Burdwan on Naxalite alert
Security blanket for Lama visit
Dacoits raid teachers’ quarters
Border-cross for influx insight
Chowbey murder catch
Sunderbans set for count of big cats
Delhi stage for war & peace face-off
Party spares the rod, spoils govt
BJP bows to Shotgun appeal
Jaswant set for Sattar date

Burdwan, Nov. 2: 
Alarmed at the attack on the police camp by Lalkhand extremists in Topchanchi near Dhanbad two days ago, authorities have put the district, particularly areas bordering Jharkhand and Bihar, on high alert.

The district police have sealed Burdwan’s border with the two states and are maintaining a strict vigil along the Jamtora-Dhanbad Road. Security arrangements in the police stations in the industrial areas of Asansol, Durgapur and Ranigunj were today examined by senior district officials. Additional forces have also been deployed.

“After the attack by extremists in Topchanchi, not far from Asansol, we decided not to take chances. We don’t want our forces at police stations and camps to be caught unawares,” a police official said.

District superintendent of police B. Rameshbabu admitted that Naxalite outfits like the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG) had spread their roots in Burdwan. “We have assessed the situation and taken precautions,” he said.

Specially trained commandos were sent to police camps of Kalyaneswari, Salanpur, the Duburi commercial tax collection centre and the Jamtola border.

“In order to maintain law and order, we have decided to divide Jamtora and Kulti police stations into four separate thanas. A police station has been set up at Kenda as well,” Rameshbabu said.

The police in the district would be armed with sophisticated weapons like carbines and self-loading rifles. “We have sought AK-47 rifles from the home department to combat the extremists,” the district police chief said.

“We are not only increasing the force at police stations and camps in the industrial belt but also providing them with more arms. Some of the police stations have been renovated. In some cases, wooden windows are being removed and 9mm steel plates are being fitted. Wireless links among police stations and the district police headquarters are also being augmented,” Rameshbabu said.

To meet growing threats from militant groups and other emergencies, policemen from the district would be trained specially from November 19.

According to intelligence sources, the PWG is active in the forest areas of Kankra, Barabani, Aushgram-2 and Pandaveswar. Police had definite information that youths were being trained in these areas by the PWG. The MCC is active in Jamuria and Salanpur.


Salugara (Jalpaiguri), Nov. 2: 
The sleepy little town of Salugara today resembled a fortress as it welcomed the Dalai Lama, who flew in from Delhi this afternoon to inaugurate the rebuilt 15th century Sed-Gyued Gaden Phodang Monastery.

Thousands of devotees cried “Long live the Dalai Lama” as the Tibetan spiritual leader got off his bullet-proof car. Security personnel deployed by the Sed Gyued Monastery and the district police immediately threw a ring of steel around him.

The original monastery, established in 1432 at Tsang in central Tibet, is one of the oldest centres of tantric learning of the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. It was destroyed after the occupation of Tibet by China’s People’s Liberation Army in 1959. The monastery-in-exile will also serve as the Sed-Gyued Buddhist Research and Training Centre.

The Dalai Lama had wanted the monastery to be rebuilt in Salugara for the continuation of teaching, learning and transmission of the tantric traditions of the Gelukpa sect.

Later, addressing a huge gathering of monks, angis (nuns) and devotees from Nepal, Bhutan and neighbouring Sikkim and Darjeeling, the spiritual leader stressed on the new and reformed Sed-Gyued monastic teachings of the Gelukpa sect.

Jalpaiguri police have tightened security around the Sed-Gyued monastery, where the Dalai Lama will reside during his nine-day visit.

“Considering the Z-plus category security status and head of state status of the Dalai Lama, an elaborate security arrangement has been made round-the-clock for the Tibetan leader and members of his government-in-exile at Salugara,” superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said.

The Dalai Lama will hold a public teaching programme or “Buddhi Chitta” for devotees on November 3 and 4.

From November 5 to 9, he will hold tantric initiation for 900 ordained monks and angis, before leaving for a two-day teaching visit to the Kargmed Thegchen Choling Monastery at Lava, in Kalimpong, on November 10.


Berhampore, Nov. 2: 
Armed dacoits raided the teachers’ quarters in the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) complex and looted cash and ornaments worth a few lakh rupees last night.

The dacoits beat up a teacher and his wife when they tried to resist them. Several persons, including the ITI principal Tapan Ray, teachers and their families, today submitted a memorandum to Murshidabad superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar demanding suspension of the four policemen on duty during the dacoity.

“I have ordered an inquiry into the incident,” Kumar said.

Residents alleged they had raised an alarm on time but the policemen did not turn up. The police camp is a stone’s throw from the quarters.

Baiidyamath Bhattacharya, a senior teacher, said around 1.30 am he heard neighbour Prangopal Majumdar, a teacher, and his wife screaming for help. “As we opened the main door of our house we saw the couple bleeding profusely,” said Bhattacharya. The dacoits broke open the main entrance of the Majumdar house. Prangopal is in hospital and was said to be in a critical condition.

The residents rushed to the camp only to find the policemen sleeping. “We called them for 15 minutes. But none responded,” said Bhattacharya. Before raiding Majumdar’s house, the dacoits had looted Ray’s quarters.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Concerned over the rush of immigrants from Bangladesh, a team of four of Border Intelligence Corps (BIC) officials sneaked into the country recently to probe the ground reality.

The team filed their report on Thursday to the North 24-Parganas Intelligence Bureau. The border areas of the district have been in focus in the past few weeks after a spate in sneak-ins in the wake of the increasing attacks on Hindu minorities since the Khaleda Zia government came to power in Bangladesh.

“We knew that sneaking into Bangladesh will be a risky decision. But we were determined to know what is going on there. People who were coming here told us their tales of plight. That’s why we took the risk,” said one of the BIC officials.

The officials visited the Satkhira, Kaligunge, Khulna areas and spoke to a number of people who were all set to cross the border to India. “Youths are being killed in front of their parents. Young girls are being gangraped. No one was there to bring justice to them,” said a BIC official.

In the report, the officials have said 100 temples were demolished since the election results were declared. The Kapilmuni Ashram at Bagherkhol village in Barishal district was demolished. Thousands of houses were either set on fire or ransacked.

“First the violence was taking place only in rural areas. But gradually it is also spreading in the urban areas. A number of families has fled Dhaka,” the report says. Urban areas like Jhinaidaha, Tangail, Moymonsingha, and Satkhira were mentioned in the report.


Midnapore, Nov. 2: 
Bengal police today had a big fish in their net when they arrested B. Rambabu from Hyderabad in connection with the murder of Trinamul Congress youth leader Goutam Chowbey in Kharagpur two months ago.

Rambabu was wanted in nine cases of murder, including that of Goutam’s brother Manas in 1999. Seven arrests followed Rambababu’s, taking the total number of arrests in connection with Goutam and Manas’ murder to 21.

Rambabu was nabbed from a house in Kanikapally during a raid by a police team from Midnapore, led by additional superintendent of police A. Srinivas.

District superintendent of police K.C. Meena described the arrest as a great achievement.

“Rambabu was a terror in Kharagpur and people wondered how he was going about scot-free. With his arrest, they will regain faith in the police,” a district official said.

Though Rambabu had been absconding since the murder of Manas, his associates were active in manipulating railway tenders and controlling the sale of scrapped railway property.

The police team had gone to Hyderabad on a definite tip-off and traced Rambabu to his brother’s house. Police sources said first a raid was conducted on a flat in Yusuf Goda where Rambabu’s brother stayed.

Police arrested one of his brothers and that led to the raid on the Kanikapally house. After Rambabu’s arrest, Sanjay Thakur, the principal accused in the Goutam murder case, was also picked up. Police teams had fanned out to Calcutta, Chennai, Vijayanagar, Hyderabad and Ooty in search of Rambabu and his men.

Goutam, son of former CPI leader Narayan Chowbey, was a witness to the murder of his brother Manas, a district Trinamul leader.

According to the police, differences relating to bagging railway tenders was the main reason behind the nine murders in which Rambabu was allegedly involved.

Local Trinamul leader Debasish Chowdhury said: “We are really happy. Now we demand proper punishment for Rambabu and the rest.”


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
The first tiger census of the millennium will be held in the Sunderbans from December 7 to 14 this year, the forest department said today.

In the census in 1999, the number of tigers was recorded at 254. The pugmarks collected during the census will be analysed this time to determine the growth rate and find out survival problems, if any, faced by the king of the jungle in the 4,200-sq km Sunderbans.

The census team will comprise field staff, different specialist teams, members from the World Wild Life Fund, the Zoological Survey of India, and some NGOs. The team will be divided into 30 groups, each having six members.

“This huge arrangement will be made to maintain transparency in the whole census process,” Atanu Raha, chief conservator of forest (south) and director of the Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve said. He added that to finalise the entire programme, a special meeting has been convened on November 19, where a blueprint of the project will be drawn up.

“Our main thrust will be to find out whether there has been a healthy growth in the tiger population or whether there has been a growth-stagnation because of reasons like disturbed habitat or lack of adequate prey for food,” the conservator said.

The forest department has also drawn up a master-plan to protect tigers from the villagers and vice versa. According to the plan, forest guards would be given special training to handle sophisticated guns, including those needed to tranquillise tigers, to keep the animal away from human habitat.


New Delhi, Nov. 2: 
The face of the America at war and the face of the America that wants peace will be in the capital on Monday. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and America’s best-known dissident Noam Chomsky will address India on waging war and waging peace.

Rumsfeld, the 69-year-old soul of Bush’s war cabinet, former Princeton University wrestler, arch-militarist and the man Henry Kissinger once described as the most ruthless “despot” to deal with according to Time magazine, will meet defence minister George Fernandes on Monday morning. Shortly afterwards he will be on the steps of South Block, addressing television cameras and the world’s media. He reaches Delhi after travelling through Central Asia and Pakistan.

Chomsky, professor of linguistics at Massachussetts Institute of Technology, devastating critic of US foreign and military policies, one of the foremost leaders of the anti-Vietnam war campaign in the late 1960s, speaks on philosophy tomorrow in a lecture for the Institute of Social Sciences titled “Peering into the abyss of the future” and on Monday against militarism at a public meeting organised by economist Jean Dreze at the Delhi School of Economics.

Delhi’s chatterati know what to expect from each. For a militarist, few can match Rumsfeld’s credentials. For a peacenik, few can Chomsky’s.

A former US naval aviator, Rumsfeld was the youngest US secretary of defence (1975-1977) when he took the office in the Ford administration. Before that, he had been US ambassador to Nato. Even after quitting government in 1985 and as a private businessman, he was on the President’s advisory committee on arms control, senior adviser to the Reagan administration on strategic systems and a member of the board of visitors of the National Defense University. Shortly before joining the George Bush Jr administration, he was chairman of the Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the US. He is now heading a review of the world’s largest military with a budget estimated at $ 300 billion a year. If the American military industrial complex had to be given a name, it would be Donald Rumsfeld’s.

Rumsfeld will be seeking to strengthen “the global coalition against terrorism” as US jets smart-bomb Afghanistan, bin Laden, Mullah Omar and also, unsmartly, men, women and children.

Noam Chomsky, advocate of a philosophy that Jawaharlal Nehru University’s linguistics professor Franson D’Manjali describes as “something close to anarcho-syndicalism but not quite it”, once explained to an interviewer why he continues to teach at MIT where much of American strategic and militaristic research is carried out.

“Karl Marx used to work in the British Museum where all the loot from the colonies used to come,” he said.

Chomsky’s political writing is enshrined in his book For Reasons of State, among other works.

Here is a sample of what Chomsky has had to say on American policy:

“...The US is, after all, the only country condemned by the World Court for terrorism — for “the unlawful use of force” for political ends, as the Court put it, ordering the US to terminate these crimes and pay substantial reparations. The US, of course, dismissed the Court’s judgment with contempt, reacting by escalating the terrorist war in Nicaragua ...”


Amritsar, Nov. 2: 
In a departure from the past, when such sessions would criticise the Centre’s economic policies or be patronising in their endorsement, the BJP national executive this time had nothing but unqualified praise for the Vajpayee government.

The session did not even introduce the customary economic resolution, saving the government a big headache as a discussion on this document would invariably have raked up the swadeshi versus globalisation debate.

The national executive instead confined itself to discussing a report on agriculture policy, submitted by a party panel headed by former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The report is significant in the light of the next round of negotiations on WTO in Doha and the fact that the BJP’s Punjab ally, the Akali Dal, has moved the Supreme Court to seek a direction asking the Centre to involve the states in the process leading up to ratifying the WTO treaty.

Whether it was the Shekhawat Committee offering suggestions on agriculture or party chief K. Jana Krishnamurthi talking about labour reforms and a social security net for workers, the thrust was that the Vajpayee government was the best the country could have had.

Krishnamurthi called on BJP workers to create awareness about various government schemes “so that people at large will be able to know how to get things done”. The BJP chief also urged the states to “fully cooperate in the implementation of all the poverty-removal and employment-generating welfare schemes of the central government”.

Krishnamurthi seemed to be keen to make amends with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after he had publicly expressed his anger at the party organisation for not inviting him properly to a function to commemorate the Jan Sangh-BJP’s golden jubilee a couple of weeks ago.

In his opening remarks, he said the NDA government was quick to “act” on a suggestion that emanated from a previous national executive on setting up a monitoring mechanism for schemes meant for the poor and the needy.

“This clearly shows that our government at the Centre is a responsive one, responsive to suggestions,” Krishna said.

Supporting the need for labour reforms “as a result of the economic reforms that are being pursued by this government”, he said the BJP sought an amendment in the Industrial Disputes Act and contract laws to speed up investment flow and create employment opportunities.

Virtually turned apologist for the government, Krishnamurthi said, “this attempt to amend the above acts should not be viewed as something against the interests of labour” and appealed to the Opposition and trade unions not to allow their “political differences to interfere with the interests of unemployed youths”.

Among his other proposals for the Centre were:

Enhancing compensation from 15 days’ salary to 45 days’ salary against each year’s service and National Renewal Fund to rehabilitate workers affected by labour reforms;

Extend insurance cover to private sector workers in the same way as those of PSUs;

Set up special courts to settle all land title disputes;

Simplify and improvise ground registration rules for land titles;

Remove all the hurdles in the conversion of fallow land marked as agricultural land for use for other purposes.

The agriculture committee too praised the Centre for taking the initiative for the first time to formulate a national agriculture policy and proposed certain measures for implementation like:

Nationalisation of buffer stocks;

Remunerative prices for pulses;

Removal of restrictions on the sugar industry;

Free movement of agriculture commodities;

Promotion of traditional farming;

Meaningful minimum support price; and

Quantitative restrictions on imports.


Amritsar, Nov. 2: 
Whether it is filmstar-turned-MP Shatrughan Sinha or minister of state Vasundhara Raje, the Prime Minister appears to have realised that it doesn’t help to look the other way when they bawl or complain.

Sinha had dropped hints that he may look for greener pastures, but a frantic BJP cajoled him into attending the national executive. He arrived sporting his trademark dark glasses along with hoi polloi — MPs and scribes — in the Golden Temple Express to a rousing reception.

“He has travelled in a train after a long, long time although in the first AC coach,” whispered a leader from Bihar, the actor’s home state. Bihar leader of the Opposition Sushil Modi is reportedly trying hard to set up a meeting between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sinha.

In the BJP’s perception, Sinha is one of the few leaders capable of mustering a gathering of 25,000 at short notice in the Hindi heartland, where the party lacks crowd-pullers. Bihar BJP sources conceded that even Vajpayee’s fabled charisma had let them down in the last Assembly polls.

“Wherever Atalji campaigned, we lost,” said sources. “This goes to show that a mass leader is not necessarily a vote gatherer.”

Sinha, they claimed, was the quintessential Bihari babu whose appeal cuts across caste lines. His other plus point was unlike most Bollywood stars, he was not in politics for “time-pass”. “He is a serious politician and makes hard political speeches,” they said. “He is a Kayastha but people don’t see him as one. It is sad that our leaders have used this very argument to deny him a ministership,” said sources.

The actor was reportedly told that because Kayasthas did not count for much electorally in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it was not expedient to have two of them in the Cabinet. Finance minister Yashwant Sinha is also a Kayastha from Jharkhand.

Sinha’s loyalists were peeved when they found that in the last major expansion, a Bihari Kayastha —- Ravi Shankar Prasad —- was taken into the council of ministers though he was a first-time MP.

“If Prasad and Rudy (Rajiv Pratap Rudy) can become ministers, what is wrong with Shatrughan?” they asked. The BJP’s compulsion to keep Sinha on their side has come after the realisation that in Uttar Pradesh, it is hard up for strong campaigners. The BJP’s arch rival, the Samajwadi Party has managed to rope in Amitabh Bachchan, also a Kayastha.

Today’s unexpected portfolio changes among the ministers of state, said BJP sources, was done to placate Vasundhara who was reportedly miffed after khadi and village industries was taken away from her. She had done her bit to modernise the use of khadi and her idea was proving a big hit.


New Delhi, Nov. 2: 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh might end up meeting his Pakistani counterpart Abdus Sattar in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, though a meeting between their bosses seems remote.

Singh, who is part of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s three-nation tour beginning Sunday, will not accompany him to London, the Prime Minister’s last stop before he returns home.

Instead, he plans to stay on in New York from November 10 to 15, during which time he is likely to meet his counterparts from a number of other nations.

But signals emanating from South Block suggest that Vajpayee is yet to take a final decision on a meeting between Singh and Sattar.

Delhi realises that Pervez Musharraf, the current darling of the West, would try to exploit his new-found bonhomie with the US and its allies to ensure that the Indian Prime Minister meets him in New York. Reports about the current military build-up along the border are being seen here as a move on Islamabad’s part to address the Western audience.

Vajpayee is scheduled to meet the American President in Washington on November 9 before coming to New York, where he is to address the General Assembly the next day. Musharraf will already be there as he is slated to have a dinner meeting with George W. Bush on that day.

If Vajpayee and Musharraf meet, it will give credence to Islamabad’s stand that the Kashmir issue had been successfully internationalised and the tension between the South Asian neighbours had forced Bush to nudge Vajpayee towards the talks table. This is precisely why Vajpayee wants to avoid meeting the Pakistan President.

But remarks of Western leaders who have visited the region in the last few weeks indicate that the world community is keen that India and Pakistan resume their dialogue.

This may finally lead Vajpayee to allow his foreign minister to meet Sattar to tell the West that India is trying to normalise relations with Pakistan.

At the same time, by not meeting Musharraf, he can still assure his domestic audience that till Pakistan addresses India’s concerns, he would not talk to its President.

Asked to comment on the issue, foreign secretary Chokila Iyer said: “The position is not clear, though India remains committed to the process of dialogue with Pakistan.”

She pointed out that if the Saarc summit takes place in Kathmandu in early January, Vajpayee and Musharraf, along with other leaders of the region, would meet.

Jaish under scanner

In a boost to India’s campaign for action against Pakistan-based militant outfits, US’ top law enforcer has recommended to the state department to declare Jaish-e-Mohammad and some other groups as “terrorist organisations”.

Attorney general John Ashcroft, in a communication to secretary of state Colin Powell, said the militant outfits whose assets were frozen by the Bush administration after the September 11 strikes should be branded as “terrorist organisations”.


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