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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tribals to ask hills to back autonomy - DOOARS ADIVASIS TO MEET MORCHA LEADERS

TT, Siliguri, June 28: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s north Bengal unit today said it would ask the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to support its demand for Sixth Schedule status for the Terai and the Dooars where the tribals are in a majority.
The Adivasi leaders have also decided to sit with the Morcha for a discussion but no date has been finalised yet for the meeting.
On the larger question of a joint movement with the hill party for Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh, Parishad leaders said they would have to find out first how the tribals could benefit from the creation of such a state. On May 30, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had for the first time re-christened Gorkhaland as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh and invited the tribals to join the statehood movement.
“When we sit for discussions with the Morcha, we will ask them how exactly the tribals will benefit by joining the movement for a state,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars-Terai regional unit of the Parishad. “But our main agenda will be to seek their support for our demand for Sixth Schedule status for the Terai and the Dooars.”
Barla claimed that the 350-odd tribals present at a three-hour long meeting in Banarhat in Jalpaiguri this afternoon supported the proposal to discuss with the Morcha the statehood and other issues related to socio-economic development in this part of the state.
However, the state leadership of the Parishad is opposed to any meeting with Gurung’s party and has maintained that it is ready to talk only with the government on the development of tribal areas in Bengal.
“We are aware of the stand of our state leaders but we find no harm in discussing with the Morcha areas that are of common interest. And, depending on the outcome, join the Morcha movement in the future,” Barla said.
He said the date for a meeting with the Morcha would be decided after the Parishad leadership meets state chief secretary Ardhendu Sen on Wednesday.
“Other than the date, we will also decide on the composition of the delegation after our return from Calcutta,” Barla said. “After today’s meeting, we will once again tell the Morcha about the consensus that has been reached about meeting with them.”
The Parishad leaders of the Terai and the Dooars believe that if they place the demands before the government jointly with the Morcha, they will have stronger bargaining power.
“We have been bargaining over several issues like the establishment of a 500-bed hospital in the Dooars, setting up of Hindi-medium schools and colleges in the Terai and the Dooars and the launch of vocational training courses for the past two years,” Barla said. “However, till today, none of these demands have been met and we feel that a joint movement will boost our bargaining power.”
Morcha leaders have welcomed the Parishad’s decision to hold a meeting with them.
“We will sit across the table with the Adivasis with an open mind,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media secretary of the Morcha.
“The Parishad, however, must understand that the state will adopt a carrot-and-stick policy to alienate them from us. The government is desperate to ensure that Parishad does not join us.” 
SNS, SILIGURI, 28 JUNE: Ending all speculation, the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) has announced its decision to sit across the table with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) over the latter's proposed state of Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh by incorporating the Darjeeling Hills, Terai and the Dooars.
The Adivasi body ~ a reckoning force in the Dooars ~ has however, refrained from announcing the date and venue for the proposed meet.
In a meeting of its Dooars-Terai regional unit held at Banarhat in the Dooars today, the ABAVP “unanimously” gave its nod for the meeting with the GJMM.
“Following a thorough discussion that ran for three-hours, we have unanimously decided to sit with the GJMM over its proposal. But the venue and date for the bi-partite parleys would be fixed only after we had returned from the meeting with the state chief secretary in Kolkata on 30 June,” the ABAVP Dooars regional committee president Mr John Barla said over the phone.  
After floating the concept of Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh (GAP) in a public meeting at Darjeeling on 30 May, the GJMM president Mr Bimal Gurung had written to the ABAVP on 3 June, proposing a joint movement for realising the demanded statehood. Yesterday, the GJMM supremo had also served a veiled ultimatum to the Adivasi leaders to take a decision on this soon; failing which “the chapter would be deemed closed once and for all”, he had warned.
Within 24 hours of the ultimatum, the ABAVP in its pre-scheduled meeting at Banarhat today came out in favour of a dialogue with the GJMM.
According to sources in the ABAVP, of the 11 block units from the Terai and Dooars that took part in the discussions today, a majority of nine favoured a meeting with the GJMM, one unit remained undecided and the remaining one opposed the move.
KalimNews:Political analysers are of the opinion that considering the talks of ABAVP with the WB government on 30 June, ABAVP leaders are now playing a pressure tactics to the Government. Their consent to the GJMM is to pressurise the government  with an option of either to hear their voice or face their allegiance with GJMM. In no way Adivasis wants to lose and are in bargaining point. Analysers view that on turning down by the government there is every likelihood of GJMM getting support of ABAVP.
TMC & Cong spar in Siliguri
TT, Siliguri, June 28: A Trinamul Congress delegation called on the Congress mayor of Siliguri today and accused her of failing to fulfil people’s expectations.
“We told her that the new board has not been able to fulfil the expectations of the people. Wards held by the Congress councillors and, in some cases, those of the CPM have been getting more funds than the ones held by us,” Darjeeling district Trinamul president Gautam Deb alleged.
He led a team of nine party councillors to Gangotri Dutta’s office in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and spent almost two hours there.
Last year, the Trinamul-Congress combine had captured the 47-ward civic body, dislodging the Left for the first time since 1981. Trouble erupted when Trinamul, which had 14 councillors and the support of an Independent, demanded the mayor’s post. The Congress, which had 15 councillors, went one up, bagging the chair with Left support.
But the rift appeared to have disappeared this March when Trinamul announced it would join the Congress to run the board, creating a curious case of a Congress mayor propped up by the CPM as well as Mamata Banerjee’s party.
The first sign of the Congress-Trinamul relationship taking a beating here came on Friday when Deb walked out of a board meeting alleging misbehaviour by Congress chairperson Sabita Devi Agarwal.
Today, again hinting that all was not well, the Trinamul councillors told the mayor to improve services, take steps against the corrupt and make the use of funds transparent.
Reacting to the allegations, mayor Dutta said: “We have allotted funds for all the wards impartially. He (Deb) should keep his flock together before trying to find fault with us.”
She was referring to the resignation of a Trinamul councillor, indicating that there was infighting in the party.
Trinamul’s Chaitali Sen Sharma submitted her resignation to the chairperson, citing ill health.
Her leader, Deb, said he did not know about it.
Rift widens after walkout- March 30 bonding on verge of break-up at SMC - Mamata choice for Cooch Behar
TT, Siliguri, June 28: The relationship between anti-Left allies in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation soured further today with the Trinamul Congress accusing the Congress- run board of failing to upgrade the civic services.
The district president of Trinamul, Gautam Deb, said the mayor had been told that the board had not functioned according to the people’s expectations. “We told her that the new board has not been able to fulfil the expectations of the people. Wards held by the Congress councillors and, in some cases, those of the CPM have been getting more funds than the ones held by us,” said Deb, who is the leader of the party in the SMC, after a two-hour meeting with Congress mayor Gangotri Dutta. He was accompanied by nine of his party councillors.
The first sign of the relationship taking a beating in recent times came on Friday when Deb walked out of a board meeting alleging misbehaviour by Congress chairperson Sabita Devi Agarwal.
Last year, the Trinamul-Congress combine had captured the SMC, dislodging the Left from the civic body for the first time since 1981. However, problems emerged when Trinamul, which like the Congress bagged 15 of the 47 seats, demanded the mayor’s post and refused to join the board. The Congress, which stood its ground, won the mayor’s post with Left support. The Left had won in 17 wards.
But on March 30, the rift seemed to disappear with Trinamul announcing that it would join the Congress soon to run the board.
Today, hinting that all was not well with the board, the Trinamul councillors told the mayor to improve services, take necessary steps against persons involved in corruption and make transparent the use of the funds that the board had received in the past eight months.
Reacting to the Trinamul’s allegations, the mayor said: “We have allotted funds for all the wards impartially. I must say that he (Deb) should keep his flock together first before trying to find fault with us.” The mayor was referring to the resignation of a Trinamul councillor, indicating that there was infighting in the party.
Immediately after Deb’s media conference, Trinamul councillor Chaitali Sen Sharma of Ward 31 submitted her resignation to the chairperson, citing ill health. Deb feigned ignorance about the resignation. “I have not received any such letter,” he said.
The chairperson confirmed receiving the resignation letter and said she was yet to take any decision. “I am looking into it,” Agarwal said. 
Tusker in Malda

Dance to celebrate deaths
Pronab Mondal. TT, Calcutta, June 28: Bapi Mahato and his men danced to I am a disco dancer and drank to their merriment after derailing the Jnaneswari Express, CBI sleuths have concluded from his orders to arrange for a bottle and the music in phone intercepts.
The party to celebrate the carnage that left 150 people dead took place somewhere at Indraboni, a village about 6km from the place where the train was thrown off the tracks on May 28.
A CBI officer said the intercept had left them stunned. “The party went on for hours after the tragedy.”
The CID, which had recorded Bapi’s purported conversations, has handed the intercepts over to the CBI. The central bureau has taken over the probe into the sabotage that led to the tragedy.
Bapi, one of the prime accused in the case, was arrested from a lodge on the fringes of Jamshedpur last Sunday.
In one of the intercepts, he allegedly gloats over the “successful operation” after being told about several casualties.
CBI sources said Bapi had sent a man around the dawn of May 28 to see the impact of the operation. The conversation, recorded around 6am, ran like this:
Caller: It was major accident, the passenger train rammed into a goods train…several people died... many of them are screaming for help.
Bapi: Really? The goods train hit the passenger train?
Caller: Yes dada…. A number of policemen are here and media people.
Bapi: Ok, let it pass…. Our job’s done.
In one conversation, Bapi is said to have threatened to turn the Manikpara area into a shashan (burning ghat).
The village, 8km from Jhargram town, is apparently where the strike on the tracks was finalised. But the meeting could not be completed because of a police raid and Bapi suspected there were moles among the villagers. “This phone chat was held a day after the raid and Bapi was in a very foul mood,” a police officer said.
The first suggestion of celebrations emerged when the cops intercepted a call on May 28 afternoon. It went like this:
Bapi: Where are you?
Aide: In front of Kalada’s shop.
Bapi: What’s happening there?
Aide: Police are swarming the area….
Bapi: Oshob chhar… boro ekta jogar kor… khaoa daoa hobey (Let that be… arrange for a big one… we’ll eat and drink).
Aide: Kothay pabo (where will I get the big one)… the police are all over the place.
Bapi: I don’t want to hear all that. You’ll have to get the bottle.
By then the police were constantly monitoring the phone conversations of Bapi and his associates. If the police version is true, Bapi was oblivious of the fact that his phone could be tapped.
“The celebrations came to light when Bapi received a call during the party. We heard the chartbuster from the Mithun Chakraborty film. They possibly used loudspeakers,” a CBI officer said.
Bapi’s phone was under the scanner till May 31. It was found switched off after that. “It appears that he was not allowed to use his phone after Maoists leaders reached the area to seek an explanation from him why he had carried out the operation without informing them? He was taken away by the leaders after that. But we never heard him express any remorse in the three days after the incident in his interactions over the phone,” the officer said.
Bapi was today produced in the CBI’s special court in Calcutta, which sent him to a day’s jail custody. The court will record his statement tomorrow.
State go-slow on schools’ no-fail policy
TT, Calcutta, June 28: The Bengal government will not immediately introduce the policy of not detaining students till Class VIII as stipulated in the Centre’s right to education act.
School education minister Partha De told the Assembly during Question Hour today a final decision to do away with the screening of students between Classes V and VIII would be taken after a survey on its pros and cons and an understanding of how to negate any possible adverse impact.
“The survey will be held to examine the progress of students under the present system in which laggards are held back (after Class IV). We will also find out to what extent the students will benefit if there is no annual screening. A decision on scrapping the annual exams and detention of students will be taken on the basis of the survey’s findings,” De said in response to a question from the RSP’s Jane Alam Mian.
Schools — government, government-aided and private — across boards cannot detain students till Class VIII under Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act, which was recently passed in Parliament. The law has become effective from April 1.
One of its clauses states no child shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education at the age of 14, a source in the education department said.
“It is a central legislation and it can’t be rejected. But before we accept the provision dealing with no-detention till Class VIII, we must know what measures need to be taken to ensure that the new policy works out successfully and students can really benefit from it. We need time to adopt the new law,” the minister said.
De did not mention a timeframe within which the existing system — of no detention till Class IV — would be scrapped. Nor does the law specify any deadline for the implementation of the new policy, education officials said.
Many teachers feel the state is delaying the process because of its lack of education infrastructure. “Once the no-detention policy is implemented, the demand for junior high schools (Classes V to VIII) will considerably increase. The policy will not work if the state government does not set up enough such schools,” a primary school teacher said.
There are about 12,000 junior high and secondary schools in Bengal but that may not be enough to accommodate the possible increase in the number of students if the no-detention policy is implemented.
Annual exams are not held in Bengal’s 59,000-odd state-aided primary schools (till Class IV). But many students drop out after failing to clear their Class V annual exams.
What the teacher meant was that if these students didn’t drop out, the state would find it difficult to give them room to sit. 
Maoist killed, family sighs in disbelief Sentry duty for bosses fatal
Naresh Jana, TT, Ghritakham, June 28: Kamal Mahato was a village defence squad member asked to guard his Maoist bosses while they camped on the edge of a forest near Jhargram, police said today.
He was the lone rebel killed in the encounter with the security forces outside Ghritakham village early yesterday.
His widow Jayanti sat stone-faced in their small mud house this morning, watching her two sons play in the courtyard with other children.
Jayanti, 28, said she could not shed a tear because of her sons — Susanta, 7, and Basanta, 4. They didn’t know yet that their father was dead.
“See how my children are playing. See how happy they are. How can I rob them of that by crying? I will have to live the rest of my life with them,” Jayanti said, almost choking but in control.
Kamal had left home after dinner on Saturday evening, like he had been doing the past few days. “I knew my husband was acquainted with some of the Maoists. But I didn’t know the extent of his association. He had been leaving home after dinner and returning in the morning. I had no idea what he was doing,” Jayanti said.
Her heart skipped a beat when she heard gunfire outside the village yesterday. “I knew a battle had started between the police and the Maobadi but I did not know my husband was there. We woke up to the thud of police boots in the village. I became scared as the day wore on because my husband did not return,” she said.
Kamal’s elder brother Babulal, 36, a former CPM gram panchayat member, enquired at every possible place about his sibling but no one seemed to know where he was. “Even when we heard about the death of a Maoist, it did not strike us that he could be my husband,” said Jayanti.
Then some TV channels showed the body and the word spread. Babulal went to Jhargram today and identified it.
Kamal’s mother Durga, 65, finds it difficult to believe that her younger son worked for the guerrillas. “He used to till our two bigha plot,” she said.
Babulal earns Rs 4,000 a month working under the Sarva Siksha Abhijan project. His job is to monitor the midday meal scheme in schools and dropout rates.
Other villagers said the Maoists had been staying in a field 500 metres from Ghritakham since Tuesday. “They used to make us march with them and shout slogans demanding the withdrawal of the forces and the release of Chhatradhar Mahato. They had threatened to kill us if we failed to join them,” a man said.
Jhargram superintendent of police Praveen Tripathi said: “Kamal had five more village youths with him last night.” Their job was to look out for approaching police teams.
Kamal, Tripathi added, had earlier helped the Maoists abduct and kill three villagers who had been branded police informers.
Susanta realised his father was no more when he saw the body being brought down from a Matador van tonight. He ran towards it, took a hard look and broke down. Jayanti’s dam burst.
Many of the young villagers who had fled fearing police harassment yesterday returned today. But they looked at outsiders with suspicion.
Posters put up by the Maoist-trained village defence squad demanding the withdrawal of the joint forces from Jungle Mahal and urging villagers not to give their land to the Jindals for their factory were wiped clean off the walls today. “The police had entered only those houses that had the writings on them,” said a villager.
The Jindals are planning a steel plant in Salboni, 70km away. They have got the land they want.
Murder: Suspected Maoists last night shot dead a former CPM worker in Bankura’s Sarenga. Kiriti Duley, 42, was cycling home after selling sal leaves when he was attacked.

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