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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Morcha getting softer...Police station protests of GJMM stop, wheel jam stays ....Guerillas kill schoolboy

Morcha lease-out plea to hill council- Police station protests stop, wheel jam stays 
TT, Darjeeling, June 29: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has written to the DGHC to lease out properties occupied by the Gorkhaland Personnel for a year, another conciliatory gesture from the hill party within seven days.
The letter says the Morcha is willing to pay rents. Although the DGHC has refused to acknowledge having received the request, Darjeeling district magistrate said he had already forwarded the letter to the council administrator.
The letter comes close on the heels of DGHC administrator B.L. Meena filing FIRs against the GLP occupation of seven council buildings across the Darjeeling hills.
The Morcha, which had been on the backfoot since ABGL leader Madan Tamang’s death last month, has been in recent times trying to avoid any confrontation with the government that is out to oust the squatters from the DGHC properties.
On June 22, in another of its softening stands, the Morcha had withdrawn the GLP — a squad of lathi-wielding volunteers — from three DGHC buildings at Deolo, Relli and Kafer in Kalimpong subdivision. The same day, the party had also lifted its indefinite strike after four days. But the squad still retains the Parijat Guest House in Gorubathan, Teesta-Tribeni Guest House, Roy Villa and the tourist centre at Jamuni.
After Meena filed the FIR, police had visited the GLP headquarters in Jamuni, 40km from Darjeeling town, on June 16 following which Morcha supporters agitated in front of Kurseong police station, hurling stones at the building. The police lathicharge on the crowd had led to the four-day shutdown across the hills starting June 19.
Roy Villa in Darjeeling is a DGHC property which has remained defunct for several decades. Sister Nivedita, an Anglo-Irish social worker and among the famous disciples of Swami Vivekananda, had spent the last few days of her life at Roy Villa, where she died on October 13, 1911.
The famed Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) was also started from Roy Villa before it was shifted to its present location at Birch Hill in the early 1950s. The council had renovated the property in the late 90s but had not been put into any use, before the GLP set up its camp.
While Parjiat is supposed to be a DGHC guest house for officials, the ones at Teesta-Tribeni and Jamuni are tourist centres that have not been fully completed till date.
Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta said: “I have forwarded the letter (in which the Morcha has asked the buildings for rent) to the administrator of the DGHC as the properties belong to the council.”
Sources said the letter was submitted to Gupta by a Morcha delegation on June 25.
Meena, however, said he was unaware of any such request. “No, I have not received any such request,” said Meena. The Telegraph had called up Meena on two consecutive days to enquire about the Morcha letter but the official had the same answer on both the occasions.
Although the Morcha had publicly maintained that it would not vacate any more buildings, its request for lease underscores the fact that it does not want to go in for any confrontation with the state. The party has also decided to stop demonstrating in front of police stations and has asked it supporters to participate in the daily two-hour road blockades instead.
“The demonstrations in front of the police stations will be discontinued from today and supporters are requested to assemble for road blockades,” read posters signed by the Morcha’s town committee that were plastered in town today. The announcement comes even as there is a crackdown on those hindering traffic flow.
“The police have started a suo-motu case against Morcha activists staging road blockades. They have been booked under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 186/506 (obstruction of public servant and criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code,” said I.J. Thapa, the inspector-in-charge of Darjeeling Sadar police station. But no one has been arrested.
The blockades had started from Monday to demand the transfer of the Kurseong subdivisional officer who had ordered the lathicharge on June 16. The party also wants a judicial inquiry into the lathicharge.
Tribal meet postponed
The meeting between the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the state government scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed by a day, home secretary Samar Ghosh said. The tribal delegation will sit for talks over various demands, including the granting of Sixth Schedule status to the Terai and the Dooars. (Photos: 2 hr road blockade of GJMM  in Kalimpong volunteered by Nari Morcha members blocking all including essential services- Army, Postal, Police - Pix: Samten)
KalimNews: Darjeeling Police has confirmed that it has registered a case against 49 GJNM leaders of Darjeeling Sadar for repeatedly blocking the road and obstructing government officers and police personnels. The first four are Rajani Rai, Mangala Rai, Dhanmaya  Tamang and Kavita Chhetri. A source confirmed that though KL Tamta IG of North Bengal is transferred will not be released for sometime and BL Meena, Administrator of DGHC will be in chair till 2011. It is also understood that DSP Rakesh Singh of Kuresong PS will not be transferred as demanded by GJMM.
The talk called by the state government with the leaders of ABAVP is postponed to 1st July. 10 from different branch committees of Dooars and 5 from State committe of ABAVP will attend the meeting.
Kalimpong treks on silk route- Egg supplier to Assam
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, June 29: The Central Silk Board has taken around 5,000 soalu trees of the Hill Nursery here on a three-year lease to rear muga worms as the hill town has started selling eggs of muga worms to Assam, famous for its expensive yarn.
In recent times, diseased seeds have become a cause of worry for the northeastern state that has been on the lookout for healthy eggs.
According to the understanding with the Kalimpong unit of the state directorate of textiles’ sericulture division, after three years, the silk board will cultivate soalu or kutmeru trees on the land under its possession. The lease from the nursery was taken around 10 days ago.
“The interest shown by the Central Silk Board should augur well for Kalimpong and other parts of the hills that have good potential for muga cultivation,” said Arup Thakur, the head of the Kalimpong unit of the sericulture division.
“I had first experimented with muga cultivation here in 2003. With the encouragement I received from B.K. Mukherjee, additional director of the directorate of textiles, we formally started the cultivation through the department in 2005,” he said.
The sericulture department had convinced cultivators to grow soalu trees — the leaves of which are eaten by worms that produce the yarns — on about 70 acres of land.
“About 80 families cultivate soalu. An acre of land can fetch each family around Rs 7,000 after each harvest,” said Thakur. 
The department buys cocoons from the cultivators at Re 1 a piece. The eggs are sold at Rs 5 per 100 gram within the state. The seeds are sold at Rs 6 per 100 gram to Assam. Last year, 500 seeds or eggs had been sold to Assam and 6,000 to Cooch Behar. Thakur said the target was to sell at least 4,000 seeds to Assam.
“You can either extract yarn from the cocoons or retain them and produce moths for laying eggs. These eggs or seeds are called disease-free layings or DFLs. There is a huge demand for DFLs in Assam and Cooch Behar,” said Thakur. According to him, the DFLs produced between July and August and September and October are the best.
“Muga silk costs anywhere between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 a kg in the market,” he said. He added that the department plans to expand the cultivation to other parts of the subdivision and Darjeeling.
“We want to start muga cultivation in Lingsey village. We have already started rearing the worms on a 10-acre plot of land under the Mungsong division of the cinchona plantation,” Thakur said.
16 yr boy shot dead by Maoists, Midnapore, June 29: Maoists abducted a 16-year-old boy on his way to school, shot him dead and branded him a police informer in West Midnapore’s Belpahari, an apparent act of desperation after being hit by police several times in the past few weeks.
Class X student Fulchand Mahato was found with bullets in his head and chest near a waterfall in the mountainous Kashmar village, about 2km from his home.
He was missing since leaving for school — 10km away — on a cycle yesterday.
This is the first instance of the rebels killing a schoolboy in Bengal. “The brutality shows how badly cornered and desperate the Maoists are,” said Jhargram superintendent of police Praveen Tripathi.
The Maoists are now doing things they earlier did not (see chart). A string of arrests since the May 28 Jnaneswari tragedy that killed 150 people, encounter deaths of at least nine guerrillas and a series of close shaves have apparently made the rebels resort to tactics that suggest a panic reaction.
They burnt alive the 80-year-old mother and 55-year-old sister of a CPM leader in Bankura last Wednesday. They have snatched phones from villagers suspecting moles among them.
A poster on a tree today announced that Fulchand was lying dead near the waterfall.
A joint force team traced the body. A poster left near it said he had been “given the death penalty for being a police informer”.
“His mother waited till last evening but he did not return home. Then she contacted Fulchand’s father through a relative,” said a neighbour at Jamirdiha, 275km from Calcutta
His father Srinath has been living away from home out of fear because he is a CPM supporter. Fulchand’s uncle had been shot dead by the Maoists in February 2008.
The Mahatos are traditionally CPM supporters, the neighbour said. But why should a 16-year-old become a target for his family’s political allegiance? That the Maoists know.
To escape their wrath, Fulchand’s elder brother Madhu had last year become a supporter of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities. “He quit the outfit a few months later and fled home with his father,” an officer said.
Madhu now lives in Purulia’s Bandwan, 50km from home, and Srinath with relatives elsewhere in Belpahari.
Fulchand stayed with his mother Rinku.
Srinath was at the police station today when the joint force team called up to say they had found the body. “The father fainted,” an officer said.
When he regained consciousness, Srinath said he should have stayed at home. “Then they would have killed me but spared Fulchand.”

Strike date the same but no unity 
Radhika Ramaseshan, TT, New Delhi, June 29: Left, BJP and some non-Congress parties have called a Bharat bandh on July 5 against the Centre’s “failure” to rein in prices, but the common date appeared more to do with “not keeping quiet” on a bread-and-butter issue.
Leaders of several of these parties conceded it wasn’t a show of unity against the Congress and none was out to invoke the spirit of 1977 or 1989 when the Left and its erstwhile rivals toppled Indira Gandhi after the Emergency and later Rajiv Gandhi over Bofors.
“Logically, no party would want to keep quiet on a livelihood issue,” said CPI secretary and Rajya Sabha MP D. Raja. “We are not fighting for political power. If we chose a common date, it is because we do not want to inconvenience people with constant strikes.”
The BJP-led NDA and the Left made separate announcements for the strike to protest the “unjustified” hike in petroleum prices.
NDA convener Sharad Yadav said the strike had not been called under a common banner because there were “far too many contradictions”.
Observers said ideology, politics and mutual distrust had come in the way of what might have been passed off as a show of unity that is sure to cripple Left-ruled Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
If the so-called secular-communal divide had precluded a Left-BJP alliance ahead of the Bengal and Kerala elections next year, mutual rivalries pre-empted the Samajwadi Party and the BSP from sharing a platform.
More important, no party wants a general election now because all of them are fighting with their backs to the wall to save their regional turf.
Only the BJP expressed a desire to be accepted as part of a larger anti-Congress front.
“The floor co-ordination you saw in the last session (of Parliament) is being reflected outside,” spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said. “The mood is to combat the Congress.”
Sources said the BJP joined the “bandh” bandwagon as a “me too” afterthought. Till yesterday, its leaders had been saying they would stage rallies on July 1 and 2.
This morning, the party’s core committee decided the BJP should be part of the national strike the Left had yesterday declared it planned to call.
CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said the Left had taken an “independent” decision. “We have only aligned with secular forces like the Telugu Desam Party, ADMK and the Biju Janata Dal,” the Rajya Sabha MP told The Telegraph.
Yechury emphasised the Left was not even dealing with its former friends from the “secular” Samajwadi Party and Lalu Prasad’s RJD after their leaders had let them down on the cut motions in the Parliament session.
However, Lalu Prasad is believed to have conveyed to CPM leaders that he is willing to be part of the endeavour despite the presence of Bihar rival Janata Dal (United) because he didn’t want to be “isolated” on a populist issue.
Buddha letter
Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to review the fuel price hike and “withhold the decision”.
“This hike in prices of petroleum products will not only immediately and directly increase the cost of transportation, from mass transit vehicles to goods vehicles, but will also have a cascading effect on the cost of production in agriculture and industry, and will further enhance the rate of inflation,” the letter said. 
Autopsy again on maid body 
TT, Gangtok, June 29: A second post-mortem was conducted on the body of Hemlata Chettri at the South Sikkim district hospital on Monday as her family had doubts about the nature of autopsy held in Singapore where she had died under mysterious circumstances while working as a domestic help.
The last rites of the 32-year-old woman were performed at her native village in West Sikkim today.
“We don’t know what kind of post-mortem was done in Singapore. Another post-mortem was needed by our doctors for our satisfaction as we have doubts about the circumstances of her death,” said Iman Singh Limboo, a friend of Hemlata’s family.
The woman was found dead on June 22 morning in the basement of a building where she was working. Her family alleged that she had been murdered by her employers who used to torture her.
The family received a phone call on June 22 from an anonymous woman informing them that Hemlata had committed suicide by jumping from the building.
In Hemlata’s death certificate that the Indian high commission in Singapore had faxed to the family members here, the cause of death was listed as “craniocerebral injuries”.
After the body reached Sikkim on Saturday, the relatives submitted an application to the chief judicial magistrate (South and West) for a post-mortem. The autopsy was held at the South district hospital at Namchi. This is the second post-mortem as sources have told The Telegraph that an autopsy was conducted in Singapore.
“We will wait for the post-mortem report to come before proceeding further. The report will be available within a week,” said Limboo.
Deputy inspector-general of police, range, S. Rao said Sikkim police would conduct their own inquiries.
Sources said once the inquiry report was ready, the state government could forward it to the ministry of external affairs for the matter to be taken up with the Singapore authorities. They said the police would also probe the role of Ran Maya Subba with whom Hemlata had gone to Singapore to work.
Hemlata had left for Singapore with a friend from her village in Sombaria in November.
Fish float dead in aquarium
TT, Gangtok, June 29: Seven albino and black shark fish have surfaced dead at the Central Park Aquarium in Namchi, triggering questions on the safety of a dozen species reared at the facility.
The is the second incident of ornamental fish dying in less than two weeks in the aquarium that was set up as part of the beautification of the South Sikkim district headquarters in 2008.
“We noticed a difference in behaviour of 10 albino and black shark fish in their tank yesterday morning. Later, seven fish died and the other three are now kept under observation in a separate tank,” said Arjun Kumar Adhikari, the in-charge of Paksam Communication and Services that was given the charge of the aquarium.
“We have been taking care of the aquarium on a no-loss-no profit basis with whole hearted dedication as the concept itself was designed and developed by the agency,” said Adhikari.
The aquarium, set up in open space with a tree embracing it, has eight quarters to house species like angel fish, piranhas, parrot fish and gold fish. Most of the fish have been brought from Latin America, especially the Amazon forests.
Asked about the cause of the deaths, Adhikari said: “Most of the fish have shown some allergic reactions. Two dead fish have been sent for tests for investigation. We will look into the case from all angles and a detailed report will be submitted to the authorities in the first week of July.”
Sikkim urban development secretary Tobjor Dorjee said experts from Siliguri had been called to find out the cause of the deaths at the aquarium. “They will carry out an enquiry and submit a report to us in one week,” he said.
Three red tail catfish had floated dead in the aquarium on June 16 because of a snag in the continuous supply of fresh water at the facility.
Councillor does a volte-face
TT, Siliguri, June 29: Trinamul Congress councillor Chaitali Sen Sharma today withdrew her resignation, barely 24 hours after putting in her papers and accusing her party members of harassing her.
However, the chairperson of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation said she was yet to decide if the letter intimating the withdrawal of resignation would be accepted.
This afternoon the councillor from Ward 31 and her party leader in the SMC, Gautam Deb, met chairperson Sabita Devi Agarwal and handed her the letter withdrawing the resignation.
Sen Sharma who had cited “ill health and unavoidable circumstances” yesterday while quitting from her post, said today that “non-cooperation” from party workers was the reason behind putting in the papers.
The drama began late last evening when district youth leader Madan Bhattacharya and councillor Ranjan Shil Sharma, who had spit betel nut juice on a school inspector on June 9 last year, met Sen Sharma. Deb, the district president of Trinamul, later joined them to make the councillor see reason. They told her that her resignation would send wrong messages, which it did. The Congress in one of its spat with Trinamul had alleged that the party should first control its infighting.
Around midnight, Trinamul sources said, Sen Sharma had agreed to withdraw her resignation.
Asked what had prompted the U-turn, Sen Sharma said: “Our district president assured me that he would take action against those who tried to interfere with my work.” She said she had complained to the party leader against Kaushik Dutta, Bubai Dutta, Shovan Chakraborty and Mili Das.
The chairperson said she would decide on the councillor’s letter withdrawing her resignation after consulting the commissioner. “I have to follow the SMC act,” Agarwal said.
Ex-MLA pulled out and shot
TT, Nanoor, June 29: Alleged Trinamul Congress activists dragged a former CPM MLA who had been denied a ticket by the party in 2006 out of his house and shot him dead in Birbhum’s Nanoor this evening.
Some 200 people with guns, bombs, axes and rods marched into Ananda Das’s home and ransacked it as the blood-soaked body lay in front of the two-storey house.
His teenage daughter Chaiti fled through the rear with her three-year-old brother in her arms. She hid at a neigh- bour’s house in the absence of her mother, who was not at home.
The Class X student said the group had attacked a Citu office next door when her father went out to the verandah to see what was happening. “I told my father not to venture out and attract attention. Some of those on the rampage saw my father and one of them pointed towards him. Then they rushed towards our house,” said the girl, shaking in horror.
Das, 52, tried to run inside but in vain. The attackers beat him up and then pumped bullets into him. “He took four-five bullets and was killed on the spot,” said Birbhum superintendent of police Rabindranath Mukherjee, who was camping in the village tonight.
Das had been an MLA from Nanoor for 20 years until the party dropped him 2006.
Sources said there were allegations of his involvement in the alleged Nanoor massacre of 2000 in which 11 Trinamul supporters were killed. His suspected role in the incident may have been a reason why the party denied him a ticket six years later. Sources said the CPM had been trying to distance itself from Das.
But to many in Trinamul, he was the face of the alleged massacre. Like in most parts of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s party has been increasingly assertive in this Left bastion since the 2008 rural polls. In February 2009, five CPM activists were killed when the Marxists tried an armed “recapture” of nearby Papuri village. This February, two CPM workers were killed in neighbouring Palundi.
The genesis of today’s trouble lay in the murder bid on Trinamul supporter Samsul Hoda, 36, who is in hospital after being shot at four times.
The armed gang first raided the CPM zonal committee office. They hurled bombs and broke furniture. Then they targeted the Citu office outside Das’s house.
Chaiti alleged that the police station, less than a kilometre away, had not responded immediately to frantic calls. “They could not come in half an hour. My father was killed.”
When the police came, the attackers pelted them with stones. After rain drove the attackers away around 7.30pm, the police moved in and rescued four CPM workers who had been locked up in the party office. The SP blamed the stone-throwing for the delay. Two men have been held, he added.
CPM state secretary Biman Bose accused Trinamul of launching a “pre-planned” attack. The party has called a 12-hour bandh in Bolpur subdivision tomorrow.
Trinamul denied its role in the attack. “It is the result of the CPM’s infighting,” said its state chief Subrata Bakshi.
Mamata choice exposes rift 
TT, Cooch Behar, June 29: The Trinamul Congress state leadership’s decision to nominate Amina Ahmed the vice-chairperson of the Cooch Behar municipality is snowballing into a major rift in the party with a two-time winner in the civic elections today announcing his intention to resign as the councillor.
Expressing displeasure over being ignored for the post of vice-chairperson, Dilip Saha, however, said he would remain with the party.
“I am not quitting the party but I have made up my mind to resign as councillor. I have taken the decision after speaking with members of the party’s ward committee,” said Saha today.
Amina had been chosen by the Trinamul state leadership after the party’s district unit had failed to reach a consensus on the nominee for the post.
Saha won from Ward 5 by a margin of 987 votes. “This is the highest winning margin in any of the 20 wards of this municipality. Moreover, I contested from the same ward in 2005 and I was the only Trinamul candidate to win at that time,” said Saha.
He was critical of Amina’s husband, Abdul Jalil Ahmed, a state general secretary of Trinamul, though he did not name him. “That there was lobbying in Calcutta before the party leadership to make Amina the vice-chairperson is something that a large section of our party members here cannot accept. Therefore, keeping in mind the sentiments of our supporters and voters, I will submit my resignation as councillor to the subdivisional officer on July 6, a day after Amina Ahmed is sworn in as the vice-chairperson,” said Saha.
Trinamul’s district president denied that there was any dissent in the party. “We are going to carry out the decision of the party leadership to the letter and Amina Ahmed will be sworn in as the vice-chairperson on July 5,” said Rabindranath Ghosh.
Abdul Jalil said: “We do not want to enter into any controversy, we are doing what our state leadership wants.
Jail for Orissa MLA for riot
Manoj Pradhan
TT, Bhubaneswar, June 29: Orissa BJP legislator Manoj Pradhan was sentenced today to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment over the death of a Christian during the Kandhamal riots, the first conviction of the jailed MLA who had been slapped with 14 cases.
The judicial process will take some time to reach a definite conclusion because the MLA has the option of appeal but the conviction will help chief minister Naveen Patnaik feel justified that he dumped his ally before the Lok Sabha polls.
A fast-track court convicted the MLA from G Udaygiri in the case involving the murder of Parikshit Digal, who was killed on the evening of August 27, 2008, during the violence against Christians that came to be known as the Kandhamal riots.
The communal violence had broken out following the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four of his associates on August 23 at the Jalespeta Ashram in Kandhamal.
Pradhan, who got elected from jail where he is an undertrial, was a disciple of the VHP leader.
Delivering the judgment at Phulbani, around 210 km from the state capital, additional sessions judge Sobhan Kumar Dash also imposed a fine of Rs 6,000 on Pradhan.
Pradhan, who is lodged in the Phulbani district jail, today denied the allegations. The MLA said he accepted the court verdict but would file an appeal in the high court. An appeal can be filed within 30 days from the date of conviction.
As many as 14 cases had been filed against the Pradhan in connection with Kandhamal riots, out of which he has been acquitted in seven. Of the remaining seven cases, three relate to murder and four to torching of churches and houses. Another person named Prafulla Mallick was also convicted and awarded the same sentence.
Convictions that carry prison sentences above two years can lead to disqualification. However, according to lawyer Pitambar Acharya, Pradhan will not be disqualified for three months of the appeal period.
Politicians usually contend that disqualification should not apply till all legal options, including an appeal before the Supreme Court, are exhausted.
State BJP spokesperson Ashok Sahu stressed on the appeal option. “It’s a fit case for appeal in the high court. We will go in for appeal in the high court,” he said.
If the ruling BJD, which had parted ways with the BJP over several issues that included the riots, felt vindicated, it did not betray such an emotion.
“Our party believes that the law will take its own course. We have nothing more to say on this at this moment,” said senior BJD leader R.N. Pani.
The Archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Diocese, Raphael Cheenath, hailed the verdict. “This is the judgment which we had been waiting for since a long time. This gives an occasion to repose faith in the judiciary,” he said.“We will pursue the case with vigour in the appellate court,” said government pleader Bijoy Krishna Patnaik.
Altogether, 891 criminal cases had been registered against more than 5,500 persons in connection with the Kandhamal riots, out of which 119 cases have been disposed of so far. Nearly 150 accused have been convicted, while 636 have been acquitted.

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