Battered boy battles for life
Pranab seeks Narayan ouster
Floating police station in delta
Uproar over arrest zeal
Campaign to save snakes in Sunderbans
College panel rift widens in Front
In Gujarat, Adolf catches ‘em in schools
Naidu keeps Atal guessing
Secular Cong scores
Justice comes when there’s no one to receive it

 
 
BATTERED BOY BATTLES FOR LIFE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, April 28: 
An inmate of a government-run home for destitute boys at Bangetia is fighting for his life in the general hospital here after he was severely beaten up last night by two employees of the institute.

The incident has evoked strong protests from other inmates, who called on district magistrate Manoj Panth and demanded the “immediate suspension” of the employees responsible for the assault. “We will resort to a hunger strike if the two employees are not removed from the home within a fortnight,” warned Manojit Biswas (18), an inmate.

Before calling on Panth, angry home inmates demonstrated in front of the chamber of home superintendent Shantidulal Biswas, demanding immediate action against the two employees, Nirmal Bose and Pradip Saha.

Panth later visited the home and asked additional district magistrate Gurupada Byen to probe the matter. “The guilty will be brought to book. This is unbecoming of home employees, who are responsible for the welfare of the poor boys,” said the magistrate.

Officials said Bhagya Adhikari (16), who received head injuries and bruises in his hands, is still in a state of shock in the New Behrampore General Hospital. Doctors have restricted the entry of visitors to his ward. Adhikari was shifted to the home, where 52 boys are lodged, from another institute in the locality only two weeks ago.

The home superintendent, who is also a social welfare office in the district, said this afternoon that the two employees were found guilty of assaulting the inmate without provocation. “Show-cause notices have already been slapped on the employees on Byen’s instruction. We shall place them under suspension,” he said.

The home superintendent felt that the punishment has to severe enough to deter “physical harassment” of boys in the home.

“I have reports that the two employees beat up inmates on one plea or the other. This has to be stopped,” Biswas observed. He said Adhikari was beaten up only for protesting for being called Vidya during the routine rollcall.

Several inmates also felt that Adhikari was punished without cause. “There was no reason to beat him up so severely. We were all standing in a queue for the rollcall around 4 pm yesterday,” alleged another inmate, Tinku Ray (16).

“We heard the two employees calling him Vidya. Adhikari’s only fault was that he had pointed out that he was wrongly named in the home attendance register,” said Ray.

   

 
 
PRANAB SEEKS NARAYAN OUSTER 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
Bengal Congress president Pranab Mukherjee today demanded the resignation of minister of state for transport Narayan Biswas who surrendered to court in Balurghat on Thursday at the instance of the CPM leadership after being accused in three criminal cases.

“Biswas should immediately be removed as he has already surrendered to court on criminal charges,” the Congress Working Committee member said this afternoon.

Biswas, who is also the CPM MLA from Gangarampur in North Bengal, was wanted in connection with three criminal cases dating between 1983 and 1986, including one of attempted murder. He was also charged with “rioting and threatening public peace”.

Mukherjee warned that the Congress would start a movement in support of its demand. “It goes against political ethics for the CPM to allow Biswas to continue as minister,” he added.

The Congress leader said former Congress chief ministers of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh — A.R. Antulay and Janardhan Reddy — had had resigned after being convicted. “If there is a precedence, why is Biswas not following that?” he asked.

Trinamul Congress MLA and leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should step down for harbouring such “corrupt elements” in his Cabinet.

“Biswas’ surrender to court is evidence that the CPM-led Left Front has been sponsoring violence in the state since it came to power,” he said.

Asked if Trinamul would take up a joint movement with the Congress on this issue, an agitated Banerjee replied in the negative.

“This is impossible as the Congress has a close understanding with the CPM in Bengal and at the Centre. The Congress’ hue and cry over Biswas is an attempt to cover up its nexus with Alimuddin Street mandarins,” Banerjee retorted.

   

 
 
FLOATING POLICE STATION IN DELTA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
The state police has set up a floating police station in the Sunderbans to curb piracy and poaching.

Ten policemen man the police station, which operates from a launch equipped with two wireless sets, searchlights, lifeboats and loud speakers. The policemen are armed with sniper rifles.

Sunderbans abounds in valuable trees like sundari, goran, sal and mohua. It is also rich in a variety of fish, snakes, birds, and peacocks. Most important, it is the abode of the Royal Bengal Tiger, making it a delight for poachers.

Poachers killed four tigers in the Sunderbans last year and escaped with their skins, which fetch a princely sum in the blackmarket, said a forest official.

Besides, pirates from Bangladesh also intrude into Indian waters and kidnap fishermen and loot their mechanised boats. Last year, pirates kidnapped a dozen fishermen.

More than two dozen complaints of looting by pirates and intrusion by poachers have been lodged in the past one year.

   

 
 
UPROAR OVER ARREST ZEAL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Purba Midnapore, April 28: 
Trinamul Congress MLA Pankaj Banerjee and Opposition chief whip Shovandeb Chattopadhyay have lodged a protest with the district administration against the detention of innocent people on the plea of curbing militant activities in Garbeta, Salboni and Goaltore.

Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, who is in Delhi, has been apprised of the matter, Chattopadhyay said.

The party’s Midnapore district unit has been asked to send a report about the party members being harassed by police in this connection.

Superintendent of police K.C. Meena admitted that more than 1,000 people were rounded up over the past two months, but refuted the charge of harassment. “We have released those who are innocent and having nothing to do with extremist activities,” Meena said.

Intelligence gathering has been hampered as many “police sources” were killed by members of the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre, police sources said. “With extremists killing our informers, we are left with no option but to pick up people on suspicion of being militants,” said an official.

“The superintendent of police has asked us to pick up all those involved in political clashes. We are verifying the political identities of people we are picking up. People of Garbeta, Salboni and Goaltore are aggrieved as many of those arrested are from these areas,” said a senior district police official.

The CPM-controlled Left Front government took serious note of extremist activities in the region after seven CPM leaders were killed in the district by PWG and MCC members in the past one year. CPM leaders were killed in Banspahari, Belpahari and Kankrajhore.

The home department has recently instructed the district administration to put an end to the activities of these militants at any cost as these forces have successfully exploited the poverty and unemployment among the villagers of the region.

   

 
 
CAMPAIGN TO SAVE SNAKES IN SUNDERBANS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
After the Royal Bengal Tiger, the spotlight now is on snakes in the Sunderbans delta.

Canning Juktibadi Sanskritik Sanstha, an NGO, has brought out a booklet mapping the presence of snakes in the area.

With the slogan, “Don’t kill the snakes. They need to be protected and conserved”, the NGO has launched its snake-conservation campaign.

The organisation spent 17 years researching on the subject before coming out with the booklet that lists the different types of snakes living in the forest and distinguishes the poisonous reptiles from the harmless ones.

Bijon Bhattacharya, secretary of the NGO, said about 22 kinds of snakes are found in South 24-Parganas, including a variety of cobras like keute. Some of the snakes even face the threat of extinction, he added.

“There are many snakes, some of which are non-poisonous. They include metey, heley and dhora. Eighty per cent of the snakes are non-poisonous but most villagers are unaware of this,” said Bhattacharya.

“We have researched on the types of snakes found in the Sunderbans and elsewhere in the district and published this document that will help people know snakes better and distinguish between the venomous and harmless ones,” he said.

Releasing the booklet yesterday, Tiger Reserve field director Pradip Vyas said: “Please don’t take your near and dear ones bitten by a snake to ojhas. Take them to the hospital because he or she needs an anti-venom injection and not mumbo jumbo.”

The NGO, which had earlier brought out another booklet on tigers, aims to make people aware of the importance of tigers and snakes in maintaining ecological balance.

   

 
 
COLLEGE PANEL RIFT WIDENS IN FRONT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
The RSP, CPI and Forward Bloc plan to hold a joint meeting to protest the CPM’s decision to drop their nominees from college governing bodies, with the CPI and RSP also deciding to boycott meetings of these panels in undergraduate colleges.

The latest imbroglio involves the Maharaja Manindra Chandra College’s governing body, elections to which are to be held tomorrow. The Bloc claims it is hurt by members of the CPM’s Calcutta District Committee trying to re-elect Jagadindu Bhattacharjee as president. This, they say, will go against the Left Front’s decision to make North Calcutta Bloc MLA Subrata Bose the president.

Only last week, the RSP had decided not to attend college governing body meetings after its nominees were replaced by CPM candidates in various colleges across the state. Partha Bhadra in Maheshtala College, Satindranath Das in Gurudas College and Upen Ganguly in Bhairab Ganguly College are among the RSP leaders dropped from the governing bodies at the CPM’s behest.

Stung by humiliation, the RSP has already taken up the with Front chairman Biman Bose and a bilateral meeting was held yesterday. However, the meeting ended inconclusively.

The Bloc, on the other hand, has been hurt the most by the removal of food and civil supplies minister and party leader from Kabitirtha, Kalimuddin Shams as president of the Kidderpore College governing body. The party nominee in the governing body of Dinabandhu Andrews College was also removed recently by the CPM, a senior Bloc leader alleged today.

Bloc nominees were dropped from Gandhi Centenary B.T. College, Birati College and three other colleges in Calcutta. CPI nominees were denied berths in at least seven colleges in the city, say sources. The CPI leadership said it will take up the issue with Alimuddin Street mandarins.

Front partners also expressed resentment at West Bengal College Service Commission chairman Ajit Banik’s appointment as president of the Acharya Prafulla Chandra College governing body. Banik was made president of the college governing body at the behest of CPM leader Anil Bhattacharjee, who looks after higher education affairs with Biman Bose.

Bhattacharjee was reportedly present during Banik’s election as president of the governing body. Another member of the commission was made a member of the New Alipur College governing body.

The education cell of the ruling Left Front, which met in February, had decided to maintain status quo with regard to re-elections to college governing bodies.

The RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI were to have their nominees in those colleges where they had their representatives earlier, according to the Front’s decision. However, the CPM replaced the nominees of their Front partners with their own candidates for the governing bodies.

   

 
 
IN GUJARAT, ADOLF CATCHES ‘EM IN SCHOOLS 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, April 28: 
The government that sprung the “Nazi solution” on students to test their language skills has been bringing them up on the Fuehrer’s fare.

Gujarat’s board of school textbooks believes Adolf Hitler “lent prestige and dignity” to Germany and had adopted only a “policy of opposition” to Jews. It also believes all minority communities in India — Muslims, Christians and Parsis — are “foreigners” and that Hindus have been reduced to a “minority” in most states.

Students in Classes IX and X in Gujarat are being fed these nuggets of “knowledge” despite strict strictures from a parliamentary committee against several sections in the textbooks. Dismissing the committee’s critical observations, the Gujarat board has gone ahead and reprinted the textbooks.

“Even human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, replying to a question in Parliament on the textbooks, defended their contents, saying there was nothing wrong,” said Prof. Arjun Dev, former head of the NCERT’s history department.

The revelation comes less than a week after students appearing for Class XII examinations were given five sentences to join. The sentences: There are two solutions. One of them is Nazi solution. If you do not like people, kill them, segregate them. Then strut up and down. Proclaim that you are the salt of the earth.”

But the questions that rocked Parliament are but a logical extension of what the students have been taught three years earlier.

Gujarat’s Class IX social science textbook, in a section titled “Problems of the country and their solution”, says: “Apart from Muslims, even Christians, Parsis and other foreigners are recognised as minority communities.”

The section then says this: “The priests of Catholic Churches have accumulated plenty of wealth through unjust taxes and illegal fees. And they spend the money on worldly pleasures and immoral behaviour.”

The indoctrination of school children begins early. Examination papers in Classes V and VI listed a question that read: “What is the basic difference between miyans and Others?”

The social science textbook for Class X showers praise on the Nazi chief. The section on “Internal achievements of Nazism” does not even cursorily mention the Holocaust and the extermination of Jews. It dismisses the mass killings in one sentence: “Hitler adopted a policy of opposition towards the Jews and advocated the supremacy of the German race.” The section begins stating that “Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time by establishing a strong administrative set-up.”

Then, it credits the Fuehrer with a string of achievements. “Hitler adopted a new economic policy — brought prosperity to Germany — began efforts for eradication of unemployment. Made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant within one decade. Instilled a spirit of adventure into the common people. But in doing so led to extreme nationalism and caused the Second World War.”

Mussolini, the same textbook states, “ established a strong, stable government in Italy. He made Italy prosperous and powerful. All the institutions of the state functioned according to the tenets of fascism”. There are no critical comments either about fascism or Mussolini.

When the textbooks were brought to the notice of a parliamentary committee a couple of years ago, it reacted strongly, saying these sections paint a “frighteningly uncritical picture of fascism and Nazism. There has been no mention of the extermination of six million Jews.”

The Gujarat government, however, sent a letter stating its disagreement with the parliamentary committee’s observations.

   

 
 
NAIDU KEEPS ATAL GUESSING 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, April 28: 
Chandrababu Naidu, the key sponsor of the NDA government in Delhi, has hinted that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s reply to the debate on the censure motion in the Lok Sabha could hold the key to his decision on the vote.

Speaking to reporters after the inconclusive session of the Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party at the party headquarters, Naidu said he was in no hurry to decide on his course of action on April 30. “However, much will depend on the spirit and approach of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s reply to the debate in Parliament,” he told MPs this morning.

Naidu added that the situation was not as grave as during the regime of V.P. Singh or I.K. Gujral or H.D. Deve Gowda. “There is no threat to the Central government, and what we are cautious about is to save the secular fabric of the country,” he said.

The crucial meeting began with Naidu briefing his legislators on the consequences of the party’s stand on the issue. At 4.30 pm, he adjourned the conclave and asked the MPs to convene at his residence in the evening.

The meeting was delayed by an hour as the chief minister had to preside over the surrender of several Naxalites soon after he returned from a two-day trip to his native Chittoor district and the Kuppam Assembly segment.

The meeting is expected to continue well into the night as it aims to record the opinion of all the 37 MPs — 28 in the Lok Sabha and nine in the Rajya Sabha — on three issues:

Gujarat,

Speaker, and

whether there should be any other measure to record strongly the Desam’s protest against the annihilation of secularism in Gujarat.

The Desam spokesman said Naidu will elicit the opinion of each individual MP on the options before the party in the evening. The move comes in the wake of criticism by some senior MPs, including Nizamabad MP Ganga Reddy, that they were not consulted by the party high command when the politburo resolution to seek Narendra Modi’s removal was endorsed.

The Desam chief will also test his party’s mood on the Lok Sabha Speaker’s post — whether the Desam should cash in on the opportunity or let it go in view of the fluid political scenario. The MPs might be given a choice of names or asked to mention their own preferences for the post, the party spokesman said.

Even as senior BJP and NDA leaders kept the hotline to Hyderabad busy, Naidu has been taking his time to arrive at a decision as the Desam is keen to safeguard its secular character from any blemish its support to the BJP-led regime might bring. In fact, many MPs have strongly advised the party leadership that the Gujarat issue is a golden opportunity to redeem itself for the minorities.

But Naidu also faces a dilemma as he also does not want to be seen as a destabiliser in national politics after what happened to the United Front. The front had collapsed after Naidu deserted it to support the BJP in 1998.

   

 
 
SECULAR CONG SCORES 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, April 28: 
The Congress seems to have gained a headstart in the run-up to the three Assembly byelections scheduled for May 31 by waging a lone war against the unabated communal violence in Gujarat.

Despite the Dravidian parties’ strong secular credentials, the ADMK’s stand of remaining neutral during the voting on the censure motion and the DMK’s hint that as part of the NDA, it was expected to back the government could shadow their prospects at Acharapakkam, Vaniyambadi and Saidapet.

Moreover, by distancing themselves from the oust-Narendra Modi chorus, the Dravidian parties have bolstered the Congress’ “true secular” credentials, said sources.

Vaniyambadi in Vellore district is a Muslim-dominated constituency, and the Congress, which is likely to contest there with the CPI’s support, seems on top there now.

Sources said it was mainly the Congress and, to a lesser extent, the Left parties and the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), which have been actively campaigning in recent weeks against the Gujarat chief minister.

State Congress chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan has not only organised statewide fasts to demand Modi’s resignation, but followed it up today with a meeting of the TNCC minorities cell, which condemned both the DMK and the ADMK for “vying with one another to support the BJP at the Centre”.

However, the Congress’ efforts to use the Gujarat chip to forge an understanding with the Left parties and the TMC suffered a setback yesterday when the CPM announced its decision to contest the Saidapet seat.

The CPM has made it clear that it does not want to have any truck with the Congress. But it is not averse to a strategic coordination with the TMC for Acharapakkam and Vaniyambadi.

The CPI, on the other hand, sees the Congress as a friend. The TMC might be content playing a supportive role in the context of its proposed merger with the parent party.

In the NDA camp, Karunanidhi has announced the DMK’s support to the PMK at Acharapakkam in return for the Vanniyar party’s help in the two other constituencies.

Curiously, the MDMK led by Vaiko has decided to support the PMK but fielded its own candidates against the DMK at Saidapet and Vaniyambadi.

Since the DMK will not directly seek the BJP’s support after severing its links with the latter at the state-level last month, Vaiko is hoping to cash in on the BJP’s silent backing in the two constituencies.

With such disarray in the Opposition camp, the Congress is likely to make secularism in the backdrop of the Gujarat crisis a major issue in the bypolls.

   

 
 
JUSTICE COMES WHEN THERE’S NO ONE TO RECEIVE IT 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Dihasahibara (Biridi), April 28: 
Chhabirani Mohapatra found justice last week after 22 years. She was not there to see it being done. Nor was her husband, Nabakishore, or her son, Dany, for whom she gave her life on October 3, 1980.

A group of Congressmen chased Chhabirani, raped and murdered her on the Biluakhai riverbed near this village, as Nabakishore stood transfixed with eight-month-old Dany, hidden in a bamboo grove. When the couple was attacked by the gang, Chhabirani had asked her husband to flee and save his life and that of their son.

Last week, the Supreme Court convicted four of that group for raping and killing Chhabirani, overturning a high court judgment that had let them walk free and called the husband a coward.

“I still remember their faces when I searched for my wife with a torchlight on the riverbed. A day before the incident, my wife was on fast for the entire day. When the goons started chasing her on the wet riverbed, she had no energy left to flee from their clutches. She begged for mercy,” Nabakishore said.

The couple incurred the wrath of some influential local people after news agent-cum-reporter Nabakishore wrote certain reports on corruption in Oriya newspapers, for which he worked as an unpaid part-timer, encouraged by his wife, who had a flair for poetry. Durmukha, a satirical magazine, published two of her poems and she became a correspondent as well for the publication.

Two decades after Chhabirani’s death, her husband is not a crusading journalist, but has found safety as a lowly official in the Orissa Forest Development Corporation at Berhampur, where he has been living for 11 years. Nabakishore, who once wrote in the newspaper, Nirbhika, how the doctor of the primary health centre was pilfering medicines, has remarried and has a daughter by his second wife.

Dany, now a young man of 22 with a business in another district, Kendrapara, does not live with him. Father and son appear to have drifted apart, memory of that day in the bamboo grove perhaps fading with time in Nabakishore. Or of the love poems Chhabirani wrote to him during courtship when she was in her teens.

On October 3, 1980, Dany — the last of the couple’s four sons — was too young to pick up baggage for the future. First-born Lalu was mentally-challenged and last heard was living with Chhabirani’s parents. The other two died, possibly at birth or soon after.

“We still meet,” Nabakishore said, revealing that he brought up Dany till he was 15. Nabakishore’s youngest brother, Dushashan, and family members dispute it. “He hardly visits us or his son,” said Dushashan.

Few in this village — where Chhabirani first stepped in as a newly-wed, her romance with Nabakishore having started in 1970 in Puri — are comfortable recounting the incident.

Nabakishore’s mother, Pramila, who could not muster the courage to see the mutilated body of her daughter-in-law in 1980, let a thin smile cross her lips after being told for the first time of the quartet’s conviction.

“It’s good that they have been punished. But isn’t it too late?” she asked.

It is, at least for one of the four convicted. Babaji Mania died five years ago. The other three — Birabar Mania, Dhira Behera and Madhabananda Parmanik — are small traders on the wrong side of 50.

“I thought these people had managed to grease everyone’s palms as we saw after my sister-in-law was raped and murdered,” Dushashan said.

   
 

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