October 18, 2009

Foreign spies may have sneaked into Lalgarh

Caesar Mandal, TNN 17 October 2009, 11:00am IST
KOLKATA: Two English-speaking foreigners had sneaked into Maoist-dominated Lalgarh in April this year and stayed undetected for weeks after the security forces started their crackdown on June 18. Police and intelligence agencies have been thrown into a tizzy after this revelation.
The identities of these two foreigners have not yet been established, nor what they were doing there. The duo apparently changed locations repeatedly between Bengal and Jharkhand and went around asking villagers about the troubles in the area and whether they knew anything about Maoism. Officials here are worried about the possibility that they might be foreign intelligence agents.
What caught the police's attention first was two locally made toilet commodes discovered during a raid in Bahdodihi village near Ghatsila, Jharkhand, bordering West Midnapore and Purulia in Bengal. Police were immediately suspicious because local people do not use such things. They asked around if any outsiders were in the area. They were stunned to know that two gora sahibs' had been there since April. One of them called the other David'. They spoke in English and often talked to villagers with the help of an Indian interpreter.
Villagers of Patamda in Jharkhand told police that the foreigners regularly visited the local marketplace and even came to their homes, took pictures of the locality and talked to them about their poverty and Maoism. When students of local missionary schools asked the sahibs where they had come from, the duo said they had come to do some research work on behalf of a foreign agency.
Jharkhand Police found their traces in Jharkhand's Chakulia and Lalgarh in Bengal. When PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato was arrested from Lalgarh, police specifically asked him about the two foreigners. He apparently admitted knowing some foreigners were around, but claimed he had not met them. A lot of foreigners journalists and NGO workers had come to Lalgarh during the agitation, Mahato said.
Officers believe the mysterious duo entered Jangalmahal from the Jharkhand end, when police were busy preventing rights activists such as Medha Patkar and Gopal Menon from entering Lalgarh. Intelligence agencies indicate that these foreigners came in with the Maoists and had been working among the tribals for months before the Lalgarh operation.
The Bengal CID is sending a team to interrogate arrested Maoist leaders in Jharkhand to learn more about the foreigners and cross-check the information with what Mahato and arrested Maoist leaders have told them. According to police, Maoists have been getting funds from within the country and abroad including a Norway-based agency but the cops are yet to nail them.
CPI(Maoist) politburo member Kishanji, however, rubbished such claims and said that foreigners had never come to the organization during this phase. Police in two states, though, are sure about the presence of the sahibs' in Lalgarh and other Maoist-dominated areas.
Meanwhile, Police produced PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato before a Jhargram court for examining his handwriting. Mahato was asked for a specimen signature, but he refused to give one.
The prosecution, on October 1, had submitted a petition, showing some hand-written documents that were seized from Mahato's residence. It said that comparing it with the PCPA leader's handwriting was very essential, as police firmly believe that the documents were written by him.

Congress declares candidates for West Bengal

New Delhi: Congress today declared its candidates for the by-elections to West Bengal assembly. For the assembly by-polls in West Bengal, Bishun Munda has been made the candidate from Goalpokhar, Golam Rabbani from Sujanpur and Hamidur Rehman from Sujanpur assembly seat, a party release said.

West Bengal Govt to go ahead with Nayachar chemical hub plans

KOLKATA,17th October,2009: The Lok Sabha poll reverses notwithstanding, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government hasn't given up on its industrialization hopes around the proposed chemical hub at Nayachar. It is readying to draft a changed agreement for the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR).

The chief minister convened a high-level meeting at Writers' Buildings on Friday to do the needful. Among those who attended were other members of the Cabinet sub-committee on industries finance minister Asim Dasgupta and industries minister Nirupam Sen. Others present were land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, Left Front chief whip in the state Assembly, Md Masin, and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen.

According to sources, the meeting was on several industry-related issues, including the PCPIR. Nandigram had figured prominently as the venue for the mega chemical industrial estate and the PCPIR that was to come up near Haldia when the plan was first floated in 2005, and the subsequent agreement was drafted on these lines. After the bloody resistance to the choice of venue (which, experts feel, was a major cause for the Left's reverses), the government has decided to keep its promises unchanged, keeping an eye on the 2011 Assembly elections.

Nayachar is a 64 sqkm island on the Hooghly in East Midnapore. Prasoon Mukherjee, director of New Kolkata International Development (NKID) which through a joint venture with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) is to develop the infrastructure on the island had earlier said the PCPIR is an expense account for NKID, but the government is bent on going ahead with the project.
A senior Writers' official revealed that the revised agreement, with Nayachar as the changed venue, will now have to be clinched between the state, the Centre and NKID. He said those attending the meeting discussed the draft as well as other industry-related issues, such as granting subsidy to Cals Refinery, which will partner the PCPIR. NKID is a 50:50 joint venture between Mukherjee's Universal Success Enterprises Limited, a company registered in Singapore, and Indonesia's Salim Group. Real estate developer Unitech Limited also had a minority equity interest in NKID, but it has recently sold its stake in the firm.

CIL to buy equipment worth $2 bn in 5 years

KOLKATA, 17th October, 2009: Coal India (CIL) will procure spares and equipment worth $2 billion from the overseas market in the next five years. This will mainly be procured to beef up production levels by 175 million tonne, and take up at least 134 greenfield mining projects.
Confirming the development, CIL chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya said: “We intend to increase production capacity by as much as 35 mt every year over the next five years. This will require sourcing equipment from overseas — equipment that is not manufactured in India. The cumulative value is expected to be about $2 billion over the next five years.”
Going by the target, CIL is slated to touch a total production level of 570 mt by the end of the next five years. “To achieve this, we have to source high capacity open cast mining equipment, including high capacity dumpers, shovels and dredgers for mines. All these are not manufactured in the domestic market. A part of the procurement will also go into replacing existing old equipment,” said a senior CIL official.
Incidentally, CIL’s effort to take over the ailing Durgapur-based Mining and Allied Machineries Corporation (MAMC) is yet to fructify. The proposal was taken up to start manufacturing underground mining equipment at the plant since there are no established makers as on date. Once, MAMC’s debts are waived by the Centre, CIL and its partners, including Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), will be able to manufacture open cast mining equipment, too.
“It will help substitute imported equipment for both open cast as well as underground mines. However, we are still waiting for the government’s clearance,” said NC Jha, director technical at CIL. “Since MAMC is a BIFR case, the joint takeover proposal by BEML, CIL and DVC to take over the firm will now have to be passed by the high court, following which needs to be cleared by the Cabinet. BEML intends to take 48% in the company, while CIL and DVC will take 26% each,” said a CIL official. Incidentally, MAMC owed the West Bengal government about Rs 100 crore, which has already been waived. Central dues stand at about Rs 1,200 crore, and will require a Cabinet clearance.

Can't allow Writers' to turn into a circus : Buddhadeb

Kolkata, Oct 16 (PTI): West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today ordered arrest of four Trinamool Congress MLAs on a dharna in the state secretariat, saying he could not allow the building to be turned into a "circus".
"I could not comprehend what they wanted and immediately asked the police to remove them from the Writers' Buildings which can't be turned into a circus maidan," the chief minister said shortly after the arrest of Trinamool Congress general secretary Partha Chatterjee, who is the Leader of the Opposition and three party MLAs.
Bhattacharjee told reporters that he was informed by the Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty and Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen that the MLAs had turned down a request for talks and refused to lift the dharna. Sen said the arrest was made at the instruction of the chief minister.

High drama at Writers' : Trinamool MLAs held for sit-in at Buddhadeb’s office

Kolkata, Oct 16: Four Trinamool Congress legislators, including Leader of Opposition in West Bengal assembly Partha Chattopadhyay, were arrested for staging a sit-in before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s office here Friday, as confrontation in the politically fragmented state extended to the heart of the metropolis.Amidst high drama, the slogan-shouting legislators arrived at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings minutes after Bhattacharjee left for home for lunch, and began the sit-in demanding his arrest for allegedly “masterminding” political violence across the state.

It was a virtual replay of the incident on Jan 7, 1993, when Chattopadhyay’s party supremo Mamata Banerjee - then a union minister of state and a Congress leader - sat before erstwhile chief minister Jyoti Basu’s chamber at Writers’ Buildings with a deaf and dumb girl, who she claimed was raped. After several hours, police had swung into action and bodily lifted Banerjee out of the secretariat.

On Friday, as news of the Trinamool legislators’ arrest spread, party workers took to the streets in large number across the state, and demonstrated at key intersections from 5 p.m. as part of a two-hour agitation announced by Banerjee in the event of the four legislators’ arrest.

However, Bhattacharjee, who returned to his office late afternoon cordoned off by heavily armed police personnel, termed the whole incident as “opposition circus”. “I got to know about the whole incident when I was in the car on my way home. I was surprised. I discussed the issue with the chief secretary and the home secretary who tried to persuade them to come to the discussion table,” Bhattacharjee said.

“I showed patience hoping good sense will prevail. When I returned I saw the mess and immediately took a decision to remove them,” Bhattacharjee told reporters here. “I gave the direction to remove them as such a thing cannot go on. I cannot allow the Writers’ corridor to be the ground for opposition circus,” he said.

The Trinamool legislators, led by Chattopadhyay, protested against the “objectionable comments” of former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Anil Basu at a public rally in Hooghly district’s Khanakul area Thursday evening. “Basu directed the police to arrest Trinamool supporters. If a former CPI-M Lok Sabha member can give such directives to the police, why will the police not arrest the chief minister, who is also the home minister of the state, responding to the demand of public and opposition parties?” Chattopadhyay asked.

“We want immediate action against Anil Basu for his comment as he is not part of the state administration. How come he gives instructions to the police, and the police obey him?” Chattopadhyay said, calling Bhattacharjee a “political joker”.
As the situation intensified, startled police officers rushed in reinforcements and a large number of heavily armed personnel of Kolkata Police were deployed before the chief minister’s chamber and the secretariat’s main gate to prevent any ugly turn of events. Kolkata Police Joint Commissioner (Headquarters) Jawed Shamim and Deputy Commissioner (Detective Department) Damayanti Sen also went to Writers’ Buildings to bring the situation under control.
In a bid to add more punch to the agitation, Mamata Banerjee spoke to a section of the electronic media and condemned the violence allegedly triggered by the CPI-M, and supported the demand for Bhattacharjee’s arrest. She threatened to launch a bigger agitation if her party legislators were arrested.

“The whole of West Bengal will be in flames if any of our leaders is touched by the police. Trinamool Congress activists will hit the streets in thousands if such thing happens,” she said, terming Bhattacharjee as a “leader of state-sponsored violence”.The tension soared as it got close to 4 p.m., the time when Bhattacharjee daily returns to the secretariat post-lunch. Later in the evening, top Trinamool leaders and legislators demonstrated at various points in the city and courted arrests. Traffic was thrown out of gear, inconveniencing commuters.

Condemning the act of the opposition legislators, state CPI(M) secretary Biman Basu said: “Trinamool Congress activists are creating nuisance across the state by holding road blockades and street corners. “We urge people to unitedly protest against this political vandalism of Trinamool Congress for the sake of maintaining law and order situation of the state,” Bose said in a statement.

CPI (M) moves EC alleging poll code violation by Trinamool

Kolkata, Oct 16: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Friday moved the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) complaining of “open violation” of the model code by top Trinamool leaders in three areas of West Bengal’s Serampore assembly constituency, which is set to hold by-polls Nov 7.
In a letter to the CEC, Navin Chawla, CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu alleged that Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy and Trinamool MP Subhendu Adhikari had approached areas in the assembly constituency Oct 12 “in convoys of 20 vehicles with some of the vehicles flashing red lights, …with the minister’s car flying the national flag”.

Basu accused the leaders of proclaiming that “11 CPI(M) leaders be beheaded and their heads displayed at prominent places”. He claimed the two leaders had also declared that atrocities will be perpetrated on the women members of the families of CPI(M) leaders and followers and their houses would be “burnt down”.

“We note in this connection that Trinamool members and supporters lined up the route of the two leaders, and attended the meetings armed with revolvers, guns, rifles and explosive devices in order to create panic and fear among the people,” Basu said in the letter. “Please have these very serious issues looked into for an early action,” the letter said.

पत्रकारिता कैसे की जाये?

Thursday, 15 October 2009 17:54
पुण्य प्रसून बाजपेयी
भड़ास4 मीडिया

शोमा दास की उम्र सिर्फ 25 साल की है। पत्रकारिता का पहला पाठ ही कुछ ऐसा पढ़ने को मिला कि हत्या करने का आरोप उसके खिलाफ दर्ज हो गया। हत्या करने का आरोप जिस शख्स ने लगाया संयोग से उसी के तेवरों को देखकर और उसी के आंदोलन को कवर करने वाले पत्रकारों को देखकर ही शोमा ने पत्रकारिता में आने की सोची। या कहें न्यूज चैनल में बतौर रिपोर्टर बनकर कुछ नायाब पत्रकारिता की सोच शोमा ने पाल रखी थी।

बंगाल के आंदोलनो को बेहद करीब से देखने-भोगने वाले परिवार की शोमा को जब बंगला न्यूज चैनल में नौकरी मिली तो समूचे घर में खुशी थी कि शोमा जो सोचती है वह अब करेगी। बंगला न्यूज चैनल '24 घंटा' की सबसे जूनियर रिपोर्टर शोमा को नौकरी करते वक्त रिपोर्टिग का कोई मौका भी मिलता तो वह रात में कहीं कोई सड़क दुर्घटना या फिर किसी आपराधिक खबर को कवर करने भर का। जूनियर होने की वजह से रात की ड्यूटी लगती और रात को खबर कवर करने से ज्यादा खबर के इंतजार में ही वक्त बीतता। 13 अक्तूबर की रात भी खबर कवर करने के इंतजार में ही शोमा आफिस में बैठी थी। लेकिन अचानक शिफ्ट इंचार्ज ने कहा ममता बनर्जी को देख आओ। बुद्धिजीवियों की एक बैठक में ममता पहुची हैं। शोमा कैमरा टीम के साथ निकल गयी। कवर करने पहुची तो उसे गेट पर ही रोक दिया गया। ममता बनर्जी की हर सभा में गीत गाने वाली डोला सेन ने शोमा दास से कहा '24 घंटा' बुद्धदेव के बाप का चैनल है इसलिये ममता से वह मिल नहीं सकती। लोकिन शोमा को लगा, कोई बाईट मिल जाये तो उसकी पत्रकारिता की भी शुरुआत हो जाये। खासकर बुद्धिजीवियों की बैठक में अल्ट्रा लेफ्ट विचारधारा के लोगों की मौजूदगी से शोमा का उत्साह और बढ़ा, क्योंकि घर में अपनी मां-पिताजी से अक्सर उसने नक्सलबाड़ी के दौर के किस्से सुने थे।

शोभा को ममता में आंदोलन नजर आता। इसलिये उसे लगा कि एक बार ममता दीदी सामने आ जायें तो वह इस मुद्दे पर बाइट तो जरूर ले लेगी। लेकिन गेट पर ममता का इंतजार कर रही शोमा दास का खड़ा रहना भी तृणमूल के कार्यकर्ताओं को इतना बुरा लगा कि पहले धकेला फिर डोला सेन ने ही कहा - 'तुम्हारा रेप करा देंगे, किसी को पता भी नहीं चलेगा। भागो यहां से।' लेकिन शोमा को लगा, शायदा ममता बनर्जी को यह सब पता नहीं है, इसलिये वह ममता की बाईट के इंतजार में खड़ी रही और ममता जब निकलीं तो उत्साह में शोमा ने भी अपनी ऑफिस की गाड़ी को ममता के कैनवाय के पीछे चलने को कहा। लेकिन कुछ फर्लांग बाद ही तृणमूल के कार्यकर्ताओं ने गाड़ी रोकी और शोमा पर ममता की हत्या का आरोप दर्ज कराते हुये उसे पुलिस के हवाले कर दिया। यह सब ममता बनर्जी की जानकारी और केन्द्र में तृणमूल के राज्य-मंत्री मुकुल राय की मौजूदगी में हुआ। शोमा को जब पुलिस ने थाने में बैठा कर पूछताछ में बताया कि ममता बनर्जी का कहना है कि तुम उनकी हत्या करना चाहती थीं तो शोमा के पांव तले जमीन खिसक गयी। उसने तत्काल अपने ऑफिस को इसकी जानकारी थी। लेकिन ममता बनर्जी ऐसा कैसे सोच भी सकती हैं, यह उसे अभी भी समझ नहीं आ रहा है।
लेकिन इसका दूसरा अध्याय 14 अक्टूबर को तृणमूल भवन में हुआ। जहां 'आकाश' चैनल की कोमलिका ममता बनर्जी की प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने पहुंची। कोमलिका मान्यता प्राप्त पत्रकार हैं। लेकिन इस सभा में तृणमूल के निशाने पर कोमलिका आ गयीं। कोमलिका को तृणमूल भवन के बाहरी बरामदे में ही रोक दिया गया। कहा गया 'आकाश' न्यूज चैनल सीपीएम से जुड़ा है, इसलिये प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने की इजाजत नहीं है। कोमलिका को भी झटका लगा, क्योंकि कोमलिका वही पत्रकार है जिसने नंदीग्राम के दौर में 'समय' न्यूज चैनल में रहते हुये हर उस खबर से दुनिया को वाकिफ कराया था, जब सीपीएम का कैडर नंदीग्राम में नंगा नाच कर रहा था। जब सीपीएम के कैडर ने नंदीग्राम को चारों तरफ से बंद कर दिया था जिससे कोई पत्रकार अंदर ना घुस सके, तब भी कोमलिका और उसकी उस दौर की वरिष्ठ सहयोगी सादिया ने नंदीग्राम में घुस कर बलात्कार पीड़ितों से लेकर हर उस परिवार की कहानी को कैमरे में कैद किया जिसके सामने आने के बाद बंगाल के राज्यपाल ने सीपीएम को कटघरे में खड़ा कर दिया था। उसी दौर में ममता बनर्जी किसी नायक की भूमिका में थीं।

कोमलिका-सादिया की रिपोर्टिग का ही असर था कि सार्वजनिक मंचों से एक तरफ सीपीएम कहने लगी कि 'समय' न्यूज चैनल जानबूझ कर सीपीएम के खिलाफ काम कर रहा है, तो दूसरी तरफ ममता दिल्ली आयीं तो इंटरव्यू के लिये वक्त मांगने पर बिना हिचक आधे घंटे तक लाइव शो में ममता मेरे ही साथ यह कह कर बैठीं कि आपकी रिपोर्टर बंगाल में अच्छा काम कर रही है। कोमलिका को लेकर ममता बनर्जी की ममता इतनी ज्यादा थी कि ममता ने कोमलिका को सलवार कमीज तक भेंट की और साल भर पहले जब कोमलिका ने शादी की तो ममता इस बात पर कोमलिका से रुठीं कि उसने शादी में उसे क्यों नहीं आमंत्रित किया।

लेकिन 14 अक्टूबर को इसी कोमलिका को समझ नहीं आया कि वह एक पत्रकार के बतौर अपना काम करने के लिये प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने पहुंची है, तो उसे कोई यह कह कर कैसे रोक सकता है कि वह जिस चैनल में काम करती है, वह सीपीएम से प्रभावित है। नंदीग्राम और सिंगूर के आंदोलन के दौर में कोमलिका ने जो भी रिपोर्टिंग की, कभी सीपीएम ने किसी न्यूज चैनल को यह कह नहीं रोका कि आप हमारे खिलाफ हैं, आपको कवर करने नहीं दिया जायेगा। कोमलिका के पिता रितविक घटक के साथ फिल्म बनाने में काम कर चुके हैं और नक्सलबाड़ी के उस दौर को ना सिर्फ बारीकी से महसूस किया है, बल्कि झेला भी जिसके बाद कांग्रेस का पतन बंगाल में हुआ और सीपीएम सत्ता पर काबिज हुई। नंदीग्राम से लालगढ़ तक के दौरान सीपीएम की कार्यशैली को लेकर शोमा दास और कोमलिका के माता-पिता की पीढ़ी में यह बहस गहरायी कि क्या वाकई ममता सीपीएम का विकल्प बनेगी और अक्सर कोमलिका ने कहा - लोगों को सीपीएम से गुस्सा है, इसका लाभ ममता को मिल रहा है।

लेकिन नया सवाल है कि अब ममता से भी गुस्सा है तो किस तानाशाही को शोमा या कोमलिका पंसद करें। यह संकट बंगाल के सामने भी है और पत्रकारों के सामने भी। क्योंकि अगर दोनों नापंसद हैं, तो वैकल्पिक धारा की लीक तलवार की नोंक पर चलने के समान है। तो सवाल है, पत्रकारिता कैसे की जाये?

लेखक पुण्य प्रसून बाजपेयी मशहूर पत्रकार हैं। इन दिनों वे 'जी न्यूज'में बतौर संपादक कार्यरत हैं। उनसे संपर्क punyaprasun@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it के जरिए किया जा सकता है। उनका यह लिखा उनके ब्लाग से साभार लिया गया है। अगर आप उनके इस लिखे पर कोई कमेंट करना चाहते हैं या दूसरों के कमेंट को पढ़ना चाहते हैं तो क्लिक करें- पुण्य प्रसून का ब्लाग

Politicians polarize media in West Bengal

The media was viewing an assault on itself in the light of political allegiance rather than protection of its rights. And that is the real tragedy. AJITHA MENON reports on a Trinamul assault on a 24 Ghanta reporter and cameraman, and rues the partisan media responses it evoked.

Posted Friday, Oct 16 14:58:36, 2009 on www.thehoot.org

Cutting across party lines, politicians humiliate, insult and even assault journalists with aplomb in West Bengal. The latest has been the assault and threat on a women journalist and her cameraman by a central minister and Trinamul Congress workers on October 13th, outside the house of painter Shuvaprasanna, where Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was holding a meeting. Shoma Das of 24 Ghanta news channel, had her bag and phone snatched, and her mouth gagged by party workers.

Central minister Mukul Roy was caught on record saying “I will not allow a CPI(M) channel to work here. Is it Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's father's channel?”. Aside from the indecent language, the statement made it clear that journalists would be allowed to work only if they worked for media organizations with political leanings that the Trinamul approves of !

However, even more shocking was the role played by intellectuals and other journalists present. Shuvaprasanna, an internationally known artist, made obscene comments about the woman journalist's parentage for allowing her to “roam free at night”, once again exposing how hollow all the talk about respecting women and women's rights in Bengal truly is. Trinamul workers also assaulted the cameraman accompanying the woman journalist, and smashed his camera. One of the women workers of the party also threatened the journalist saying “I will have you raped by our party boys if you don't behave”.

But the worst was yet to come. Trinamul Congress leader and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee called the police and filed a General Diary against the journalist, alleging attempt to murder. The journalist and her cameraman were taken to the police station and kept there for five hours “for questioning”, without even being allowed to visit the washroom. The journalist did file a counter General Diary alleging assault by Trinamul workers. The next day her home was raided by the police.

However, the really horrifying revelation was in the behaviour of the other journalists present on the spot. Most of them knew the woman journalist and her cameraman in question and both of them were carrying valid House Cards. However, in a stunning display of how the media is polarized on organizational as well as personal levels today, some reporters put out news stories on the alleged murder attempt on Mamata Banerjee without making any mention of the targeted assault on the journalist and her team. None of them bothered to adhere to media ethics where investigation and verification are considered cornerstones of credible reporting.

Be it Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee twisting the ear of a photo-journalist or Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya insulting a senior journalist by calling him a rat or even the most recent and demeaning action by Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, what is emerging clearly is that a polarized media is conducive to the political agenda of different political parties, when it suits them, to deny the journalists the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression - in effect gag the free press. The simple fact is that when one media house or journalist is targeted, others either enjoy the show, or remain silent and even gleefully report the incident in a manner that carries no credibility.

The office-bearers of the Press Club, Kolkata and several senior editors were seen giving phone-ins and TV interviews condemning the action by the Trinamul Congress, however, all the ire was directed against the politicians without any sign of introspection. Wouldn't it have been more effective to send a clear message to journalist employees not to tolerate or support the violation of their and other journalists' rights to work, information and expression?

Furthermore, only those media organizations which opposed the Trinamul Congress's policies were seen carrying the condemnations. Others, who support the party were of course sticking to the murder attempt story! The media was viewing an assault on itself in the light of political allegiance rather than protection of its rights. And that is the real tragedy.

Ironically, after all the condemnation that took place through the day on Oct 14th, following the incident, in the evening two more women journalists were thrown out of the Trinamul Congress Bhavan where a party meeting was being held. Pragya Saha and Komolika Sengupta of Akash Channel, belonging to the same media group as 24 Ghanta, were humiliated for belonging to a particular channel, while about 50-odd reporters and photo- journalists looked on mutely. The matter even didn't get coverage in the so-called free press!

Don't stage a boycott or even a rally or a procession - it will only bring forth political allegiances of media organizations to the forefront and in the end media is all about covering news, not boycotting it. But the organizations can at least empower the journalists with the right to support colleagues on ground zero, even if it is through verbally asserting the person's right to work, right to information and freedom of speech and expression. Reporters, cutting across media organizations and their political affiliations, admit to wanting to support colleagues in such situations but say they refrain for fear of losing their jobs!

Most of the field reporters say they expect to be assaulted, insulted or humiliated by parties fearing exposure or from those with vested interests. However, as the three women journalists recently insulted by the Trinamul Congress said, it's the betrayal by one's own fraternity which is truly unacceptable and heart-rendering.

Its amazing that when such incidents occur, we, the media, look to politicians to protect our rights - making it a no-show from the very beginning considering the fact that politicians survive on the divide and rule policy.

Can we not at least unite on this one ground of right to work with freedom of expression, cutting across our organizations' political policy, and implement it ourselves by offering a media support network for this?

WB govt denies TC claim of conspiracy to kill Mamata

Kolkata, Oct 15 (PTI): The West Bengal government today denied the Trinamool Congress claim of a "conspiracy" to kill party chief Mamata Banerjee when a car trailed her convoy while she was returning home from a meeting at Salt Lake on Tuesday night.
"The complaint filed by the Trinamool Congress is not true," Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said here. The police had earlier said that the car with a press sticker belonged to Bengali news channel, Chobbis Ghonta, which was seeking an interview with the TC chief.
TC general secretary Mukul Roy alleged yesterday that there was a "conspiracy to kill Mamata". Sen said that he had received a report on the incident from IGP (Law and Order) Surojit Kar Purokayastha and was expecting another from DIG (Presidency Range) S N Gupta tomorrow.

Mamta targets channel over 'plot' to kill her

KOLKATA,14th October,2009: Trinamool Congress, the main opposition in West Bengal, has got into a scrap with news channel 24 Ghanta, accusing a journalist and two cameramen of trying to kill railway minister Mamata Banerjee. The party has filed a police complaint against the TV crew for allegedly ˜following Mamata’s car. The channel has filed counter complaint against TMC.
According to sources, it all started with a brawl between Union minister of state for shipping Mukul Roy and the TV crew in front of painter Suvaprasanna’s house in Salt Lake’s BH Block at night 1-15am. The artist had invited Mamata and her senior party colleagues and media crews to cover the event. Mamata emerged around 10pm. According to Soma Das ( TV crew member), Roy briefed her about the incident. Mamata listened to him and got into her car without a word. "Her convoy left the house and we followed her...The Trinamool leader charged us and accused us of being supari killers.," said Soma. Mamata then called police saying some people had come to kill her.

India state changes madrasa rules

By Subir Bhaumik BBC News, Calcutta
Madrasas or traditional Islamic religious schools in the Indian state of West Bengal are to switch to English as the medium of instruction.
The programme will be introduced in phases, state Minority Affairs Minister Abdus Sattar announced. "We believe in modernising our traditional form of education so that our boys and girls can compete with the best," he told the BBC. He said that 10 madrasas in the state will make the switch this term . The remaining 566 madrasas will follow within a few years.

Curriculum modernisation

The overwhelming majority of madrasas in West Bengal are either government-run or government-approved - both are subject to rules promulgated by the state's Madrasa Education Board (MEB).

Only a handful are completely independent and do not fall under the board's remit. Seventy madrasas in West Bengal opened this year - 34 exclusively for women. Mr Sattar, himself once a madrasa teacher, said the modernisation of the curriculum in religious schools has been taking place for a while and modern science and mathematics have already been introduced. He said that both the US and Pakistan have sent teams to study the West Bengal madrasa system to study the impact of earlier changes.

"But without English as the medium of instruction, our students cannot get the best education. So we recommended the use of English as the medium of instruction in all government madrasas and those approved by government," said Sohrab Hossain, chairman of the MEB in West Bengal.
When the Marxists first came to power in the state, they did away with English at the primary level of education. But two decades later, they reversed their decision and reintroduced English at the primary level.

Their move came after huge criticisms that students from West Bengal were suffering in all-India competition, both in jobs and higher education, due to lack of proficiency in English. Muslims compromise 26% of West Bengal's 80 million people - they are mostly poor farmers or small traders who can only afford to send their children to madrasas to get an education. "So unless we modernise the madrasa system, we will not be able to provide quality education to most Muslim aspirants," Mr Hossain said. "Our madrasas don't produce the Taliban, they will produce engineers and doctors."

Story from BBC
Published: 2009/10/16 16:00:01 GMT

Trinamool negating UPA govt's anti-Maoist efforts: Yechury

New Delhi : Claiming that the Maoists were getting "complete support and protection" from Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) asked Congress and UPA to explain why the Mamata Banerjee's party continued to remain in the Union Cabinet despite "negating" the government's assessment of the Left extremist threat.

Apart from legitimising the brutality of Maoist violence, Trinamool Congress was "directly negating the assessments of the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister that Maoist violence constitutes the greatest threat to India's internal security", CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.

"Yet, the Trinamool Congress ministers continue to remain in the Union Cabinet. The UPA and the Congress party owe an answer to the country," he said in an editorial in the forthcoming issue of party organ 'People's Democracy'.

"The Maoist-Trinamool nexus has become so integrated that one of the Maoist leaders in an interview openly declared their desire to see Mamata Banerjee as the next Chief Minister of West Bengal," Yechury said.

"It is, therefore, little wonder that Ministers in the Union Cabinet belonging to Trinamool Congress are pressurising the Union government to withdraw the central security forces which are currently in joint operations with the state security forces against the Maoist activities," he said.

West Bengal signs tripartite pact for tiger conservation

KOLKATA: After some initial objection, West Bengal government has signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre and the tiger reserves in the state for better conservation of the big cats. Subrat Mukherjee, field director, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and his counterpart in Buxa Tiger Reserve R P Seni, who were authorised by the state government, signed an MoU with the National Tiger Conservation Authority yesterday.

Chief Wildlife Warden (wildlife) S B Mondol told PTI here today that earlier the state government signed an agreement with the Centre for tiger conservation. Now it has been replaced by the tripartite pact between the state government, NTCA and field directors of tiger reserves.He said the state had earlier opposed the signing of the pact, arguing it was not necessary as the state has a good record in conservation of the wildlife.

The state government will get funds following signing of the pact."Earlier also we got funds for tiger conservation. Since last year we had been requesting the Centre for increasing the quantum." Mondol said that the state had received Rs 1.5 crore last year from the Centre for conservation of tigers. This year the state had requested for doubling of the amount, he said.

West Bengal to get its first wetland eco-park in Sonarpur, near Kolkata

KOLKATA: West Bengal will soon have its first Wetland Ecological Park in Sonarpur adjoining Kolkata where many of the animals from the Alipur Zoo will be housed, a top official said Tuesday.

State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Atanu Raha said the state government has taken up an initiative to develop the wetland park and identified a lowland area for it. ‘We have decided to set up a Wetland Ecological Park at Bhagabanpur area near Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas district. We held a high level meeting today (Tuesday) and have also surveyed the proposed area,’ Raha said.

‘Once the wetland eco-park is developed, we’ll be able to shift a large number of animals to that place from Alipur Zoo. ‘There will be no cemented construction at the eco-park. We’ll put all the wildlife animals there in a better wetland environment.’ Asked about the time frame for the project, Raha said that work was progressing fast.

‘I can’t say any time frame as of now. But we’ll try to implement it as early as possible. The government will also involve the local people for developing the project,’ he said.

Battle against Maoists being undermined by intellectuals

October 17th, 2009 by IANS
By Amulya Ganguli
Lenin described as “useful idiots” those bleeding heart liberals who were soft on the Communists despite the latter’s avowed objective of launching a violent insurrection to overthrow the supposedly rotten bourgeois system.

A similar indulgent, romantic attitude is discernible among Indian intellectuals with regard to the Maoists. The track record of these insurgents in killing hundreds of policemen, blowing up railway stations and transmission towers and uprooting railway lines appear to earn the forgiveness of the city-based intelligentsia because the rebels are believed to stand for the cause of the poor.

Perhaps the most prominent among the supporters of the Maoists is Sahitya Akademi award winner Mahasweta Devi, who is well known in West Bengal for her insightful writings on the tribals and was even mentioned recently as a possible Nobel Prize winner.

There are others like filmmaker Aparna Sen, theatre personality Saoli Mitra and poet Joy Goswami, who are sympathetic towards the Maoists. They may offer proforma condemnation of their violent acts, but by also criticising the state for its harsh response, as Chhattisgarh social activist Binayak Sen did recently, they partly justify the violence of the Maoists. The latter, according to them, are expressing the fury of the impoverished masses against the state, which represents the oppressive bourgeoisie.

However, it isn’t only the intellectuals or civil libertarians or media personalities who are critical of the centre’s, and especially Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s, decision to launch an all-out offensive against the Maoists. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, too, is of the same mind although her focus is only on West Bengal.

Like the others, she also wants the centre to put greater emphasis on a dialogue with them since not all of them are “bad”. The reason for her gentle approach is easy to understand. Since the Maoists had helped her in her campaigns against the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in Singur, Nandigram and elsewhere, she evidently owes them a debt of gratitude. It is the Marxists who are Maoists, she has said. She has also warned that Bengal will burn if Mahasweta Devi is arrested.

If the lenience of the human rights activists is due to an inability to gauge the true purport of the Maoist menace, the Trinamool Congress leader is driven solely by cynical calculations where she is ready to sup with the devil if it can help her rout the Left in West Bengal.

Her tunnel vision makes her impervious to the danger of the Maoists emerging as Frankenstein’s monster to undermine the Indian state, which they regard as neo-imperialist.

If Mamata Banerjee is driven by politics, the writers and academics are of the opinion that unless the core problem of poverty is solved, the Maoists cannot be defeated. So, they want the government to focus on socio-economic development instead of sending in the paramilitary forces.

There is a grain of truth in their view, for the Maoists have evidently exploited the deprivations of the poor, and mainly the tribals, to establish their bases and brainwash them with the Marxist doctrine of a class war.

That they have had a large measure of success is without doubt. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for a ragtag bunch of anarchists, who had splintered into numerous groups after Charu Mazumdar’s death in 1972 to mobilise in the way that they have done.

Today they are said to be present in 231 of the country’s 626 districts while the strength of their armed cadres has doubled to 20,000 men and women in the last five years. What is more worrisome is that they are far better equipped than what the Naxalites were in the late 1960s and early 70s when home-made pipeguns and improvised bombs were their main weapons.

It is, however, fatuous to believe that poverty-elimination should be attempted before any police action because the insurrectionists will simply not allow the government or even the non-government organisations favourably disposed towards them to undertake any kind of sustained development work in the areas under their control.

What is more, even if they have used the lack of development to mobilise cadres, their basic doctrine has nothing to do with material progress, but with the destruction of the bourgeois state. As such, even if there is social and economic progress, the Maoists will not fade away although their capacity to lure the poor in the countryside to their side will be weakened.

Until now, they have been helped not only by the poverty in the tribal areas of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa but also by the failure of the state governments to assess their potential till it was too late. Besides, the initial efforts to counter them with the help of poorly-trained and ill-equipped police personnel were bound to fail. It is only now that the centre is planning to deploy special forces and even use helicopters in the operations against them.

Considering that the army was deployed in the 70s for “area domination” when the Naxalites were much weaker, it is noteworthy that such a step has not been considered. The reason perhaps is that the civil libertarians are much more active than before. In addition, the Argus-eyed television cameras will bring the scenes of military presence to rouse the intellectuals even further. The government, therefore, is evidently playing safe for the present.

(17-10-2009 Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at aganguli@mail.com)