Army Chief General V.K. Singh told reporters that since a large number of its personnel would be moving into the training area, they had asked the government for clarification on the rules of engagement so that they could defend themselves in case of a Maoist attack. However, he clarified that the army was not asking for the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives legal protection to the forces, as the troops were not getting into the anti-Maoist offensive in progress in some states.
"Looking at a situation where some elements instigate a situation by trying to make a foray into the training area, to that extent we have asked for clarification on the rules of engagement to ensure this issue is taken care of," he said here.
Kolkata, 14 January : The Calcutta High Court Friday adjourned till 18 January the hearing on a public suit seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the 7 January killing of villagers near Lalgarh in West Midnapore district.
The West Bengal government Thursday had filed an affidavit, opposing the CBI probe and contending that law and order was a state subject and that the court had no power to order an investigation by the central agency.
Kolkata, 14 January : Carrying their battle against West Bengal's ruling Left Front to Delhi, a group of painters, theatre activists and economists associated with the Trinamool Congress will meet President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh next week to demand the central government's intervention in the state.
The group, which will reach the national capital Sunday, will apprise top officials, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram, of the "lawlessness" and the "reign of terror" in the state. They meet the president Monday morning, the prime minister Monday evening and the home minister Tuesday afternoon.
UNI, Siliguri, 14 January : The GJM-sponsored 96-hour bandh paralysed life for the third day today in the hills sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's agitation is for a separate Gorkhaland. Official sources said train services in Siliguri, Sevok and Assam were disrupted. Tea gardens, government offices and educational institutions also remained closed in support of the bandh, sources said.
Inspector General, North Bengal, Ranvir Kumar said the police will take action if somebody tries to impose the bandh on the common man. Meanwhile, Bangla O' Banglabhasha Bachao Committee (BBBC) called a 48-hour counter bandh on January 16 and 17 today to protest GJM's agitation.
''We are protesting GJM's unreasonable demands which is causing a public harassment. Bengal should not be divided,'' BBBC president, Mukunda Majumdar said.
Another anti-GJM outfit 'Amra Bangali' have also called a 48-hour bandh on the same dates in protest against GJM's Gorkhaland demand.
Darjeeling District Left Front led by Rajya Sabha MP Saman Pathak, along with leaders of other organisations like CPI(M), RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI, submitted a petition to the administration protesting against GJM's Gorkhaland demand.
He also said the administration should adopt stringent measures against the 'violent measures' adopted by the outfit.
''The bandh culture initiated by the GJM is seriously affecting the life of the common man,'' Pathak added. ''Additional forces should be deployed by the administration to restore normalcy,'' he added.
The bandh call was aimed at putting pressure on the Centre to make its stand clear on the issue of a separate Gorkhaland state comprising the hills and certain areas contiguous to it in the north Bengal plains.
The shutdown announcement came on the heels of the Srikrishna Committee report on the Telengana issue being made public recently. န Photos : AFP
Kolkata, 14 January : West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan is scheduled to visit Lalgarh's Netai village on January 19 to assess the impact on residents from the recent spate of violence in the area.
According to reports, Governor Narayanan may also visit Jhalda in Purulia district, where seven workers of the Forward Bloc, including a woman, were shot dead by Maoists on 16 December.
Bankura, 14 January : A marginal farmer was trampled to death by a herd of elephants, who have been creating havoc on standing crops and rendering many families homeless here, official sources said today.
The jumbos, who strayed into the Simlipal forest area last week, trampled to death a middle-aged man at Dhemanmara village and badly injured another under Bishnupur police station. The pachyderms moved around like a charged brigade stamping whatever came in front of them and devoured fodders.
PTI, Melbourne, 14 January : India's wild card entrant Somdev Devvarman was on Friday handed a tough draw at the Australian Open as he is pitted against world number 51 Tommy Robredo in the first round of the men's singles event.
Tripura boy Somdev, ranked 110 in the world, was awarded one of the two wild cards for Asian players by the organisers of the first Grand Slam of the season.
UNB, Khulna, 14 January : A devastating fire broke out at state-run Crescent Jute Mill at Khalishpur industrial area in the city on Friday.
Mill sources said the fire started at No. 12 godown near No. 3 unit at about 2pm. Receiving information, fire service personnel from Daulatpur, Khalishpur and Khulna rushed to the spot and were still making frantic efforts to extinguish the blaze. The fire could not be doused till filing of this report at 5:30pm Friday.
Over five lakh people from across the country gathered in the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
The fair is the second largest congregation of people after the holy Kumbha Mela held annually on the Sagar Island's southern tip. Kumbha Mela is held once in four years.
Police said the deceased have been identified as Vinay Singh (65) of Madhya Pradesh, Bhabdhara Devi (80) of Bihar, Ashok Tripathi (60) of Uttar Pradesh and Bholanda Giri (65). Saddat Ansari (52), a tourist from Jharkhand, also died after heart failure, police said.
Nearly 11,000 people are suffering from various diseases and 9 people had to be hospitalised. န Photo : AFP