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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Territory to be dropped from Sept 7 talks ‘Minor irritants’ to feature in meeting ...

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 3: The territory of the proposed interim set-up will not be discussed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the official-level meeting scheduled in New Delhi for September 7.
Instead, it will be kept aside for the political-level interaction so that the talks process does not get bogged down by contentious issues.
The decision was taken in consultation with Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh who had been insisting that statehood was a “step by step” process and each stage had to be conquered to reach the summit.
“The territory issue will be taken up during the political-level talks. There is no question of leaving out the Dooars and Terai (from the interim set-up),” Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri today told The Telegraph.
But the Morcha delegation is expected to thrash out next week the “many irritants” that have cropped up after the Centre sent the minutes of the August 17 tripartite meeting to the party recently.
Sources said “there were discrepancies in the minutes of the meeting” prepared by the Centre. “We have made our comments on the minutes and faxed them to both the Centre and the state today,” a source said.
In fact, members of the party’s Study Forum met Singh for two consecutive days. “Bimal Gurung (Morcha chief) also called on Singh before the forum met him today,” said another source.
It is learnt that Singh had a detailed discussion on the provisions of the interim set-up. “We felt that the minutes had to be corrected. There is no mention of the police commissariat that we had raised in the August 17 meeting. Instead, the minutes only talk about the development functions of the district magistrate,” said the source.
The Morcha wants a regional police, which should “be upgraded into a commissariat of police in line with the commissariat of Calcutta police”.
Issues regarding the direct allotment of funds to the interim authority instead of routing it through the state have also bothered the Morcha. “In the last meeting, there were no objections from the Centre and the state on this issue. But the minutes and the subsequent comment of the Centre is, however, ambiguous,” said the source.
The minute, according to the source, is not clear about the legislative powers of the interim set-up and also on the issue regarding the transfer of tea and cinchona sectors to the new arrangement.
However, the source was confident that these “irritants were minor in nature” and would be thrashed out in the next round of talks. There is a general feeling among the Morcha leaders, who are in the know of things, that territory is the only sore thumb in the negotiations. “We are not in a position to compromise on territory,” said the source.
Singh, however, sounded optimist. “I am sure given the authority, discretion and the good intention on the part of the government of India and all those who are currently involved in the discussions, it is not beyond the genius and the ingenuity of the government of India to find an answer that will satisfy everybody,” Singh said after meeting the members of the forum.
CPM wants elected set-up
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 3: The Darjeeling district CPM has demanded that the interim authority in the hills should be an elected body and not formed by nominated members.
Asok Bhattacharya, the CPM municipal and urban development minister, today told reporters that once the nitty gritty of the interim arrangement was finalised, it could be formed by November through election.
“After the central government’s proposal on the interim arrangement, the state government also cleared its stand. But at the same time, we also think that the set-up should be formed through election. It should not be a nominated body,” Bhattacharya said this afternoon.
On the formation of the proposed set-up, he said: “It should be formed in a democratic manner and should not deprive the residents of the hills from participating in an election. I have spoken to the district administration in this regard, and it is understood that once the set-up is declared, the administration will be ready to hold an election in the next two months.”
Bhattacharya said he wished success for the upcoming talks on Tuesday, adding such an initiative could be fruitful only if all the political parties from the region were involved. He also said the proposal had been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after Saman Pathak, the CPM Rajya Sabha member, met him last month.
“Any such process can be fulfilled, when the central government involves all the political parties of the region. We have already appealed to the Prime Minister about this through our Rajya Sabha MP.”
He also said the Morcha leaders, keeping in mind the talks, should co-operate with police and the CID which is trying to find out the whereabouts of Nickole Tamang. Nickole, a central committee leader of the Morcha and a prime accused in the Madan Tamang murder case, fled from CID custody on August 22.
Hip-hop album after hill rapper himself
TT, Gangtok, Sept. 3: Rapper Bosing is set to release his debut hip-hop album, which he claims is the first of its genre in Sikkim and the Darjeeling hills, named after himself here tomorrow.
With the music scene in Sikkim and Darjeeling hills heavily influenced by rock, traditional and pop, the album, also called Bosing, has opened up another genre for the region that has quite a following for hip-hop.
The audio album is being produced by hangout zone, Café Like and Loud.
Twenty-four-year-old Tashi Wangchuk Rapgyal, known as Bosing among friends, started to rap when he was a schoolboy. “It is the first full length hip-hop album from Sikkim and probably from Darjeeling also,” said Bosing, who considers rap icon Tupac Shakur his inspiration.
The music album has eight scores that have been recorded at the Psalms Studio in Tadong near here. Bosing has written the lyrics and sung all the tracks with supporting vocals from Neha Pradhan from A-Live band, and local singer Christina.
According to the rapper, most of the songs in the album are about love and relationships. “A song called Love You Mom is dedicated to all mothers while Spinning Around is about my village Lingmoo in South Sikkim where I grew up,” he said.
“I started to rap during my days in St Paul’s, Darjeeling. I did a lot of shows in school. I also performed at Tantra in Calcutta during the Northeast Fest in 2007. Then I started performing at the clubs here at Gangtok,” said Bosing.
According to the proprietor of Café Live and Loud Bikash Chamling, Bosing is their first production. “This is a unique project and it is our privilege to provide a platform to upcoming local talents,” said general manager of the club in Gangtok, Miking Archer Lepcha. Café Live and Loud has been a popular hangout zone for music lovers for the past two years with live bands performing every evening. “We have been bringing in bands like Parikrama and Pentagram. This album is one more such product to entertain our customers,” said Lepcha. He said 400 CDs of Bosing have been prepared initially.
Regarding the expectations from the album, Bosing the singer said its success depended on the people. “A lot of youngsters are into hip-hop these days and I hope the album will be a success,” he said.
3 months to decide on grade rejig- govt deadline for nhpc
TT, Gangtok, Sept. 3: The NHPC has been given three months by the Sikkim government to decide on the workers’ demand of re-designating their grades according to their education qualification.
Fifty-three persons, whose families had given land for the NHPC’s 510MW project at Balutar, 42km from here, had been recruited by the power company in 2004 in the W-0 grade under the rehabilitation and relief plan.
On August 31, the workers resorted to an indefinite strike alleging that they have been given the lowest grade irrespective of their educational qualifications.
The agitation was withdrawn after the East district administration intervened and fixed a meeting between the NHPC and the workers for September 3.
Today, after a 90-minute meeting with the power company, workers and representatives from the labour wing of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, East district collector D. Anandan said: “The NHPC Teesta Stage V management has sought three months to place the workers’ demands before their higher authorities. The management has not given any commitment but we have explicitly told them not to dilly-dally. We have told them to come to a concrete decision within three months.”
The NHPC was represented by its executive director D. Parija and chief engineer in-charge of the project D. Chattopadhya.
The power officials claimed that under the plan agreed upon by the NHPC and the Sikkim government in 2001, those who gave their land for the project were supposed to be directly appointed under W-0 grade with provisions for promotion according to their qualifications later.
Denying the claim, Anandan said: “The people recruited under the plan should have been directly appointed to suitable posts as per qualifications and others should be given training for technical posts. This was not done by the NHPC.”
Sangram S. Basnett, a mechanical engineer who represents the workers, said: “Initially, the NHPC officials were not showing much interest but when the district administration raised the issue strongly, they asked for three months. The pressure is on the NHPC to do something. If they don’t, we will definitely fight for our rights.”
Farmer dead for debt
TT, Malda, Sept. 3: The body of a farmer who was missing for the past 10 days and who is suspected to have committed suicide for debt was found in a well near his home in Habibpur today.
Sushil Soren, 22, had been missing since August 24, but no one from his family had filed a missing person’s diary. According to Gokul Roy of Habibpur’s Marali village, Sushil had borrowed Rs 6,000 from a local money-lender to sow paddy. “He had two bighas of land and the paddy seedlings dried up because of the dry weather and after that he was very worried on how to repay the debt. That is why he jumped into the well,” Gokul claimed. Malda police chief Bhuban Mondol said a probe was on to determine whether the death was suicide.
TT, Siliguri: Foresters from Baikunthapur division seized teak timber worth Rs 1 lakh from East Vivekanandapally on Friday. Foresters said the timber was recovered from a vacant plot of land in the locality. Nobody has been arrested.
TT, Siliguri: Akash Haldar, a Class VI student of Terai Tarapada Adarsha Vidyalaya in Deshbandhupara was injured when a jeep hit him on Friday. After the accident, the local people ransacked the vehicle whose driver has been arrested. The injured student had been taken to the district hospital for treatment.
TT, Siliguri: The state sports and youth welfare department in association with the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation and Siliguri District School Sports Association felicitated six footballers of Siliguri who had recently gone to Germany for a weeklong training at FC Bayern.
TT, Islampur: Four people were arrested on Friday for allegedly gangraping a 25-year-old tribal woman at Maheshpur on August 31. Md Atik, Md Alam, Md Nasarul and Md Saifuddin — all residents of Maheshpur — were produced in the court of the additional chief judicial magistrate of Islampur, which remanded them in jail custody for 14 days.

Cadres break reporter's arm
His fractured left hand in a sling, Pronab Mondal, The Telegraph’s principal correspondent, reports on the attack after he was given preliminary treatment at Midnapore hospital. This photograph was taken by Amit Datta, The Telegraph’s photographer, who was also injured in the attack.
Pronab Mondal, TT: Seven journalists, including a reporter and photographer of The Telegraph, were pulled out of a car and assaulted with rods on Friday while they were returning from an assignment to cover the CPM’s “recapture” of Dharampur in Lalgarh.
The attack took place in Pirakata area, specifically Chandra, about 40km away from Dharampur. From the way the attackers obeyed the orders of local CPM leaders, it was apparent that they were supporters of the party, which has been trying to contest charges that it is running armed camps in the region.
Later, in Midnapore town, it was diagnosed that the left forearm of Pronab Mondal, principal correspondent with The Telegraph, was fractured. Photographer Amit Datta was injured in the elbow.
Mondal, with his broken arm in a sling, filed over a borrowed phone a news report on Friday evening, completing his assignment despite the attack. Mondal also filed a first-person account, which appears below.
The first blow came from the back. As I slumped to the ground, I could hear the abuses being hurled at me.
“Cut his hands so he can’t write any more copies,” said one of the men towering over me, the red flags of the CPM fluttering in the background. “So he wants to report on harmad (mercenary) camps! Show him what the harmads are like.” (Harmad is a term the Trinamul Congress frequently uses to describe armed CPM cadres.)
Alarmed at the brutality and the suddenness of the attack, I feebly said that we would go back but nobody was in a mood to listen. More blows and abuses followed.
“Let’s smash his head, nobody would know.” As a man raised an iron rod and swung it fiercely towards my head, I raised a protective left arm, letting the rod smash against it.
For a moment I blacked out.
Seven of us, our photographer Amit Datta, and five other journalists from STAR Ananda and Times Now, had left Dharampur, reclaimed by the CPM on Friday, about two hours earlier, around 12.45 this afternoon.
After covering the events in Dharampur from where the CPM had fled last June and returned victorious yesterday, we decided to verify information we had received about the presence of armed CPM camps in Chandra, about 40km away.
We set out in two cars, a Scorpio and an Innova, and 15km down the Lalgarh-Pirakata road, we hit Rameshwarpur, a Maoist stronghold. Finding it devoid of Maoist presence, I wondered if the armed CPM camps, of which I had heard so much and one of which I had seen in Enayatpur, had moved so close to the Maoist heartland of Lalgarh.
We decided not to stop but to push ahead as we wanted to return to Midnapore town before sundown. Around 2.30pm, we reached a police checkpost at Pirakata, from where Chandra is less than 1km away. At the checkpost, the police asked us about our identities and where we planned to go. When we informed them that we were going to Chandra, they waved us through.
We had barely travelled half a km when we saw a couple of closed shops with the CPM’s red flags fluttering atop, a clear sign that the party had reclaimed territory here. As we neared the shops, four young men in trousers and shirts approached us.
The conversation between the men and us went something like this:
The smashed windscreen of a car with Star Ananda sticker in Pirakata. Picture by Amit Datta
Men: “Where are you going?”
Us: “Chandra”
Men: “Why?”
Us: “We are from the press.”
Men (more belligerent by now): “Go back”
Men (again): “No, we won’t let you go back. Give us your cameras.”
By now we had begun to smell trouble — and liquor —in their breath.
More men then emerged as though from nowhere and began smashing our cars with rods, sticks and bamboos. The windscreens and windowpanes instantly became crumbled glass.
At 6.05pm on Friday,over three hoursafter the attack, a Telegraph reporter approached chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who was on his way out of Writers’ for the day. The chief minister smiled and raised an eyebrow to ask what the matter was. The Telegraph reporter asked: “Sir, a group of journalists was severely beaten at Pirakata today. Some of them, including two of my colleagues, are seriously injured. What do you have to say to that?” The chief minister’s jaws hardened and the smile vanished. Before the question was over, he was on his way to the VIP elevator on the first floor.
The chief minister turned to the reporter and said: “Jani na (I don’t know).”
“We are not going to leave you alive, we will cut you into pieces and bury you here in the jungles,” shouted one of the men.
Another screamed: “Know who we are? We are Kishanji’s fathers! Write as much about the harmad’s camps as you want to.”
Through the smashed window panes, the men, who seemed to number about 25 by then, started beating us with rods and sticks. They pulled us out of the two cars and started beating us up and demanded our cellphones and our cameras.
Photographer Datta, anticipating that our belongings would eventually be snatched, had taken his camera out of his bag and kicked it under the seat of the car.
“I knew this was bound to happen,” Datta said. “So I dropped my camera to the floor of the car and kicked it under the seat. When they asked for our cameras, I just handed over my bag which contained some lenses.”
The beating then continued for the next 10 minutes, by which time the iron rod swung at me had fractured my left arm. All the others, including the drivers of the two cars, suffered injuries of varying degrees, most of them on their arms while protecting themselves from the blows.
After a while the attackers stopped and said that for “justice to be delivered”, they would call their netas. The leaders were called on their cellphones and within a few minutes, they appeared, one in shirt and trousers and the other wearing pyjamas and kurta.
They were later identified by a local journalist with us, Amitava Rath of STAR Ananda, as Madhusudan Mahato (shirt and trousers), a local committee secretary of Pirakata, and Jagannath Mahato, a CPM leader of Salboni.
The two leaders asked the men who were beating us to immediately stop and leave the spot, which they obediently did.
Then the two apologised, saying: “Please don’t mind. These are the outpourings of the anger of local villagers.”
They directed a few of their cadres to return the cameras and cellphones that had been snatched from us. In a few minutes, our belongings were returned but not three cellphones.
One of the leaders, taking some money out of his pocket, said: “Please accept this on behalf of our party. This will help pay for the missing phones and the damage to the cars. See, we are CPM men who have been able to return to our territory after a long time.”
When we refused the money, he said: “After all that has happened, we would have been happy if you did accept it.”
He told us to get into our cars but leave only under the escort they would provide. Soon, we were following two motorcycles through the village.
As we passed, my last image of the place was the Buripal Primary School which had been turned into a fortress by the CPM. Sandbags protected the building and armed men milled around. Red flags fluttered all around.
At least we got to see an armed CPM camp that we had come looking for.
Govt shuts eyes, party hems and haws Shyamal finger at eager villagers
TT, Calcutta, Sept 3: The chief minister today said he did not know of the attack on journalists at West Midnapore’s Pirakata but government sources said Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was kept posted throughout the day on the happenings in Jungle Mahal.
He was also informed of the manner in which his party activists were gradually making inroads into areas over which the Maoists held sway till the other day, they added.
“Home department officials today kept the chief minister informed about the developments in Pirakata and Lalgarh. He was also told about the police arrangements there to ensure that the villagers could return to their homes,” a source said.
“The chief minister had specifically instructed the home department to ensure that trouble or clashes did not occur. We don’t know why he said he wasn’t aware of the attack on journalists. Maybe, he didn’t want to get into this tricky issue as it was a CPM attack,’’ he added.
Echoing his boss Bhattacharjee who holds charge of police affairs also, state home secretary Samar Ghosh said: “I am not aware of it (the attack).”
An exception to the row of “unaware” superiors appeared to be inspector-general of police (law and order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha.
The IG said: “We are taking down their (journalists’) complaints. Specific cases will be initiated. Steps are being taken to identify and arrest those responsible for the attack on them.’’
Journalists had also been attacked by armed CPM cadres during the November 2007 recapture of Nandigram. Artistes and eminent people had held a huge procession in Calcutta then to protest the CPM onslaught.
CPM state secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty condemned today’s attack but evaded questions on the involvement of CPM activists.
“There’s no doubt that the incident of journalists being beaten up calls for condemnation. But I will have to check whether CPM men were involved in the attack,” he said.
Apparently trying to defend the attackers, Chakraborty said: “Actually, the ground realities will have to be understood. For the past two years, Maoists have killed hundreds of party workers, supporters and sympathisers in Jungle Mahal. Several people were forced to flee their homes in the face of rebel attacks.’’
The leader urged the media to “consider the condition” of those who had been hounded out of their homes and were trying to return.
“After a long time, these affected people have now got an opportunity to go back to their villages. Many of them have developed a preference for the CPM for standing by the villagers when Maoists were killing people. They want to build a strong resistance against the Maoists. Their mood is upbeat,” he said.
Chakraborty wondered whether the journalists were attacked by “our party men” or by “overzealous villagers desperate to return” to their homes. “We will have to check with our district leaders,’’ he added.
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee condemned the attack. “What’s going on in Jungle Mahal? It seems to be an Indo-Pak war!” she said.

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