Naxalite class struggle for children
Policemen hurt in burglary backlash
OC shot at in revenge raid
Border plan to fight ISI
Trinamul men rough up nominee
Third front awaits Basu rallying touch
Blood flows in Naxalite flushout drive
CM sees Mamata pact plot
Jaya stoops to conquer Cong cousins
Harkat surrender fillip to Mahanta

Kankrajhore (Midnapore), March 10: 
The students here don�t go to school. They trek miles into dense forests, carrying newspapers and food for Naxalite supporters holed up in the area. Soon, fear the local people, the 20-odd schools in the region will have to shut down because the 3,000 students do not have time to attend class.

People in this forest-covered hilly region have no option but to yield to the militants� demand and supply the daily necessities to hundreds of trainees of organisations such as the MCC and PWG, which are running a parallel government in these border areas of Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

As adults are not allowed to enter the Naxalite areas, the children do the job of delivery boys � instead of attending classes.

The teachers prefer to remain silent. So do the police. Says S.R. Pal, additional superintendent of police (operations): �The areas being mostly remote and unapproachable, we cannot do anything until we get sufficient reinforcements.�

The inspector-general of police (western range), J.R. Bhagat, and the DIG (Midnapore range), R.K. Singh, have held high-level meetings, emphasising the need for large-scale raids in these areas, especially after the alleged massacre in Garbeta on January 4, in which the PWG was believed to have played an active part. But reinforcements have yet to reach the area.

The Naxalite outfits resurfaced in this border area after the MCC was outlawed in Bihar and the PWG in Andhra Pradesh. Here they are known as the Biplobi Krishak Committee, Kendupata Sangharsh Samiti and Nari Mukti Manchha.

Initially, they imposed fines on mahajans dealing in kendu leaves. They forced the mahajans to pay more to farmers for the kendu leaves they collected, and won the latter over.

The next target were businessmen carrying their merchandise in trucks. A lorry carrying clothes was set on fire recently because the merchant refused to pay the �fine� imposed by the Naxalite outfit.

The Naxalites targeted the officers of the forest department. The officers were beaten up for cutting down forests and selling the trees. Divisional forest officer Debal Ray issued a circular recently asking the forest committees to stop felling trees because of these incidents.

The next victim were the ration dealers. They were asked to offer these outfits rice, wheat and kerosene free of cost. Sunil Manki, a tribal ration dealer here, said he regularly contributes a part of his ration commodities to these organisations.

The Naxalites also loot buses to raise funds. About 10 buses have been robbed in the past three months, police officials said.

DIG (Midnapore range) R.K. Singh admits that 11 rifles have been looted in the area in the last one year. Two rifles were looted from the police accompanying a polling party during the last Parliamentary election. �None of the rifles has yet been recovered,� the DIG said.

School teachers and landowners fear they will be the next target. Many teachers claim to have received letters asking them to give large sums to the outfits or face death.

S.R. Pal, ASP (operations), says the people are too afraid to complain to the police. But a local person said, �The Belpahari thana officials are themselves terror-struck.�


Midnapore, March 10: 
Three policemen, including the officer-in-charge, were injured as Lalgarh residents ransacked the local police station and attacked the personnel on duty to protest against seven bus dacoities on Thursday night.

Police had to fire two rounds in the air to quell the mob. Lalgarh has been tense since.

Twenty-nine people have been detained for the attack. Police are patrolling the area and a search is on to round up the others involved. Superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal said two more persons were arrested this morning.

Sankar Chakraborty, sub-divisional police officer, Jhargram, said trouble started around 8 pm on Thursday when a gang of dacoits blocked the highway near Jhitka by felling a huge tree and stopped a bus carrying a jatra troupe. They looted cash and gold ornaments.

The highway robbers stopped six other long-distance buses and a car within the next few hours and looted the passengers.

By this time, the news of the dacoities had spread to the neighbourhood. After the seventh bus was stopped, the residents intervened. They insisted that the passengers accompany them to the police station and file a complaint.

The passengers and the residents took the bus to the police station but were furious to find it nearly empty. Most of the policemen were away at Shilda, where a meeting of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) was in progress.

The mob stormed into the police station and ransacked it. When the police arrived, the agitators attacked them with brickbats. At this point, policemen fired two rounds in the air.

The residents alleged that though the police were aware that the stretch between Jhitka and Lalgarh was crime-prone, there had been no patrolling in the area on that day as most policemen were deployed at the venue of the MCC meeting.

MCC poll boycott call

The MCC called for a boycott of the coming Assembly elections at its Shilda rally organised under the banner of the Nari Mukti Sangha.

About 2,000 people participated in meeting which protested against the depiction of women in advertisements. One of the speakers called upon women to take up arms in self-defence.

The names of the speakers were not announced and they refused to identify themselves even on request from reporters.

The speakers also criticised the BJP, Trinamul Congress, CPI, CPM and the Congress, as well as some Naxalite organisations for their failure to solve the problems of the people. The MCC is very strong in Bankura and Purulia districts.


Bolpur, March 10: 
The officer-in-charge of Dubrajpur police station in Birbhum was seriously injured when a gang of 60 miscreants attacked a police party which raided a gambling den last night.

The OC, Subal Rai Ghatowal, has been admitted to Suri Sadar Hospital in a critical condition. Seven other policemen were injured. Ten persons have been arrested for the attack.

Trouble began around midnight when a team of nine policemen raided the gambling den in Bajipur village where a mela is on. The policemen, who were in mufti, caught three men red-handed and arrested them.

As the team was crossing the fair ground on the way to the police station, the gang of 60 attacked the police personnel from behind to free their three handcuffed associates.

Badly outnumbered, the policemen virtually surrendered to the miscreants and Ghatowal�s revolver was snatched.

Seven of the policemen were tied up at a stall in the fair. The OC and a constable somehow got away but as they were trying to flee the fair ground, the miscreants fired at Ghatowal from close range.

Bleeding profusely, Ghatowal reached the spot where the police vehicle was parked and rushed to Dubrajpur police station, said Barun Mullick, additional superintendent of police, Birbhum.

The constable accompanying Ghatowal informed the district superintendent of police, who reached the spot with a large force to rescue the seven policemen being held captive.

But when the police force arrived at the fair ground, a gang of more than 500 men had assembled there. They attacked the policemen with brickbats.

In retaliation, the police resorted to lathicharge. After a pitched battle lasting over an hour, the seven policemen were rescued.

Mullick said police are patrolling the area and a search is on for the gang�s kingpin.

Youth murdered

A 23-year-old youth was beaten to death by a mob on Friday afternoon at Dasnagar in Howrah. Police have identified the deceased as Bacchu Dutta, says our staff reporter.

According to eye-witnesses, Bachhu was caught by a local resident while he was passing lewd remarks at a girl. Bachhu, who is known for teasing girls, was confronted by a group of locals.

Bacchu, who was in an inebriated state, abused the local residents. He was then badly beaten up. The police was immediately informed. Bacchu was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was declared �brought dead�. No arrests have been made so far.


Calcutta, March 10: 
The West Bengal government has set up a special intelligence network along its borders with Bangladesh and Nepal to combat ISI-backed insurgency.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had earlier asked state police chief Dipak Sanyal to submit a proposal on strengthening intelligence branches in the border districts.

Bhattacharjee was unhappy with the failure of the intelligence to detect the entry of Naga insurgents into the Kalimpong jungles to train men under militant Gorkhaland leader Chattray Subba.

The ambush on the motorcade of Subash Ghising, which resulted in the death of two persons andserious injuries to the GNLF chief, also caught the intelligence unawares.

The district branch had no clue about the identity of the assailants, suspected to be backed by Naga militants and Nepalese Naxalites.

Sanyal suggested the creation of a special force with 107 sleuths under district intelligence branches in the border districts.

Bhattacharjee readily sanctioned 107 new posts for the network. Two deputy superintendents, five inspectors, 30 sub-inspectors, 60 constables and eight police drivers were among those recruited. Bhattacharjee told reporters that trans-border intelligence cover should come from the Centre.

�However, our experience of receiving information from Central intelligence agencies is not good. These agencies did not alert us on time about the intrusion of Northeast militants into the Darjeeling hills.��

�So we have to depend on our own network to combat insurgency, smuggling and entry of illegal arms from neighbouring countries,�� Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister agreed with media reports that Pakistan�s Inter-Services Intelligence was active in five north Bengal districts and the riverine areas of the Sunderbans.

�According to our reports, the abduction of fishermen in villages adjoining Sunderbans and the recent spurt in crime are due to frequent intrusion of Bangladeshi criminals who have contacts with local gangs.�


Midnapore, March 10: 
Dipak Ghosh, a former district magistrate who is now the Trinamul Congress candidate from Mahishadal, was manhandled by his own partymen inside the party office on Friday night, police said.

Police had to lathi charge a violent mob who kept him gheraoed inside the party office and threw stones at him, injuring him and two of his close associates. Ghosh was then taken to a safer place by the police.

About 1,000 TMC-BJP supporters were protesting against Ghosh�s candidature in Mahishadal constituency for the second time in a row and shouting slogans for replacing him with a suitable local representative.

A 1,000 strong procession organised by the Mahishadal Ganatantik Mancha and led by Amal Maji and Tilak Chakraborty of the TMC, Mrityunjoy Panigrahi of the BJP and Somnath Maity of the Congress attacked Ghosh in the TMC office just opposite the police station at about 9 pm.

The demonstrators started throwing stones at the office and then ransacked it. Ghosh along with Amiya Dinda and Sheikh Babar were injured. Some of the demonstrators then manhandled Ghosh. At this stage police rushed from the police station and dispersed the violent mob after a lathicharge.

An agitated Ghosh declined to comment but said he will file his nomination from the constituency as he has been directed to do so by Mamata Banerjee.


New Delhi, March 10: 
The next week could be crucial for third front parties if they could get together under the CPM led by Jyoti Basu, who will be in Delhi for a two-day Politburo meeting of his party.

�There could be a meeting of the third front,� CPM general-secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet said, but did not specify a date. �Efforts for a meeting are going on,� CPI general-secretary A.B. Bardhan said.

If the meeting comes through, it will bring together a phalanx of third front leaders � Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar and the Left leadership.

Since the BJP has now decided against an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam, its leader and chief minister Prafulla Mahanta could attend the third front meeting as well. �We still can�t figure out what the AGP is planning,� said a Left leader.

Basu is expected to act as a rallying point for the prospective third front. All parties are counting heavily on the CPM leader�s presence.

On the eve of Basu�s retirement from chief ministership, his party had made it clear that the octogenarian leader was not exiting from politics, but going to play a more active role in national politics. Even the Samajwadi Party chief, who was drifting away from his friends in the CPM, had a positive word to say about Basu�s leadership to the third front.

Mulayam had said he always wanted Basu to give more time to national politics and now that he had quit the chief ministership, he would be able to fulfil this role. V.P. Singh, who had first described the Left as his �natural allies�, has been organising local-level meetings in Delhi with the CPM and the CPI.

The third front feels the coming Assembly polls are going to be a turning point in the course of national politics and the BJP is going to face rough weather in the most crucial state � Uttar Pradesh. �Mulayam Singh Yadav is poised to snatch Uttar Pradesh from the BJP and this will have a cascading effect on the BJP�s state as well as national alliances,� said a CPM Politburo member.

The Opposition has pinned its hopes on the polls to jolt the National Democratic Alliance�s confidence.

However, the main Opposition party, the Congress, has not been taken into confidence by the third front parties, though it is the Congress that has the numbers and the third front cannot think of upsetting the NDA applecart without the Congress.

The CPM, for the time being, wants to steer clear of any controversy that may arise out of hobnobbing with the Congress. It does not want to push away the Samajwadi Party which appears to be the key player in the forthcoming Assembly elections.


Lucknow, March 10: 
Bloodbath heralded Holi for Bhawanipur as police guns boomed incessantly last night, killing 15 Naxalites from the underground Devnath Kol-Lalvrath gang who were holed up in this small village bordering Bihar.

In what the government claims to be one of the biggest operations against the Naxalite movement around the Mirzapur-Chandauli-Sonebhadra triangle, attempts at flushing out seven other members of the gang from the village are still on.

Station officer Dilip Singh and constable Namvar Singh sustained serious bullet injuries in the encounter that lasted for almost four hours. Terrified villagers fled their homes.

The policemen, who are reported to be critical but out of danger, were taken to Heritage hospital in Varanasi.

The Marihan police station had flashed the message that nearly 25 armed Naxalites had forced their way into Bhawanipur to mastermind a major attack on a nearby police station. The police party surrounded Bhawanipur, in Mirzapur district, around 6 pm after which the firing started.

By 10 pm, 15 of the activists, believed to be �ideologically close� to the MCC, were killed. The police have called the operation �a major achievement and a big victory over the Naxalites�.

In a report submitted by a high-level committee formed by the government last year to look into the Naxalite menace, it had been mentioned that the �only way� to curb the threat was to seal the border with Bihar and start development work with help from NGOs.

The report, submitted in October, had slammed the government and said that the main reason behind the massive spurt in Naxalite activities around the Mirzapur-Chandauli-Sonebhadra triangle was the total absence of �government� in these villages, still with no roads, health care, water and schools.

The report said poverty, illiteracy, land and forest-related problems led to the youth taking up arms against landlords. It added that the absence of basic human amenities and police stations made it easy for the youth to fall into the trap of Naxalite groups from Bihar like the MCC, CPI(ML), Party Unity and People�s War Group, who promise instant justice.

The report had also mentioned exploitation of tribals by contractors and landlords. They have to trudge miles to reach a police station.

Marihan, the police station in charge of Bhawanipur, had been specifically mentioned in the report.


Calcutta, March 10: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee termed as �dangerous� the Trinamul Congress� support to the Kamtapuris and Jharkhandis� demand to bifurcate West Bengal.

Bhattacharjee told reporters today that the violent movement launched by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) was aimed at carving out a separate state for the Rajbanshis of north Bengal. The chief minister said his party was also apprehensive of the BJP�s preference for smaller states.

�The people will give these parties which support divisive issues a proper reply in the coming elections,� Bhattacharjee said.

But while criticising the KLO and the Jharkhandis, he gave GNLF chief Subash Ghising a clean chit. �He has dropped his demand for statehood. Instead, he is seeking greater autonomy for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC),� Bhattacharjee said.

Ghising, who is seeking a safeguard for the DGHC under the Constitution, has the state government�s support, the chief minister said.

Bhattacharjee was confident of �bloodless� elections in the state, but said his government would seek more central forces to ensure peaceful polling.

�It is not just the Trinamul�s demand. We want to ensure that the polls are held peacefully and fairly,� Bhattacharjee said. �Our chief secretary will go to Delhi to request the home ministry for additional forces.�

He made it clear that the Left Front was not projecting him as the chief ministerial candidate. �We do not fight elections on personalities. Personalities do not have a role, the biggest plank to fight an election is programmes,� Bhattacharjee pointed out.

The CPM candidate from Jadavpur was non-committal over the Trinamul fielding veteran actress Madhabi Mukherjee against him. �I have nothing to say in this regard,� the chief minister said.


Chennai, March 10: 
Jayalalitha today conceded a handful of seats and succeeded in hammering out a grand alliance in her quest to regain power in Tamil Nadu.

Ending days of flip-flop, Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) chief G.K. Moopanar today announced that his party and the Congress had agreed to join the ADMK-led front.

However, the arrangement does not extend to Pondicherry, where the Congress, TMC and the Left parties could come together to fight the ADMK-PMK combine. Moopanar told reporters that the strategy for the enclave would be decided upon later.

Observers feel the frayed tempers resulting from the war of attrition in the last one month could hamper the smooth functioning of Jayalalitha�s grand alliance.

Jayalalitha has allotted a block of 47 seats to the two Congresses, seven more than what she had given on Monday. The Congress has demanded 15 seats, which is all that Moopanar is willing to concede.

Immediately after the announcement, TMC legislator Rasheed Haroon quit the party and joined the DMK-led front.

Tamil Nadu Congress unit chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan was kept in the dark about the negotiations between the TMC and the ADMK. In fact, the high command authorised Moopanar to sign the pact with Jayalalitha on its behalf, leaving Elangovan red-faced.

The problem for the Congress was that its young chief was not prepared to play the role of a junior ally that Jayalalitha prefers. He had often entered into a war of words with Amma and had also advocated a third front.

As part of the deal, the Congress has given up the Trichy Lok Sabha constituency, which was once a Congress stronghold. The seat was held by the BJP�s R. Kumaramangalam, who died last year.

It is believed that one of the two communist parties could be the benefactor in Trichy. Both of them are upset over Jayalalitha�s single-digit allocations. She could possibly pacify both by offering a couple of more seats to one of them and Trichy to the other. A decision on seat sharing is expected in the next couple of days.

Leaders of the Left parties had called on Jayalalitha last night after Moopanar met her, hoping to finalise their part of the deal. But the �auspicious time� had passed by then and the rationalists had to return empty-handed, ADMK sources said.

Moopanar said he was confident that Jayalalitha would not err again if she was voted to power.

But there are reports of grumbling from the likes of former Union minister P. Chidambaram, who were opposed to any alliance with the ADMK. However, the dissent is yet to spill out in the open.

DMK chief M. Karunanidhi also surprised everyone by allotting 23 seats to the BJP, which has virtually no roots in the state. Left to itself, it would not be able to win more than a couple of seats.

�One doesn�t need any greater testimony for the Dravidianist�s enthusiasm for the Hindutva champion� it�s appalling,� an ally said. �The BJP is much smaller than even Dalit outfits like Pudhiya Thamizhakam and the Dalit Panthers of India... How is it that its being the ruling party at the Centre entitles it to such a huge chunk?�

The MDMK which has been clamouring for more than 25 seats is aghast as it realises that its share will be hit. The DMK plans to contest over 160 of the 234 seats.


Guwahati, March 10: 
Six members of the Pakistan-backed militant outfit, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, surrendered before Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta here today.

This is the first instance of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militants laying down arms in the state.

Political observers said the ruling Asom Gana Parishad has gained good mileage ahead of the Assembly polls with today�s surrender of the six �foreign� rebels.

Welcoming the rebels back into the mainstream, Mahanta said other �misguided youths� of the state would also realise the futility of insurgency and shun the path of violence.

The militants gave up two AK series rifles, a .303 rifle and a pistol to the chief minister at a brief function held at the Circuit House.

The six militants belonged to the first batch of 30 recruits from Goalpara and Dhubri districts who were given arms training by the ISI at Batracchi in Pakistan.

Giving details of the the modus operandi of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen�s recruitment drive in Assam, inspector-general (special branch) Khagen Sharma said the recruits were first taken to Dhaka and then flown to Karachi in Pakistan. From Karachi they were taken to Islamabad and then to Batracchi.

Recruitment of Muslim youths in the state came to light when the Assam police arrested four ISI agents in Guwahati on August 10, 1999. On the basis of their confessions, the police arrested 34 Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militants from different parts of the state.

Additional director-general of police G.M. Srivastava said nearly 60 Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militants � recruited in Assam � are still at large. The most wanted among them was Maulana Fakhruddin, alias Akram Master, of Barpeta, he added.

Mahanta had told the state Assembly last year that Harkat-ul-Mujahideen recruits from Assam were deployed by the outfit against Indian troops in the Kargil war.

The state government had formed an action group headed by the director-general of police to check the growing activities of the outfit and the ISI.

The six militants who surrendered today are Tajrul Islam, Sahabul Ali, Saukat Ali, Moinul Haque, Salauddin Ahmed and Alauddin Ahmed.

After taking the oath of allegiance to the Constitution, Saukat Ali said he was recruited as a member of the outfit by Akram Master when he was a student of Class XII.

�We were lured by Akram Master to join the outfit and undergo training at Batracchi in Pakistan so that we can fight for our community. We always dreamt of an end to the exploitation of our community,� Saukat said.


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