Boy dies trying to save parents
Finger on trigger in Kashmir hotspots
Lone voice of welcome in jihad cry
Quota for poor in private schools
Hrithik pits Buddha against Subhas
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
In torn jeans and dirty vests, the gang fanned out to cover all escape routes. Deftly, they snipped off the telephone lines and the electric connection to the streetlamps.

It was 2.35 in the morning. Prising open a thick concrete slab from a manhole, they smashed open the door of a house and ran riot.

Then they turned to another house very close by in the Kasba neighbourhood. It belonged to Shyamal Kanti Ghosh.

With the same concrete slab, they broke down the door. Shyamal, his wife Jonaki and their college-going son Kaustuv Kanti woke up in shock when about seven youths stormed into the second floor brandishing kukris and guns.

They tied Shyamal’s hands and kept hitting him and Jonaki with the butts of their guns, mouthing obscenities.

It was too much for the 19-year-old Kaustuv. Unable to bear his parents’ torture, he tried to snatch the gun away from one of the dacoit’s hands.

The dacoit responded in cold blood. “They shot him through the chest and continued ransacking,” a sobbing Jonaki said.

Kaustuv bled to death as his mother watched helplessly. “I requested them to let us take my son to hospital but they did not listen. Kaustuv lay bleeding on the floor, my husband unconscious from the beating, but they continued their looting,” Jonaki said.

Terrorised residents of the area, Uttar Purbachal, milled about the scene of crime after daybreak. “I came out of my house on hearing the cries for help, but a gun-wielding youth shoved me inside threatening that he would shoot me if I came out,” said Tara Rani Das, who lives just across the Deb residence.

“We saw the entire episode happen in front of our eyes but were helpless as the dacoits were heavily armed and determined,” said Tapas Majumdar, a homeopath who lives between the Deb and Ghosh residences.

Kaustuv, who was a student of the Institute of Electronics Management in Salt Lake, was pronounced dead at the Ramakrishna Mission Seba Pratisthan Hospital.

Kaustuv’s elder brother, a civil engineering graduate of Jadavpur University, is studying in Canada on a scholarship.

The house on which the dacoits struck first belonged to A.K. Deb, a deputy manager with the State Bank of India. Some of them had kept a watch outside, as the others had ransacked the house.

Deb and his family, from whom the dacoits took away money and ornaments recently brought over for a relative’s wedding, survived because they did not protest.

“I realised after a while that it was useless trying to plead. They were all healthy young men. They were using filthy language,” Deb said. “I was there with my wife and two school-going children. I knew it was pointless trying to protest,” he added.

The incident comes barely two weeks after a similar raid in nearby Rajdanga. In another almost identical strike two months ago in Tollygunge’s Regent Park area, dacoits had killed a woman who had tried to save her son. All three areas fall within chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s constituency, Jadavpur.

Bhattacharjee, while condemning the incident, said the events within his constituency were being “highlighted by the press.” He said the police would look into the matter.

Uttar Purbachal is accessible from many sides: the Rashbehari Connector opposite the Siemens building near Ruby General Hospital, as well as the Garia connector and Dhakuria and Salimpur.

The police top brass descended on the area today. The police also sent a CID team to probe the spate of dacoities across the Jadavpur constituency. Superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal said a “special task force” would be set up to beef up security in the area.    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
Security forces will not lay down arms or suspend surveillance operations during the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir announced yesterday.

Home minister L.K. Advani said the ceasefire would not be applicable along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border, indicating that the forces would be vigilant against infiltration and exfiltration.

Advani explained why the government had chosen this point in time for the ceasefire. “The government felt the security forces had reached a point after October where they had the upper hand. So, it was felt that a move of this kind, specifically related to Ramzan, would give the right message and establish our credentials as a government wanting to usher in peace.”

The home minister said the decision to declare the ceasefire was a “well-considered move by the Centre, state government and the security forces”. He was “hopeful of an appropriate response”.

Advani hinted that the government’s offer was an effort to convince the international community and the minorities that New Delhi’s objective was to bring peace. “It would convey that we are keen to see this region gets a respite,” he said.

He acknowledged that the last peace effort initiated by the Hizb-ul Mujahideen in July was shortlived, but felt that it “had strengthened the longing for peace among the people”.

The ceasefire offer was discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), he said.

Government sources said the decision at Friday’s CCS, though unanimous, was not without differences on the approach to a government-sponsored ceasefire and the attendant risks.

For one thing, the ceasefire declaration was extended to all militant groups, including foreign mercenaries with whom the government had earlier said there could be no talks.

But the perceived strategic impact of a Ramzan ceasefire outweighed other considerations. “Militant organisations would think twice before resorting to violence during the holy month,” a senior official said.

In the higher echelons of the Vajpayee administration, there are doubts about how successful the ceasefire would be.

Home ministry officials will soon convene a meeting of representatives of the Srinagar-based Unified Headquarters on how to implement the ceasefire in the event of a positive response from any militant group.    

New Delhi & Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
With fresh cries of jihad, militant groups in Pakistan today rejected the Vajpayee government’s proposal of a Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir.

But the All-Party Hurriyat Conference kept its options open. Senior leader Abdul Ghani Lone said militants should accept the offer as rejecting it could prove “dangerous” for the state.

“We must accept it as there is danger in rejecting it,” Lone told a television news channel from Islamabad, where he hosted a wedding reception for his son Sajjad. The Hurriyat is meeting tomorrow in Srinagar to discuss the call to hold fire.

Lone said if the offer was rejected, India will “explain to the whole world that its intentions were good but the other side is not agreeing”.

His statement held out a glimmer of hope for the second peace gamble in four months. Hardline militant outfits had trashed the proposal earlier in the day.

“Jihad is the only solution...a sacred mission and we will continue it during Ramzan,” said Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Mujahid was speaking after a meeting of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of 14 militant groups, questioned the wisdom of a ceasefire just during Ramzan.

“What is the point of the ceasefire? They stop killing for one month and then start killing again,” said the council’s chairman and Hizb-ul Mujahideen leader, Syed Salahuddin.

India accused Pakistan of orchestrating the rejection. “There are reasons to believe Pakistan took the initiative to ensure the negative response of various Pakistan-based militant groups,” defence minister George Fernandes said in Delhi.

“They (militant groups) are funded and trained by Pakistan. They need Pakistani approval before reacting,” he added.

The BJP-led government yesterday announced a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan which begins this weekend. A brief truce initiated by the Hizb ended in August after Delhi turned down its condition to involve Pakistan in the peace talks.

Hizb spokesman Saleem Hashmi said the outfit’s central command council is meeting tonight to discuss Delhi’s announcement. “It is a very sensitive issue and the group has to take a decision after thorough consultations,” he said in Islamabad.

However, in an interview to Reuters earlier, Salahuddin said his outfit would match India’s proposal only if that was the start of a larger peace process.

“This limited ceasefire has no meaning for the people until it is set up to initiate a meaningful dialogue for the ultimate resolution of the Kashmir conflict,” Salahuddin said.

Salahuddin spoke just after Al-Badr, a smaller group, rejected the truce and said it was planning operations during the holy month.

“We will enhance our actions and launch an operation named Gazwa-e-Badar to cope with this new conspiracy,” the organisation said.    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The government is proposing to reserve 20 per cent seats in private schools for less affluent students.

If Parliament passes the 83rd Constitutional Amendment Bill to make education a Fundamental Right, admission to private institutions will come under state purview.

Private schools were outside the ambit of the Bill initially. But the government amended it to include them within its scope.

The less privileged students can be selected by the institution in consultation with local authorities and parent-teacher associations. Their education will be free.

The measure is intended to bridge the gap in education between children in private schools and the vast majority of underprivileged children in government institutions.

The Law Commission, in an earlier report, had also recommended bringing private schools within the scope of the Bill.

“It is perfectly legitimate for the state or the affiliating board to ask the institution to admit and impart free education to 50 per cent of students... to start with the percentage can be 20,” the commission report on free and compulsory education says.

The government is following the recommendations of the report, sources in the human resources development ministry said. It is to achieve universalisation of elementary education that private schools will now be made part of the drive, they said.

The report states: “This proposal would enable the government unaided institutions to join the national endeavour — and to that extent will also help reduce the state’s financial burden.”

Private schools were initially left out of the Bill as they did not receive grants or aids from the state and therefore were not obliged to provide free education.

But a section of the human resources development ministry, including minister Murli Manohar Joshi, has been advocating a “bridge course” for narrowing the educational gap between the privileged and the under-privileged children.

One aspect of the Bill which has earned some critics is its element of “coercion”. Political parties and educationists alike have protested against the move to penalise parents whose children do not go to school.

The ministry assures there is no question of putting the parents in the dock. But it is still not clear who would be responsible to ensure that children go to school.

As an educationist pointed out: “There has to be a designated authority to see that all children are attending school.”

But Joshi’s ministry had no clear answer.    

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
A week after drawing a collective gasp of adulation from 130,000 fans in the city, Hrithik Roshan has set adrenaline pumping in the corridors of Writers’ Buildings.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his colleague Subhas Chakraborty today clashed over the cultural and moral dimensions of the pin-up’s stage show, mounted with assistance from the transport and sports minister’s department, at Salt Lake on November 11.

Bhattacharjee, whose distaste for pelvic-thrusting and bosom-heaving Hindi films is well known, chided Chakraborty for his department’s involvement in organising Hrithik’s show.

“There is no criterion for decadent culture, but it (part-sponsoring the event) is certainly not healthy. Why should a government department get involved in it? There are sponsors like Coca-Cola or Pepsi for such events,” the chief minister said in Writers’.

On the floor above, Chakraborty exploded. “I know my culture,” snapped the minister, who has perfected the art of showcasing popular entertainers in support of various causes.

“One may not like Hrithik, but that does not mean one has the right to malign a talented artiste like him. I watched Hrithik perform till the end. I immensely liked his song-and-dance numbers. There was nothing indecent about them,” he added. “Does culture mean only Bengali songs sung by Bengali artistes? Do Hindi songs sung by non-Bengali singers indicate decadent culture?” the minister asked.

In Chakraborty’s view, an event which draws 130,000 people conforms to the basic tenets of healthy, popular culture and cannot be described as “decadent”. Moreover, the proceeds from the sale of tickets to the show were meant for the chief minister’s relief fund.

In a display of defiance, Chakraborty said he was willing to go into a debate and vowed to organise similar events in the future, if the need arose. “I know I am right because my view represents the people’s opinion,” he added.

The “people’s opinion” was echoed by Jyoti Basu, too. Basu tonight came out in defence of Chakraborty, saying he personally did not see any wrong in such events as they represented mass sentiments. Chakraborty said he had taken the permission of “leader of leaders Jyoti Basu”. “I believe in one-man leadership and not collective leadership,” he said.

History repeated itself in today’s tussle. Fifteen years ago, Bhattacharjee and Chakraborty were locked in a public quarrel over Hope ’86, a musical event based on Hindi films.

Bhattacharjee had then stayed away from the event after dubbing it “decadent”.

Then, too, Basu had stood by Chakraborty. “Strictly speaking, the government was not associated with the events either in 1986 or 2000. As I see it, he (Chakraborty) was involved in the organisation of the events in his personal capacity. The presence of his department on both occasions was negligible. I don’t see any wrong,” Basu said tonight.

Anil Biswas, CPM state secretary, avoided a direct comment, saying since the matter involved a minister, the government was best placed to handle it.

But the CPM’s cultural sub-committee supported Bhattacharjee, saying the Hrithik show was not compatible with Bengal’s cultural heritage.

The “culture clash” is expected to add fuel to speculation on a perceived political race between Bhattacharjee and Chakraborty.

It also represents the two conflicting positions on culture in the CPM. The orthodox school was once led by the late Pramode Dasgupta, while the progressives rallied around Basu.

The row over Hope ’86 and the Usha Uthup controversy — the late Jatin Chakraborty and the orthodox camp had objected to her performance — symbolised the CPM’s penchant for culture policing. However, following Basu’s non-doctrinaire approach, Bollywood stars and Uthup could perform in the city.    



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Minimum: 21.7°C (+4)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%
Minimum: 49%


Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of morning mist. Minimum temperature likely to be 21°C


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