Deathly ode to love
SBI clearing out of hazardous highrise
For women with the wanderlust
Rein-in on autos leads to fisticuffs, blockade
Governor nods Barman in chair for a year more
Two militants killed in Karbi encounter, 3 lynched
6 Imphal rebels shot

Calcutta, May 18 
Mystery shrouds the death of 24-year-old actress Rumni Chatterjee in a sprawling flat on Prince Ghulam Hussain Shah Road, in the Jadavpur police station area, late on Wednesday night.

Neighbours and husband Debangshu Sengupta, 38, broke open the second-floor flat and found Rumni hanging from the ceiling of her bedroom at around 8.20 pm. Police said Debangshu had left the house at 7.45 pm to buy cigarettes.

She was taken to the nearest hospital, where doctors declared her dead. Police officers found a suicide note and a dairy where Rumni had scribbled some messages, which indicated a discord between husband and wife.

Rumni was an actress in Bengali soap operas and Debangshu is a director. They married on March 10 this year. Rumni plays the female lead in the “mega serial” Mahaprabhu.

For both Debangshu and Rumni, this was their second marriage. Rumni had earlier tied the knot with her childhood sweetheart, Prasenjit Pal, in 1993.

The couple separated in 1999 but Rumni got her divorce in January 2000. Debangshu’s first wife was actress Kheyali Dastidar.

According to Rumni’s messages scribbled in the pages of her diary, she was going through mental trauma because her husband and mother-in-law suspected her of having an illicit relationship.

Police officers who confiscated the diary and were unscrambling Rumni’s notes said that in one of the pages, she had written: “Ami tomakey bhishon bhalobashi. Tomar mone Pochada ar Mayer deya sandeho jegechhey kintu tumi ekta phone number-ey phone korey khoj nitey paro (I love you very much. Mother-in-law and Pochada must have poisoned your ears but you ring up this number and find out for yourself about me and my love for you).’’

In another page, she writes: “Aami tomakey bhalobasi. Ami praman korey debo ami tomakey kato bhalobasi (I love you and I want to prove to you how much I love you).

The officer-in-charge of Jadavpur police station, Salil Bhattacharya, said her handwriting is very clear and crisp.

In the suicide note, she professes her love for Debangshu and writes that no one is responsible for her death.

“One day you will find out how much I love you,’’ she wrote in the note, police said.

The couple’s neighbours in the building on Prince Ghulam Hussain Shah Road were shocked at the sudden turn of events. Dr A.K. Mitra, who lives across the floor from the Senguptas’ flat, told police officers that Debangshu was a “very soft-spoken person’’ and that “he is not aware of any tension between the couple.’’

“There were no major quarrels. The couple also did not ever misbehave with anybody,’’ Mitra told investigating officers.

The family had a deaf Golden Retriever for a pet. According to neighbours, the dog was very attached to Rumni.

On breaking open the flat, neighbours saw the dog kneeling near the door of Rumni’s bedroom and crying.

Police are baffled that neither the neighbours nor Rumni’s mother, Seema Chatterjee, suspect foul play. They all spoke well of her husband.

“The messages in the diary indicate that there was an element of mistrust and misunderstanding between husband and wife,’’ said deputy superintendent of police, Subhankar Chatterjee.

Even the family of Rumni’s former husband, Prasenjit Pal, had words of praise for her.

“She was a bubbly, jolly girl. Prasenjit and Rumni were a perfect match. They divorced by mutual consent after Rumni fell for Debangshu while shooting for Mahaprabhu,’’ said Ruma Nandy, a relative of Prasenjit, who shared close links with Rumni.

Seema Chatterjee, Rumni’s mother, told the police she will wait for the post-mortem report before deciding what she will do next. “I don’t suspect anything but I want to wait for the post-mortem,’’ she said in a written statement to the police.

A pall of gloom descended on Rajendralal Road, in Narkeldanga, where Rumni’s family lives.

Her former husband, Prasenjit, who stays close by, broke down and rushed to the hospital, from where he and other people from the locality accompanied the body to the crematorium.    

Calcutta, May 18 
After functioning out of Chatterjee International Centre for 21 years, the State Bank of India (SBI) has decided to clear out “immediately”.The bank management has informed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) that it will shift its branch out of the Chowringhee highrise “permanently”, over the next fortnight.

Following the accident on May 15, in which a concrete slab came crashing down from the sixth floor, killing one and injuring three, SBI has decided to leave, “irrespective of what the CMC’s future plans are regarding the building”. Incidentally, the five-member expert committee, which inspected the building on Thursday, found it “structurally sound”.

SBI has occupied 39,000 sq ft space on the building’s ground, mezzanine and first floor from 1979. About 350 officers, along with clerical staff of the bank, work out of here.

The decision to shift the Overseas branch of SBI to the Jeevan Deep office — lying vacant since the bank’s local head office moved to Strand Road a few months ago — was taken at a meeting attended by chief general manager S.K. Gupta, local officials, SBI unions and CMC representatives.

A senior official of the bank said: “The CMC has slapped a notice that the premises must be vacated but no deadline has been given. The other tenants can ignore this order, but being a public sector bank, such an attitude is not expected of us. Thus, the management has taken the decision in the best interests of our staff and customers.”

The officer-in-charge of the premises, G. Chongdar, said the bank paid Rs 7.5 lakh per month as rent and has suffered constant problems over “garbage not being cleaned” and “chunks of concrete” coming hurtling down, endangering the staff. SBI will shortly notify the Calcutta Police and its private and public sector customers, apologising for the inconvenience caused.

“By our estimate, about 4,000 people work in this building and it has about 20,000 visitors a day. It is a pretty difficult decision to shift and involves a huge amount of logistics, But we have no choice,” said a bank official.

The bank needs two weekends to shift out, as it has applied to the RBI for permission and also because the management does not want to disrupt services.

The premises houses the Asian Union Clearing Link Office, which involves exports business with six countries and three other major business divisions.    

Calcutta, May 18 
Desperate to get out of town, but “busy” husband has neither the time nor the inclination to travel? Don’t worry, just go knocking on the door of Anandadhara.

Of women, by women, for women — that sums up the travel agency at Jodhpur Park, run by two women. Says Nupur Menon, one of the partners: “My husband was in the army, so he had no time for me. He has also travelled so much that every time I wanted to take a trip to some forest resort or hill station, he would shoot down the idea. This got me thinking and finally spurred me on to open up Anandadhara, a travel agency exclusively for women, in 1998.”

The other partner, Godhuli Banerjee, a travel freak herself, is currently in Simla with friends and clients. Amrita, her daughter, has no problems with mom on the move: “When she is out on a trip with her clients, we manage the household work but it hardly affects our daily routine.”

Similarly, when Nupur Menon is out “on tour”, the house is managed by her husband and son.

Anandadhara has conducted five tours till date — to Betla, Santiniketan, Vaishno Devi, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. “We accommodate a maximum of 15 women so that we can give individual attention to all of them. We are gearing up for our next trip to Yangon in October, for which four women are joining us from Delhi,” says Menon.

The average age of the clientele varies between 40 to 65 years. For most, it’s a chance to travel and chase away those mid-life blues.

Chandrima Sood, who has been on more than one trip, says: “My husband is a sales director in a company and is always on tour. He has no time to take me out. I am glad that I found Anandadhara.”

“We can rely on Anandadhara. They are very responsible and take personal care,” adds 65-year-old Ila Ghosh.

The unique concept has clearly caught on. “We try to give exclusive packages to our clients, so our charges are a bit higher than the normal operators. Three meetings are held before the trip so that we get to know each other better. All this adds up to tours filled with laughter and some memorable moments,” says Menon.    

Calcutta, May 18 
Peak-hour traffic came to a standstill on Deshapran Sashmal Road for more than two hours on Thursday morning when autorickshaw-drivers put up a road blockade in front of the Tollygunge Metro station.

The auto-drivers were protesting “police atrocities” on them over parking. Scores of autorickshaws are usually parked opposite the Tollygunge Metro station, fender-to-fender, which, the police maintain, is completely illegal.

The South 24-Parganas police decided to crack down on this illegal parking racket on Thursday morning and Madan Das, traffic constable of Jadavpur police station, started pulling up autorickshaw-drivers around 9.30 am.

The third driver he sought to prosecute happened to be Chandan Das, leader of the Citu-affiliated union, who refused to be booked, leading to a heated argument. Other drivers joined the fray as a scuffle ensued with the police personnel.

Said Subhankar Chatterjee, DSP: “These autorickshaws have been violating rules for a long time in various parts of south Calcutta, disrupting traffic and causing immense inconvenience to the public. So we had to do something to rein them in.” As matters took an ugly turn, the police sought reinforcements from Jadavpur PS.

However, a constable, who was rushing to the spot after receiving the wireless message, was beaten up by another group of autorickshaw-drivers on Prince Anwar Shah Road. After this, more than 100 drivers squatted on Deshapran Sashmal Road, blocking traffic for more than two hours. They alleged the police often resorted to “extortion” in the name of “disciplining” the drivers.

The blockade was lifted only with the intervention of senior police officers, who arrived on the scene around 11.30. The two-hour impasse spelt agony for the commuters during rush hour, as the autorickshaws ferry Metro passengers to and from places like Gariahat, Garia, Haridevpur, Behala and a host of fringe areas in the south.

DSP Chatterjee later said: “We plan to keep a strict vigil outside the Tollygunge Metro station to ensure that autos don’t flout parking norms and cause inconvenience to commuters. This is an important intersection and must be kept free.”    

Calcutta, May 18 
Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) commissioner Asim Barman was given an extension of another year in office on Thursday.

This puts Barman, who had recently sought a transfer out of the CMC, in a position to become the longest-serving city commissioner, after having taken over the reins in 1994. Binay Kumar Sen had held the chair for seven years from 1952.

Barman’s second extension was ceremonially approved by Governor Viren Shah on Wednesday. A commissioner is appointed for a term of five years in the CMC. But there is a provision in the CMC Act of1980 for an extension by a year up to a maximum period of five years.

Barman, an acknowledged architect of civic reforms in the city, was scheduled to leave the CMC by mid-June, with the civic polls slated for June 18.

Till the other day, there was speculation in CMC circles as to who would abdicate authority first: mayor Prasanta Chatterjee or commissioner Asim Barman.

While the mayor had expressed the desire to hand over charge in the presence of Barman, the municipal commissioner had said he wanted to leave the organisation with the Left Front still in charge.

With the ruling Left under siege from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, there is a large question mark over the return of the Marxists to the CMC.

But with the much-touted mahajot falling through and internal bickerings breaking out within the Trinamul, following Wednesday’s announcement of candidates for the civic polls, the CPM-led Front has been quick to bounce back and play a vital card by extending Barman’s tenure at the top.

“Barman’s extension gives out a clear message that the Left Front is committed to the city’s development,” said a leader of the CPM’s Calcutta district committee.

Senior officers in the CMC welcomed the commissioner’s extension, especially as a huge amount of funds for various development projects is slated to flow in from international funding agencies soon.    

Jorhat, May 18 
Two United Peoples’ Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) militants were killed in an encounter with the police at Bogamati under Bokajan police station in Karbi Anglong today.

The militants are yet to be identified. A pistol, several rounds of AK-47 bullets and incriminating documents were recovered.

The UPDS, a joint organisation of the Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) and the Karbi Peoples’ Front (KPF), has carried out several massacres in the district over the past couple of months.

Three lynched: Irate villagers of Cachar district lynched three activists of the Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front at Lalkhal bustee, 35 km from here, last night, reports our Silchar correspondent. The militants were identified as Prabir Das (29), self-styled commander-in-chief of the outfit, Benu Das (28) and Bishal Roy (19).

Police said the trio raided a Santhal farmer, Dhanantari Majhi’s residence at Lalkhal basti and demanded cash and ornaments. Sources said Majhi raised an alarm following the raid and alerted neighbours who rushed to his aid. The villagers overpowered the rebels and beat them up. All three died while they were being taken to a health clinic.    

Imphal, May 18 
Six People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak militants were today killed and an Assam Rifles junior commissioned officer injured in a three-hour gunbattle in the Wangkhei area of this capital town.

The encounter took place after police and Assam Rifles personnel stormed two buildings where the militants were taking shelter.

Four Japanese nationals who are in the state for a sericulture project had moved into one of the buildings recently. However, all of them were away when the encounter took place.

Six persons, including a father-son duo held captive by the rebels, were rescued unharmed from the building.

Based on intelligence information, Assam Rifles and police commandos were deployed in the Wangkhei area at 11 am. Police commandos initially tried to storm the building rented by the Japanese nationals, but were fired upon by the militants.

Reinforcements were rushed to the area at 1 pm, following which all escape routes were sealed. Two of the militants did escape from the building, but were forced to enter a nearby house when the security personnel opened fire.

While the police commandos surrounded the house from all sides, an Assam Rifles column led by a captain stormed it and shot dead the two militants.

Police officials even telephoned the militants to enquire whether the foreigners were in their custody. When the rebels replied in the affirmative, the police offered them the option of surrendering in return for releasing the Japanese nationals.

However, the rebels said they would surrender only in the presence of journalists and representatives of Meira Paibis (women’s groups).

Security personnel finally stormed the building and killed the four rebels after being convinced that the Japanese nationals were not there.    


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