
The BJP national executive session early next month is expected to focus on terrorism. Last weekend, the national council had skirted a mention of the issue both in the speeches made by the luminaries and the resolution it adopted as it got bogged down in personality clashes.

The national executive, which will meet at Amritsar on November 2 and 3, is slated to put just one political resolution for discussion and the better part of this will dwell on terrorism, party sources said.

The sources said much of the resolution would be on cross-border terrorism with a suggestion of how “duplicitous” the US’ position was: while it was prepared to go to any length to fight the problem, it was not ready to recognise Pak-sponsored “subversion” in Jammu and Kashmir. The resolution is expected to affirm the BJP’s recent position that India would fight its battle on its own.

Sources said the economic resolution — mandated in such a meeting — may be given the miss to make way for a discussion on agriculture. The basis for this would be a special report prepared by a BJP panel under the chairmanship of former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The report has urged the government to take steps to bail out farmers, ensure that India extracted a better deal in the next round of WTO talks, and find a market for Indian produce.

The panel has listed more than 20 steps for the government to ensure effective implementation of the new agriculture policy across the country. The measures include reduction in the cost of farming operations and protection of traditional Indian farming.

In the past executives, the economic resolution often became an occasion to settle ideological scores between the swadeshi lobby and those who favoured globalisation. With the NDA government going full steam ahead with liberalisation, the discussions often provoked members to air views antithetical to the government’s policies.

The sources, however, admitted that while the absence of a resolution may take care of this problem, the deliberations on agriculture may open up another Pandora’s box of conflicting views and differences.

In another departure from the past, no public meeting will be held. Although Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was earlier scheduled to appear just in time to give his customary concluding speech on November 3, the programme was revised last night. It was decided he would be there on both days.

The BJP, party sources said, wished to avoid a repeat of the negative fallout of Vajpayee’s absence during the flag-hoisting ceremony before the national council met last Sunday because of an alleged communication gap between the party and the government. Vajpayee will address a state-level workers’ convention on November 2 to make up for the public meeting.

   

 
 
CENTRE ALERT ON FAKE TABLETS 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
Here is a warning to those who pop pills. Next time you swallow a Crocin or a Combiflam, make sure they are not fake.

The health ministry today held a joint meeting with Indian and multinational drug manufacturing companies and pharmaceuticals to stem the proliferation of spurious drugs in the market. “The problem is severe in the Hindi heartland, where the drug controlling administration has been traditionally weak,” said an official in the ministry. He agreed that widely used drugs were more prone to being faked.

“You do not need laboratories to produce fake drugs. You can do it at home. What you have to take care of is the packaging of the spurious drug. It should have a label which will look authentic,” he added. According to the ministry, very often the job is so neat that it is even difficult for an original manufacturer to spot the fraud.

Concerned at the way spurious drugs were rapidly infiltrating the market, health minister C.P. Thakur had set up a committee led by the drug controller department three months ago to investigate the issue. Delhi, being the largest market in this region, has been a favourite target for spurious drug makers.

   

 
 
RAO FRIENDS JOIN CONG, FUEL RUMOURS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
Two legal-eagles and close associates of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, R.K. Anand and Devendranath Dwivedi, today joined the Congress.

For Dwivedi, it was a “home-coming”. He was quick to repent his move to question Sonia Gandhi’s credentials on grounds of her foreign origins. It was a “mistake and against Indian and Hindu ethos”, he said.

Dwivedi called on the Congress president today to express his regrets. “She was magnanimous and large hearted. She welcomed me,” he said.

The Rao associate had joined Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and was elected its spokesman in 1999. During this tenure, he embarked on a tirade against the Congress and its chief.

R.K. Anand was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a JMM ticket. He recalled his old relationship with the Congress dating back to Indira Gandhi’s tussle with the Shah Commission during Morarji Desai’s era. Anand was also Rao’s lawyer in the JMM case.

There was speculation if the duo’s entry would mean a greater role for Rao. A section in the Congress feels Sonia should use Rao’s services to fill in the void created after the death of Madhavrao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot, Jitendra Prasada and V.B. Reddy.

   
 

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