Cop sets wife ablaze over affair
Kidnapper traced after repeated ransom calls
Day II of rally raj cripples traffic
State buckles under zoology demand
Salt Lake phone system collapse
Twin for VIP Road in a year’s time
A new element of levity in his miniatures
From the land of the sand dunes, enter the matriarchs
M-guru treads Gandhi path for Amartya model
Liberty light for Myanmarese

 
 
COP SETS WIFE ABLAZE OVER AFFAIR 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
A policeman was arrested on Wednesday after he stripped and burnt his wife to death for objecting to his affair with their son’s mother-in-law.

Around 8 pm on Tuesday night, Chandana Mukherjee, 38, ran down the road, a human torch screaming for help, at Ashokenagar, on the northern fringes of Calcutta. She soon collapsed, and later died on the way to R.G. Kar Hospital.

Jyotiprakash Mukherjee, Calcutta Police sub-inspector, was arrested on charges of “burning his wife to death” and remanded in jail custody. Police said Tuesday’s horrific incident was sparked by “a massive row” between Jyotiprakash and Chandana. Juthika Das, the 18-year-old domestic help of the Mukherjees, witnessed the entire episode and narrated it to the investigating officers of Baigachi police station.

She said Jyotiprakash, a “short-tempered man”, first slapped Chandana and pinned her to the ground. He then started stripping her. “I saw didi crying loudly, lying on the floor... Dadababu shouted at me to leave the room. I fled to the ground-floor balcony,” recalled Juthika.

Jyotiprakash then dragged his wife into the storeroom and bolted it from inside. “I could hear didi screaming wildly. When I returned to the drawing room, I saw her in flames, running out of the main door, accusing her husband of having burnt her,” said Juthika.

Tapan Banerjee, a neighbour, recalled the sight he will never forget: “She was engulfed in flames, running down the streets shouting madly. Then, she collapsed on the ground. A few of us managed to get a blanket, wrap her in it and rush her to the hospital.”

At the Habra hospital, the doctors urged that she be shifted to a city hospital “at once”. But Chandana succumbed to her injuries on the way. As news of Chandana’s murder spread, neighbours started gathering in front of the Mukherjees’ two-storeyed house. The crowd grew to over a thousand, baying for the policeman’s blood.

On hearing about the incident, officers from Baigachi police station rushed to the spot. The mob gheraoed the policemen, demanding that Mukherjee be handed over to them. The cops took Mukherjee in custody and left for the thana.

According to deputy commissioner of police Narayan Ghosh, sub-inspector Joyprakash Mukherjee had joined the force in 1986 and is posted in the Lalbazar motor vehicles department. He will soon be suspended. “We will first conduct an inquiry into whether he had an extra-marital affair. If that is confirmed, he will be sacked from service on moral grounds,” explained Ghosh.

The police have also initiated a probe against son Ritesh, who got married a year ago. “Ritesh told us that his mother died when their cooking stove exploded. But we found the stove intact. Ritesh, who runs a paint shop near Golbazar market, may be arrested on charges of misleading the police,” said an investigating officer.

Preliminary investigations revealed that Ritesh’s wife was present in the first-floor bedroom when her mother-in-law was being set ablaze. “But neither did she try to rescue Chandana nor did she inform the police or the neighbours,” said an officer.

“All the neighbours spoke of an illicit relationship between Jyotiprakash and Ritesh’s mother-in-law,” he added.    


 
 
KIDNAPPER TRACED AFTER REPEATED RANSOM CALLS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Gangster smart; police smarter.

Tollygunge criminal Bille thought he had the case sewn up. The plan to extort Rs 2 lakh as ransom from marble dealer Sanjay Kabra had been gone over many times with members of his gang. Even the ransom calls to Kabra had been made. It was now only a question of time before the money arrived.

But Bille and his gang had not bargained for a bit of enterprise on the part of the policemen.

Bille and his associates, Nirmal Kundu and Sandeep Mahato, had been targetting Kabra for quite some time. But it was only after last month’s arrest of Tollygunge don Sukhdev Singh — a powerful rival of the Bille gang — that the trio decided to strike.

Shifting from one public call office to another, Bille repeatedly called up Kabra at home since Sunday, demanding the ransom. The deadline: Thursday. Bille told him unless the money was paid, he would be shot dead.

“We do not believe in kidnapping people; we believe in eliminating those who fail to meet our demands,” Bille told him.

The petrified businessman immediately called up Charu Market and New Alipore police stations.

Efforts to trace Bille with a caller line identification machine failed because of the criminals’ “shifting strategy”. But luck favoured the policemen on Tuesday.

Confident that the money was only a few hours away, Bille’s men called up Kabra thrice from one particular PCO on Deshapran Sashmal Road. While Kabra engaged them in a long conversation, the police managed to trace the PCO. Bille’s men, meanwhile, had told Kabra that they would call him again at 9 at night for the “final instructions”.

This time, the police adopted a new strategy and then hoped that luck would help them through. A few of them, dressed as fruitsellers, sat outside the PCO with their baskets, carefully watching the numbers being dialled on the display board, clearly visible from where they were sitting.

Shortly after 9 pm, a young man entered the booth and as he dialled, Kabra’s telephone number started appearing on the board. The policemen in disguise pounced on him and after “sustained interrogation”, found out where gang leader Bille was hiding.

Well after midnight, they swooped down on a half-constructed house on K.B. Road, where a sleeping Bille was picked up without any resistance.    


 
 
DAY II OF RALLY RAJ CRIPPLES TRAFFIC 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Traffic in the city came to a standstill for the second consecutive day on Wednesday when at least four organisations took out processions, blocking most of the major thoroughfares. Around 5,500 traffic police were deployed on special duty, yet traffic came to a standstill for hours together on Bentinck Street, Vivekananda Road, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Beadon Street and Bidhan Sarani.

On Tuesday, there were traffic snarls for hours in south and north Calcutta as Citu, CPM’s labour wing, called a meeting of unorganised workers on Amherst Street. Consequently, hundreds of commuters got stranded.

On Wednesday, thousands of state employees owing allegiance to the CPM-controlled Coordination Committee converged on Shahid Minar. Although the Coordination Committee claimed they had taken half-a-day’s casual leave, a cross-section of the rallyists admitted that most of them joined the rally straight from their respective offices in the districts

The situation was worst in north Calcutta, where traffic was diverted from almost all major roads as the procession inched towards Shahid Minar.

Commuters had a difficult time reaching their workplace for the second consecutive day.

Nearly 15,000 supporters of the state Coordination Committee marched from Howrah and Sealdah stations. They were protesting the recent price hike and the Centre’s privatisation policy. Speakers included state land and land reforms minister Surya Kanta Mishra and CPM leader Sukomal Sen.

Members of the Bank Employees’ Federation, who took out a number of processions and met at India Exchange Place, compounded the commuters’ problems. Banks were closed as 3,000 bank employees protested the government’s move to privatise financial institutions.

Employees of the State Electricity Board, too, took out a procession from Subodh Mullick Square around 11 am. It ended near Shyambazar.

Kanti Ganguly, leader of the opposition of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, joined forces by taking out a procession of around 350 people from Taltala to collect funds for flood victims.

The procession, which started at Taltala around 11.30 am, terminated at Chitpore after passing through Bowbazar, Jorasanko and Jorabagan.    


 
 
STATE BUCKLES UNDER ZOOLOGY DEMAND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Bowing under pressure from students, the government on Wednesday announced that a post-graduate course in zoology will be opened at Dinabandhu Andrews College to accommodate some first-class graduates who have been refused admission to Calcutta University’s M.Sc (zoology) course this year because of a dearth of seats.

Forty students of different CU-affiliated colleges in the city, who have graduated this year with first-class marks, started an indefinite sit-in at CU a few days ago to protest the university’s failure to accommodate them in its post-graduate courses.

The students had met finance minister Asim Dasgupta and higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and urged them to look into the matter.

Dinabandhu Andrews College will be the second under-graduate college in the city to start post-graduate classes this year. The government has introduced the M.Sc (zoology) course in Maulana Azad College this year.

Concerned at the students’ complaint, the higher education department on Wednesday directed the CU authorities immediately to inspect the existing infrastructural facilities in the college and take appropriate measures to start the course there as early as possible.

“We have just received the government order. We will first place the matter before the university’s Syndicate for discussion. Then, we shall proceed,” said Ashish Kumar Banerjee, CU vice-chancellor. The issue will be placed at the Syndicate meeting next week.

Of the 40 students who did not get seats, some have been already accommodated at Kalyani University and Maulana Azad College. The remaining few will be accommodated at Dinabandhu Andrews College, government sources said.

Considering the urgent need to begin the course, the finance department on Tuesday sanctioned three full-time teaching posts in zoology for Dinabandhu Andrews College. The department assured the college of funds for three part-time teachers.

Education department sources said the issue was taken up seriously by the CPM-dominated Siksha Ganatantrikaran Sangstha, an organisation of teachers and employees of state-funded colleges and universities in the state. The government took action on starting the course after a strong demand from the organisation, the sources said.

“It would have been a shame for the entire state if students holding first class under-graduate degrees are not given a chance to pursue higher studies. We are grateful to the government for responding to our appeal,” said Shyamapada Pal, a senior member of the organisation.    


 
 
SALT LAKE PHONE SYSTEM COLLAPSE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
More than 25,000 telephone lines in Salt Lake went dead on Wednesday evening due to a technical fault at the local exchange. A senior telecom department officer of Bidhannagar exchange said the lines went dead at around 2.30 pm. Engineers were deployed immediately to restore the lines. A majority of the lines were restored after three hours. Officials hoped things would return to normal by the night.

According to senior officers, technicians were installing some new facilities at the exchange when the system developed a snag. The entire circuit collapsed and telephone lines went dead. “But we managed to restore the lines soon,’’ they added.    


 
 
TWIN FOR VIP ROAD IN A YEAR’S TIME 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Late for a flight, and dreading the prospect of being stuck in a jam on VIP Road?

There’s some hope of a smoother passage to the airport soon, in the form of an alternative stretch parallel to the main road.

The proposed three-lane stretch, called the Service Road, will run to the east of VIP Road from Ultadanga to Kaikhali.

The Rs 29-crore project will be implemented by the public works department “within a year”.

A portion of the funds will be raised from promoters who have constructed buildings along the proposed road. The project will be implemented in three phases, with construction on the Ultadanga-Bangur connector likely to start from next month.

According to transport engineers, nearly 40,000 vehicles ply daily on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue (VIP Road), with the number rising rapidly. “The cars cannot accelerate due to frequent intersections and a large number of slow-moving vehicles, causing traffic snarls,” a PWD official said.

Once the Service Road is ready, almost all entry-exit points on VIP Road will be closed.

So, instead of the 20 existing intersections, there will be only four — at Lake Town, Keshtopur, Baguiati, and Kaikhali.

“The Service Road will take a substantial load off VIP Road and allow cars to move fast,” said PWD minister Kshiti Goswami.

The minister said there is little scope to widen VIP Road and so the Service Road is the only solution at the moment.

As far as raising funds from the promoters goes, Goswami was forthright: “Why should the government do everything alone? The beneficiaries should also contribute towards development of the area.”

At present, there are a number of half-constructed bylanes, a few buildings and some wetlands to the east of VIP Road. While the proposed road will cut across some of the wetlands, it will not displace any existing building.

The PWD officials said a “modern drainage system” will be introduced in the Lake Town-Bangur area.    


 
 
A NEW ELEMENT OF LEVITY IN HIS MINIATURES 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Paresh Maity seems to be the very embodiment of the saying: “Nothing succeeds like success.” Suave and self-confident, he is a far cry from the young art school student fresh from his hometown in Midnapore, who used to stay in a Bowbazar boarding house run by two ancient Parsi ladies.

He has been living in Delhi for the past 11 years and is in town for the opening of his exhibition at CIMA gallery on Thursday. He says he simply “camps” in Delhi, while most of the time he is travelling in Prague, south of France, Venice, Rajasthan and Orissa.

He admits readily that he prefers Delhi because “you can expose yourself easily. If you want to work, you can work. There’s nobody there to criticise you. Nobody bothers about who’s doing what.”

He has been painting continuously for the last four years and he has selected the best of the lot for Calcutta.

Rajasthan still holds him spellbound and that land is the stimulus of his current exhibition. Turbaned men and women with braided hair partially concealed by their colourful odhnis people his large canvases. The hues of gold, emeralds, sapphires and rubies glow against the mysterious darkness.

The moustachioed braves and doe-eyed beauties peer from his miniatures, too. He has conjured them up on tiny scraps of paper with sure and steady strokes of his brush.

But here they are leavened with his wit — the quizzical lines seem to be taking a dig at the very tradition of romance and chivalry they glorify. “It is a very colourful land (Rajasthan) — fantastic inspiration for any creative person. It is hypnotic and eerie. At Jaisalmer, after twilight you can see the desert mile after mile. The sky turns indigo — a transparent blue. Then you suddenly see a woman in a red ghaghra or a man in white wearing a red turban.”

Nudes have made an appearance for the first time in his works. But instead of being charged with eroticism, they are curvaceous forms — bulbous breasts and buttocks — occupying a good part of the tiny space the pictures occupy. But here too the men seem to leer at a particular body part and snigger quietly. Levity is a new element Paresh has injected into his paintings.

He says though the nudes are derived from our “fascinating tradition of eroticism” here, they are more designal elements than anything else. “I don’t like very negative things. I always want to project positive things,” he explains. These are a combination of opaque and transparent watercolour which is still his “heart and soul.”

This is also his first exhibition in Calcutta where he is displaying his installations. He has carved solid man-height logs of wood into elongated faces of men and women that look quite totemic. These are placed next to a painted boat complete with fishing net and lantern and rows of earthen bowls.

Says Paresh: “They are like my paintings. The faces were elongated to give them a monumental, architectural feeling. And a boat is something never stranded — even when anchored it is always bobbing on water. I feel one should always be on the move — particularly as an artist. One should always evolve.”    


 
 
FROM THE LAND OF THE SAND DUNES, ENTER THE MATRIARCHS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
“Clinton-saab ne kaha ke aap har chunao unopposed-hi jitoge,” smiles 36-year old Shakuntala Devi as she recalls her 35-minute tryst with the “most powerful man in the world” at Naila village, in Rajasthan. The lady from Shaligrampura, in Rajasthan, who stole the show at Naila with her speech on education, reached the city on Wednesday morning.

She is part of a 27-member all-woman team from Rajasthan being hosted by Stree Shakti, a Calcutta-based NGO. These women have rewritten history in parts of rural Rajasthan by carving out a place for themselves in the male-dominated society.

Mangi Devi, leader of the team, has been selected for this year’s Dayawati Modi Stree Shakti Samman for her outstanding contribution in empowering rural women in the backward areas of Chaksu and Phagi blocks of Jaipur. She will be feted at Rotary Sadan on November 17.

Mangi Devi is accompanied by Manju Joshi, deputy director of Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society. And by Gyarsi, Bimla, Bano, Goga and Barji, who had bowled Clinton over with their song ’n dance routine.

The women, on their first visit to the city, took no time to settle in, and even presented a colourful programme for their hosts at Rajarhat.

“Language problem or cultural difference doesn’t seem to bother them, as they seem perfectly at home with the ladies of our women empowerment unit, Swayamsiddha,” observes Susmita Devi of Stree Shakti.

“I was married off at the age of 14. Domestic violence by my in-laws was an integral part of my life for six years before I finally decided to revolt against the system. And education gave me the confidence to do something on my own,” recounts 34-year-old Mangi Devi, in colourful ghagra-choli, but turban tied on forehead like a man, symbolising a significant shift in the balance of power.

Mangi Devi and her team plan to interact with some women’s organisations in the city before heading back home.    


 
 
M-GURU TREADS GANDHI PATH FOR AMARTYA MODEL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
Shyamal Datta Gupta describes himself as a “catalyst of change”. And he is convinced that change can only be brought about from the “platform of social work” with an army of students.

The Mumbai-based management professor-cum-consultant’s immediate goal: to pile pressure on the powers-that-be to implement the Amartya Sen model of development in the country. His first move: a one-day dharna at the Gandhi statue outside Maharashtra Mantralaya in January with “at least a thousand students”.

“Ever since Sen won the Nobel and politicians tripped over each other to fete him, I started talking to my students, raising awareness about how our netas would never implement his ideals of education and empowerment of women,” said the ex-student of St Xavier’s, Calcutta, born 18 days after the country won independence.

Now, feels the former district governor of Lions Club International, Bombay, and ex-president of the Indian Institute of Strategy and Leadership, the time has come for “more direct action... We cannot possibly start chucking stones at the Mantralaya, so the only path is the Gandhian one — silent protest with the support of the people,” says Datta Gupta.

For the moment, it’s management students he is reaching out to, for “they understand the language I speak, they have a broader vision and they are the future”.

Next stop, Calcutta. Armed with an “action plan to fight apathy”, he wants to tour the B-schools and connect with like-minded people. “I feel Calcutta will understand me better, as I can feel the spark there. All I have to do is ignite it,” he says.    


 
 
LIBERTY LIGHT FOR MYANMARESE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 15: 
The repatriation of nearly 60 Myanmarese fishermen, at present languishing in two Calcutta central jails, is likely to figure high when Myanmarese Vice-President General Maung Aye arrives in Delhi later this week to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Myanmar Embassy representative P.B. Chowdhury has already arrived in Delhi for the purpose, sources said on Wednesday.

While 26 of the fishermen are lodged at Alipore Central Jail, the rest are in the adjacent Presidency Jail.

The fishermen, who were arrested in 1997 from the Sunderbans under Section 14 of the Foreigners’ Act on charges of sailing in the Indian Ocean without valid documents, have been lodged in jail since last September after they were acquitted by the court.

Jail officials said on Wednesday they were released immediately after the court had acquitted them but “were left to languish as they had no takers”.

“We cannot throw them out of the jails unless the Myanmarese government takes them back,” said Ramapada Bhattacharya, Alipore Central Jail superintendent.

He said three Thai nationals, arrested along with them, were released six months ago when Thailand Embassy representatives took an initiative for their repatriation.

The fishermen were on a five-day-long hungerstrike last month, demanding early repatriation. The strike was lifted only after Myanmar Embassy representatives assured them of expediting the process.    

 

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