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Friday, December 17, 2010

Govt rules out early tripartite talks on Darjeeling ... See-for-yourself invite to Rahul - ‘Restless’ Morcha youths warn of another Kashmir ... A gift and a threat as Telangana clock ticks

PTI, Kolkata, 17 Dec: The West Bengal government today virtually ruled out immediate tripartite talks on Darjeeling issue even as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has given an ultimatum for a 48-hour bandh in Darjeeling from December 20 if talks are not held.
“We don’t find any possibility of the next round of tripartite talks on Darjeeling immediately, as we are yet to be informed on this by the Centre,” West Bengal Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh told reporters here.
The GJM, meanwhile, has revived its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, carved out from West Bengal, in letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
The demand for Gorkhaland has been revived as no date has been announced for tripartite talks on GJM’s demand for an authority to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
See for yourself invite to Rahul
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Dec. 17: Bimal Gurung and his team complained to Rahul Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi today that the Bengal government was “dragging” its feet on the interim set-up. The allegation comes even as “restless” youths in Darjeeling threatened to start an agitation in the plains and warned of making the region “another Kashmir” if the state continued to remain “arrogant”.
The six-member Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation also invited Rahul to Darjeeling “to witness for yourself as to what the state government of West Bengal has done to an otherwise natural haven that it used to be”. But indications are that despite the invitation, a fresh bout of uncertainty is likely to grip the hills when the December 20 deadline set by the party for the government expires.
The Morcha had earlier threatened to call a 48-hour strike in the hills if the proposed interim authority for the hills was not finalised before December 20.
Gurung reportedly told Gandhi that the state seemed “bent upon dragging the (interim) issue for its own political advantage paying no heed to the gravity of the problem in the overall interest of the nation”. This seems to be the general feeling of the Morcha leadership and the party in all probability will go for an agitation to pile up pressure on the state government.
Speaking over the phone from Delhi, party general secretary Roshan Giri said: “Rahul Gandhi gave us a patient hearing and maintained that talks were going on with the home ministry and all issues could be amicably solved.”
The delegation also made a similar representation to the Union finance minister later in the day. “We spoke to Pranab Mukherjee on all the contentious issues and he assured us that he would inquire with the home ministry,” said Giri.
Four contentious issues have come as a stumbling block to the inking of the deal for the interim set-up. These are: territorial jurisdiction of the set-up, mode of selection of the authority that will run the hills and the transfer of legislative powers and tauzi department to the interim body.
Observers said Mukherjee’s suggestion — “look into the results of the (tripartite talks)” before taking any decision — and the alleged sympathetic posturing might force the Morcha to go in for a rethink on intensified agitation for the time being.
“They might just wait for another 10 days before going in for an agitation. They definitely cannot call a prolonged strike especially during the Christmas festivities. At the most they would probably go ahead with the two-day strike and then wait for some time before starting a fresh agitation,” said an observer.
But indications are also that the party cannot afford to wait for long without anything moving forward. “Restless” youth in Darjeeling have already threatened to intensify the agitation if the state government continues to remain arrogant.
“The proposal for an interim set-up had come from the governments and now it seems that they are dilly-dallying on the settlement. The youths are getting restless and the government should stop playing with fire or else the region could turn into another Kashmir,” said Keshang Sherpa, media and publicity secretary of the Yuva Morcha (Darjeeling town committee).
Sherpa also said the intensified agitation would not take place in the hills. “We are ready to intensify an agitation now but this time it will be held only in the plains and not in the hills.”
The Morcha leadership today submitted a memorandum to Rahul justifying the demand for Gorkhaland on the grounds that “recognition of Gorkha identity will fortify the nation’s security and their assimilation into the mainstream of Indian life and enhance the process of nation-building”.
Accusing the Bengal government of “mis-governance” and indulging in “politics of discrimination”, the Morcha appealed to Rahul to consider the demand for Gorkhaland along with the creation of Telangana. The Morcha claimed that Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi “was well aware of the plight of the Gorkhas and… what they suffered at the hand of the state government, hence was sympathetic to the cause”.
AAGSU’s core central executive meets on Sunday
Archana Lwhwrng Rai, KalimNews, Guwahati, 17 December:In an sms statement released by Mr. Keshab Sarma Gen Secy. AAGSU to the central executive core committee’s members of the All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union (AAGSU) the apex students’ organization of the Gorkha populace of Assam reads that a core executive committee meeting will be held in its head office at Gorkha Thakurbari (Nepali Mandir), Platan Bazar in Guwahati on 19th December 2010. This will be the 1st core executive committee meeting after taking charge on 5th Dec 2010
This information was seconded by Nanda Kirati Dewan Information and Publicity Secretary of AAGSU over phone this afternoon that the core executive committee meeting on Sunday will discuss issues relating to induction of members to the central executive committee, to elect/select one female vice president, organising secretary central Assam, cultural secretary and office secretary. Advisors also will assume charge in the same meeting. The meeting will adopt resolutions regarding centrally formation Gorkha Nari Parshad (GNP) women wing of AAGSU which is active in many districts of Assam since 2003-04. ‘A host of important and current affairs issues having impact on the Gorkha society of Assam will be discussed with larger importance to find a road map to combat all obstacles and strengthen organization’s base in the non dominant region of Assam and logistic units in metropolitan cities of India’, said Mr. Dewan while asked to comment on AAGSU’s future course of action. He further added that AAGSU is committed to over all development of the entire Gorkha populace as a society besides the students’ community in particular.
A member of the Media cell informed this correspondent that meeting will discuss on formally launching its website which is under construction on the 35th foundation day celebrations in Karbianglong on 26th Dec 2010. Karbianglong Dist. Committee of AAGSU is holding the 35th Foundation Day in Khatkhati where AAGSU’s official website is learnt to be under construction since two weeks now will be launched by its Info & Publicity Secy. Most importantly it is expected that the core committee will find ways and means to tackle the activities of breakaway fraction of AAGSU lead by expelled Gorkha leaders like Krisha Newar and Bhaskar Dahal.
Night raid on express, jawan hurt
TT, Alipurduar, Dec. 17: A gang of armed robbers raided an unreserved compartment of an express train early today and made off with valuables and cash worth Rs 1 lakh while beating up some of the passengers, including a CRPF jawan.
The robbery on the Guwahati-Jhajha Express took place around 1.15am between Gossaigaon and Fakiragram stations in the Northeast Frontier Railway’s Alipurduar division.
According to GRP sources, the gang of about a dozen armed men entered the unreserved compartment of the Jhajha-bound train and started robbing the passengers at gunpoint. The gang, sources said, had probably boarded the train at New Bongaigaon and began the operation after the express left Gossaigaon in Assam. They fled with goods and cash worth Rs 1 lakh, the GRP sources said.
The robbers beat up a CRPF jawan, S. Malyapan, who tried to put up a resistance. They pulled the chain and got off the train before Fakiragram and disappeared into the darkness.
The train reached Alipurduar Junction around 1.50am, where the injured CRPF jawan was taken to the railway hospital for treatment. He had a nick in his left elbow, inflicted by a sharp weapon, and bruises on his back where he was hit, doctors who attended on him said. He was released at noon today.
The jawan has lodged an FIR with the GRP at Alipurduar Junction.
Senior divisional commercial manager of Alipurduar division, A. Hussain, said Assam police had been contacted to look into the security of passengers on night trains.
“There were security personnel in other compartments of the train. It is not possible for us to provide securitymen in all compartments,” he said.
Tusker hurts son, mom
TT, Alipurduar, Dec. 17: A seven-year-old boy and his mother were hospitalised after they were attacked by a tusker outside their home early this morning.
The conditions of Suni Dhanwar, 35, and Kiran of Shimlabari in Shamuktala were said to be serious. They were taken to a Cooch Behar hospital in the evening.
Rajesh Toppo, Suni’s neighbour, said the elephant first entered his house from the rear around 4am and devoured the foodgrain stacked on the compound. “The tusker then raided the Dhanwars’ hut. At that time, the mother and the child were out to relieve themselves. Suni did not realise that the animal was so close to her. The animal hit the woman on her forehead with its tusk pushing her to the ground. Kiran also fell. But surprisingly the animal did not trample them to death.”
Hearing the cries of the mother-son duo, neighbours came out of their houses. “Both lay on the ground and the woman was bleeding profusely from the head,” a neighbour said. The local people informed foresters and rushed them to the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital around 11am.
Sources in the Alipurduar hospital said the woman had to be given a few stitches on the forehead. “The boy was vomiting continuously as he, too, suffered an injury on the back of his head. In the morning Suni and her son were in a condition to speak but by afternoon they had stopped talk ing. The doctor described their condition as serious and referred them to either Cooch Behar or Siliguri for further medical treatment,” a source said.
J.B. Bhashkar, the deputy field director of Buxa tiger Reserve (east), said he had instructed the range officer to shift the two to a better hospital as early as possible. “We will bear the cost of their treatment. Our staff members will keep a close watch on the area.”
Rethink plea on skywalk, plant- fresh proposals ready
TT, Gangtok, Dec. 17: The Sikkim government is planning to request the Centre to reconsider the Rs 750 crore skywalk project in Maenam wildlife sanctuary and the proposal for a 96mw Lethang hydro power plant in Yuksom.
The standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife under the ministry of forest and environment had struck down both the proposals in October.
The Sikkim government had sought approval for a survey for the skywalk as Baleydhunga — where the Rs 750 crore project was proposed — falls under Maenam wildlife sanctuary in South Sikkim. The 13th finance commission had already awarded Rs 200 crore for the project.
The Union environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, is the chairperson of the standing committee of the wildlife board.
Sources said although no reasons had been cited by the committee for striking down the proposal for the skywalk, the Sikkim forest department has reworked the project and submitted a report to the state government for the approval.
“In the report, the cost of the project has been scaled down to Rs 750 crore from Rs 1,200 crore. The requirement of forestland has also been cut down from six hectares to 2.5 hectares,” said a source.
The Rathung Chu river, where the hydro-power plant has been proposed. Picture by Prabin KhalingA senior forest officer said if the government approved the revised project, the draft would be sent to the Union forest ministry with a request that the proposal be placed at the next meeting of the standing committee.
The skywalk was proposed by an international consultancy last year in a rocky spur of Baleydhunga hilltop at an altitude of 10,102 feet.

The firm mooted the construction of three finger-shaped glass skywalks, which will be connected by a tunnel and accessible through a ropeway from the nearby town of Yangyang, 70km from Gangtok.
The forest department has also reworked the proposal for the power plant on the Rathung Chu. If the government approves the new draft, the proposal will be again forwarded to the Union forest ministry with a request for reconsideration at the next meeting of the wildlife board.
According to the sources, the standing committee of the wildlife board had rejected the proposal without considering the merits and demerits of the project.
“Instead of considering the project from the wildlife angle and the full support given by the local people during a public hearing at Yuksom, the committee rejected the proposal on religious and cultural grounds,” said a forest officer.
The standing committee had reportedly taken into account the concerns raised by the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha, a non-political organisation, and a section of monks. Their grouse was that the project would hurt the sentiments of the Buddhists in Sikkim as the Rathong Chu is considered a sacred river by the believers.
Gherao for manager ouster
TT, Jaigaon, Dec. 17: A closure cloud looms over the Bhagatpur tea estate after over a thousand workers today confined the manager to his office for seven hours, demanding that he should leave the garden for his alleged high-handedness.
All the 1,692 workers of the garden in Nagrakata did not join duty from the morning and began the gherao of the manager from 7am. A force from Nagrakata police station rescued Abhay Singh Jain around 2pm. The manager went straight to the office of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association in Binnaguri to discuss about the garden
Given the situation in the garden, a closure of the estate looks imminent, a source in the DBITA said later.
Today’s siege was the fallout of the resignation of the garden’s assistant manger Sanjoy Dasgupta, who left for a new job today. “This morning, we garlanded the assistant manager and bade him farewell as he was sympathetic towards us and it was because of the manager’s misbehaviour that Dasgupta left,” said Manjit Ekka, a worker.
The workers gathered at the manager’s office wanting to know why Dasgupta was leaving, Ekka said. They, however, shouted slogans that the manager, too, should leave the garden.
Ekka alleged the manager chargesheeted the workers on the slightest pretext. “His only intention is to torture us,” he said. The protesters also raised demands like the payment of provident fund dues and drinking water installing facilities for them.
“Around 2pm, we could escort the manager and five other members of the management out of the garden ,” said subdivisional police officer of Malbazar Arindam Sarkar.
Jain, however, denied the allegations. “I have full sympathy for the workers, but in order to run a garden some discipline is required. I have been in the garden for a year and there is no pending dues for that period,” he said.
NBU dithers over action on ragging
TT, Siliguri, Dec.17: North Bengal University will seek the governor’s permission to file an FIR against 14 seniors accused of ragging, though the Supreme Court had not talked of such a requisition in its verdict that makes it incumbent upon educational institutions to crack down on unruly elements on campus.
Sources said vice-chancellor Arunabha Basumajumdar was planning to approach M.K. Narayanan, who is also the chancellor of the NBU, after the varsity’s executive council yesterday turned down proposals for various forms of punishment against 14 third semester post-graduate students of the philosophy department.
“Ragging is a serious offence and we cannot let the issue die without serving any punishment to those who are held guilty. It will be a blot on the image of the NBU if we adopt a lenient approach to such a sensitive issue. The next option is to file an FIR against senior students. But before that, the VC will write to the chancellor in detail about the ragging incidents at the varsity and the outcome of the council meeting yesterday. He will probably file the FIR after getting the chancellor’s consent,” said a varsity official.
The Supreme Court had ruled that it was incumbent upon educational institutions to file an FIR if an incident of ragging was brought to their notice. However, no FIR has been filed against the 14 seniors by the NBU authorities even though the matter came to light about a fortnight ago.
An ant-ragging committee of the varsity found the 14 seniors guilty of physically and mentally torturing 17 first semester PG philosophy students at a hostel on the campus.
The panel recommended the expulsion of six students and suspension or ouster from the hostel for the rest of the others. However, all the recommendations were turned down in a vote at the council meeting yesterday.
The Chhatra Parishad has alleged that some members of the executive council were trying to shield the senior students as they were SFI supporters. “It is a shame that the matter was put to vote when the allegations of ragging have been proved. The council members voted against the motions because some SFI supporters were involved in the ragging,” said Ronald Dey, the president of the CP’s NBU unit.
The SFI, however, said it had no faith in the anti-ragging panel.
“We have no faith in the anti-ragging committee and the report submitted by it. The committee has been formed by the VC without following UGC norms and most of its members belong to the Opposition parties. They are trying to victimise students who support the SFI. We appeal to the teachers to raise their voice in support of these students,” said Saurav Das, the Darjeeling district secretary of the SFI.
‘Witch’ spat ends, mom back
TT, Malda, Dec. 17: An Adivasi widow, who was compelled to flee home after her shaman son branded her a witch, returned to her house in a Malda village this afternoon following a conciliatory meeting called by the district administration.
Hupni Soren of Kurkutti village in Habibpur had been living with her daughter for the past three months after Ajit Hembram, her son who is a witch doctor in the village, wanted to kill her to grab the 10 bighas that she owned, police said.
The meeting, convened at 11am today, was presided over by block development officer of Habibpur Arijit Ghosh, and attended by panchayat samiti sabhapati Dhiren Murari, deputy superintendent of police Joy Tudu, and local MLA Khagen Murmu of the CPM. Hupni and her son were also present.
At the meeting, an 11-member committee headed by panchayat pradhan Satyanarayan Chowdhury was formed to ensure that Hupni remained safe and that such incidents did not recur in the area.
“Today’s meeting is unprecedented as never before had the administration stepped in to create awareness among the Adivasis about this very cruel superstition. Earlier it was organisations like the Vigyan Mancha and the NGOs which used to organise awareness campaign among the community,” Murmu said.
The MLA said the villagers agreed that branding someone a witch was irrational and also assured the administration that they would make sure that Hupni would not be harmed.
“The son denied that he had branded his mother a witch and she had made up the story for reasons best known to her. Hupni, however, insisted today that her son had indeed called her an evil woman,” Murmu said.
Malda police chief Bhuban Mondal said Ajit could have been arrested based on the complaint made by his mother.
“But the arrest would not have solved the problem. Who would give a surety that once released on bail he would not have harmed his mother? The police would not have been able to give her protection round-the-clock. And that is why we decided to hold a meeting with the villagers and ensure the woman’s return to her home,” the police chief said.
Mondal also conceded that the superstitious practice could not be totally eradicated from the tribal areas. “But this time around, the woman turned to us and we have been successful in making her able to return home,” the police chief said.
Hupni said she was feeling happy that she could return home after six months because of the intervention of the administration.
Boy shot dead in forest
TT, Alipurduar, Dec. 17: A 17-year-old boy, alleged to be part of a timber smuggling gang, was found shot dead at Marakhata village this morning.
Foresters said they had opened fire when timber smugglers attacked them with stones and arrows in Marakhata forest last night, but nobody had been found dead. The body of Tushar Narjinary was spotted by the villagers. Bhashkar J.B, the deputy field director of Buxa Tiger Reserve (East), said the 20-member gang had been carrying four teak timbers on a rickshaw van last night. “When we opened fire, they dispersed and we seized the timber and van. Nobody was found dead.”
Dipak Das, leader of a forest worker union, said Tushar had not been carrying timber and the foresters had killed him for no reason.
Special trains
TT, Siliguri: The Northeast Frontier Railway has decided to run special trains every week during winter between New Jalpaiguri and Calcutta to clear the rush of extra passengers. The 03143 Calcutta-NJP will leave Calcutta at 11.55pm on December 25, January 1 and 8. The 03144 NJP-Calcutta winter special train will leave NJP at 12.45pm on December 26, January 2 and 9. The train will stop at Aluabari Road, Kishanganj, Dalkhola, Barsoi, Harischandrapur, Malda Town, Rampurhat, Bolpur and Barddhaman.
Song festival
TT, Siliguri: Bengali bands Chandrabindu and Saptak will perform at Bangla Gan Utsav, an annual cultural fest that will begin at Pradhannagar here on December 23. Writer Samaresh Majumdar will unveil the statue of Rabindranath Tagore during the four-day festival to commemorate the poet’s 150 birth anniversary.
Plea on bars
TT, Siliguri: Members of the Youth Congress from Ward 43 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation submitted a memorandum to the inspector-in-charge of Bhaktinagar police station on Friday, demanding closure of bars holding live performance in the locality. The members also demonstrated in front of the police station for about an hour to press for the demand.
A gift and a threat as Telangana clock ticks
G.S. RADHAKRISHNA, TT, Warangal, Dec. 17: Justice B.N. Srikrishna gifted clocks and K. Chandrasekhar Rao issued a deadline as Andhra Pradesh counts days to December 31 when the committee set up to examine the demand for Telangana state submits its report.
“After December 31, it will be January 1,” governor E.S.L. Narasimhan had said some time ago, trying to calm fears of violence but in the process angering Rao.
“Don’t we know that?” the Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader thundered yesterday at a rally in Warangal, 150km from here. “It is not correct on the part of the governor to speak like that. It is both arrogance and belittling our sentiments.”
At the Telangana Mahagarjana rally, Rao issued an ultimatum to the Centre to bring a bill for the formation of the state in the budget session irrespective of what the Justice Srikrishna Committee report says.
“I am warning the Centre to not test our patience. It will not be good. If the Centre fails to do so, we will launch an indefinite agitation and bring the administration to a standstill,” Rao warned.We do not care what the Srikrishna Committee has to say, you must abide by your promise of December 9, 2009.”
Justice Srikrishna, who was in Hyderabad yesterday for his last round of meetings with the chief minister, governor and top officials before he submits his report, also met journalists and gifted each one a clock as a memento.
“Peace is above party and state,” he said, appealing to political parties, students, businesses and employees to give priority to peace.
At Warangal a little while later, Rao was threatening an agitation of non-cooperation with the administration in all the 10 Telangana districts if the budget session deadline was not met.
Swami Agnivesh and the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders from Delhi attended the Mahagarjana rally that brought normal life to a halt in the town known for his history and its educational institutions. Traffic jams on the highway to Hyderabad were 10km long.
The rally was earlier proposed on December 9 to mark the completion of one year of the Centre’s announcement on Telangana but was put off because of a cyclone threat.
Rao, who hit out at the governor for trying to make light of the fears of violence after December 31, was also angry with police chief K. Aravinda Rao.
“The DGP says he will bring additional forces. Even the city police commissioner has issued orders of no revelry on December 31 night at hotels and roads. All these are aimed to cause panic… that heavens will fall if Telangana is given,” he said.
>Fear of violence and disturbances has already brought down real estate prices in Hyderabad by 30 per cent and migrant labour from the non-Telangana regions have gone home well ahead of their annual Sankranti holidays in January. Most films scheduled for a Sankranti release have been brought forward to December. A stuntmen’s strike ended today and the industry is working three shifts now.
The December fever has also hit the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, which wound up the House session in six days.
7 Forward Bloc members shot dead
Bodies of Forward Bloc activists lie in a forest area
after they were killed by suspected Maoists at Jhalda
in Purulia district of West Bengal on Thursday.(PTI)
TH, KOLKATA: Seven local leaders and workers of the All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB), including a woman, were gunned down by suspected Maoists in four separate incidents in the Jhalda area of West Bengal's Purulia district late on Thursday.
With the current killings, the total number of AIFB leaders and supporters killed in the district in the last four months stands at 12, according to sources in the party.
Police sources said four teams of Left-Wing Extremists attacked four villages in the Jhalda-I block, which is located in the foothills of the Ayodhya Hill that forms the border between West Bengal and Jharkhand, and raided the houses of the local party leaders.
Amid security operations
Incidentally, joint security operations are on in the region, especially in the rugged terrains of the bordering areas.
“All the seven persons were abducted from their houses and later shot dead. The entire operation took place between 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. We have already started combing operations in the area in search of the culprits,” Superintendent of Police Sunil Chowdhury said.
A group of 10 to 12 rebels first raided the house of Chandicharan Singh Sardar, president of the Gutiloa village panchayat samiti. Upon not finding him there, the group abducted his brother and local Forward Bloc leader Tapan Singh Sardar and killed him near the house.
A second team stormed into the houses of Chapala Garai, president of the Bagbandi village panchayat, Gopeswar Mahato, Kinkar Singh and Gobardhan Singh and abducted them.
“They were taken to a nearby forest area and shot dead. They did not spare even Ms. Garai or the 72-year-old Mahato, who was having dinner when he was taken away,” Forward Bloc district MP Narahari Mahato told The Hindu. Two other teams raided the houses of Ananta Mahato and tribal leader Aju Singh Sardar in Chirutar and Naugarh villages, and killed them in a similar fashion.
Nexus alleged
Mr. Narahari Mahato alleged that the killings were the outcome of a “nexus between Maoists and the Opposition parties to destabilise the Forward Bloc in the region ahead of the State Assembly elections, where the latter enjoys considerable political presence.”

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