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..what angry flood victims told the touring ministerial duo:
Asim Dasgupta
Buddhadeb Bhatta-
Answer: 'MINISTERS!'
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Human Rights News: Vol 1 (since 08/98)
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01 Mental patients are abused at hospitals: The Statesman, September 18, 1998, page 3.
NHRC Chairman Justice M N Venkatachalaiah says that patients' rights are violated in mental hospitals.
02 Boy copes with pain, hopes for justice: Child workers' exploitation continues: The Statesman, October 27, 1998; page 5.
The harrowing experience of a 14-year old boy who lost his fingers in a jute machine, and then - instead of getting treatment and sympathy - he was thrown out of work.
03 'Vampires were blood disease patients': The Statesman, November 1, 1998, page 12.
Prof Tikkanen of California State University speculates that the monsters in Romania and Hungary during the 16th & 17th centuries were in fact judges, clergy and ordinary citizens!
04 Dacoit lynched: The Statesman, November 16, 1998; front page.
Reports the lynching of a train dacoit on the Gede Passenger on the Sealdah section. A gang of dacoits had begun robbing the passengers after the train left Shyamnagar station. A scuffle followed and two passengers were critically injured by choppers. But the passengers caught two dacoits and beat one to death.
05 A weapon that attacks only Arabs, not Jews: The Statesman, November 16, 1998; front page.
A biological weapon has been developed that would harm Arabs but not Jews, which has provoked a controversy because of its unpleasant parallels with genetic experiments at Auschwitz by the Nazi scientist, Dr Josef Mengele, during World War II.
06 Ray & crushing of Naxalites: 'Letter to the Editor', The Statesman, November 16, 1998, page 8.
Reviews the gross human rights abuses in the 1970s, by the police and politicians of all hues, in West Bengal and Kerala.
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Today, especially in Bengal, there are many things going wrong. Many people believe it is because of the moribund bureaucracy - government, institutional, private ... whatever - that is responsible for the unacceptable state of affairs ...

Our Objectives:
The objective of 'Stop'n Look!' is simply to throw the searchlight on the problems created by those people who are thriving in an obsolete bureacratic system - at our expense. We will compile information from the media, as well as first-hand reports from our correspondents, that show how callous our elders have become.
You will be the ultimate judge of our succes.
Viva la vox populi!

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Environmental News Reports: Vol 1 (since 08/98)

01. Mental patients are abused at hospitals: The Statesman, September 18, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Sept. 17. - People with mental problems too have their rights, and it is the responsibility of society to protect them, said the NHRC chairman, Mr Justice M N Venkatachaliah, today. He was speaking at a seminar on 'Strategy Development for Human Rights Promotion of the Mentally Ill', organized by Sevac, an NGO working with mentally ill patients. He said patients' rights are violated in mental hospitals, and that facilities there are far from satisfactory. He also said several mental institutions have earned ill-repute for infringement of human rights, and that a video documentary in Hindi and English will be made to highlight the condition of mental care in the country.

The NHRC had formed a committee to study patient care and rehabilitation facilities at the hospitals.

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02. Boy copes with pain, hopes for justice: Child workers' exploitation continues; The Statesman, Oct. 27, 1998, page 5.

Md Aynuddin's wounded arm is held up by his brother so that reporters at the Press Club can have a good look.
The 14-year old boy's arms were caught in a machine last July at the Hooghly jute mill, which employed him and many other children - illegally.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 26. - Fourteen year old Md Aynuddin slogged 8 hours a day - for Rs 20 - at a factory in a Bansberia in Hooghly district. One day in July, his arms got caught in a jute-pressing machine. Instead of helping him, the mill promptly threw him out as his name was not on the rolls.

Aynuddin's situation is not unique. If he and 'Free the Children-India', an NGO that helped him, are to be believed, there are about 500 children working on each of the three shifts at the mill.

After a police case was filed by Aynuddin's family, the mill came out with a grant of Rs 1,500. He was promised treatment at a nursing home if he withdrew the FIR. Aynuddin did not, and he was thrown out of the nursing home.

A complaint was then lodged with the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. The WBHRC asked the Labour department to enquire, which they did after several days and after FCI threatened to initiate a legal suit within a fortnight. A team went to investigate, but the mill authorities had been tipped off. They asked the children to stop coming to the mill a few days before the team was slated to arrive. 

The inquiry has reportedly been completed. Aynuddin can only wait and hope for justice.

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03. 'Vampires were blood disease patients': The Statesman, November 1, 1998, page 12.

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31. - They drank the blood of animals to ease their pain and hid from daylight. Horrified by their ghastly appearance, people called them vampires and slaughtered them. Nearly 400 years after such devilish myths surfaced, Prof  Wayne Tikkanen of California State University believes there really were monsters in Romania and Hungary during the 16th & 17th centuries ... but ...

He said the monsters were in fact the judges, clergy and ordinary citizens who executed hundreds of people because they mistook a disease for evil. "I am a trained scientist. I don't believe in vampires and werewolves," Prof Tikkanen said. In lectures, he speculated the European monster myth as the result of a disfiguring blood disease known as porphyria, that weakened the flesh against ultraviolet rays and changed heme, a component of blood carrying oxygen to the brain, into a toxin.

As porphyria symptoms worsen, the skin begins to blacken and rupture in the sun, resulting in abnormal hair growth in the wounds. Burned lips peel back making the teeth more prominent, the nose erodes and in some cases the fingers disintegrate, making the hands resemble paws. A few variations of porphyria also resulted in insanity and delusions. The disease, affecting 10 in a million, can now be treated and people with porphyria can lead normal lives with medication. Some afflicted with the disease centuries ago may have drunk animal blood to relieve their pain as a folk remedy. But Prof Tikkanen stressed that porphyria sufferrers do not thirst for blood like Bela Lugosi's Dracula.

Explaining the legend that Vampires come out only during full moon, Prof Tikkanen said: "Those with particularly sensitive skins could only go out after sunset. You may do this all the time, but people will only see you when the night is at its brightest or in other words, a full moon."

He studied numerous accounts written by occult scholars and judges who had named nearly 600 people as monsters and had them burned at the stake. He cited cases where ordinary people found victims of porphyria, hiding from the sun in coffins or buried under a few inches of dirt in the woods. "They'd dig them out of the ground, and these people would struggle frantically because they'd soon be ripped apart and burned," Prof Tikkanen said. Highlighting their predicament, he described them as "horribly disfigured" but "perfectly lucid". As the story was passed along, the so-called vampire became the instigator. "Your priest wants you to confess your sins or the judge will burn you at the stake. But you don't know what you have done wrong."

He added that the victims may have feared the Cross because it was the sign of religion and the inquisitors, who sought to hear their confessions or have them burned.

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05. A weapon that attacks only Arabs, not Jews: The Statesman, November 16, 1998, front page.

LONDON, Nov. 15. - Israel is trying to identify genes carried only by Arabs which could be used to develop a biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not Jews, The Sunday Times reported. The newspaper attributed its report to unidentified military and Western intelligence officials. It said Israeli scientists are working to create a genetically modified bacterium or virus that only attacks people who carry certain genes.

The paper said the weapon is seen as Israel's response to the threat of chemical and biological warfare from Iraq. Moreover, the lethal weapon could be spread by air or through the water supply. The report further said the weapons program is based at the biological institute in Nes Tziyona, which is described as the main research facility for Israel's chemical and biological weapons. According to the report, researchers have pinpointed "a characteristic in the genetic profile of certain Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people."

The idea has provoked a controversy because of its unpleasant parallels with genetic experiments at Auschwitz by the Nazi scientist, Dr Josef Mengele, during World War II, the paper said

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06. Ray & crushing of Naxalites: 'Letter to the Editor', The Statesman, November 16, 1998, page 8.

Mr Siddhartha Shankar Ray is never short of issues to create political stunts. One of the most controversial Congress leaders, he has fooled some people into believing that his political career has long come to an end. However, those who are familiar with political style know very well that he can say anything anytime. This time, he has thrust himself into the limelight with a declaration that the actual killers of the Naxalites in the turbulent 70's are the CPI-M and not the Congress. He has gone further to state that he has been grossly misjudged and that he "respects" Naxalite leaders. Naturally, the ex-Chief Minister of West Bengal (later, he was also Governor of Punjab due to his "success" in crushing Naxalite violence), by saying this, has opened a Pandora's box.

The statement by Mr Ray prompted a quick counter-allegation from the CPI-M. The CPI-M has accused Mr Ray of trying to gain political mileage for himself and also confusing the people in the process. The CPI-M holds Mr Ray to be solely responsible for the terror of the Congress Raj during the 70's in West Bengal.

The people of the state, who have lived lived through the decade, will generally share the CPI-M's view. The CPI-ML lost about 10,000 of its cadres. The CPI-M, too, lost a few of theirs. The CPI-ML was formed after a section of the leadership within the CPI-M challenged the program of the party and broke away from it. It stood for the capture of state power through an armed revolution. The vision of the CPI-ML was totally different from that of other political parties. It is quite understandable that such political programs could not be welcomed by the media who left no stone unturned to brand the CPI-ML a terrorist organization. But the fact remains that the Naxalites were crushed by state violence the dimensions of which were greater than that practised by the CPI-ML. Mr Ray was the supreme commander of the drive to crush the Naxalites. The CPI-ML eventually could not fulfil its dreams due to its own faulty program. But, in the process, thousands of innocent lives were lost.

The CPI-M, too, played its part very cleverly. Today, the CPI-M is trying to wash its hands off the crimes it had committed to counter the CPI-ML. The CPI-M actually came into power riding high on the sympathy generated by the brutal massacre of the CPI-ML cadres. As the CPI-ML was then boycotting the elections, people voted the CPI-M to power. Once it came to power, it did nothing to punish the guilty, though it has always made and still makes the violence of the 70's an election issue.

If the Congress had been responsible for the violence, why has the Left Front government not called for any trial? On the contrary, it has actually rewarded at least two of the most dreaded police officers with promotion. The implication is clear. The CPI-M, too, played its role, hand in glove with the Congress, to kill Naxalites. The Cossipore-Baranagar massacre is still fresh in the minds of the people.

The CPI-M once considered Naxalites nothing short of terrorists. Yet Mr Jyoti Basu has built a martyr's tomb as a token of "respect" for those killed in Cossipore and Baranagore. Promod Dasgupta, the high-profile leader of the CPI-M had once wondered whether police bullets were covered with contraceptives, because they failed to kill Naxalites.This is the double standard that the CPI-M has maintained all along.

It is heartening to find that The Statesman is keeping us updated on the controversy over the death of a Naxalite leader in Kerala. Similar inquiries should also be started here. The CPI-ML leader, Charu Majumdar, died under mysterious circumstances. Saroj Dutta, another leader of the CPI-ML, was also killed, allegedly by the police in broad daylight.

Killers of thousands of innocent people are going about scot-free. There is no reason why they should not be immediately punished. If the CPI-M delays such initiatives, we will know that the party is trying to cover up dirty deeds to further its own vested interests - though it may continue to accuse the Congress of creating terror when it had been in power

Yours, etc.,

Calcutta; 10 November, 1998

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