Cong stages Water rerun on Hey Ram
Kasba blood trail leads sleuths to realtor
Robbers leave magazine clue
New Yorker in search of unsung maestros
Metro feeder buses on Friday
8 St Paul’s students expelled for ragging
Power cuts deepen gloom
Cyclone to decide Cong fate
Manipur students call off ‘curfew’ on election-eve
Personality tussle in Berhampur

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
Barely a week after chief minister Jyoti Basu and his deputy, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, welcomed Deepa Mehta and invited her crew to shoot Water in Calcutta, a handful of Chhatra Parishad supporters tore posters of the newly-released Hey Ram and disrupted its screening at Mitra cinema on Monday.

The protesters stormed into the hall, snatched and tore posters of the film and warned the hall’s owner, Dipen Mitra, of “dire consequences” if the authorities did not withdraw the film in 48 hours.

Set against the backdrop of the VHP’s stir against Water in Varanasi and the Left Front’s subsequent decision to invite Deepa Mehta to Calcutta, Monday’s incident sullies the image of a tolerant Bengal that the government was hoping to project. What is more, it also puts a question mark on the administration’s ability to control such demonstrations.

The Chhatra Parishad workers alleged that there are dialogues in the film that portray Gandhi in poor light. “It is very derogatory and we will not allow the film to be screened in Bengal,’’ a Chhatra Parishad functionary was shouting outside the hall.

The film is directed by Kamal Hassan and stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee, besides himself.

It was released last Friday and is running to packed houses at Jyoti and Priya cinemas, apart from Mitra.

According to the manager of Mitra cinema, slogan-shouting Chhatra Parishad supporters came to the hall around 11:45 in the morning. They sat on Bidhan Sarani in front of the auditorium.

Before Mitra’s staff could react, the protesters entered the hall and tore up posters. They threatened to damage the auditorium but the hall’s securitymen surrounded them and forced them to leave. The students defaced the auditorium’s walls, blackened and tore posters. A large contingent of police reached the spot and threw a security cordon around the hall.

The Chhatra Parishad activists spoke to Dipen Mitra and demanded that he withdraw the film or “face the consequences.”

Mitra said he invited the protesters to watch the film and judge it for themselves. There were shows of the film even after the demonstration. The manager said he would not withdraw the film.

A police picket has been posted at Mitra. The managements of Jyoti and Priya, shaken by the incident, have also sought security. They said there had not been a murmur of protest so far.

“The film opened on Friday and has run to almost full houses. There was no objection from those who have seen it. It is the politicians with their vested interests who are creating trouble,’’ said an employee of Jyoti cinema.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
Nearly a month after the murder of Gurupada Bagchi, key CPM functionary in Kasba, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of West Bengal Police on Monday zeroed in on an influential promoter for his alleged involvement in the murder.

Claiming a breakthrough in the investigation, the CID officers said they were also looking for Amarnath Banik, alias Amre.

The deputy inspector-general, CID, Partha Bhattacharya, who has taken over the investigation from the local police, said a businessman was on the list of suspects. He had been summoned once for interrogation.

“We want to question him further but he is not readily available,” said Bhattacharya.

The promoter had been arrested twice in the past in connection with charges of defrauding a bank.

CID officers said he had been involved also in a case of illegally grabbing plots in Kasba. He had even taken anticipatory bail.

“We are definite that a close interrogation of the promoter will help us unearth the motive behind the murder,” they said.

The other man on the list of suspects is Amre, a history-sheeter from Joynagar, in South 24 Parganas.

He is reported to be an accomplice of Tarak Halder, whom CPM leaders like MLA Rabin Deb have charged with the Kasba killing.

“We raided Tarak’s Sonarpur residence and interrogated his wife. But she could not shed any light on where her husband had been at the time of Bagchi’s murder,” said a CID officer.

The officer said both Tarak and Amre might have fled to Siliguri to evade arrest.

Bagchi, secretary of the CPM’s Kasba (south) local committee, was shot through the head by an unknown assailant while shopping in the crowded Kasba fish market on the morning of January 23.

Minutes after the murder, a 500-strong mob of CPM supporters set fire to nearly 400 stalls in the market and ransacked the police station.

The next day, the CPM enforced a 24-hour bandh in south Calcutta.

“We are definite that a close interrogation of the promoter will help us unearth the motive behind Bagchi’s murder,” the CID officers said.

A preliminary investigation reveals that Bagchi was killed because he had campaigned against a comfortable promoter-criminal-politician nexus in the locality.

One CID officer recording Bagchi’s activities in Kasba said there were sharp differences between him and a rival faction. The differences had arisen because of the influence of realtors and criminals associated with promoters.

Matters came to a head on November 23 last year, when Bagchi mobilised local youth who broke through the boundary wall of a three-bigha plot on which a highrise was being built in Bosepukur, on the Kasba connector to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

Upen Sarkar, member of the Kasba CPM local committee, also admitted on Monday night that there was trouble in the party over the Bosepukur project.

“We, too, feel Bagchi fell victim to a conspiracy against him by realtors who have built their business in this area,” he said.

At a meeting on Monday in memory of Bagchi, CPM leaders again spoke out against the police for not being able to arrest the main accused. The party’s leaders also complained of “harassment” of local party functionaries by the police.    

alcutta, Feb. 21 
In a daring daylight raid, dacoits looted Rs 3.07 lakh from the Boral branch of Allahabad Bank, in the south Calcutta suburb of Sonarpur on Monday.

No one has been arrested so far. This is the fourth bank dacoity in South 24-Parganas district in the last six months.

Eye-witnesses said six armed youth entered the bank at Rakshit Mor around 1.50 pm. They came in a taxi. Two of the youth were conversing fluently in Bengali, English and Hindi.

Eleven employees and a customer were in the bank at the time. All of them stood petrified as four of the six youth took position in the centre of the hall. The other two guarded the main gate.

One of the boys then snatched the keys to the vault from the cashier at gunpoint and locked the other employees in a separate room. They took the money and before fleeing, locked the main entrance. They left in the taxi after about 30 minutes. Local people chased them till Garia but the vehicle left them way behind.

A bank employee later said one of the youth was reading an English magazine.

The staff raised a hue and cry immediately after the robbers left. At first, some of the local people mistook the staff for the dacoits and pelted stones through the window from which the employees were crying for help.

Some of them were injured. The stone-throwing was stopped by the police.

The officer-in-charge of Sonarpur police station, Partha Mazumdar, and some other policemen then opened the door and freed the bank employees.

Mazumdar said: “After getting the colour magazine, we are sure the gang members are educated youth and they had planned the operation meticulously.”

Shyamal Mondal, a resident of the area, said local people started to throw stones because they were panic-stricken after the lynching of 10 persons at Bagherghol in January.

So immediately on hearing the word ‘dacoit,’ people were convinced that the employees had locked the dacoits within.

The additional superintendent of police, S.N.Gupta, said it was the first operation of a new gang detected by the police. In the three other bank dacoities, the members were mostly arrested and a large part of the loot had been recovered.

The other three bank dacoities took place in Nodakhali and the Sonarpur railway station areas. Both were daylight robberies.

Hospital back to normal: Work at M.R. Bangur Hospital was normal on Monday evening after Saturday night’s assault on three doctors by a patient’s family. Junior doctors resumed work after an assurance of security during duty hours by the hospital authorities.

On Saturday, an employee of a rubber factory, Arpan Sarkar, was admitted to the hospital with a serious injury. Members of his family, who were waiting outside the hospital, suddenly turned violent and attacked the doctors and nurses, alleging negligence on their part.The patient was later removed in another hospital.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
Lyle Wachovsky — of Russian descent, but born and brought up in New York City — was 15 when he was dragged along by friends to an evening of “new music”.

Listening to Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan conjure magic on strings changed his life forever.

Now, the 52-year-old balding, greying, professional photographer is in Calcutta trying to “track down less celebrated musicians and put a microphone before them” for his own company, India Archive Music.

“The CDs I have recorded with over 50 musicians are sold for $10 to $12 in USA, Canada and Europe,” reveals Wachovsky, regretting that he is yet to find a distributor in India.

But that has not hurt his long love affair with Indian classical music. The enduring relationship has traversed recording sessions from rock ‘n roll studios in Los Angeles to the Audio Centre in Behala; performances at Royal Albert Hall to the Dover Lane Music Conference; impromptu concerts at a penthouse in San Francisco to a friend’s terrace in Santiniketan.

Over the years, Wachovsky has switched orbit from musical stars to the aspiring and the unsung.

“I started out by recording Vilayat Khan, Imrat Khan, Girija Devi, V.G. Jog, Amjad Ali Khan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Ajoy Chakravorty and other famous names in a bid to spread Indian classical music in the West. But then, I realised that giving exposure to the talents in the shadow of the spotlight was more satisfying and, in a sense, more significant,” explains Wachovsky.

So, on his fourth trip to Calcutta, he has been busy recording the likes of sarod player Samarendra Sikdar and vocalist Amaresh Chowdhury.

Besides catching up with old friends, making new ones, and preparing the ground for his next visit.

Or just walking the streets of the city he loves for its “vitality and warmth”, but hates for its “pollution and honking horns”.

What really distresses Wachovsky is the decline in the appreciation of Indian classical music throughout the country.

“Still, the wah-wahs at baithaks in Calcutta remain the most heart-felt,” says the man with a musical mission.

That is one of the reasons why Wachovsky is toying with the idea of settling down here. The other is the fact that almost all his Indian friends seem to feel that the bachelor boy must settle down “with a Bengali girl”.

“But while I find most Bengali girls extremely beautiful with lovely voices, I am yet to find a Bengali girl who thinks the same about me,” smiles Lyle Wachovsky, eyes twinkling beneath bushy grey eyebrows.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
The Calcutta State Transport Corporation’s ‘circular bus service’ is ready to hit the road on February 25. The feeder service, aimed at Metro rail commuters, will initially run from Esplanade to Howrah via BBD Bag, and from the Tollygunge Metro station to Jadavpur.

The buses will be ply every 10 minutes, matching the Metro timings at Tollygunge and Esplanade. “The frequency is likely to be increase in the morning and evening to cope with the office-hour rush,” a CSTC official said.

In the second phase, the service will be extended to routes like Tollygunge to Garia, Tollygunge to Behala via Karunamoyee bridge, Rabindra Sarobar to Golf Green, Kalighat to Jadavpur and Kalighat to Ballygunge station.

The decision to integrate bus services with the Metro, a long-pending demand of the railway authorities, was taken last week by the state transport department. The CSTC has asked Metro Rail to bear the cost of publicising the feeder service.

Among other things, the CSTC has demanded that lighting arrangements at the L-20 bus terminus, proposed to be renamed Esplanade Metro Bus Terminus, be done by the Metro.

The extension of an underground airconditioned connection to the ‘advance’ booking counter and a shelter for passengers have also been entrusted to the Metro authorities.

Metro Railway general manager I.I.M.S. Rana has said the CSTC feeder services will help Metro Rail cut down on its losses, set to cross Rs 50 crore this year. But, he said, while his organisation was ready to pay for the publicity, no decision had been taken on whether Metro can “bear the cost of constructing a comfortable bus terminus at Esplanade”.

The CSTC proposal that buses be allowed into the Tollygunge station premises has also been turned down by the Metro authorities “due to technical reasons”. A new Metro bus terminus will be constructed outside Tollygunge station, for which the CSTC has already initiated a dialogue with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Metro Railway has also decided to construct a subway at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore from the station to the bus terminus.

“We have already finalised all formalities for tendering and the contractor will be selected within the next few weeks,” Rana said.    

Eight students of St Paul’s College were expelled from their hostel on Monday for ragging freshers who had refused to skip classes and work for a college union.

Four students of first year — Manash Maiti, Anirban Sarkar, Gopal Mondal and Amritlal Biswas — were “brutally tortured” over the last few days for refusing to toe the SFI line.

This sparked protests on the Amherst Street campus with vice-principal Paritosh Banerjee being gheraoed by Chhatra Parishad activists led by Congress MLA Tapas Roy, on Monday.

The agitators demanded the immediate expulsion of the students responsible for the ragging. “We have decided to call an indefinite students’ strike in the college till the guilty are punished,” Sajal Ghosh, CP leader, later said.

“Leaders of the SFI union were forcing us to work for them. They asked us to put up posters and participate in active politics and not attend classes,” said Maiti, one of the victims.

Last week, Maiti was dragged out of his hostel room at midnight and beaten for two hours. He suffered serious injuries in his left eye and on his hands. When Maiti’s roommates tried to intervene, they too were thrashed.

The four students were treated at Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital. They later lodged a complaint with the local police station against Sandip Pal, Milton Das, Indrajit Ghosh and Tarun Das.

Vice-principal Banerjee said that the college authorities had probed the case on the basis of a complaint by the students.

“Our investigation confirmed that the students were tortured. So, we expelled eight students of the second and third years from the college hostel,” he said.

The SFI students’ union general secretary, Wasef Ali Biswas, said that he had no knowledge about the reason behind the ragging.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
Calcuttans woke up to a depressing Monday with the sky overcast and fog swathing the city. To add to the gloom, there were widespread power cuts in the evening.

The fog did not disturb flights or train movement but the intermittent thin rain was irritating.

In the evening, the State Electricity Board imposed curbs on supply to the CESC grid, leading to a 76-mw shortfall in the city and its adjoining areas.

The weatherman said there was no chance of heavy rainfall and the sky was expected to clear by Wednesday.

An “anti-cyclonic circulation” over the north Bay of Bengal is carrying in a lot of moisture.“So light rain is possible at a few places inCalcutta,” said M.K. Guha, deputy director-general of the Alipore met office.    

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 21 
The supercyclone that ravaged Orissa four months ago could return tomorrow, albeit unseen, to sweep the Congress off power.

Thousands of cyclone victims are angry with the government for its failure to provide adequate relief and compensation, a factor that is likely to adversely affect the ruling party’s performance at the hustings.

“The cyclone has hit us badly. People are annoyed with us because they did not receive anything in the aftermath of the cyclone,” said Ranjan Patnaik, general secretary of the Cuttack unit of the Youth Congress.

From Khurda to Cuttack and Jagatsinghpur to Kendrapara, the majority of the 77 constituencies which go to the hustings tomorrow were battered by the October 29 cyclone, which left over 10,000 dead and two million people homeless. In most of the affected districts, people are clamouring for jobs and shelter. However, the government is yet to take steps to alleviate their suffering.

“Those rendered homeless in my area have been denied compensation, but those whose houses are intact were paid because they have links with local revenue officials,” said Yudhistir Samantray, Congress legislator from Pipli in Puri district. Samantray had raised the issue in the Assembly.

With anti-establishment feelings running high, even former chief minister J.B. Patnaik and his erstwhile deputy Basant Biswal are unlikely to have it easy in the Athgarh and Tirtol constituencies respectively.

Uncertain about his prospects in Begunia, the seat he won after becoming chief minister in 1995, Patnaik shifted to Athgarh. But Congress activists fear that Athgarh, in Cuttack district, may turn out to be the former chief minister’s Waterloo.

Elected thrice from Tirtol constituency in Jagatsinghpur district, Biswal is also facing an uphill task this time. His opponent, Debashis Samantray of the Biju Janata Dal, has raised only one issue — “neglect” of Tirtol in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Samantray, a political novice, is related to Biswal.

If the cyclone has turned out to be a “curse” for the Congress, it has been a “boon” for the BJD-BJP combine, which is tipped to form the next government.

Despite a virulent campaign against him for his inability to speak Oriya, BJD chief and Union minister Naveen Patnaik is expected to win the Hinjli seat, one of seven Assembly segments comprising his home constituency of Aska.

If the BJD-BJP combine is elected to power, Naveen will be the front-runner for chief ministership.

The after-effects of the cyclone is not the only problem faced by the Congress. Weakened by factionalism, the party has removed two chief ministers — J.B. Patnaik and Giridhar Gamang — and two PCC chiefs. The result of all these changes is that the morale of Congress activists has hit an all-time low.    

Imphal, Feb. 21 
Thirty-two Assembly constituencies in Manipur’s valley go to the polls tomorrow with the shadow of a “public curfew” lifted from them. The All-Manipur Students’ Union (Amsu) has suspended its agitation, including the bandh scheduled for tomorrow.

Amsu president P. Premananda told newsmen here this evening that its agitation has been suspended since Amsu finance secretary H. Chandeshore Sharma was released today.

Deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh told The Telegraph that Sharma was released this morning after he signed a personal bond. Imphal chief judicial magistrate granted bail to Sharma on Saturday. State chief electoral officer D.S. Poonia said all security arrangements have been made for tomorrow’s polling. Armed securitymen have been deployed.

Manipur chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh has appealed to the people to exercise their franchise tomorrow without any fear. He said the government has made all arrangements to ensure free and fair polls. A total of 196 candidates are in the fray for the 32 seats under Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency.

Arms looted: Militants last night snatched 10 weapons from the security guards of Congress candidate from Saikul, Yamthong Haokip. The militants overpowered the guards, who belong to the Manipur Rifles, and snatched their weapons at Mantripukhing in Imphal.

One killed: A Manipur People’s Party worker was killed when Manipur State Congress Party candidate and power minister Govindas Konthoujam’s vehicle knocked him down at Ningthoukhong area in Bishenpur constituency. Irate MPP workers attacked Konthoujam’s house with stones this morning. The minister’s guards opened fire to dispel the mob, injuring another MPP worker.    

Berhampur, Feb. 21 
The focus in the Berhampur Assembly constituency is on personalities with political parties and ideologies pushed to the periphery.

On the one hand there is BJD candidate Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik, a doctor, known more for his medical skills than the sitting legislator.

His major opponents are Congress candidate Bikram Panda and former PCC general secretary Chandrasekhar Sahu who is contesting as an Independent.

Chyau Patnaik has not been able to build a major political organisation for himself despite his five-year term as a legislator. The doctor continued in his profession after winning the seat in 1995 and still puts it before politics. A couple of weeks ago, he rushed to see a patient in the middle of the night after a hectic day of campaigning.

He accompanied the patient to hospital and administered saline drips as no doctors were available. He returned home in the morning only when the patient’s condition improved. His fee is sometimes as little as Rs 2.

His door-to-door campaign for these elections has been as simple. With only one or two followers accompanying him, he approaches the voters with the promise to be by their side at their time of need.

This very simplicity is serving as a tool in his rivals hands. Sahu and Panda allege that he is a “simple” man who cannot get anything done for the city.

Sahu, who is cashing in on his personal fame, is projecting himself as an able leader with the personality to get things done in hostile conditions. He is also trying to cash in on the anti-J.B. Patnaik sentiment in the constituency by projecting himself as a victim of exploitation.

Panda is a new face and is trying to project himself as a leader of the new generation rather than highlighting the policies of the Congress.

Road mishap: Four persons, including two women and a child, were killed and six injured in a road accident near Tulasiposhi under Karanjia police station on Calcutta-Mumbai National Highway 6, nearly 130 km from Baripada last night, reports PTI. The accident occurred when the jeep in which they were travelling collided with a truck.

Militant killed

A hardcore Ulfa militant was killed in an encounter with police and CRPF party at Adhiapara in Assam’s Goalpara district today. An AK-47 rifle was recovered.

In separate incidents, two Bodo Liberation Tiger militants were apprehended at Kamalpur in Nalbari district and a businessman was abducted by suspected Ulfa militants from Salkosa in Dhubri district yesterday.    


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