Mamata first off the campaign block as Left dither
Karate kids taught to combat abuse
Govt gives in to Jadavpur teachers
Call to arms by BJP minister
French hotel school for Rs 218-cr Fortune City
Tension in Tripura over missing children
Shillong rebels loot Rs 8 lakh from Apex bank
Court issues notice in Grinder case

Calcutta, June 16: 
Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee scored a point over her Leftist rivals on Friday by launching her party�s campaign for the forthcoming civic elections.

While the Left Front is yet to finalise chief minister Jyoti Basu�s campaign schedule, the railway minister took to the streets, addressing four rallies and a number of group meetings with party functionaries.

Ignoring the inclement weather, Mamata began her day by addressing two meetings in Salt Lake accompanied by the newly elected MP from Panskura Lok Sabha, Bikram Sarkar.

Union minister of state for external affairs Ajit Panja was with Mamata when she addressed two huge rallies at Bagmari and Bowbazar.

At all the four meetings, Mamata urged the electorate to thwart the CPM�s attempt to rig the polls by �unleashing terror�.

She also called upon the people to take a lesson from Panskura. �My next target is to oust the Leftists from Bengal and take control of Writers� Buildings during next year�s Assembly elections,� she announced amid thunderous applause.

In Salt Lake, Mamata promised that her party would stop illegal land transactions in the area if voted to power. She also announced that the party would work out a comprehensive development strategy for the area.

Mamata said she would stay back in Calcutta to oversee the campaign for the civic polls.    

Mayapur, June 16 
Sexual abuse at the Iskcon gurukulas may have come to public light only after the $400 million suit filed in a Dallas court. But the Krishna bhaktas, within Mayapur�s walls at least, knew about the dangerous trend long ago. And they have taken remedial measures which include teaching the boys the art of self-defence.

Even today, teachers who are recruited and students who are admitted are subjected to a thorough psychological examination.

�The probe is so extensive that those with inclinations towards kama or with a paedophilic tendency themselves withdraw their candidature,� said Vedasara Das, principal of the Mayapur gurukula.

Which is why admissions are so few. �Besides our fees being fairly steep ($150 per month), this screening has restricted new entries. Last year, only six new boys out of 86 applicants joined. This year, there has been none,� the young principal, a former student himself, added. �During the last five years, I can guarantee that not a single such incident has taken place,� he asserts.

�Both the teachers and the students are educated and counselled by us and by professionals from abroad. They are explained about sexual tendencies and taught how to control them.�

In addition, the students � all between 9 and 18 years old � are trained in self-defence. �We teach them karate and ju-jitsu, specifically telling them to use it only in self-defence, as Krishna followers are basically against violence,� said Vedasara.

The moment a boy feels �uncomfortable�, or is �touched in places where he doesn�t want to be touched�, he is trained to take retaliatory measures, first in the form of �warnings� and then by reporting the matter to the authorities.

�They have been told that if the situation warrants, they can use martial arts against the perpetrator,� said the principal.

Vedasara knows fully well how some teachers and a few senior students had tortured, molested and sexually abused younger students in the 80s and early 90s.

�Action was taken then, as such behaviour goes against our philosophy. Those responsible were expelled from the order.� But concerned about what would happen later, Vedasara decided to become a teacher �to stop such practices once and for all�.

Equipped with provisions approved by the International Commission on Child Protection, set up worldwide by Iskcon in 1996, Vedasara was instrumental in purging the system.

�Right now, we have 20 teachers, all of whom have been thoroughly screened. All 45 students are here of their own will, and with full consent of their parents who have found the system satisfactory,� he said.

Bangladeshi national held: Safiul Islam, a Bangladeshi national, was arrested from a hotel in Taltala on Thursday night in connection with a political murder in Bangladesh. The police said Islam will be handed over to the Bangladesh government soon.    

Calcutta, June 16 
The three-month-long impasse at Jadavpur University is likely to end next week, following an assurance from the state government that some of the demands of the agitating teachers �will be met with immediate effect�.

State higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty met members of the Jadavpur University Teachers� Association (JUTA) at Bikash Bhavan on Friday. Chakraborty, apparently, agreed to pay salary arrears in six equal instalments, enhance house rent allowance and grant special financial benefits to teachers holding Ph.D degrees.

The minister, however, turned down the teachers� demands of pegging the retirement age at 62 years and implementing career advancement scheme with effect from 1.1.1996.

�We will hold a general body meeting on Tuesday when we may consider withdrawal of our movement,� said Tarun Naskar, JUTA general secretary.

Singer granted bail: Singer Pramit Sen was granted interim bail by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Alipore. Pramit was arrested on June 8 after wife Swastika accused him of torture.    

Garbeta, June 16 
A Union minister today fanned the simmering tension in Midnapore and Bankura border areas with an open call for an �armed uprising� against the CPM.

Minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar, after the fashion of Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, an ally as well as a competitor, exhorted people in a string of meetings here to �take up weapons to counter armed CPM activists�.

�There is nothing wrong in taking up arms if you are attacked. Police will not save you. So, I exhort you, my brothers and sisters, to sharpen your weapons and sever the heads of the assailants,� Sikdar said.

Curiously, on his visit to this small village, Chamkaitala, on the border between Midnapore and Bankura, at the invitation of the local BJP, Sikdar, while issuing a call to meet violence with violence, also said he would inform home minister L.K. Advani of the use of force by the CPM.

�I will tell him that there is no law and order in the state... the CPM has not learnt any lesson in the Panskura parliamentary by-election where the people�s verdict was against violence,� the minister said.

However, what Mamata could do Sikdar could not. A few days ago, Mamata arrived here to inaugurate a martyr�s column in memory of 15 people killed in a clash between supporters of the CPM and Trinamul. She could not be dissuaded from visiting this village, using a dilapidated road, even by her securitymen.

Sikdar was invited by his own party to see for himself how CPM supporters from Bankura had �desecrated� the place by hoisting a red flag on the column and how BJP activists were being terrorised.

Partymen were coming in processions to meet him, but Sikdar could not reach them as, to his astonishment, he found the road before him blocked by armed men, said to be CPM supporters.    

Calcutta, June 16 
An ambitious Rs 218-crore, 200-acre Fortune City project, inaugurated with much fanfare on Thursday evening, took its first concrete step on Friday with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with French hotel management school, Institut Vatel.

Vatel, a global major in hospitality management studies, will set up a state-of-the-art hotel management institute inside the sprawling Fortune City campus in a 50:50 joint venture with Fortune Leisure Pvt Ltd, promoters of the 200-acre mega-complex at Bamunghata, 13 km from Science City.

Fortune City will have five different wings. The nucleus of the project will be the Gurukul, accommodating 500 students and 10 gurus, with a hi-tech digital recording studio, a musical archive, an auditorium and a library. Besides the hotel management institute, the project will also house a theme village resort, a modern hospital and 250 ownership villas.

Dipankar Roy, president of Fortune Leisure, however, refused to put a date to the completion of his dream project.

�Work will commence as soon as the government approvals are obtained,� said Roy, former senior official of a US hotel chain. Fortune Leisure hopes to raise its share of the funds from financial institutions and NRIs.

The Rs 11-crore hotel management institute, to be set up by Vatel Fortune India Ltd, will provide bachelor�s and masters degree courses for Indian students. A three-year bachelor�s course is likely to cost Rs 9 lakh.

�We hope to provide 100 per cent placement to the 400-odd students at our Calcutta institute since we have links with major hotel chains all over the world,� said Alain Sebban, president, Institut Vatel.

STAR stalemate

The Forum of Cable Operators (FCO) placed a charter of demands to STAR TV on Friday. Tarak Saha, convenor, FCO, said: �Our demands include withdrawal of the bouquet system at the new rate of Rs 16.75, revising the rate structure, announcing pay channels in the print media and giving viewers a preview period.� The cable operators placed similar demands before Hallmark and the Turner network and plan to petition Zee and Sony on Saturday.    

Agartala, June 16 
Three school students were abducted from the Kalyanpur area in Khowai subdivision of Tripura yesterday.

Police sources said three students of Kalyanpur H.S. School in Khowai subdivision, Debabrato Debnath, Shibu Debnath, and Tuton Debnath had gone to school yesterday but did not return till the evening. Their parents filed a missing persons diary in the Kalyanpur police station. The abduction, though not yet confirmed, has sparked tension in the volatile Kalyanpur area.

In the Manughat area in Dhalai district of North Tripura, the situation was still tense after yesterday�s clashes between villagers and the police over the arrest of allegedly innocent persons. The curfew imposed yesterday after the clashes was lifted today.

Seven heavily-armed militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura had raided the house of businessman Pritibhusan Saha near Manughat market last night and tried to kidnap him.

When Saha�s family members raised an alarm, neighbours and villagers from the market rushed to his aid. The rebels fired in the air and fled. The mob turned its ire on two non-tribal families in the area and torched their houses.

Police arrested three tribals for the abortive abduction bid and six non-tribal youth, including Saha�s four sons, for arson yesterday. This infuriated the non-tribals even more and they blocked the Assam-Agartala highway.

With traffic stranded, CRPF jawans resorted to a lathicharge, burst teargas shells and fired in the air to disperse the mob. Six police and CRPF personnel and 10 civilians were injured. The Dhalai district magistrate imposed curfew in the area which was lifted this morning.    

Shillong, June 16 
Militants of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council raided the Mawkhar branch of the Meghalaya State Apex Bank today and made off with Rs 8.23 lakh in cash.

The bank heist is the second in the city over the past two months.

A. Dutta, general manager of the bank, told The Telegraph that a group of heavily-armed militants stormed the all-woman branch at Mawkhar, the commercial hub of the city, at 12.10 pm.

Two of the militants disarmed the bank guard, while seven others barged into branch manager A.K. Rajii�s room and demanded the keys to the strong room.

The rebels snapped the telephone connection to ensure that the bank staff could not inform the police, the general manager said.

After collecting the keys, the militants stashed two canvas bags with Rs 8.23 lakh from the strong room and the cash counter. They left behind only a couple of soiled 10-rupee notes, Rajii said.

The rebels also took away an SBBL gun from the bank guard.

The HNLC possibly knew security would be lax in the city today because a large section of police personnel had been deployed in the Assembly. A police team reached the bank branch at Mawkhar half-an-hour after the militants accomplished their mission. A search operation has been launched in the Jaiaw and Mawlai area, but the police are yet to apprehend any of the culprits.

HNLC militants had taken away Rs 6.57 lakh at gunpoint from the Mawlai-Mawdadbaki branch of the State Bank of India on April 10. However, a group of rebels from the same outfit failed to loot the State Bank of India branch at Mawkyrwat in West Khasi hills district on June 6. One of the rebels was killed by security personnel deployed at the bank.

The HNLC, which is fighting for a separate homeland for the Khasis, has snatched 48 weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition over the past 10 days. Militants of the outfit looted a licensed arms shop in the city on June 12, They snatched 37 rifles and a huge quantity of ammunition during the raid.

The rebels also raided state finance minister A.H. Scott Lyngdoh�s house on June 6 and snatched some arms and ammunition from his guards.

Two days later, the militants raided the Pasteur beat house on the outskirts of the city and set it ablaze. The rebels also manhandled the four police personnel on duty and snatched two sten carbines, two self-loading rifles and two .303 rifles.

A series of high-level meetings was held at the police headquarters today to analyse the law and order situation in the city. The police are likely to launch combing operations to flush out the militants, the sources said.

Neepco dues: The Gauhati High Court today directed the Assam government and Assam State Electricity Board to pay the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) Rs 50 crore as electricity tariff, adds PTI from Guwahati. The government was told to contribute Rs 30 crore and the ASEB to add the rest.    

Guwahati, June 16 
The Gauhati High Court today issued notices to the Union government (through the secretary to the ministry of home affairs), four officers of the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau and the deputy inspector-general range, Aizawl, following a petition to implead them as respondents in the Grinder Muivah case. The notices are returnable in four weeks.

This follows the report of the inquiry committee set up earlier according to the directions of the court on April 12. The committee, comprising the Mizoram home secretary, law secretary and the director-general of police, was asked to probe allegations of torture and false implication levelled against Mizoram police by petitioner Grinder Muivah.

Muivah had contended that he was falsely implicated in a case of conspiring to hijack an aircraft from Mizoram on the basis of the statements given to the police by one Ranju Rangan, who had been arrested on February 15 for impersonating a director in the ministry of civil aviation.

According to an FIR registered at the Aizawl police station, Rangan had �confessed that he made this plan to carry out, at a future date, a hijacking operation of the Indian Airlines aircraft� from the Lengpui airport in �furtherance of a conspiracy hatched by Grinder...�

Militant held

A top leader of the People�s United Liberation Front was arrested at Harinagar under Lakhipur subdivision in Cachar district yesterday, reports our Silchar correspondent. Sirajuddin Laskar, a hardcore PULF activist who has several cases of extortion and abduction against him, in Cachar, was arrested from a market. It was not clear whether he was carrying any arms.

Two youth who were kidnapped from Harinagar village on Monday night are yet to be traced. Combing operations are on.    


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