Rushdie pops up to bury Satan
MLA gunned down in Dhanbad
Reel-life failure proves real-life success
Bouncers before the debut
Calcutta weather

 
 
RUSHDIE POPS UP TO BURY SATAN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 14 
Author Salman Rushdie sneaked into the country of his birth after a decade, making an unexpected appearance at an awards ceremony here.

Rushdie told reporters that he had been in India for the past one week. Sporting a dark grey suit and flashing a broad smile, Rushdie said he had no ill-feeling towards any community in India.

“The message to Indian Muslims is that I have never been their enemy.... I do not want to recall any other controversy. I want to enjoy my stay in India,” he said.

Rushdie arrived in the capital on Tuesday from Jaipur after visiting Agra and his Solan ancestral home Anees Villa, which he won in a legal battle last year, an event that first triggered speculation about an impending visit.

But the most celebrated writer of Indian origin had to rest content with a consolation prize of £1,000 at the 14th Commonwealth writers prize distribution ceremony for his book, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. He was handed the regional writer for Eurasia prize at an awards dinner at the Oberoi hotel.

The main award — the Commonwealth writers prize, worth £10,000 — went to South African J.M. Coetzee for Disgrace, the novel that won Britain’s Booker last year. Coetzee had earlier conveyed his inability to attend the ceremony.

Rushdie has not visited India since The Satanic Verses was banned by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989. Shortly afterwards, the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for blaspheming the prophet Mohammad in the book.

“Of course, I would like the ban to be lifted. But I have not come here for that purpose,” Rushdie, flanked by son Zafar in a dark suit, said.

“I was shocked and I never expected it from India,” he said. but he carefully stayed away from any political controversy, anxious to convey his happiness at being able to come back after such a long time.

“It’s actually been pretty great, I have to say,” he told BBC radio later.

Despite Rushdie’s caution, the visit is already caught up in controversy with protestors hitting the streets of the capital today. Two demonstrations were held — one by the Janata Dal (Secular) and another by an Islamic organisation, demanding he sent back immediately.

The visit is shrouded in such secrecy that organisers of the awards ceremony had maintained until the last minute that Rushdie had not confirmed his participation.

The Vajpayee government had earlier indicated its willingness to grant him a visa, evoking sharp protests from several organisations. But the outcry does not appear to have had any impact on the decision, which is a big gamble by the BJP-led government since it runs the risk of being tarred further by the anti-minority brush.

The five-year multiple-entry visa was personally sanctioned by foreign minister Jaswant Singh. Having given him the visa, the Centre is now committed to taking care of his security.

Led by a Delhi MLA, a large number of Janata Dal (Secular) activists walked down Parliament Street carrying placards and raising slogans against Rushdie and the government.

Addressing the gathering, the legislator, Shoaib Iqbal, demanded that Rushdie’s visa be withdrawn immediately.    


 
 
MLA GUNNED DOWN IN DHANBAD 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
April 14 
The wave of political killings flashing through Bihar struck Dhanbad as trade union leader and MLA Gurudas Chatterjee was gunned down this afternoon by assailants on a motorcycle.

The murder of the Marxist Coordination Committee legislator shattered the uneasy calm in the coal town, which had been free of political assassinations for the past few years. He is the third senior leader to be shot dead in Bihar in the past two weeks. Chatterjee represented Nirsa and was the MCC’s only member in the Assembly.

He had come to Dhanbad this morning to attend a trade union convention called to oppose privatisation of coal mines. Chatterjee was returning home to Nirsa on his Hero Honda around 3.30 pm when the gunmen, who were following the trade union leader, overtook him near Deoli on GT Road and shot him from point-blank range.

MCC worker Apurbo Ghosh said Chatterjee, who was on the pillion, collapsed as the bullets pierced his head. “The killers then got down from their black motorcycle and, after asking me to move away, pumped several bullets into the lifeless body,” Ghosh said.

Enraged MCC workers blocked GT Road and are camping at the murder site — 18 km from Dhanbad — with the body.

Though director-general of police K.A. Jacob said it was not clear who was behind the assassination, Dhanbad police superintendent Anil Palta did not rule out the possibility of the hand of the coal mafia.

Chatterjee was leading a crusade against criminal gangs flourishing in the Nirsa coal belt for years. But he had sparked a controversy by demanding the release of a gangster, Gulfaan, from police custody.

MCC sources ruled out the involvement of any militant outfit. “The suspects obviously could be from unions which Chatterjee was opposing stubbornly,” said an MCC member.

Chief minister Rabri Devi, who is under pressure following the spurt in political violence, reviewed the situation with senior officials.

The police swung into action and rounded up a number of anti-socials in Dhanbad. A special squad carried out a series of raids on the hideouts of an alleged coal mafia don. The gangs are known to hire professional killers from eastern Uttar Pradesh and north Bihar to eliminate their rivals.

Though Dhanbad is notorious for gang wars, Chatterjee is the first MLA to be gunned down in the coal belt.

Earlier this week, former Congress MP Vijay Singh Soye was shot dead allegedly by henchmen of a BJP MP in Chakradharpur. The brother of state minister Bagan Sambrui was killed in Chaibasa the day before.    


 
 
REEL-LIFE FAILURE PROVES REAL-LIFE SUCCESS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 14 
Success may have eluded Kishen Kumar at the box office, but the Bollywood actor is proving to be a thespian as he plays out the part of a blood pressure patient before a combined audience of Delhi policemen and mediapersons.

Discharged today from Kailash hospital, Kumar again complained of chest pain. But tired of the waiting game, Delhi police said he could not stay back in the Noida medical centre anymore and that they would take him to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. Their objective was to shift Kumar out of Noida, which falls in Uttar Pradesh, and move him to a government hospital under their jurisdiction, to ensure that Kumar’s lawyers did not use their clout in the state to stall his police remand once he is held.

As the actor left the hospital this afternoon with relatives and friends, escorted by a few policemen and police cars, a convoy of media vehicles followed him.

But the waiting game continued. On Ring Road, Kumar apparently grimaced, saying he feared a heart attack. His relatives immediately insisted that he be admitted to the nearest hospital. But the policemen, who were in touch with his relatives over cellphone, went on pressing that the actor be admitted in AIIMS, where they said he would get the best possible treatment.

But the actor’s relatives were insistent. They threatened to make life hell for the policemen if Kumar died on the way. After all, his chest pain was increasing by the minute.

The policemen gave in, the fallout of Rajan Pillai’s death in custody fresh in their minds. Here, too, they were dealing with a personality who was quite influential.

The car moved towards Apollo Hospital. Kumar was sent to the cardiothoracic unit where Dr Raman Puri, who checked him, reported a blood pressure count of 120-80, a reading that would have made even the healthiest athlete proud. Puri, however, said Kumar was still complaining of chest pain. “When a man continues to complain of chest pain, we have to take him seriously,” he argued.

Puri said even with a normal blood pressure count, a heart attack is possible. Kumar would be examined over the next 48 hours, he added. A gastro-enterologist, he said, would be called in as such abnormal chest pain could also be from gastritis.

“We will allow him to take an angiography test if he so demands,” the doctor said. “If that fails, we shall bring in a psychologist and find out if he is frightened of facing the police. But that is the last stage.”

Delhi police admit they are losing valuable time and are in the dark as to what legal ploy the actor is planning.    


 
 
BOUNCERS BEFORE THE DEBUT 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, April 14 
In keeping with tradition, the Lancashire County Cricket Club introduced their overseas pro, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, to the media last evening.

The 2000 season, after all, begins tomorrow and Sourav will open with former England captain Mike Atherton in the first match, versus Nottinghamshire in the Benson & Hedges Trophy.

In keeping with the current mood, though, all the questions yesterday revolved around match-fixing allegations.

“I presented a straight bat, offering no comments... Indeed, I kept repeating I’m here for what, hopefully, will be a successful season both for the County and me,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

Last year, Lancashire finished second in the Championship.

Speaking soon after returning to his six-room apartment (arranged by Lancashire) in Manchester, after his first workout with the John Crawley-led team, Sourav added: “I suppose the questions were only to be expected, but I shouldn’t say anything which could add to the controversy or be misinterpreted.”

Not surprisingly, then, Sourav declined comment on Union sports minister S.S. Dhindsa asking the Board to furnish a report on the Indian team’s “recent bad performance.”

Sourav was captain both during the five-match series against South Africa — being probed by Delhi police — and the Coca Cola Cup 2000 in Sharjah. While India beat the South Africans 3-2, the Sharjah tournament was a disaster.

Sourav, of course, will return to India “should it be necessary” to attend the high-profile April 27 meeting convened by Dhindsa.

Lancashire, though, won’t be too amused by this development: The County’s first (four-day) Championship game, against Kent in Canterbury, begins April 26.

Obviously, Sourav will have to give it a miss if the April 27 appointment is to be kept. Till this evening, however, Sourav had not been officially informed about the meeting in New Delhi.

Lancashire are committed to releasing Sourav for the Asia Cup, from end-May. They may even have to release him for the tri-series in Singapore, in early-August.

That, significantly, wasn’t on the cards when the contract was signed (end-January). But, then, Lancashire couldn’t have planned for the Dhindsa meeting either.

Incidentally, Kent is India vice-captain Rahul Dravid’s County. Dravid, like Sourav, is making his County debut.

The third Indian on the circuit, Anil Kumble, is turning out for Leicestershire. Kumble played for Northamptonshire in 1995.

It will hardly come as a surprise should Sourav continue to be beseiged with questions he wouldn’t like to answer. But that’s not bothering him too much.

“It’s great to be back working with Bobby (Simpson, the County coach)... In any case, this exposure can only help me improve. I’m 27, and if I didn’t make a start now, it could have been too late,” Sourav remarked.

The next few weeks, specially, will be very hectic and Sourav’s black Rover, provided by Lancashire, will be zipping across England.

“Yes, I’m excited... There are standards to maintain, goals to achieve,” Sourav signed off, as he prepared to go out with wife Dona.

For a change, it’s a quiet Nabobarsho for both.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 35.4°C (-1°C) Minimum: 24.1°C (-1°C) Rainfall:Trace Maximum: 87% Minimum: 51% Today: Partly cloudy sky with possibilities of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature likely to be around 36°C. Sunset: 5.53 pm, Sunrise: 5.19 am    
 

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