Centre gives nod to women�s night shifts in factories
Tragedy on border over prayer
Three die in Ranchi police firing
Red Fort attack trail leads police to Mumbai
Gujarat vandals stall Gajagamini release
KLO activists found dead
Transfer twist to Sonu Nite probe
Joynagar seethes after murders

New Delhi, Dec. 28: 
Women may soon be allowed to work night shifts in factories.

Ignoring protests by trade unions and a section of women�s organisations, the Centre is going ahead with its plans to amend the Factories Act that bars women from working at night. Once it is amended, women will be allowed to work whichever shift they want, including night shifts.

�This is going to be part of the national policy on women to be soon announced by the Centre,� said an official from the department of women and children. A national policy on women is intended to promote greater interaction between departments in order to adopt a holistic approach to women�s issues.

The proposal to include women in night shifts has been cleared by a group of ministers and the labour ministry. �The guidelines will be formulated by the labour ministry,� a human resources development ministry official said.

The Centre claimed women�s organisations were fully backing the Centre�s move, but some of the organisations had a different story to tell. The CPM and CPI-supported women�s organisations are going along with the trade unions and opposing the government�s proposal.

Two months ago the ministries of labour and commerce had convened a meeting of employers, government officials and labour leaders. �We had shot down the proposal to amend this particular provision in the Factories Act,� said D.L. Sachdeva, secretary of the CPI-supported All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc).

The union leader said the employers, from the information technology and software sectors, were keen on putting women on night shifts.

�The proposal may not be bad in principle, but we have to take into consideration the working conditions in factories and the family background of the women,� said Sachdev.

Jyotsna Chatterjee, director of Joint Women�s Programme (JWP), does not agree with the unions� blanket opposition to the amendment proposal. �There should not be any barriers to women exercising their option to work night shifts. But it should not be made compulsory,� stressed Chatterjee.

What she finds disturbing, however, are workplace conditions. �There is always a possibility of violence in these places,� said Chatterjee, even though she underlined that women should have a right to choose which shift they want to work.

Taking this line, a couple of women�s organisations had filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court, seeking a revocation of the provision in the Factories Act that bars women from working night shifts.

The Centre is using this in their arguments with trade unions and women�s organisations, saying the choice to work night shifts will make women more independent.

But even those who are supporting the Centre feel it is necessary to have strict guidelines in workplaces to ensure security for women workers.


Siliguri, Dec. 28: 
At least four persons, including a Bangladesh national, were killed when a scuffle spun out of control and forced the Border Security Force to open fire on a group which tried to enter Indian territory to offer Id prayers.

However, the BSF put the toll at two. The incident happened on Indo-Bangla border at Maidan Danga zero-point in Coochbehar district around noon today.

The additional director general of the BSF, Yogendra Singh Sikoar, told The Telegraph that at 11.30 am, several Bangladesh national were trying to enter into Indian territory probably to attend Id prayers at a mosque at Maidaner Danga, 100 yards inside the Indian side at Fulbari village.

�Our border outpost personnel tried to stop the intruders from entering when a mob of both Indian and Bangladesh nationals attacked and manhandled the jawans. The BSF personnel were pelted with stones and their uniforms were torn in the scuffle that ensued. Finding no other alternative, a jawan opened fire,� he said.

Sikoar said that a 55-year-old villager, David Chaudhury Mia, died on the spot, while another villager, 55-year-old Sayeed Mia, succumbed to bullet injuries at a hospital in Matabhanga.

The third victim was identified as 30-year-old Mohoshin Mia. The police said Mohoshin Mia died of a heart attack, probably from shock, at the Sitalkuchi hospital.

�We have received an unconfirmed report that a Bangladesh national with bullet injury may have managed to cross the international border. We are not sure whether this person has died or not,� Sikoar added.

Several Bangladesh nationals who maintain close ties with villagers across the border cross over to Indian territory regular- ly.

�Today being Id, they may have tried to cross over to a mosque located close on the international border. It is unfortunate that such a incident has happened on Id,� the officer said.

Tension prevailed through the day at Sitalkuchi with the CPM and the Forward Bloc calling a bandh in the area to protest the killings.

While the CPM has called a 24-hour bandh in the area from this afternoon, the Trinamul Congress has issued a similar appeal for tomorrow.

Villagers alleged that the BSF firing was uncalled for. Thousands had gathered at the mosque at Maidaner Danga a few yards from the zero-point on the Indo-Bangladesh border for the morning prayers.

They claimed that while some villagers were returning from their prayers, the BSF personnel challenged them.

A BSF jawan started firing suddenly, they alleged. Five persons suffered bullet injuries and have been admitted to hospitals in Sitalkuchi and Matabhanga.

Sources said senior officials, including district police chief K.C. Meena, have rushed to the spot and a camp has been set up there.

A BSF jawan has been taken into �safe custody� by the local police. Though the situation on the border is tense, it is under control, the police said.


Ranchi, Dec. 28: 
Three people were shot dead when police fired at demonstrators protesting against the death of a minor girl, who was run over by a speeding Bihar Military Police vehicle here today.

The incident dampened Id festivities in the Jharkhand capital and Section 144 was clamped as a precautionary measure.

Demonstrators tried to torch nearly a dozen vehicles, including a fire tender and two police vans while shops and business establishments downed shutters.

Around 11 am, as people from the Muslim community were leaving the mosques after offering ceremonial prayers, an eight- year-old-girl was crushed to death by a speeding Bihar Military Police vehicle near Rajendra Chowk at Doranda.

Soon after the incident, people from the nearby residential colonies set up a road blockade disrupting traffic from Ranchi city to Hatia and the Heavy Engineering Corporation townships.

As the crowd began to swell, deputy superintendent of police, Hatia range U.C. Jha reached the spot and tried to persuade the protesters to lift the blockade and ease tension.

However, the protesters alleged that the Hatia deputy superintendent of police had made �unparliamentary remarks� and refused to budge. A CRPF contingent, which was deployed in the area to maintain law and order during Id festivities, suddenly opened fire on the demonstrators killing two and injuring another.

The injured person was rushed to the Rajendra Medical College Hospital Ranchi but was declared �brought dead�� on arrival.

The news of the accident and the death of three persons in an �unprovoked� police firing spread like wildfire in the city triggering communal tension.

Eyewitnesses alleged that no prior warning had been given to the protesters nor did the police fire in the air as per the usual norm to disperse the mob. They alleged that the CRPF jawans fired indiscriminately at the crowd.

Irate people pelted stones at vehicles damaging more 150 buses and cars. A group of people even tried to set ablaze two police vehicles and a fire tender.

Senior superintendent of police, Ranchi, Neeraj Sinha today said instructions have been issued for filing of an FIR against U.C. Jha, deputy superintendent of police, Hatia range, for dereliction of duty. Chief minister Babulal Marandi condemned the incident and appealed to the people to maintain peace.

However, the Congress demanded the resignation of the Marandi government for its �failure on the law and order front.��

Senior Congress leader Roshan Lal Bhatia alleged that the firing was a �deliberate attempt by the BJP-RSS combine to stoke communal passion in the city and consolidate Hindu votes.��

Bhatia added that the firing was uncalled for and the government could have easily quelled the mob and offered condolence to the bereaved family instead of �inciting the CRPF.�


New Delhi, Dec. 28: 
The police today claimed to have identified and traced here and in Mumbai more associates of Ashfaq Ahmed, arrested on Monday for his involvement in the Lashkar-e-Toiba raid on Red Fort.

Senior police officials said Ashfaq told interrogators he had received about Rs 35 lakh through various hawala routes. Ashfaq, who police say is a Pakistani national, has identified some of the Delhi-based hawala operators who function from the Walled City area. He is also learnt to have revealed that though he stayed at Ghazipur, he was a frequent visitor to Old Delhi. These may have been to keep in touch with his �contacts�.

The police said they will soon make more arrests from Delhi and Mumbai. But they are tight-lipped about the identities of Ashfaq�s associates, saying any disclosure at this moment would �jeopardise� investigation. The police are also on the look out for Rashid, an Indian who lived in the same Batla House flat in Jamia Nagar before Abu Shamal, who was gunned down by the police on Tuesday.

Rashid introduced Shamal and Ashfaq to the houseowner, Gyanchand Gupta, who rented the small flat to the alleged militants. The police believes that the four other Lashkar militants who watched the light and sound show at Red Fort on the night of the assault escaped to Jammu and Kashmir. A Lashkar militant, Abu Sufian, allegedly known to Ashfaq, was shot dead by security forces in Srinagar yesterday.

While the police claimed a �major breakthrough� in its case on the attack on Red Fort with Ashfaq�s arrest and Shamal�s �killing�, the army�s court of inquiry has been less flamboyant. Army sources said the probe will take some time as it will focus on how security within Red Fort was breached and why the 7th Rajputana Rifles battalion failed to react in time to �neutralise� the raid. Besides, the army will also fix responsibility.

The confusion over the reported arrival of the parents of Shamal from Amroha in Uttar Pradesh has cleared. Apparently, the father and brother of one of Shamal�s flatmates, Mansoor, reached Delhi yesterday after learning about the police operation.

The police had taken away Mansoor and a second flatmate, Sajid, for questioning on Tuesday. They were kept in detention for two days without being produced in court. Both Mansoor and Sajid, who are students, were let off this morning. The police said they were held to know more details about Shamal and whether they had any knowledge of the attack on Red Fort.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 28: 
The release of painter M.F. Husain�s film Gajagamini was called off indefinitely after miscreants vandalised the City Pulse Multiplex theatre on the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Highway last evening.

Twenty-five motorcycle-borne thugs destroyed the sets prepared for the movie�s premiere, scheduled for tonight. They also damaged hoardings and special paintings made by Husain to promote the film, which stars Madhuri Dixit. No arrests have been made so far.

Husain, who was to arrive here last evening, was immediately informed of the attack by the theatre authorities and asked not to come.

The episode took an interesting turn after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) denied its involvement in the attack but justified it saying it was the spontaneous reaction of �awakened Hindus� to the controversial painter.

State VHP joint-secretary Jaydeep Patel said his outfit did not give a call to damage the sets and the paintings displayed at the gallery.

�We, however, do not condemn it. Nor do we regret it. We feel that it was a spontaneous act which was necessary to teach Husain a lesson for his objectionable portrayal of Goddess Saraswati,� Patel said.

Patel said that though the VHP was against Husain, it was �not against the film� being screened in the city. �But we will not allow Husain to enter the city,� he said.

The VHP had banned the painter from entering Ahmedabad two years ago after his paintings raised a storm prompting Bajrang Dal activists to ransack the Husain-Doshi Gufa, which was rechristened Amdavad Ni Gufa.

After yesterday�s attack, it is unlikely that the film will ever be released in Ahmedabad.

�Neither the cinema hall owner, nor the distributor is interested in releasing the film here,� said Shailesh Goyal, who is in charge of the film�s publicity.

However, minister of state for home Haren Pandya said that, if required, adequate security arrangements will be made at the theatre for screening the movie.

Home secretary K. Nityanandam said police have found two abandoned scooters near City Pulse and are trying to track down their owners.


Siliguri, Dec. 28: 
The recovery of three bullet-riddled bodies of suspected Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) activists from the jungles on the Indo-Bhutan-Assam tri-junction in Jalpaiguri has added a new twist to militancy in the region.

While district police maintained that a feud within the KLO could be behind the killings, leaders of the Kamtapuri movement are suspecting an �undercover� operation by security forces.

�Last night, around 9 pm, villagers near the Sankosh tea garden reported hearing sounds of heavy firing from the Shukhanala river area on the Indo-Bhutan border. A police search party went to the area this morning and recovered three bullet-riddled bodies,� Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Ranvir Kumar said.

The spot where the bodies were found is an uninhabited area on the tri-junction, northeast of the Sankosh tea garden. The Shukhanala rivulet branching off from the Sankosh river demarcates the Indo-Bhutan international border.

�No firearms were found near the bodies. We recovered 14 empty cartridges of the AK-series rifles from the spot,� the officer added.

He said the area was a known haunt of the KLO-Ulfa combine and gives ideal cover to the insurgents to slip away into the Bhutan jungles after encounters. �The spot is practically uninhabited and we lack manpower to police the area,� Kumar said.

The police have identified the three as �hardcore KLO insurgents� � Kandura Das, Jiten Das and Naresh Das.

However, the police claim of an inter-group rivalry has been contested by senior Kamtapur leaders. �The entire incident smacks of a police plot to liquidate the youths in the Kumargramduar area in Jalpaiguri, said a leader who has gone �underground� ever since the security forces launched a crackdown on the organisation this month.


Durgapur, Dec. 28: 
The Sonu Nigam Nite controversy deepened today with the transfer of the executive magistrate investigating whether a court order has been violated by the organisers.

Satyajit Sen, an executive magistrate who had been functioning as the officer-in-charge of �amusement�, received a fax from the district magistrate�s office last evening stating that he had been transferred to Bankura on December 19.

The magistrate was inquiring into charges that music programme had stretched well past the court�s deadline of 9 pm despite the chief minister�s directive to the police to enforce the rule. �Sen�s transfer is a bolt from the blue. The inquiry will be further hampered,� an official said.

Five days have passed since the night-long musical extravaganza, but neither the police nor the sub-divisional officer has submitted a report to the district magistrate.

The district administration has said it was the responsibility of the pollution department to monitor the show to ensure that it did not violate the sound limit and the deadline. Durgapur houses the South Bengal�s regional headquarters of the environment department.

The issue has assumed a political overtone with the Trinamul Congress alleging that efforts were on for a cover-up. The party has also questioned the �generosity� of the superintendent of police, Manoj Malvia, who gave a �concession� to the club. The bill for police security at the show was cut to Rs 10,000 from Rs 87,997.

However, the club which organised the show alleged a campaign to malign a �noble cause�. A spokesman of Amra Kajan Boys� Club said the money would be used for constructing an old-age home.


Calcutta, Dec. 28: 
A pall of gloom has descended over Shyamnagar village after yesterday�s murder of three SUCI activists by alleged CPM supporters.

Petrified residents of this Muslim-dominated South 24-Parganas village in the Joynagar police station area today stayed away from the Id-ul-Fitr celebrations mourning the death of �the three neighbours they have lost�.

Manirul Sardar, 30, Hasem Sardar, 28 and Zakir Sardar, 32, were hacked to death while working in a field. The assailants had then pumped bullets into their lifeless bodies before feeling.

The village market wore a deserted look as very few people came out. Though 37 persons have been named in the FIR, no arrests were reported as yet.

�After yesterday�s incident, everyone is so shocked that they have forgotten to celebrate the Id. The elderly people did not wear new garments and there was no feast,� Bidhan Chatterjee, SUCI state committee member, said in Joynagar.

He said what had shocked the villagers most was that police described all the victims as antisocials without even going into their antecedents.

SUCI leaders said Hasem and Zakir were long-time members of the party and had no criminal background. Manirul, an ex-CPM worker, had joined about 10 months back. �Before joining our party he might have been involved in criminal activities,� they added.

Satyabrata Bhattacharjee, officer-in-charge of Joynagar police station, said: �We are trying to trace the culprits. Last night we raided several places in Joynagar and its adjacent areas. The raids will continue. Those named in the FIR are still absconding.�

But Chatterjee dismissed the police effort, saying they always go on �searching but find nobody�. �In previous cases, we have given the culprits� names to the police but they always seem to arrest people who are not even remotely connected,� Chatterjee said.

But district CPM leaders maintained that the three were criminals and the killings were a sequel to the SUCI�s internal squabbles.


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