Naipaul looks for second mutiny
SC blocks Delhi pollution cave-in
Daredevil cop to lead hunt for Veerappan
Mamata hits back at slur
Hurriyat cautious
Millionaire follows Crorepati
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi & Hyderabad, Nov. 21: 
Among the million mutinies he had spotted in India a decade ago, V.S. Naipaul had his favourite rebels — the Naxalites.

The literary lion came looking for them last week and landed up in the forests of Karimnagar — the very heart of the Naxalite movement.

Camping in Hyderabad, he made frequent trips to the forests, where he met the heads of the splintered movement led by the People’s War Group.

It was for a book on the Naxalites, who over the years have “been tamed but not beaten”.

While the visit was conducted in utmost secrecy, the rebels loved the writer of India: A Million Mutinies Now as much as he loved them.

The trip came as a “morale booster” to the PWG and other rebel outfits. “Even some other groups wanted to call on him and entertain him as their guest while in the Dandakaranya,” said a senior PWG leader.

The PWG’s engagement with the lives of the poor fascinated the 68-year-old author. “The way the outfit is involved with the poor — it builds bridges or supplies foodgrain in times of distress — is interesting,” he said.

The outfit passed a special resolution as a tribute to him.

In Nizamabad and East Godavari, Naipaul spent some nights with the rebels in the open forest. He also attended a plenary meeting of the North Telengana unit of the PWG in which special tributes were paid to “martyrs” killed in the last two years.

In Hyderabad, he also called on the ailing Kondapalli Seetharamaian, PWG founder, and Naxalite sympathisers like folk singer Gaddar and poet Varavara Rao and several journalists.

Dubbed a “rootless wanderer” lusting after the spirit of the exiled, the Trinidad-born writer of Indian origin is used to travelling widely for his writings. But the 68-year-old author always sported a soft corner for a little spot of rebellion.

Ten years ago, for India: A Million Mutinies Now, he had trekked through the country, talking to poets, secretaries, gurus, physicists and stockbrokers. They were all engaged in rebellions, big and small. Naxalites, former and practising, had appeared in Mutinies too.

There is an interview in the book with Mallika, wife of Dalit Panther poet Namdeo Dhasal. Married at 16 by her own choice to the radical untouchable poet, Mallika had later written a sensational best-selling feminist autobiography.

Naipaul had also met Dipanjan Roychowdhury, a former Naxalite, in Calcutta.

Researching insurgencies to write about them seems to be a growing trend. Especially in connection with India. Amitav Ghosh did it two years ago, when he visited the fringes of Burma and discovered the Karennis’ futile, though heroic, struggle for freedom, and wrote Dancing In Cambodia, At Large In Burma.

It is not known what Naipaul will write, but some are ready not to be impressed. He was given a dressing down by policemen’s wives at a literary do. “You should write the woes of the policemen also,” said the wife of an IPS officer.    

New Delhi, Nov. 21: 
As parts of Delhi ground to a halt for the second day today in the continuing agitation by businessmen, the Supreme Court slammed the door shut on the government seeking an easy way out.

The Delhi government moved a plea in the court asking for more time to shift polluting units from in and around the capital. It was met with a stinging rebuke from the court which refused to hear the plea, saying it would not yield to hooliganism.

“We ask the governments to implement law and you come seeking to implement lawlessness,” a three-judge bench said.

Relocation of polluting units in Delhi has become a test case for other metropolises planning similar moves. In Calcutta, for instance, the government initiated an exercise to categorise industrial units by degree of pollution as a prelude to relocation, but has not taken any steps so far.

It has taken years for the Bengal government to get the process of shifting tanneries out of the city going after repeated nudges and reprimands from the courts.

As schools shut down for two days and the toll in yesterday’s arson and violence mounted to three, the Delhi government argued that intelligence reports suggested the rioters were planning to lay siege to the Supreme Court and Parliament.

Justice B.N. Kripal told the counsel the government was advancing the same argument put forward in the Veerappan case when Tamil Nadu and Karnataka “apprehended” ethnic violence if the bandit’s demand was not met.

“This court insisted on rule of law, implementation of which is the duty of the governments,” the judge observed. “The court will not withdraw orders if hooligans take to the street,” Justice Kripal added.

“You have hooligans holding the city to ransom. The situation in the city is such that anybody can take to the street and hold the city to ransom, threatening the government,” Justice Kripal said.

Under an earlier Supreme Court order, polluting industrial units were to be shifted to Delhi’s neighbourhood by December 1999. But the government did not follow the order, leading to the Supreme Court issuing contempt notice to the Delhi chief secretary. That hearing is coming up on November 28.

When state counsel K.K. Venugopal cited the loss of lives yesterday and the continuing threat of violence, the judges said the government was “free to do whatever it deemed fit, but the matter would be heard only on November 28.”

The Centre and the Delhi government are now blaming each other for creating the crisis. “The present problem has arisen due to total failure of government of national capital territory of Delhi to develop even a single plot for relocation,” urban development minister Jagmohan said.

But Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit claimed Jagmohan did not heed her government’s requests to amend the master plan.

After a meeting this morning among Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani and Jagmohan, it was agreed that amendments would be made to the master plan for Delhi so that most of the units do not have to shift at all.

BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the amendments include redefining “household industry” and acquiring land to create more industrial areas.    

Bangalore, Nov. 21: 
Karnataka has appointed a daredevil police officer, known for his martial arts skills and one who has inspired many a movie, to lead the operations against Veerappan.

H.T. Sangliana, additional director-general of police, will head the special task force formed to hunt down India’s most wanted criminal. “Sangliana has already left for the forests to take charge,” chief minister S.M. Krishna said, adding that the task force will be revamped and strengthened.

A 1967-batch IPS officer from Mizoram, the 57-year-old Sangliana’s earlier stints as superintendent of police in the districts of Shimoga, Gulbarga and Chikmagalur earned him fame and popularity. He struck terror among criminals and outlaws. Sangliana was police superintendent of Chikmagalur during the 1978 byelection contested by Indira Gandhi.

“Among the present officers he is the best,” said Tamil Nadu’s former police chief Srinivaslu.

Known for his unusual and daredevil policing methods, Sangliana’s career has been the theme of at least three superhit Kannada films.

An expert in martial arts, Sangliana has a good knowledge of forests. Top officials feel it would help him familiarise himself with the 6,000-sq km terrain of the Satyamangalam forests where the bandit has his hideouts. The officer has also served in the special security bureau in insurgency-scarred Manipur.

Krishna later told reporters that he would call on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani in Delhi on Thursday. He indicated he would seek “Central help” in pursuing the bandit, whose links with Tamil extremists have been well established.    

Calcutta, Nov. 21: 
Mamata Banerjee today dared the CPM to publish a White Paper on her “foreign connections”, a day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee alleged the Trinamul Congress was getting external help.

“I should not name them. But we have definite information that she is getting foreign help,” Bhattacharjee said yesterday. His ministerial colleague Sushanta Ghosh went a step further and accused Mamata of being a “recipient of foreign funds”.

On Mamata’s instructions, her party today sent a legal notice to Ghosh for his reported remark. The party may also contemplate legal action against Bhattacharjee if he stands by his comment.

Trinamul spokesman Pankaj Banerjee said CPM leaders should either furnish evidence of Mamata’s “foreign connections” or offer an unqualified apology.

Pankaj pointed out that CPM politburo member Biman Bose had denied a similar statement against Mamata when confronted with a lawyer’s letter. “If the CPM has the guts, let it submit proof in support of its allegation,” the Trinamul leader said.

Mamata, who is in New Delhi, got in touch with her party colleagues here to get details of the murder and double dacoity in Kasba a little after midnight on Sunday.

The Trinamul chief directed her workers to confront police officials on the sharp rise in the number of such incidents in the southern suburbs.

The Kasba tragedy, in which a boy died trying to save his parents, came barely two weeks after a similar raid in nearby Rajdanga. In another almost identical strike two months ago in Tollygunge’s Regent Park, dacoits had killed a woman who tried to save her son. All three areas fall within Bhattacharjee’s Jadavpur Assembly constituency.

Trinamul leaders charged the CPM with offering shelter to anti-socials in Bhattacharjee’s constituency in a bid to get their services during next year’s Assembly elections. “The CPM leadership does not want the police to take action against the criminals as they will help Bhattacharjee rig the polls in his constituency,” Pankaj said.

Mamata also instructed Trinamul leaders to ensure the safe return of party supporters who have fled their homes in violence-scarred Midnapore, Hooghly and Bankura districts and gathered around Gandhi’s statue on Mayo Road. The first batch of evicted villagers will leave for Midnapore on Thursday morning.

Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy yesterday sought help from the Centre and the state for the “safe passage” of these people.

Pankaj, however, alleged that despite Bhattacharjee’s assurance, he had received fresh reports of kidnappings and attacks on Trinamul supporters from Pingla and Keshpur areas of Midnapore.    

Srinagar, Nov. 21: 
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s ceasefire announcement during Ramzan starting on Monday, evoked an ambivalent response from the All-Party Hurriyat Conference.

“If it is hackneyed politics, it does not appeal to us,” said a statement issued by the Hurriyat after its executive committee meeting.

Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, however, said the offer would be a positive change in the attitude of the Indian leadership if the ceasefire leads to the resumption of dialogue, resolution of the Kashmir dispute and restoration of peace in South Asia.    

London, Nov. 21: 
It took the clone a little over three months to find its first crorepati. The original had its first jackpot winner yesterday, more than two years after it popped the question: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Judith Keppel, (seen in the AFP picture on the right with the host) a 58-year-old twice-divorced grandmother who is said to be a distant cousin of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the mistress of Prince Charles, pocketed the booty by cracking the million pound question: Which king was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?

This is the first time that the programme, which was launched in September 1998, by ITV, a commercial channel, has come up with a millionaire. By contrast, Amitabh Bachchan handed over the Rs 1 crore cheque to Harshvardhan Nawathe on October 19, barely three-and-a-half months after the show went on air.

Keppel, who insists “I’m not a gambler”, stumbled twice. She had difficulty naming Tony Blair’s country of birth — she used her “Ask the Audience” option (audience poll lifeline in KBC) to get to £16,000.

To win £125,000, she telephoned a friend to seek help with a question on a Shakespeare play.

The event was being hailed by ITV as a television first but it occurred on the very night that rival BBC was showing the last part of a popular comedy series, One Foot in the Grave, in an effort to boost its viewership. Inevitably, this has led to accusations that the questions on Millionaire had been deliberately made easier to enable ITV beat the BBC in the all-important ratings war.

Keppel herself has come across as a nice middle-class Englishwoman who lives in a nice middle-class home in Fulham, which is a nice middle-class part of London. She now lives alone, having been married first to Desmond Concoran, an art dealer, and then to Neil Shand, a TV scriptwriter.

She has three children, Rosie, 28, an artist, Alexander, 32, an art dealer, and Sibyalla, 34, and two grandchildren.

The Indian tiger can allow itself a little smile, since Keppel has announced she will donate some of her winnings to a charity supported by Rosie to help save the endangered big cat.

Winning a million pounds is by itself not an unusual occurrence in Britain where the national lottery regularly produces people who manage to scoop tens of millions.

But each week, over 12 million TV viewers tune in to see Chris Tarrant ask the questions on Millionaire.

Tarrant himself is a reasonably well known figure on television but lacks Bachchan’s star quality.

In order to be a contestant, Keppel had to telephone a premium British Telecom line on no fewer than 50 occasions. She disclosed: “BT rang me and said, ‘Do you realise your phone bills are rising!’ They thought I had a rampant teenager.”

The show is structured so that 15 successful answers win £1 million. On Saturday night, Keppel got to £16,000, and she made the million pound mark when the show resumed Monday evening.

Tarrant denied suggestions that the questions were much easier than is normal. “If you dumbed down the questions, it would be spotted,” he said.

Nevertheless, there is a widespread feeling that ITV had engaged in a subtle British version of match-fixing. An insider at the BBC, which had trailed the last appearance of Victor Meldrew, one of the nation’s most popular comedy actors, in the final episode of One Foot in the Grave, pointed out: “It seems too much of a coincidence.”

Keppel celebrated her win with a sip of Coca Cola. “It’s a huge sum of money,” she conceded. “Money has not been a terrible problem and I’m obviously not on the breadline. But I’m really looking forward to spending it.”

Until now, the only millionaires the show has produced in Britain have been the people behind it. Tarrant himself has a million pound deal to present the quiz.

It is produced by an independent production company, Celador Productions, which owns the rights to sell the format internationally. The idea has reaped a fortune for its creators, David Briggs, 50, Steve Knight 40, and Mike Whitehall, 40.    



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