Defiant cops play spoilsport
Hawkers, police in pitched battle
More seats in engineering colleges
Holiday’s end in tears
Portrait of pandals as aesthetic masterpieces
Jail fast by 58 fishermen
Trader robbed at gunpoint by four youth on motorcycle
Rebels loot arms from police post in Manipur
Assam to get Rs 1.5 cr for archaeology

 
 
DEFIANT COPS PLAY SPOILSPORT 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
Two days after thumbing their noses at senior officials and carrying on with the midnight soirees in violation of all rules, the jawans of Calcutta Armed Police defied their superiors again on Friday and refused to participate in the kabaddi tournament at the Fourth Battalion grounds in Salt Lake.

Joint commissioner of police, Kiriti Sengupta, who said on Friday that an inquiry was ordered into the noise norms violation, said indisciplined policemen refused to take part in the kabaddi tournament despite their being nominated by the deputy commissioners of their units.

The defiant policemen heckled and gheraoed the joint commissioner and surrounded their senior officers. They relented only after deputy commissioner of police, Second Battalion, Harman Preet Singh, threatened to take “disciplinary action’’ against them.

The agitating policemen are members of the Calcutta Police Association. They were up in arms against senior officers for “foisting’’ the kabaddi match on them.”We are not prepared for it. The DCs are forcing us to play,’’ the policemen shouted at the top of their voices.

There was pandemonium at the Fourth Battalion ground in the afternoon just before the kabaddi tournament’s inauguration. Sengupta and Singh were gheraoed by more than 50 of their men. Calcutta Police Association general secretary Pradyut Mondal led the charge against the senior officers.

The men surrounded Kiriti Sengupta and began to heckle him. “There is no infrastructure for kabaddi in the city police units. Moreover, the players are selected unilaterally and the same policemen are asked to play football, kabaddi, kho kho. It is an absolute farce and we protest it,’’ Pradyut Mondal shouted.

Sengupta tried to reason with the protesters but failed. The impasse continued for more than an hour, after which the joint commissioner decided to crack the whip.

Harman Preet Singh whipped out a microphone and threatened “disciplinary action’’ against the defiant policemen.

“It is part of our duty and the game is being organised on the instruction of the commissioner of police. We will take strong action against men who refuse to participate,’’ he announced over the loudspeaker.

This seemed to dampen the defiance and the men returned to the field. The security control wing of the city police, however, failed to send any team.

Against this show of spirit by policemen, the pollution control board has ordered an inquiry into the late-night soiree and jatra at Alipore Bodyguard Lines. “I have sought details. We are looking into the matter,’’ said member-secretary KS Ramasubban. The city police, too, are probing whether the association had violated environment rules during the show.

Kiriti Sengupta has ordered the officer-in-charge of Watgunge police station and an inspector of the armed police to submit a report at the earliest.

Throwing all laws of the land to the wind, Calcutta Police Association had organised a musical soiree and jatra festival for three days from Monday at Alipore Bodyguard Lines, inconveniencing neighbours and patients of the two cardiac care hospitals in the vicinity.    


 
 
HAWKERS, POLICE IN PITCHED BATTLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
Violence erupted in the Kalakar Street area of central Calcutta on Friday evening after evicted hawkers took to the streets, fighting a pitched battle with the police. Six policemen and 10 hawkers were injured in the melee. Six persons were arrested.

Police said the hawkers started hurling brickbats when a force from Posta police station, along with Calcutta Municipal Corporation staff, arrived to evict them from the pavements of Kalakar Street.

Stones, soda-water bottles and other missiles were pelted at the police, who initially beat a hasty retreat, but later regrouped to chase the hawkers with lathis.

According to the Lalbazar control room, the team of police officers and CMC personnel reached the site to launch the eviction drive at 8 pm.

As the hawkers refused to budge, an altercation ensued with the police. Tension mounted as the agitated hawkers readied for a confrontation.

Suddenly, stones started raining on the police force and some of the hawkers even hit a constable.

Recovering from the shock of the sudden attack, the police reacted sharply, going after the hawkers waving their lathis.

It was cat-and-mouse as the hawkers dispersed momentarily, only to strike again, with bottles of aerated water picked up from soft drink kiosks in the vicinity.

The pitched battle lasted for about half an hour, after which the hawkers gradually retreated.

In another incident, hawkers in Gariahat blocked the four-point crossing to protest the police drive against them before the Pujas. They blocked the busy intersection for more than an hour.    


 
 
MORE SEATS IN ENGINEERING COLLEGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
Under pressure from the Bengal government, the All-India Council of Technical Education has approved the addition of 1,000 seats in the 29 engineering colleges in Calcutta and in the districts from the current session.

Whipped into action by the rising demand among students for courses in information technology, computer science, electronics and communication engineering, the government had been pursuing the council to allow engineering colleges to increase the number of seats.

Another driving force was the exodus of a large number of meritorious students from the city to other states to study engineering courses.

After the council approval, the number of engineering seats has gone up to 6,000.

The sudden directive, however, has put the state joint entrance examination (JEE) board, as well as students, in a quandary, as admissions to engineering courses are over. All colleges began first-year classes in August. “We had requested the council to send its approval earlier, when classes had not begun. But the order reached the government this month,” said Satyasadhan Chakraborty, higher education department minister.

“Now that we’ve got the approval, the joint entrance board has been asked to conduct fresh counselling. We are trying to complete the counselling as early as possible so that students are not inconvenienced,” Chakraborty added.

Admissions to engineering colleges are decided in a joint entrance examination conducted by a government-controlled board.

After announcing the results in July this year, the board completed counselling students on the basis of the JEE merit list, following which admissions were finalised.

Amal Jyoti Sengupta, vice- chancellor of Shibpur Bengal Engineering College and chairman of the state joint entrance board, said: “We will conduct the counselling all over again.” He said the first phase of recounselling be held at the Institute of Jute Technology, Ballygunge Circular Road, on October 27. Those with ranks between 1 and 7,000 on the joint entrance merit list will be eligible to attend the recounselling sessions.

Many students have, however, already paid huge fees to get admission to private colleges. “Now that the number of seats in information technology and computer science has increased in institutions like Jadavpur University and Shibpur BE College, we would like to give it a try,” said first-year students of a private engineering college.    


 
 
HOLIDAY’S END IN TEARS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
It was an extremely sad return from Puja vacations for four families of Calcutta. Forlorn faces greeted the bodies of holiday-makers whom fate had snatched in accidents in distant lands.

A special bogey of the Jodhpur Express arrived at Howrah station early on Friday with 31 traumatised and weary travellers. For three others of the same group, this was the last journey home.

A similar pall of gloom descended a few hours later, this time at the airport, when the flight from Bagdogra brought in a coffin containing the remains of 30-year-old civil engineer Kaushik Das, who died in the Sikkim hills on Wednesday.

Sukla Mukherjee, 45, and Sankar Haldar, 42, of Behala and Sakil Ansari Khan, 38, of Park Circus, died on Tuesday when the luxury bus in which the group was travelling fell into a ditch 12 km off Jaisalmer.

All the survivors were injured, but six had to be rushed to hospitals immediately on arrival here, as their wounds were serious and needed specialised treatment. While five of the travellers were admitted to SSKM Hospital, the sixth was taken to Sri Krishna Nursing Home in Behala.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who is in Delhi, had advised her additional private secretary, Gautam Basu, to accompany the unfortunate tourists to see that there were no problems.

“It’s a sad incident. I hope the injured will get well soon,” he said as he stepped off the train at 4.35 am, five minutes before schedule.

Hundreds of relatives thronged the platform an hour before daybreak to receive their kith and kin at the station. Also waiting were ambulances from almost all the major hospitals of the city, assigned by the state government to transfer the injured to wards kept at the ready. A van from the Hindu Satkar Samity was present to transport the coffins.

“Please don’t ask me about it,” said Tarunima Debnath as she boarded an ambulance, her head swathed in bandages. Her reaction reflected the state of shock the travellers were in, even three days after the mishap.

But for 25-year-old Paromita Das, the shock and grief was numbing. Her husband of just six months had been snatched away during their honeymoon in north Sikkim.    


 
 
PORTRAIT OF PANDALS AS AESTHETIC MASTERPIECES 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
On the night of ashtami, a foreigner in trousers and kurtawith a jhola slung on his shoulder was frantically sketching in front of a puja pandal at Gosaipara, in north Calcutta. His eyes darted up and down the huge structure of bamboo and woodwork as he drew with a ball-point pen.

On navami evening, he was near the Tollygunge Metro Rail station at another pandal. This time, sketchbook in hand, he was studying the interior and taking down notes. He was enthralled by what the organisers had recreated. It was Nischindipur — Apu’s village — immortalised by Satyajit Ray in Pather Panchali.

Thirty-four-year-old Laureant Fournier, a student of the School of Architecture of Paris-Belleville, is studying how Durga puja pandals change the face of Calcutta every year. “My research involves how the massive bamboo and wood structures transform Calcutta for a week... Most of these pandals do not even follow conventional architecture or engineering skills,” said Fournier, rummaging through photographs of at least a hundred pandals. He is bewitched by the sight of Calcutta streets bathed in dazzling illumination. “Known streets can’t be recognised sometimes. Every pandal gives a special meaning to the street it is erected on,” he said.

The Frenchman’s curiosity for Asia and, particularly, Calcutta was kindled during his trip to Cambodia in 1992 to study the development of Phnom Penh and later in 1993 when he met another researcher, Pierre Coute, who was then doing a work on Calcutta.

Fournier visited Calcutta for the first time in 1993 to study the rajbaris and other 19th Century houses. He returned to Calcutta, but as a tourist, in 1998. Five weeks ago, Fournier arrived again and chose the pandals. “I find that during the Durga puja, the perception of a public place is completely changed in Calcutta.” In the week of the Pujas, Fournier visited at least 40 pandals, choosing mostly the medium and small.

“The big pujas, like Mohammad Ali Park or Santosh Mitra Square, have huge space and create and recreate whatever they feel like. But I was astonished to find how the smaller ones erected aesthetic masterpieces with bamboo, wood, jute and cloth at street-corners conforming to a unique sense of balance and symmetry,” he said, leafing through his drawing book.

“This is a bright example of maximum architectural expression with minimum resources. The street is so beautifully utilised,” he exclaimed, pointing at a sketch of a pandal on Pathuriaghata Street, near Ganesh Talkies.

On B.K. Pal Avenue, Fournier was surprised to find how painstakingly the organisers recreated a village hut and placed an old-fashioned idol inside. Fournier, however, is not sure what conclusion to draw in the thesis he is expected to submit at the end of the year.

“There are too many questions I want the answers to. Why is this festival, held on a mammoth scale, temporary? What is more intriguing is, why do they put so much labour behind something which is ultimately destroyed with the idol thrown into the water ?” he said.

Fournier, however, is not very impressed with the contemporary architecture he sees in Calcutta. He thinks there is more creative thought behind puja pandals. “Why can’t the architects reach the same level of art and creativity?” he asked.    


 
 
JAIL FAST BY 58 FISHERMEN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
Shaken by the five-day hungerstrike by 58 Myanmarese fishermen, the state prisons directorate has asked superintendents of the two central jails at Alipore to expedite release of those serving life terms and lodged for over 20 years.

A senior jail official said the government’s directive, issued to Presidency Jail and Alipore Central Jail during the day, is aimed at discouraging life convicts from toeing the fishermen’s line, demanding early release.

Jails and social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury has convened a meeting early next week to discuss the issue. He said over 200 convicts serving life at the two central jails, have completed 20 years in jail and some have moved court demanding early release.

The Myanmarese fishermen called off their hungerstrike only late on Friday, following the intervention of inspector-general of prisons Balkar Singh and a representative from the Myanmarese embassy. They were arrested in 1997 from the Sunderbans under Section 14 of the Foreigners’ Act for sailing in the Indian Ocean without valid documents.

Jail sources said DIG (prisons) P.D. Mondal had to rush to the two jails along with embassy representative P.B. Chowdhury when other prisoners threatened to join the agitation. At least seven prisoners fell sick during the fast.

“The Myanmarese climbed down only after they were assured of early release,” said Mondal. The fishermen had gone on fast on a similar demand last year. The government is faced with a tricky situation, with the Myanmarese fishermen who were acquitted and ordered to be repatriated by the court. “We cannot just throw them out until they are taken back by Myanmar,” Mondal added.

Three Thai nationals, arrested along with the Myanmarese, were released six months ago after the Thai embassy took the initiative for their repatriation.    


 
 
TRADER ROBBED AT GUNPOINT BY FOUR YOUTH ON MOTORCYCLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 20: 
In a daring daylight dacoity, four armed miscreants looted Rs 2.72 lakh at gunpoint from a city businessman on Saila Mukherjee Road, in Golabari, 10 km from Howrah city.

The police said the incident occurred around 10 am, when Rakesh Mishra, a cloth merchant with a gaddi in north Calcutta’s Chitpore area, was going to a bank near his residence in Golabari to deposit the amount.

One member of the gang struck up a conversation with Mishra. The three others arrived on a motorcycle, surrounded him and snatched the leather bag containing the money.

Mishra lodged an FIR with Golabari police station. No one was, however, arrested.

n Garia robbery: In a similar incident in Calcutta, four armed youth snatched Rs 1 lakh from a businessman at Garia on Friday. Police said the trader was robbed while returning home with the money, which he had drawn from the local branch of State Bank of India. No arrests were made.    


 
 
REBELS LOOT ARMS FROM POLICE POST IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Oct. 20: 
Militants looted arms and ammunition from the Jiribam police station near the Manipur-Assam border today.

The rebels “completely” overpowered the policemen guarding the police station and took away 36 weapons, sources said.

Their action was in retaliation to the state police crackdown on insurgents in Imphal yesterday following a decision by the Nipamacha Singh-led United Front government, the sources added.

The state police is yet to issue an official statement on the incident. No senior officer was available for comment as they were attending a high-level security meeting.

Sources said over 40 militants, brandishing sophisticated weapons and wearing olive green fatigues, came to the Jiribam police station at 3.40 pm in a Maruti Gypsy and a truck.

They “overpowered” the sentry on guard duty and other policemen without firing a single shot. The militants snatched the arms and ammunition in the station and fired in the air before leaving the place. They also destroyed the police radio set, the sources added.

Reports in Imphal said the sentry thought the green uniform-clad militants were Indian Reserve Battalion personnel. Hence, he allowed them to enter the station.

The weapons include 14 rifles, twelve self-loading rifles, one stengun, three pistols, four revolvers, two muskets and two tear-gas guns. A large quantity of ammunition was also taken away by the militants, the sources said.

As per the new policy of the state police, any personnel responsible for losing his weapon will face “dismissal from service” as minimum punishment.

Sources said the total police strength in the Jiribam subdivision area was around 80. However the personnel were posted in three different places. The Jiribam police station, where most of the weapons are kept, was guarded by nearly 20 personnel.    


 
 
ASSAM TO GET RS 1.5 CR FOR ARCHAEOLOGY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Oct. 20: 
The Centre has earmarked Rs 1.5 crore for archaeology research in Assam. Eminent archaeologist M.K. Dhavelkar of Poona University disclosed this at the three-day international conference on Brahmaputra civilisation here today.

Dhavelkar, who played a crucial role in Ambari excavations in the city, said the money would be disbursed after proposals are received from the state government. Dhavelkar was in New Delhi recently to attend a meeting of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly Ganesh Kutum said archaeological documentation of Assam and the Northeast was still at a peripheral stage.

“Archaeological documentation is still in its infancy in Assam, resulting in it not finding place in the authorised versions of archaeology and ancient history except for the plotting of the medieval kingdom of Kamarupa,” he added.

Governor Lt. Gen. (retd.) S.K. Sinha said historians have neglected Assam despite the existence of Brahmaputra civilisation. Stating that Ambari excavations were a “revolution”, Sinha said artefacts found during the excavations indicated that the eastern part of the silk route, which was one of the most flourishing trade circuits, passed through the region.

Coins and pottery found during excavations have pointed to Roman influence on the Brahmaputra civilisation.

“The Brahmaputra civilisation was a part of the Indo-Aryan civilisation,” the Governor added.

The conference, organised by the Brahmaputra Civilisation Research Society, is being attended by nearly 200 delegates from various parts of the country.

Nearly 80 topics on Brahmaputra civilisation as well as Srimanta Sankaradeva will be discussed.

Scholars will throw light on the geographical and ecological background of the Brahmaputra civilisation comprising economy, architecture and its relations with other powers.

Four eminent scholars — M.K. Dhavelkar, L.P. Vyas, S. Gope and Maheswar Neog (posthumously) — were awarded the Srimanta Sankaradeva Samman for their contribution.

Others who spoke on the occasion included D. Pathak, former Chief Justice of the Gauhati and Orissa High Court, Kamaleswar Bora, former vice-chancellor of Dibrugarh University and vice-chancellor of Gauhati University H.L. Duarah.

The conference will be held at District Library, Kanaklal Barua auditorium, Lakhiram Barua Sadan and the A.C. Dutta auditorium (Cotton College).

Tea garden owner killed

The owner of a small tea garden, Suresh Modi, was shot dead by suspected United Liberation Front of Asom militants inside Misimikota tea estate in Talap area under Doomdooma police station in Tinsukia district at 2 pm today, reports our Jorhat correspondent. Police said two youth were hiding in the tea bushes and opened fire when Modi passed by on his motorcycle. He died on the spot.    
 

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