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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Madan Tamang's murder case to be raised in the assembly... CM promises hill murder arrests... Strike to be more vigilant.... Govt sanctions land to Adivasis..

KalimNews : Today a delegation of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) led by Smt. Bharati Tamang, President called on Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Chief Minister, West Bengal at Kolkata and apprised him of the present state of affairs in Darjeeling hills after the brutal murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang on 21st May there. The delegation demanded CBI probe into the murder case as the state owned present investigating agency has not unearthed any significant clue in the case and has also failed to nab the actual culprits who are roaming openly. They also demanded restoration of the peace and democracy in the hill region. Chief Minister assured the ABGL leaders to look into their demand and take proper action.
The ABGL team also met Partho Chaterjee and Manas Bhuiya, opposition leaders to apprise them of the latest development in the hills. The opposition leaders promised them to bring a special attention motion in the state legislative assembly which is scheduled to commence from 25th June and raise the issue of slow progress in the Tamang's murder misery. They also viewed that the State Govt. should have arrested all the accused whose names have been figured in the FIR. They expressed surprise over the slow progress in the investigation and assured to demand the central's CBI enquiry into the murder case.
It may be recalled that Madan Tamang was brutally killed in the broad day light in Darjeeling on 21st May when he was about to address the hill people on the occasion of his party's anniversary day. So far the CID has nabbed about ten persons most of them belonging to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), a prominent political outfit of the hills, in connection with the murder of late Tamang. However, the ABGL is not happy with the outcome of the investigation and demanded early arrest of the prime suspects.
The political situation of the hill has also changed after the murder of Tamang as most of the hill people have started to stay away from the Morcha's programmes. The murder of Tamang also had resulted to the massive opposition of Bimal Gurung, Morcha Chief when he entered Darjeeling from Kalimpong on 24th May, 2010. Most of the residents of Darjeeling have removed the Morcha's flag from their houses  just after the funeral procession of Late Tamang. However, the Morcha has clarified that the flags were replaced due to the ongoing football spree.
The political observers have seen the ABGL's visit to Kolkata in prevailing situation of Darjeeling hills as a new turn in the hill politics. 

TT, June 23: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today assured Bharati Tamang her husband Madan Tamang’s killers would be arrested “very soon” and, if the CID failed to do so, he would consider handing over the case to the CBI.
A team of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), headed by Bharati since her husband’s death, came to Writers’ Buildings today.
“We demanded the immediate arrest of the main accused in our leader’s assassination. Most of those named in the FIR have not been held yet. Hence, we are asking for the CBI’s intervention,” said their adviser S.B. Zimba.
Tamang was murdered in Darjeeling on May 21. The ABGL had named 11 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders in the FIR. Zimba said the chief minister had promised immediate arrest of the main accused. “We trust him and are willing to wait.”
Although the visiting team returned “satisfied with the chief minister’s assurances”, leaders of the other Morcha rivals in the hills expressed their doubts about the government’s “sincerity” in acting against alleged Morcha activists. Dawa Sherpa, the convener of the Democratic Front, of which the ABGL is a partner, had recently said: “The killers are moving around but no one is doing anything.”
Several other hill leaders also feel “the government does not want to provoke the situation by arresting them”.
The police, who have made some arrests, say most of those named in the FIR as being directly involved in the crime have fled to Nepal. India does not have an extradition treaty with the kingdom and the Bengal police have not got in touch with Interpol to locate them.
The ABGL also complained to the chief minister about the Morcha’s “terror tactics”. “We requested the chief minister to put an end to the torture and anarchy of the Gorkhaland Personnel (the lathi-wielding Morcha volunteers),” Zimba said. “The chief minister said work on that had begun.”
Morcha tough talk
The Morcha vowed to enforce its bandh more vigorously once it resumed on Friday, striking a firm note after easing the shutdown for 48 hours.
Not to be seen as buckling under pressure after pulling out its volunteers from five government buildings and relaxing the strike, Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang said: “We have decided to strictly enforce the strike from Friday. We expect all tourists to leave the hills by tomorrow evening and we will no longer keep the helplines open.”
The helplines had been opened for stranded tourists. Tamang said: “We will only allow people with emergency work to move.” 
CM assures fair probe
SNS, KOLKATA, 23 June: Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today assured the bereaved wife of slain Gorkha leader, Madan Tamang that his killers would be brought to book by the state agency, CID, while turning down a request for CBI inquiry.
However, the leaders of All India Gorkha League said that they would wait for the CID to arrest the suspects named in the FIR for another fortnight before raising the demand for CBI inquiry once again.
Dissatisfied over the poor progress made by the CID in investigating the killing of Tamang in broad daylight, his widow, Mrs Bharti Tamang, led a 10-member strong delegation to Writers’ Buildings and express their grievances.
“We want justice,” said Mrs Tamang. “The Chief Minister assured us that accused would be arrested and we have no reasons to disbelieve him,” said Mr SB Zimba, another member of the delegation.
The director general of police, Mr Bhupinder Singh, said one or two of the prime accused in Madan Tamang assassination case have been spotted in Kathmandu. A total of 13 people were named in the FIR lodged by the family of Tamang. All top GJMM leaders were named as the conspirators but CID is looking for strong evidence before arresting them. Those who have been arrested so far were a part of the mob which attacked Tamang but they are not named in the FIR.   
According to the urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya who also attended the meeting, the leaders of All India Gorkha League want the police to be more active to ensure democracy in the Hills. “Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM)'s sway has reduced considerably in the Hills and the situation is changing everyday. The leadership of Gorkha League told the chief minister that the people of the Hills have turned against the GJMM," he said.
“The police is far more active and they have started a crackdown on the Gorkhaland personnel,” he added. The leadership also complained about siphoning of funds meant for development work. The delegation also met the Opposition leader Mr Partha Chatterjee and leader of Congress Legislative Party (CLP), Mr Manas Bhuniya about their grievances.
Governor’s visit
The Governor Mr MK Narayanan is visiting Burdwan and Bankura and will hold meetings with district officials in the next two days. Earlier in the day, he held a meeting with the state home secretary and DG and took stock of the law and order situation particularly of the Maoist-hit areas.
Gorkha League backtracks on CBI probe into Tamang murder
PTI, Kolkata, Jun 23 : In a climbdown from its earlier demand for a CBI probe, a prominent Gorkha organisation today said it would wait for the CID to conclude its investigation into the killing of its top leader and arrest of culprits.
"We told Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that if the CID is unable to arrest the accused, let the probe be handed over to the CBI. He assured us that all culprits will be arrested. We have no reason to disbelieve him. We are fully satisfied with his assurances," All India Gorkha League vice- president S B Zimba, who was part of a 11-member AIGL delegation which met the CM, told reporters after the meeting.
Strict strike retort to buckling Morcha jab Helpline to be shut & picket threat
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 23: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced that helplines for tourists would be withdrawn once the bandh resumes on Friday, striking a firm note after relaxing the indefinite shutdown for 48 hours.
Not only that, the party has also iterated its resolve to enforce the strike more vigorously with party volunteers setting up pickets in different parts of the hills.
Not wanting to be seen as buckling under pressure after striking a conciliatory note yesterday by withdrawing its lathi-wielding squad of volunteers from five government properties and announcing the relaxation, Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang said today: “We have decided to strictly enforce the strike once it resumes on Friday. We expect all tourists to leave the hills by tomorrow evening and we will no longer keep the helplines open.”
Till yesterday, the Morcha had deputed the All Hill Transport Joint Action Committee, a party affiliate, to issue “permits” and arrange for vehicles for tourists and local people wanting to leave Darjeeling. But today Tamang said: “We will only allow those people with emergency work to move during the strike period and nobody else.”
Unlike in the past when Morcha pickets were visible all across the town, this time when the indefinite strike started on Saturday the party had desisted from deploying its cadres in the busy areas. But today Tamang said the cadres would be back once the bandh resumes.
The Morcha also said it would not withdraw its squad of volunteers, the Gorkhaland Personnel, from any of the other government properties that it is still occupying.
But sources close to the party said despite the game of “one-upmanship” that has been going on between the Morcha and the government, it would not risk a confrontation with the authorities.
The Morcha had been pushed on the backfoot after the backlash that followed ABGL leader Madan Tamang murder for which it has been blamed. Bimal Gurung’s party had been pushing to drive home the point that it was against violence. It had even been more accommodating than in the past, not obstructing rallies by rival outfits.
“There is little chance of the Morcha picketing in the main town square where there is heavy deployment of paramilitary forces. Even though the party wants an image changeover, it can hardly risk indulging in any form of violence at the moment,” said an observer. Picketers are likely to be increased in the fringe areas of the town.
While trying to send a tough message to the state, the Morcha has also tried to convey that “the interest of the common people” was still on its mind.
“In the interest of the common people we have, however, decided to keep the food and supply department open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Ration dealers can lift their foodgrain from their godowns on Wednesdays. The vehicles ferrying foodgrain must paste ‘on PDS duty’ along with the name of the village on the windscreens,” said Tamang. Banks, too, will be allowed to remain open on Mondays.
Other programmes like demonstrations in front of police station will start from Friday. “The once-a-week torch rally will also be taken out across the hills, Terai and Dooars on Thursdays,” added Tamang. The central committee of the Morcha will hold a meeting at 11am in Darjeeling tomorrow to discuss the current situation in the hills.
Scramble to stock up hill larders
TT, Darjeeling/Siliguri, June 23: People in the hills today scrambled to stock up on food before the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha resumes its strike on Friday morning with truckloads of vegetables, fruits and fish leaving the markets in Siliguri for destinations uphill.
However, as the 48-hour relaxation in the strike was announced by the Morcha late last evening, the people had to buy vegetables which were not fresh at higher prices.
While ladies’ fingers flew off the shelves, despite being priced at Rs 32 a kilo, tomatoes were sold at Rs 28, gourds at Rs 32 and potatoes and onions at Rs 12.
“We were forced to buy stale vegetables at more than double the price. Ladies’ fingers usually cost Rs 5 to Rs 6 a kilo. We have to wait till tomorrow morning when fresh stocks arrive from Siliguri,” said a woman shopping at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling.
Mohan Sharma, an ABGL leader, said political parties should call strikes as a last resort. “We think the Morcha strike has served no purpose. Strikes should be called as last resort; a lot of thought should be put in before one calls a strike,” said Sharma.
More than 40 vehicles loaded with food items had left the Siliguri Regulated Market at Champasari for the hills by noon today. “Had the relaxation in the strike been announced much earlier yesterday, we would have got more buyers from the hills,” said Tapan Saha, the secretary of the Siliguri Regulated Market Wholesalers’ Association. He added that the market lost business worth at least Rs 30 lakh daily during strikes in the hills.
“We sell food items worth Rs 70-80 lakh daily and 40 per cent of the purchase is done by shopowners from the hills,” said Saha.
The flow of the food items was not wholly uphill.
Khubal Prasad, a ginger trader at the regulated market, received a truckload of the condiment after four days. “I get ginger from the Mirik area. The strike will resume on Friday and my anxiety will increase,” he said. 
Bandh breather sees rush for food items
TNN, DARJEELING: With Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) relaxing its indefinite strike in the Hills for 48 hours from Wednesday morning, there was a rush to buy food items and other commodities in the Hills markets. There were huge queues outside ATMs as well.
By 9.30 am though, all vegetables left over from before the strike began on June 19 got exhausted. Latecomers had to sift through rotting piles of foodstuff. "I left home early for the market but found that most of the stocks had finished. I managed to pick up some groceries, but that too with great difficulty," said Sanjay Das, a local resident.
Some shops still had enough stocks of rice, edible oil, sugar and dal. People were seen loading whatever they could lay their hands on in jeeps that had come from far-flung areas. "We did have some leftover stocks from before the strike began. We have already placed fresh orders, which will reach Darjeeling by Thursday morning," said Ram Kumar Gupta, a grocery shop owner.
GJM announced the 48-hour relaxation late on Tuesday to help "ease the inconvenience" faced by people. GJM had called the indefinite strike to demand an explanation for the police lathicharge on its supporters in Kurseong on June 16.
The relaxation has also provided students from other states as well as Bhutan, Bangladesh and Thailand a small window to reach Darjeeling. Sources said school heads requested GJM leaders to relax the bandh so that students could return after the summer break. Most schools began classes from Wednesday.
"It was good that GJM decided to relax the bandh. Though, it is for a short period, it will definitely help
students coming from abroad and other states," said a principal of an ICSE school in Darjeeling.
Though offices remained open, attendance was thin in most state, central and DGHC offices. "Yes, the attendance is low. I guess most employees don't want to miss the opportunity to do shopping as only 48 hours have been provided," quipped a government official.

KalimNews: On Wednesday BOBBBC demonstrated in front of the regulated market in Siliguri blocking the hill bound truck with edibles. Police intervened in the matter and cleared the blockade.
Govt distributes Land to Adivasis, Adivasi Democratic Front formed in Dooars
KalimNews:West Bengal Government has agreed to have a joint talks with the ABAVP on 30 June regarding their demand for inclusion of Dooars in sixth schedule of Indian Constitution. Though a larger section of the Adivasi populace is in favour of a joint movement with GJMM and support the new GAP formula of GJMM . Still some are hopeful that state government will endear ABAVP to disconnect it from the allurement of GJMM. On 28 June ABAVP will decide whether to meet with the GJMM or not a ABAVP source said.
On the other hand Government has decided to provide khas land to the landless , homeless Adivasi people residing in different tea gardens.  A government order is issued on 1 June from District Land and land Reforms department ,declared Birsa Tirkey state President of ABAVP. He further stated one of our other demand of publishing questions of Board examinations in Hindi is fulfilled by the government, now we are hopeful about the other demand of inclusion of Dooars in sixth schedule. Political commentators think that government will allure Adivasis with more funds to disassociate them from GJMM. 
Meanwhile in Chalsa of Western Dooars a new outfit of Adivasi people is formed. Suman Roy Ekka the General Secretary of Front addressing the press rejected the proposed Sixth schedule demand of ABAVP.  He further criticized Birsa Tirky the state  leader of ABAVP. He clarified that ADF will act as a bridge between Adivasis and Gorkhas and will support the agitation of GJMM. President Rajesh Munda stated that It will function as a political party not as ABAVP which an NGO.
Fake note ‘kingpin’ held with Rs 1.42 lakh
TT, Malda, June 23: A kingpin of a fake note racket who confessed that he had conducted transactions worth Rs 3 crore with counterfeit currency every month was arrested from near the Indo-Bangladesh border last night. Fake notes with face value of Rs 1.42 lakh were recovered from him.
Acting on a tip-off, a police team had been waiting for Bakul Sheikh, a 40-year-old resident of Duishatobigha in Kaliachak. “As soon as Bakul got down from a bus at Baliadanga to hand over the fake notes to a carrier from Kerala, we pounced on him and seized the money,” said deputy superintendent of police of Malda Abhijit Mukherjee.
Bakul has confessed to the police that he had transacted business worth nearly Rs 3 crore a month with the fake notes. “He admitted that the notes were printed across the border with the help of the ISI,” Mukherjee said. Bakul has been remanded in police custody for five days by the chief judicial magistrate of Malda.
“We had been looking for him for long and had raided his house repeatedly. Even the BSF had raided his house several times. But he had been giving us the slip always,” Mukherjee said. “The accused was a poultry trader till six years ago when he lived from hand to mouth. But the lure of easy lucre made him join the fake currency racket. He has become a millionaire over the years and had bought large plots of land in Kaliachak and Habibpur and has lakhs of rupees in bank accounts. His network of carriers has spread from Kerala to Uttar Pradesh.”
District police chief Bhuban Mondal said Bakul’s arrest would be of great help in busting the fake note racket. “So far, we had been catching the carriers of counterfeit notes. This is the first time we have picked up a kingpin. We hope to get more information from him.”
Bakul’s house is hardly 50 metres from the international border. This gave him a “strategic advantage” to flee to the other side of the border at ease. “We have seized his cellphone and have been examining the call list to find out his conacts,” an officer said.
Jaldapara gets two more swamp deer
TT, Alipurduar, June 23: New members have been added to the family of six swamp deer at the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary with the birth of two fawns last week.
After almost seven years, two male deer have been born in captivity much to the relief of foresters who were worried about the male-female ratio of the animals at the sanctuary.
Currently, there are five female and three male (including two babies) swamp deer in Jaldapara. According to the forest department records, swamp deer were last seen in the nearby forests in 1954.
In 1998, two adult male and four females along with a fawn were brought to Jaldapara from Lucknow Zoo for captive breeding. The animals were kept in a one-hectare enclosure and within a couple of years they started breeding.
But most of the fawns born between 2000 and 2006 died because of snakebites.
In 2004, five swamp deer escaped from the sanctuary after the enclosure in which the animals were kept was damaged by wild elephants.
The foresters brought back the four females on the same day but the male deer went missing only to be found two years later.
On April 22, 2006, the male deer was rescued from Moiradanga beat, almost 7km from the enclosure from which it had escaped.
By 2006, almost all the animals that were brought from Lucknow died but four females along with a male deer that were born in Jaldapara had survived.
In 2008, the forest department erected a new fence to prevent snakes from entering the enclosure in which the swamp deer were being kept. A water body was also constructed in the enclosure along with a shed. The area was made swampy as the animals like to spend most of the time in water.
In October a female deer that was born in captivity survived in the new enclosure.
Omprakash, divisional forest officer wildlife-III, said: “This is good news that two fawns were born here within a week because the number of male swamp deer were less than the number of females. We have erected the fence in a way so that snakes cannot enter. We have also made a water body inside. Hopefully these two fawns will survive and when the number of animals at the sanctuary becomes more than 10, we will release some of them in the wild.”
Jumbo dead in Nepal
TT, Siliguri, June 23: An elephant calf that had crossed over to Nepal died late last evening, reportedly by electrocution.
“The calf was a member of a herd of 100 odd elephants that has been roaming around in Naxalbari and the adjoining areas of Nepal for the past one week. We have information that the animal got electrocuted by live wires laid by villagers to prevent elephants from entering their corn fields,” a senior forester said.
This is the fourth incident in the last two years when an elephant that had crossed the border was killed either by bullets or by electrocution.
“The calf was barely one year old and it died at a village close to Bamandangi in Nepal,” a senior forester of Kurseong division said. Bamandangi is 45km from Siliguri.
Foresters suspect that the herd is now in the Dalka and Kalabari forests of Naxalbari block. “We had a meeting earlier this month with some NGOs and Nepal police and they had agreed to conduct awareness drives for residents of the border villages so that they did not attack elephants or cause them harm. But yesterday’s incident indicates that the drive has either not been carried out or has proved ineffective,” the forester said.
“Whenever elephants from India cross the border they are attacked by arrows and guns or they are electrocuted. The state has to take this up with the Centre,” said Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.
S.B Patel, the chief conservator of forests wildlife, north Bengal, said he has sought a report from the forest division concerned and would forward it to his superiors.
Boy hurt in herd raid
Madhu Thakur, 7, of Dalmore Tea Estate in Jaigaon was hurt when he was hit by a brick that was knocked out of the wall of his house during an elephant attack. A herd of 10 elephants had raided the garden last night. Madhu was admitted to Birpara State General Hospital and later shifted to Jalpaiguri District Hospital. The herd damaged 19 huts.
Artificial turf for Palzor stadium soon
TT, Gangtok, June 23: Paljor Stadium will soon get an artificial turf with the sports and youth affairs department allocating Rs 4.77 crore for it.
A Canadian firm has been given the project to replace the natural grass with the artificial turf, which would make the stadium accessible for daily practice sessions. Natural grass requires meticulous care and nurturing and the grounds are not available for regular use.
The money allotted for the stadium is part of the department’s Rs 14.88 crore demand for grants of 2010-11. The state cabinet had sanctioned the amount earlier this month. Today, the demand for grant was passed by the Assembly.
The state’s decision has raised hopes that this year’s Governor’s Gold Cup Football Tournament will be held on the artificial turf.
The Gold Cup is a premier soccer tournament that has been organised by the Sikkim Football Association (SFA) for the past 30 years. Many prominent clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan participate in the tournament that is organised every year in September-October. Except for four years from 2000 when it was being renovated, Paljor had always been the venue for the Gold Cup. The tournament was held at Namchi in South Sikkim during the four-year break.
The people of Sikkim are excited about the artificial turf plan for Paljor, said Gangtok MLA Dorjee Namgyal Bhutia at the discussion on the demand for grants of the department placed by sports minister N.K. Pradhan in the House.
Suggesting artificial turf for Paljor in the last budget session of the Assembly, Bhutia had said the move would not only save annual maintenance cost of Rs 15 lakh but would also open the stadium to sportspersons. Currently, the access to the stadium with natural grass is restricted.
Today, the MLA requested the sports department to consider constructing roofs on the hillside gallery of the stadium. In his reply, the minister said the estimates had already been called for.
Later, speaking to reporters, Pradhan said a Canadian company had been selected for the artificial turf project. “We have already placed our order with the company and work at the ground level will begin next month. We will try to complete the project by this year especially before the Governor’s Gold Cup. Around four months are required to complete the project,” he said.
The SFA has welcomed the move.
“This positive decision of the government will be cherished by one and all of the soccer fraternity in the state. It has come at a time when the football fever has engulfed the entire globe with the World Cup,” said SFA general secretary Menla Ethenpa. The artificial turf will ensure high standard of the grounds as well as produce more footballers in the years to come.
The SFA hopes that this year’s Gold Cup will be played on an artificial turf at Paljor Stadium.
“To give Paljor an international look, we also hope that the stadium will have floodlights in the days to come,” Ethenpa said.
2 trapped workers rescued
TT, Cooch Behar, June 23: Two workers of a plywood factory trapped under a heavy machine were rescued today.
One of the trapped workers of the factory at Baxirhaat was rescued by other labourers soon after the incident around 12 noon.
But the second person was evacuated only after two cranes from Cooch Behar town, 35km away, and nearby Assam arrived nearly two hours later.
While injured Pranab Dakua has been admitted to a nursing home in Cooch Behar, Haripada Burman is under treatment at the MJN Hospital.
Officer-in-charge of the Baxirhaat police station P.K. Dey Sarkar said the workers were installing the machine weighing a few tonnes at the factory. “Suddenly, the machine fell on a 15ft-long water reservoir trapping of them.”
As the rumour that four workers died in the factory did the rounds, a huge crowd gathered at the factory gate. The police had a trying time controlling the crowd when the cranes arrived.
Four killed by lightning
TT, Jalpaiguri/Balurghat June 23: Four persons were killed in the past 48 hours after they were struck by lightning.
Three persons died at Bhotpatty in Mainaguri block near Jalpaiguri today. Neighbours said the trio were inside a hut when the lightning struck them. An eight-year-old girl was killed after she was struck by a bolt from the sky at Chakandharu near Balurghat this morning. Rekha Burman was hanging clothes on the line at her uncle’s house when the bolt struck.
Road mishap
TT, Jaigaon: Twelve people were injured when the bus they were travelling in toppled on its side on NH31 at Madarihat on Tuesday night. The accident occurred when the bus tried to avoid a truck coming from the opposite direction. The bus was travelling to Siliguri from Assam. The injured were taken to Birpara State General Hospital and nine of them were released after first aid. Later, another bus took the remaining passengers to Siliguri. The drivers of the bus and the truck are absconding. Both the vehicles have been seized.
Sobhraj's Nepal battle finally near its end

TOI, KATHMANDU: Yesteryear’s “Serpent” Charles Sobhraj’s seven-year fight for acquittal in the Hippie Era murder of an American tourist in Nepal is now finally poised to reach an end with the judges hearing the case announcing on Wednesday that the verdict would be delivered on July 14.
Judges Ram Prasad Shah and Gauri Dhakal, who began hearing the controversial case, replete with curious twists and turns, capped nearly eight months of arguments by the prosecution as well as the defendant’s lawyers by asking both sides to present their written arguments by July 6. It will be followed by the verdict eight days later unless there is an untoward incident. In the past, hearings in Sobhraj’s case have been put off due to curfew, a state of emergency, indefinite strikes called by the Maoists and both weddings and bereavements in the earlier judges’ families.
“Nepal’s laws prevent the state from convicting a person on the basis of his reputation, however unsavoury it may be, or past crimes,” Sobhraj’s faithful lawyer for seven years, Ram Bandhu Sharma, told the judges, quoting from Nepal’s jurisprudence and summing up the final argument. The lawyer also said the arrest of Sobhraj for the murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and his subsequent conviction by two lower courts rested on a “flood” of irrelevant and even forged documents produced by the prosecution and paraded as evidence as well as a blatant error by the district court.
In 2004, Kathmandu district court judge Bishwambhar Shrestha slapped Sobhraj with a life term, primarily on the basis of a letter written by him from Tihar jail to two western journalists who subsequently wrote the bestseller, The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj. In one of the letters, Sobhraj mentioned to the authors, Richard Neville and Julie Clarke, that his accomplice, Marie Andree Le-Clerc, never mentioned her “illegal” activities to her parents. The judge read it as “Nepal” activities and cited it as evidence that Sobhraj had visited Nepal in December 1975 when he befriended Connie and killed her though he steadfastly denies ever coming to Nepal before 2003..
For four consecutive days last month, the prosecution had read out excerpts from the book, citing them as evidence that Sobhraj was a convicted serial killer. They were flayed on Wednesday by Sobhraj’s other lawyer, Shakuntala Thapa, who is also the mother of his young Nepali fiancée, Nihita Biswas. Thapa said the book was not an authorised biography but fictionalised. She then threw the ball back in the prosecution’s case, saying since the book seemed to be their “Bible”, there was serious controversy about the dead woman. The book indicates Connie was a drug addict, whose husband and boyfriend died mysteriously. She came to Nepal to collect a drug cahe and could have been killed by a drug syndicate, as per Sobhraj's argument.
Both the lawyers maintain that police arrested Sobhraj illegally in 2003, kept him blindfolded and made him sign several documents. These, they told the court, were fashioned into “so-called evidence” to prove his guilt. They also dismissed as ridiculous and incredible police claims that Sobhraj had killed a Dutch tourist, Henricus Bintanja, in Bangkok in 1975 and used his passport to fly to Nepal, leaving clandestinely through the open border to India using another passport, that of a young Turk, Vitali Hakim.
“Can the prosecution malign Nepal’s immigration and border inspection system in this way? Are they entirely incompetent?” Sharma asked. “Wouldn’t the border authorities have noticed that there was no entry stamp in Hakim’s passport?”
Neither Sobhraj nor his fiancée were present during the arguments and the court remained almost empty. The trial, that had attracted fierce media interest worldwide in 2003, began to flag during the protracted trial which saw the case being passed back and forth to the lower courts. Sobhraj is certain that he will win the case. He has begun planning his reunion with his daughter in Paris, a quick wedding and several lucrative book and television deals.

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