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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trainee nurse rescued after 20 hours .. House of GNLF leader ransacked

Three abductors arrested from Nepal border as cops track down car
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 15: A trainee nurse was rescued from the Nepal border early this morning, 20 hours after she was abducted by three youths from a busy intersection of the town.
The abductors of Suraksha Sharma, an employee of Dr Nayak’s Nursing Home on Sevoke Road, were also arrested from Panitanki, around 45km from here.
“We acted on the basis of certain inputs and could catch the trio who had abducted the girl, and rescue her from Panitanki this morning,” said Anand Kumar, the superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri. “As initially suspected, the abduction was the result of a one-sided love affair. We have also seized the vehicle used by the kidnappers. We will extract information from the arrested after interrogation.”
The arrested persons include Rakesh Chhetri, a resident of Gathia Tea Estate in Nagrakata block of Jalpaiguri, who had wanted to marry Suraksha. The 21-year-old trainee nurse, too, is a resident of the same garden. Rakesh used to work in Delhi and had come home during the Puja.
His accomplices Ghanashyam Sharma and Jeevan Biswakarma are residents of Kakkarvita in Nepal. “Rakesh, who used to know Suraksha from her days in Gathia, had a crush on her. Suraksha on the other hand had been avoiding him. He had turned desperate and planned to abduct and marry her. Accordingly, he took the help of the two friends. One of them (Ghanashyam) owns the Maruti Omni. They used the vehicle to abduct Suraksha yesterday afternoon,” a police officer said.
Suraksha had been picked up yesterday noon from a bylane off Sevoke Road dotted with shopping mall, restaurants, cinema hall and food outlets. She had come out of the hostel and was on her way to the nursing home with two of her colleagues. Witnesses said one of the youths, later identified as Raju, had stepped out of the car and talked to Suraksha for a few minutes. Her friends had walked ahead but were alerted by Suraksha’s cries for help when she was dragged into the car and whisked away.
The police said the car had taken Sevoke Road, turning left to hit NH31 before the Bhaktinagar police station. They had moved towards Bagdogra via Darjeeling More, skirting Siliguri. “We are, however, yet to find whether they took NH31C from Bagdogra to reach Panitanki or any other route,” said one of the investigators.
All police stations with the number of the car (WB 40 8365) had been alerted and the white Maruti Omni was spotted by local force at Panitanki, 40km from Bhaktinagar police station. Suraksha’s colleagues could tell the police the last four digits on the licence plate. “We acted on the tip-off and intercepted the vehicle, which the local policemen were watching, this morning,” the police chief said. The Sevoke Road area, though part of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, is in Jalpaiguri district.
Tulsi Sharma, the girl’s father who is a contractor at the Dooars tea estate, alleged that Rakesh had been bothering Suraksha for sometime. “About two years back, he had proposed to my daughter but she rejected him. Since then, he had been trying to persuade her to marry him time and again. He left for Delhi then, and had threatened Suraksha that her rejection would cause her trouble,” the father said. “He had returned a few days before Durga Puja. He tried to abduct her and forcibly marry her. We want his punishment.”
The police said the three abductors are aged between 20 and 22 years. They have been booked under sections 365 (kidnap or abduct with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) and 366 (kidnap, abduct or induce woman to compel her marriage).
“We will record the statement of the girl and then hand her over to her family. The three accused will be produced in court tomorrow,” Kumar said.
Girl, aunt die after youth sets them on fire
TT, Malda, Nov. 15: A 16-year-old girl and her aunt were burnt to death by a youth while they were asleep at home in a Habibpur village last night.
The youth, who wanted to marry Parani Soren, poured petrol on the girl and her two aunts and set them on fire.
Parani was declared brought-dead at the Malda district Hospital. Later in the evening, Talamoyi Soren, 45, succumbed to burns. The third woman, Makai Soren, 36, has also been admitted to the same hospital in critical condition.
The girl’s parents were sleeping on the verandah of their house in Nokail, 40km from here, when they were woken up by the three women’s screams.
Niranjan Murmu, 21, the alleged attacker, is absconding, police said. Paranai’s father Gopi Soren said: “I saw Niranjan running out of the room with a jerrycan of petrol. I could smell the petrol. He fled on a bike.”
Additional superintendent of police Kalyan Mukherjee said Niranjan had wanted to marry Parani. “In Adivasi society, a man wanting to marry a woman can hold her hand and take her his home. If the woman goes willingly, a ritual is then held to solemnise the marriage. Three years ago, Niranjan took Parani away with him. She stayed with him for six months. However, the ritual was not held as both of them were too young at that time,” said Mukherjee.
Niranjan’s family lives in adjacent Babupara. They are farmers like the Sorens.
Gopia said Parani was his only child. Standing in front of the hospital, he recounted that last night he and his wife Talamoyi Kisku were sleeping on the verandah. “Relatives and neighbours came rushing with banana leaves to put out the flames when we raised the alarm. We called an ambulance and started for Malda around 3am. When we reached the hospital, my daughter was dead.” Talamoyi died at 8pm.
Soren said he had already agreed to the marriage between Parani and Niranjan, a Class XII student of Badalmoni High School in Malda. Parani was a Class VII student of Nokail MSK High School. “We were ready so hold the marriage ceremony once my daughter passed school. I don’t know what led the youth to do what be did,” he said. Malda police chief Bhuban Mondol said a murder case had been started against Niranjan, who fled the area.
Raid blame on Morcha 
- GNLF leader’s house attacked, party threatens shutdown
TT, Darjeeling, Nov. 15: A house of a GNLF leader was vandalised in a Darjeeling village last night, the second such attack on party leaders within a fortnight that has raised the spectre of violence in the hills.
The attack at Borbotey, about 20km from Darjeeling, allegedly orchestrated by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters, is being seen as a backlash following GNLF supporters’ decision to revive the party in the hills.
Man Hang Subba, the president of the GNLF Borbotey (Rock Garden) Village Committee, whose house was attacked, said his party would close down the hills if the culprits were not arrested within 24 hours.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung has appealed for calm.
According to Man Hang, a group of Morcha supporters, led by the party’s assistant secretary Binay Tamang, attacked his house around 9.50pm. “After the attack, a gold chain and about Rs 10,000 went missing,” he said.
Nita Subba, Man Hang’s sister, said attackers first shouted expletives against the family while some people fished out a revolver before ransacking the house. “I and my parents who are aged above 70 years were at the house while my brother had gone to Dali to attend a religious programme. I could recognise Binay Tamang,” she said.
Questioning the Morcha’s democratic movement, Nita said: “In the past, we had supported the Morcha. I had also taken part in the Morcha’s hunger strike but just because my brother decided to join another party they have attacked our house. Don’t we even have the right to join any party of our choice?”
Police said Nita filed an FIR at Darjeeling Sadar police station naming Tamang for leading the attack. “The names of J.K. Rai and Suraj Pradhan, the secretary and the president of the Morcha’s local unit, and Suren Subba, the president of the Morcha’s youth wing of the area, also figure in the complaint,” said an officer. A police picket has been posted at the village.
Earlier this month, alleged Morcha supporters had vandalised the house of Muna Mani Pradhan, the former GNLF panchayat member of Kumai.
Morcha president Gurung today issued a statement appealing to the hill residents to remain “united” and to maintain peace. “I appeal to the people of Darjeeling, Dooars, Terai and Siliguri to remain disciplined and to maintain peace and to refrain from indulging in any form of violence,” he said.
Binay Tamang refused comment on the incident, while Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri drubbed it as a “mere allegation”. “This is only an attempt to malign the image of Binay Tamang,” Giri said.
Leopard mauls garden labourer
TT, Alipurduar, Nov. 15: A tea garden worker was mauled by a leopard in Kalchini this morning but a pesticide spray machine on his back saved his life.
The leopard tried to target another labourer spraying pesticides in Kalchini Tea Estate and he beat back the beast with the machine.
A group of workers went to Section 8 of the garden to spray pesticide at 6.30am. About an hour later, an adult leopard pounced on Sonia Munda from behind when he was walking in between tea bushes. The worker was not injured as the animal’s paws hit the spray machine, which fell on the ground.
“We were 30-40 metres away from the spot. We saw the leopard attack Munda again with one claw on his chest and the other on the back. He fell down and suffered injuries on the right hand and left thigh. As we started screaming, the animal left Munda and pounced on Namdel Lama. But he hit the leopard with the spray machine and escaped unharmed,” said Sadhan Munda, a labourer in the garden, 35km from here.
Munda was immediately taken to garden hospital on a motorcycle by his colleagues.
“Unfortunately, no doctor was there and he was brought to Latabari Health Centre, where he was administered medicines and given stitches. He was later taken to Alipurduar Subdivisional Hospital for better treatment,” said Sadhan.
Trains hit two jumbos, one dies - Injured elephant loses tusk on Dooars tracks -Spraying machines protect workers in fight with big cat
TT, Nov. 15: Two elephants were hit by speeding trains today and while one was mowed down by an express near Rahimpur Tea Estate, the other has been roaming with a suspected fracture and a lost tusk after a goods train rammed into it.
The two incidents on the Siliguri-Alipurduar rail route are separated by nearly 20 hours but in the same forest stretch of the Dooars, where seven elephants were struck down by a speeding train on the night of September 22.
The makna or male elephant without tusks was killed near Ethelbari in Jalpiaguri district after 8pm. “The elephant was hit by the Alipurduar-bound Mahananda Express at 8.15pm today between Binnaguri and Dalgaon stations, near Rahimpur Tea Estate. It was a makna aged around 25-30 years,” said Kalyan Das, the divisional forest officer of Jalpaiguri.
According to foresters, a group of 15-20 elephants raided the villages near Rahimpur, 85km from Siliguri, to devour ripened paddy when the local people started chasing them. “The herd had probably come from the Reti forest. The villagers tried to steer them out and one of the elephants went and stood on the tracks that runs along the tea estate. When the train was spotted, the villagers tried to stop it by waving lighted torches but could not,” a forest staff member, who was part of the team that had come to help steer the herd away, said.
“The animal was hit and was dragged for a few hundred metres after which it fell alongside the track on the paddy field. The train stopped at the next station and then headed for Alipurduar.”
Since the conversion of the Dooars track to broad gauge (from metre) in 2004, 27 elephants have died of train hits, including the one mowed down today.
Railway officials claimed the train was running at a speed prescribed for the Dooars forest stretch, that is, below 50kmph. “The speed of the train was within limits but the elephant suddenly came on the tracks. The driver tried his best to stop the train but unfortunately could not,” said S. Singh, the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar. “We have learnt that the villagers and forest staff were driving away a herd when this elephant panicked and came on the rail track. After the accident, the driver reported the incident to the Dalgaon station.”
The tusker that was injured early in the morning between Gulma and Sevoke stations— 10km from Rahimpur and 20km from Siliguri — was spotted in the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary. Foresters are waiting for pet elephants to capture it for treatment.
“Around 1.30am, a goods train, which was on way to the Dooars, rammed into the tusker from behind and shoved it around 150 metres on the tracks. The animal rolled down from the tracks,” said Tapas Das, the divisional forest officer of wildlife-I. “The driver of the train reported the incident to railway officials at Sevoke who informed our employees.”
On the night of September 22, seven elephants, including a calf, were mowed down by a goods train at Moraghat Tea Estate near Banarhat, about 65km from the spot where the tusker was hit in the morning.
Last night, the foresters said, the 11-foot-tall tusker aged around 30 years, was spotted on the tracks. Members of the Sukna wildlife squad who launched a search for the elephant in the morning spotted it near Laltongbusty in the Mahananda sanctuary.
“We observed that the elephant was restless because of its injuries. The initial thrust led to the loss of its tusks, which we found on the tracks. The other tusk has suffered partial damage. There is a swelling on its posterior, which we suspect is because of a fracture. There are lacerations on some parts of body,” a forester said.
However, the foresters, accompanied by two vets, could not go close to the injured elephant mostly because of the thick forest cover.
“We have asked for two pet elephants from the Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary. Otherwise, it is not possible to approach the tusker,” the DFO said. “The pet elephants are expected to reach Sukna this evening. We will launch a search tomorrow morning”
“The September-22 mishap was because of a goods train. One of the hits today was also because of a goods train,” said Animesh Bose, a member of the state board for wildlife and an environmentalist. “We demand that goods trains be stopped from running on this route.”
Shower brings chill
TT, Siliguri, Nov.15: Moderate rainfall in the foothills of the sub-Himalayan region during the weekend had prompted people to pull out their woollens but winter is still a fortnight away in Siliguri, said Met officials.
G.N. Raha, the meteorological officer at the Regional Meteorological Office in Jalpaiguri, said an approaching western disturbance had caused the sudden showers on Saturday but winter would set in only in December.
“The rainfall was induced by an approaching western disturbance but winter is yet to set in. There is a probability that the region will experience a light drizzle in the next 48 hours because a trough has formed because of the western disturbance,” said Raha.
The dip in temperature this weekend had made most people in Siliguri slip into warm clothes. “The rain did bring down the maximum temperature to 25 degrees Celsius on Saturday, three degrees less than the normal maximum temperature of 28 degrees Celsius,” said the Met official. The maximum temperature in Siliguri rose to around 27 degrees Celsius yesterday.
“We can expect the chill to start in Siliguri by the end of November when the northerly winds are here. The winter will begin by first week of December. The normal minimum temperature at that time will be around 13 degrees Celsius and maximum is expected to be around 18 degree Celsius,” said Raha.
However, the weather turned out to be warmer today with a partially cloudy sky.
“The cloudy weather is because of a cyclonic circulation over Bihar and surrounding sub-Himalayan region. Light showers in the next two days will bring down the temperature,” said the Met official.
While some residents were happy that the biting cold was a fortnight away, others who love the chill rued the fact.
“Winter brings with it chilblains and running nose. We have to wear layers of clothing which I am not really fond of. It is good to know that the chill will set in only after a fortnight,” said Suravi Dey, a resident of Shivmandir.
“I was happy when I thought the winter had set in. But the sun is shining again today. Now, we have to wait till December to feel the nip in the air,” said Sayaka Shreshtra.
The weekend witnessed brisk business at Bhutia market, where people shop for woollen knickers, gloves, mufflers and socks. But the shops were empty today.
Rajbangshi pressure for new state
TT, Dhubri, Nov. 15: The All Koch-Rajbangshi Students’ Union (Biswajit Roy) today launched the first phase of its agitation for a separate Kamtapur state by taking out padayatras and holding meetings in lower Assam districts.
The students’ union took out padayatras in Bongaigaon, Chirang, Kokrajhar, Barpeta and Dhubri districts and submitted memoranda to the deputy commissioners of Chirang and Kokrajhar, demanding that New Delhi and Dispur take immediate steps to carve a Kamtapur state out of Assam and West Bengal.
Hundreds of activists of the students’ union joined the march from Agomoni to Ratiadoh in Dhubri district, from Bengatol to Chapaguri in Bongaigaon district.
They held meetings at Chapaguri and Sorbhog in Barpeta and Agomoni in Dhubri district.
The series of agitation will include a sit-in in Delhi on November 25, 12-hour rail and road blockades on December 14 and 27 and a 12-hour Assam-Bengal bandh on December 30.
The students union and the Separate State Demand Committee, which was formed by various organisations of the Koch Rajbangshis in Bengal and Assam, have been demanding the creation of Kamtapur state by carving out 15 districts of Assam and six districts of Bengal.
The president of the Dhubri district of the students’ union, Monoj Roy, while addressing a public meeting at Agomoni bazar after a 10km padayatra from Ratiadoh to Agomoni in Dhubri district, said it was the agitation for their existence and they would go to any extent for the fulfilment of their demands.
“It is the question of our socio-economic and political rights. Moreover, for long we have been deprived by both the states, Assam and Bengal, but now we want our own homeland for the Kamtapuris,” he added.

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