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Monday, September 27, 2010

Mamata tiptoes in hills...

Trinamul chief avoids thorny assurances in Darjeeling, steps up efforts to win new friends

 Vivek Chhetri, TT,Sept. 26: Mamata Banerjee lost her spectacles today but appeared to have negotiated the slippery political terrain in Darjeeling without stumbling in the first leg of her two-day trip to the hills.
The Trinamul Congress chief has so far managed to keep the parties in the hills happy without giving any concrete political assurance.
Any “misstep” during the trip — part of Mamata’s efforts to get a toehold in all corners of the state — will prove expensive in the plains where no party can afford to be seen as endorsing any effort to divide Bengal again.
The lone political demand put forward by a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation, led by its president Bimal Gurung, was sidestepped by Mamata.
“The GJM (Morcha) requests you to take necessary initiative for the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the proposed interim authority,” a “political” memorandum submitted by the Morcha read.
The inclusion of the areas from the plains in the interim authority, an administrative arrangement suggested by the Centre till 2012, is a contentious demand that has been stoutly opposed by the Bengal government.
However, Mamata reportedly told the Morcha that “since the issue is being handled by the Union home ministry and since the talks are progressing, it would be apt for the home ministry to decide”.
Gurung seemed happy with the overall talks and decided not to make an issue of the absence of political commitment.
According to sources, the Morcha does not intend to push Mamata too hard now because of the “greater role” she is expected to play in the state next year. “She is visiting Darjeeling as the railway minister and we laid stress on issues regarding the development of the region and the railways,” Gurung said after the meeting.
The Morcha does not have too many potential allies to choose from. The Morcha and the CPM are at loggerheads while the hill party’s experiment of fielding Jaswant Singh has not paid off much with the exit of the BJP from power at the Centre.
Mamata will attend a public event, organised by tour operators, at the Mall tomorrow.
Not that the hills did not send any message to Mamata. Thousands stood along the Sukna-Rohini road, showering flowers and shouting “Mamata Banerjee welcome” and “We want Gorkhaland”, as her cavalcade of 25 cars wound its way up.
The last such rousing welcome was given to Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh when he visited the hills to file the nominations for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Mamata reciprocated, stepping out of the car all of a sudden and putting a khada (silk scarf) on a 60-year-old woman trudging uphill with a bundle of grass. Some drew parallels with Rahul Gandhi’s style but Mamata is no stranger to working crowds.
Once she arrived at the Darjeeling circuit house, it emerged that her spectacles were missing. However, a new set could be arranged from a local shop within an hour. “It was possible because Didi knew her (focal) power,” said one of the aides who waved a bill.
Asked if the Morcha was looking at forging an alliance with Trinamul in the coming days, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, a spokesperson for the hill party, said: “It is too early to comment. We will cross the bridge when we reach it.”
Without wasting any time, the CPM assailed her and drew a parallel with her trip to Lalgarh which, like the hills, has been out of bounds for the ruling party. “Mamata Banerjee is running to those who kill people. Days after visiting Lalgarh to align with Maoists, she now rushes to Darjeeling to join hands with the Morcha. It is the Morcha that has brought the BJP into the hills,” CPM central committee member Mohammad Salim said.
CPM state chief Biman Bose issued a statement without naming her but playing on concerns over the “division of Bengal”. “If somebody aligns with those who are trying to divide Bengal, it is condemnable,” he said.
Mamata negotiates hill terrain Morcha ignores set-up overlook
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 26: The need symbiotic, Mamata Banerjee today managed to keep the hill outfits — eager to be in her good books — happy without giving any concrete political assurance during the first day of her two-day stay in the region.
Known to be against the division of the state, Mamata deftly bypassed the only political demand of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha led by its president Bimal Gurung. “The government of India has proposed an alternative administrative set-up as an interim arrangement and will be operational till 2012. GJM (Morcha) requests you to take necessary initiative for the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the proposed interim authority,” the Morcha’s “political” memorandum read.
The inclusion of the areas in the plains in the interim authority for the hills is a contentious demand that has been starkly opposed by the Bengal government.
Mamata reportedly told the Morcha that “since the issue is being handled by the Union home ministry and the talks are progressing, it would be apt if the ministry took the decision”.
Gurung seemed happy with the overall dialogue, which took place in Hindi, and decided not to make an issue out of the lack of political commitment, a move understandable since the Morcha considers the “greater role” that Mamata will play in the state in the near future. “She is visiting Darjeeling as the railway minister and we, too, stressed issues regarding development of the region and the railways,” said Gurung after the meeting.
With the Morcha trying to separate from the CPM-ruled Bengal government and the BJP tie-up turning out to be not so successful, Mamata seems to be the only viable option for Gurung, who wants to be in her good books specially with the Assembly elections next year.
Last week, a Morcha leader, had said about Mamata: “Her political stature and the political situation in Bengal at this juncture cannot be ruled out. We are looking at the greater role she will play in the future”.
Taking a dig for touring the hills, CPM central committee member Mohammed Salim today said: “Mamata Banerjee is running to those who kill people. Days after visiting Lalgarh to align with Maoists, Mamata now rushes to Darjeeling to join hands with Janmukti Morcha. It is the Morcha that has brought in BJP into the hills and the Trinamul Congress chief is making overtures to the Morcha. She has no principles.” Later CPM state secretary Biman Bose slammed her in a statement. “If somebody aligns with those who are trying to divide Bengal is condemnable,” he said.
Asked if the Morcha was looking at forging an alliance with Trinamul in the coming days, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, spokesperson for the hill party said: “It is too early to comment. We will cross the bridge when we reach it. Even Mamata Banerjee told us that she could see for herself what the Left Front has done to Darjeeling.”
Many Morcha leaders were of the opinion that Mamata would be able to deliver “justice” to them. “This is a historic event,” said Col (retd) Ramesh Allay, president of the Morcha-affiliated ex-servicemen’s association. “We have high expectation as she is known to deliver justice to the oppressed.”
The ex-servicemen’s association wanted Mamata to pressure the state government into making public the findings of the one-man commission on lathi-charge on their rally at Darjeeling More,
Other hill parties, like the ABGL, too, thought that Mamata could deliver much to Darjeeling. “We told her that many of the demands like the one for Gorkhaland will not be solved unless the government speaks to a broad cross-section (of people). We also told her that solutions would not be achieved if only one party was engaged in talks,” said Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL. “We also demanded that the CBI take over the investigation of the Madan Tamang’s murder.”
Mamata reportedly told the ABGL delegation that she would raise the issue of inviting all the political parties during her meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Morcha also demanded that the railways should provide jobs to the next of kin of Gorkha martyrs and name a train after freedom fighters from the hills. 
Hill hope pinned on messiah' Mamata
TNN,DARJEELING: The public meeting was cancelled, party flags and banners were withdrawn, but Mamata Banerjee's mission to the Hills was a hit.
Everywhere she went, cro-wds poured out on to the street to receive her. She interacted with common people and met representatives of local parties, including GJM, sending out signals that she now has her eyes fixed on the Hills.
With this, the Trinamool Congress chief scored over other political parties during her Mission Darjeeling on Sunday. Because no other mainstream party has visited the Hills in the recent past.
The warm reception she got on her way to the Hills said it all. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and rival Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League welcomed her with open arms. They now see a messiah in her a leader who can offer a solution to the problems plaguing the Hills.
Right from Darjeeling More on the outskirts of Siliguri, common people thronged the road to welcome the leader. Even in towns en route, like Kurseong and Ghoom, she received a hearty welcome. Then there were receptions at various stations of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. At Darjeeling station, the GJM town committee welcomed her with a khada and shouted slogans. At Circuit House, she was presented a guard of honour by Darjeeling Police. By evening her room was chock-a-block with gifts from various groups.
Near Darjeeling station, Mamata got off her car and walked with the crowd her usual way of forging bonds. She looked overwhelmed.
"At least, Mamata has taken the trouble to come to Darjeeling. Others don't bother to come," a senior GJM leader said at Darjeeling Gymkhana Club in the morning. He was apparently referring to senior leaders of the ruling party.
ABGL working president Dawa Sherpa was more candid. "Restoration of rule of law in Darjeeling is the primary responsibility of the state government. But the ruling party seems to lack the political will to do so. The state government is not doing enough even to arrest the killers of Madan Tamang. Let's see if Mamata can do something," he said.
Significantly, after Tam-ang's murder, ABGL leaders had first gone to Kolkata to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who had assured them justice.
Besides parties like GJM (which wants Mamata to understand its viewpoint) and ABGL (which wants her to help restore peace), representatives of civil society sought help on issues like tourism.
"Apart from asking her to restore Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, we want her help to restore peace and democracy," said Darjeeling Civil Society president B K Pradhan.
Fed up of violence and bandhs, common people want to know if she can do something to bring back normalcy.
But it will not be a cakewalk for the Trinamool Congress. ABGL would want her to put pressure on the state government for restoration of rule of law. "She is vocal about Jangalmahal, Singur and Nandigram. Why doesn't she speak about Darjeeling?" asked ABGL working president Dawa Sherpa. He would also like Mamata to ensure that killers of Madan Tamang are arrested and all political parties are represented in the tripartite talks on formation of the new council. The problem is, feels Sherpa, that some top leaders of GJM were involved in the killing and right now only GJM is representing the Hills in the tripartite talks.
A section of leaders therefore is a little sceptical about how much Mamata can achieve in Darjeeling. "It will be quite difficult for her. She can't give a commitment on statehood. That's why I feel GJM should not have met Mamata Banerjee in an official delegation," a GJM central committee member said. Nor did he agree that there could be a pre-poll adjustment between GJM and Trinamool, though he did not rule out the possibility of GJM extending support to Trinamool after the polls if it was necessary for government formation.
Mamata also met Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha (GJYM) members and told them that Nicole Tamang must be found out and it must also be ascertained who killed ABGL leader Madan Tamang. GJYM supporters have been on hunger strike since Nicole Tamang fled from CID custody. 

GJM seek Mamata help
HT, Darjeeling: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today demanded inclusion of Dooars and Terai regions in the proposed interim set-up for Darjeeling Hills, but did not raise the Gorkhaland demand during a meeting with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee here. Emerging from a meeting with the minister who is on a two-day visit to the district, GJM president Bimal Gurung, who led a delegation, told reporters that they had requested for her help in the inclusion of Dooars and Terai in the proposed interim set-up.
"Mamata, however, told us that the issue concerned the Union Home Ministry and as such asked us to take it up with the appropriate ministry," Gurung said.
Stating that their meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere, the GJM chief observed that the party focussed mainly on development issues including extension of railway connectivity.
GJM has already held several rounds of tripartite talks involving the Centre and state government on the proposed interim set-up.
The party's insistence on the inclusion of Dooars and Terai in the proposed interim set-up was strongly opposed by West Bengal government which is against division of the state.
Banerjee, who arrived here earlier in the day to a rousing reception by GJM supporters, also held a meeting with All-India Gorkha League president Bharati Tamang and its leaders.
Gorkha League, working president, Dawa Sherpa said that it would not be acceptable to them if talks were held with only one party.
Talks should be held with all parties and all stakeholders in the Hills to decide the political future of Darjeeling, he said.
The Railway Minister's visit is significant as all members of political groups as well as the NGOs and a cross-section of people sought her help in resolving the issue facing the Darjeeling hills.

'Power' lost and restored
TT, Sept. 26: The most powerful woman of Bengal carries the memory of her “power” along with her so that even after she lost it, it was delivered at her doorstep an hour later.
The shop that “powered” her spectacles delivered them within an hour after she reported to her local aides on arriving at the Darjeeling circuit house that her glasses were missing, two hours before a meeting with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha at 4pm. Kwality Stores in Chowkbazar, the aides who prepared her itinerary said, did a good job since they delivered a new set of glasses to her within an hour.
“It was possible because Didi knew the power that her lenses need,” said one of the aides as he waved a bill for the glasses, suggesting that it was not a gift from the store, which probably did not know who would be the owner of the spectacles. But it was not clear who finally settled the bill.
Earlier, during her climb uphill, the railway minister stepped out of the car all of a sudden and put a khada on a 60-year-old woman trudging uphill with a bundle of grass. Some drew parallels with Rahul Gandhi’s style, but Mamata is no stranger to working crowds.
The railway minister had started from NJP around 10.40am with a cavalcade of 25 cars. Thousands stood along the Sukna-Rohini road, showering flowers and shouting “Mamata Banerjee welcome” and “We want Gorkhaland” slogans. The last such welcome was given to Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh when he visited the hills to file the nominations in 2009.
Since then a lot of water has flowed down the Teesta and Singh had been suspended from his party and later taken back. But with the BJP out of power, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has realised that there is nothing more to be gained from the party.
Mamata sent the Intelligence Bureau personnel in charge of her security into a tizzy, when the car stopped 50 metres from the Kurseong railway station and she started walking towards the people accepting khadas, bouquets and memorandums. But soon, she was mobbed and she scurried back to the safety of her car.
At Elysia Building, the headquarters of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Mamata refused to take any question from the media, but told the railway staff: “Recruit brothers and sisters from both hills and plains.. and start functioning it in a full-fledged manner.” To the waiting journalists, she said: “We are here for tea and refreshments. Let me meet the people first.”
On being told that she was among the few ministers to visit the hills, Mamata replied: “Anyone can come here”. She reached Darjeeling around 1.30pm.
Mamata, GJM hold talks in Darjeeling
Photo: AFP
TH, KOLKATA: Even as attempts are on by the Centre and the West Bengal government to find ways out of the political impasse in the Darjeeling Hills, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee held talks with the leadership of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) shortly after her arrival in Darjeeling on Sunday.
The GJM leadership — which continues to have differences with both the Centre and the State government on key issues like the territorial jurisdiction of the interim authority proposed for the region — was reportedly assured by Ms. Banerjee of assistance to facilitate development and the restoration of peace in the hills.
“Our demand for the inclusion of Gorkha-dominated areas in the Terai and Dooars region of north Bengal within the jurisdiction of the interim authority was placed before her in the form of a document,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone shortly after the meeting.
Matters related to the GJM's “ultimate” demand for a separate Gorkhaland State did not figure in the discussions, according to GJM president Bimal Gurung. Yet questions are being asked about the context of Ms. Banerjee's two-day visit to the hills, over whether the Trinamool and the GJM are warming up to each other ahead of next year's Assembly polls.
The support of the Gorkha community is viewed as critical for the Trinamool to extend its influence over parts of north Bengal. It would also serve the GJM well in the event of the Trinamool coming to power in the State.
Railways context
The message that the GJM leadership tried putting across was that the talks with Ms. Banerjee were in her “official” capacity as Union Railway Minister.
Memoranda were submitted by the GJM leaders to Ms. Banerjee listing its various demands on matters relating to the railways, the tea industry and education.
The State leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has scoffed at Ms. Banerjee's purported intentions of establishing peace in the hills at a time when the Trinamool is allegedly bent on creating lawlessness in the rest of West Bengal.
Warm welcome
But the GJM seems to have gone out of its way to accord a warm welcome to Ms. Banerjee. As her vehicle drove up the hills, people carrying GJM flags and shouting slogans in support of Gorkhaland waved out to her at various places along the way.
And though the functions that Ms. Banerjee is to address on Monday are being organised by the Railway Ministry, the GJM leadership asserted that its supporters would be present “in their thousands” to make the programmes a success.
Ms. Banerjee also met Bharati Tamang, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, who reiterated her demand for an inquiry by the CBI into the murder of her husband, Madan Tamang, allegedly by GJM activists in Darjeeling in May.

Man on cellphone mowed to death
TT, Metro:Lakshman Singh, a 32-year-old house painter, was mowed down by a Sealdah-bound train when he was crossing the tracks in Dum Dum on Sunday afternoon, apparently while listening to music on his cellphone.
“We spotted Singh lying beside the tracks with a pair of earphones plugged to his ears,” said Raju Porel, a witness. According to him, Singh failed to see or hear the approaching train and was hit by the cowcatcher.
He was taken to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital where he was declared brought dead.
Dum Dum railway police said Singh, a Baranagar resident, was returning home after collecting his card for induction into the Youth Congress.
Two college girls trudging along the railway tracks with one of them talking on a cellphone were knocked down by a local train between Birati and New Barrackpore stations last week. A schoolgirl talking on a cellphone was run over the week before near Dum Dum Cantonment station.
Tilted trucks block NH31
TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 26: Traffic on the bumpy NH31 was disrupted for over nine hours today when two trucks tilted while trying to negotiate large potholes in Falakata.
National and state highways in north Bengal, especially in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, have been in a state of disrepair for months despite tall promises by ministers and politicians.
According to police, a truck tried to negotiate a deep pothole and got tilted on its side at Dulal Dokan More around 3am. There was sufficient space for other vehicles to pass the spot, but within 15 minutes, another truck fell on its side, blocking the highway completely. Traffic on the highway between Cooch Behar and Siliguri via Falakata was badly affected. More than 500 vehicles, including 20-25 state government buses, were left stranded on the road.
Falakata is 36km from here.
The distance between Cooch Behar and Siliguri through NH31 is 115km. Although there is a state highway connecting the two places via Mainaguri, the road is hardly used by heavy vehicles like trucks and buses as it is 170km-long.
The Falakata police pressed into service a crane around 10am to remove the tilted trucks and the road was cleared for traffic at noon.
Shantanu Sarkar, a trader from Siliguri, was on a bus that was stuck in the traffic jam. “I have an important work in Cooch Behar and I will reach there more than three hours late. I won’t be able to return to Siliguri by the evening. I am fed up with ministers like Kshiti Goswami, and politicians like Manas Bhuniya, who promised a lot on the repair of the roads when they visited here. But nothing has been done,” he said.
Paritosh Das, the secretary of the Alipurduar Byabsayee Samity, said business was being affected as trucks were reluctant to ply on the dilapidated roads.
“Even if the truck owners agree to come, they are charging double the normal fare, forcing us to raise the prices of the merchandise we sell. The entire Dooars economy is suffering as NH31, NH31D and NH31C are in bad shape. The state ministers, the public works department and the National Highways Authority of India keep passing the buck while we suffer,” he said.
Rousing reception for Mamata in hills

Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha hold a banner, welcoming Mamata Banerjee to Darjeeling on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang Morcha supporters offer khada to Mamata. (Suman Tamang)
The railway minister with schoolchildren in Darjeeling on Sunday. (PTI) Mamata with Bimal Gurung (second from left) and other Morcha leaders in Darjeeling. (Suman Tamang)
Enough is enough, girls declare war on eve-tease menace in New Alipore
TT, Metro: Feel unsafe on the streets near your house, your campus, your workplace? Do not suffer in silence. Speak out, stand up, make a difference.
That’s the message Brinda Dasgupta and her friends are carrying for all those women subjected to harassment by the male touch and the male gaze with every step they take in public places.
Just like Brinda, 22, who has wiped her tears and vowed to fight tormentors along with a group of girls (and some boys) who feel strongly about making the city a safer place for women.
On the morning of September 16, she was walking down a lane near her New Alipore home, on her way to college. Suddenly, a man on a cycle came straight at her, assaulted her and sped off. She screamed for help, but no one responded. She cried, till shock and shame gave way to rage and resolve.
Brinda contacted the police commissioner, lodged a complaint with the local police station against her anonymous harasser and then set about launching Safe City.

Mission One: make the streets of New Alipore safer for women.
On Saturday evening, Brinda and her friends, backed by the New Alipore Association, fired the first salvo in their fight against eve-teasing with a meeting that brought together officer-in-charge P. Sarkhel, MLA Arup Biswas, councillor Jui Biswas and a host of residents.
Titled Safe City and steered by a core group of seven youngsters, the campaign hopes to curb the growing eve-teasing menace in New Alipore before taking the drive to other areas in the city.
“When can we leave our homes without the fear of being harassed on the streets,” was Brinda’s simple ask.
“I don’t belong to this area but after I read the report in Metro (on September 17), I called Brinda, who’s a friend, and we decided to get together to help combat this menace,” said Mirna Guha, 23, a social activist.
“New Alipore has become an easy hunting ground for such goons. Strangers on bikes and speeding cars are a real threat and it’s important for us to resist them. This campaign will help make this place safe once again for women,” said Subrata Ghose Chaudhuri, the president of the New Alipore Association.
P. Sarkhel, the OC of New Alipore police station, provided his personal number and the contact details of the police station for the residents to call in any emergency. “There has been a history of such cases but we have never been able to take action because not many people come and lodge complaints,” said Sarkhel.
The charter of demands placed by the Safe City campaigners on Saturday ranged from increased police patrolling to identification of trouble spots in New Alipore.
The first step has already been taken with a new police kiosk being installed in New Alipore’s F Block, where Brinda was harassed.
Councillor Jui Biswas requested the police to take “prompt action in lighting up the dark stretches” and “increasing vigilance” on the more deserted stretches.
“We will now follow this up by making the police emergency numbers available through SMS, leaflets and posters. We will reach out to a cross-section: girls on the roads, residents of the area, guards and shopkeepers in the vicinity,” said Brinda, flanked by Mirna, Basabdatta Basu Roychowdhury, 25, and Pujarini Sen, 21.
That the girls have their task cut out was evident when MLA Arup Biswas claimed that “eve-teasing does not happen in New Alipore”. He did, however, promise to extend support to this “awareness campaign” and urged “all residents” to unite for the cause.
Where in the city do you as a woman feel the most unsafe?


  1. Arup Biswas and his brother are both criminals and involved in mass scale corrupted activities

  2. Arup Biswas has given Rs.5,000/- as a initial contribution to one local club at Atabagan Area under his constituency, as a bribe so that the club helps him in the near assembly election. He has promised a sum of Rs. 5 lacs if voted to power in 2011. He has tied up with all the LOCAL gangsters, illegal promoters, local notorious guy's to win the election. He maintains a very corsial relation with his henchmen such as Nantu Pal(involved in a no of extortion cases, theft case, decoity and robbery activity who is accused in a no of FIR in various police station). Another criminal is Anup Nandi(Bibhu nandi) who was arrested by police in a fraud case of Rs. 80 lacs. Recently 2 cases were lodged for tree cutting without permission.

    In doing so, Arup Biswas has started ignoring and cornering honest trinamul workers who opoose the entry of criminals in the party. Hope my information reaches Mamata Didi.