Bomb hoax at Nandan’s Utsab
IT dream sown in Intelligent Park
Dates changed, B.Com Part I from May 29
Bahu brigade sets up blockade
CPM bandh over crime in Rajabazar
April date for Belur museum
Theme for a dream theatre
NDFB insane: Bodo groups
Assam seeks consensus on area
Cultural icon remembered

 
 
BOMB HOAX AT NANDAN’S UTSAB 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
The bomb didn’t go off because it was never there. But the hoax call at Nandan on Wednesday afternoon was enough to kill the festive spirit during the screening of Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab and send viewers scurrying for cover.

At around 1.45 on Wednesday afternoon, just as people had started streaming into the auditorium to watch the Prasenjit-Rituparna starrer, the phone rang in the office of the deputy director of Nandan.

The caller had a short but chilling message: a bomb had been planted in the auditorium, which would kill not only the 1,000 viewers in the packed hall but would also blow the building into smithereens.

The initial reaction of the Nandan authorities was to treat the entire matter as a joke. But a second call within minutes from the same caller — and with the same deadly message — had the officials pressing the panic button. They immediately contacted Nandan’s director, Ansu Sur, who, in turn, called up the deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh, and Hastings police station, asking them to rush over with experts of the bomb squad.

Unaware of the hectic behind-the-scenes activities of the Nandan officials, the viewers were watching the trailers before the start of Utsab. Suddenly, the screen went blank and a voice boomed over the auditorium’s audio system.

“Don’t panic,” an official told the audience. “There has been a bomb scare, so please file out of the auditorium and wait for further instructions from us.” But the viewers were clearly in no mood to listen. As soon as the message was over, there was a mad scramble for the exits, with people tripping over each other to be the first to get out.

Outside, the police, who had arrived by then, had cordoned off the premises. Those who rushed out of the auditorium were rustled out of a side gate and made to wait at a safe distance.

Meanwhile, along with sniffer dogs, the police began a thorough search of the premises. At the end of a 30-minute search, the police were convinced there was no bomb on the premises and told the authorities they could breathe easy.

On that assurance, Sur approached the assembled viewers and told them the film screening would resume shortly and they could all go back into the auditorium. Those who would rather miss the film could collect their refunds, he added.

Only five weak-hearted people decided to give the film a miss; the rest went in to enjoy Utsab. “We Calcuttans are used to everything, even bomb scares,” said Sharmishta Sen Sharma of Dum Dum Park, one of the viewers. “And a prank is not enough reason to miss a good film.”

Utsabdirector Ghosh is not as convinced. “The same thing happened during the screening of my Unishe April,” Ghosh said. “I think it is far too much of a coincidence and fear there may be something else behind it.”

   

 
 
IT DREAM SOWN IN INTELLIGENT PARK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
After intelligent buildings, an intelligent park. In another “major” IT initiative, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee inaugurated the Bengal Intelligent Park at the Salt Lake Electronics Complex on Wednesday. Promoted by Purnendu Chatterjee, it is being touted as “the first-ever high-tech intelligent park” in Bengal.

“The state government has already declared its IT policy. Things are happening in the state and many more projects are in the pipeline... We are coming up with a second electronics complex at Noadanga, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass near Ruby General Hospital,” announced Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Spread over five acres, the Intelligent Park will have five buildings. Designed and supervised by The Chatterjee Group’s team, comprising UrbaCon, London, TCG Developments and Studio u+a Limited, London and New Delhi, the total cost of the project is pegged at Rs 120 crore. UrbaCon had earlier designed the Canary Wharf in London.

The Park will provide ready-to-use quality infrastructure for IT companies looking for space. The first building has already been set up and the entire space booked.

TCG group companies, like Skytech (a joint venture between TCG and United Airlines) and CATS, have already occupied a substantial portion of the building. LabVantage Solutions is the other occupant. “We have already spent more than Rs 12 crore for setting up the building, which has come up in the record time of 11 months,” said Chatterjee.

According to Chatterjee, the Park will have “modern facilities” like a day-care centre for working mothers and a gym.

Describing the project as the first “brick” of his dream of a new, vibrant Bengal, Chatterjee said: “Through this project, we want to create a knowledge-based environment along the lines of Silicon Valley. The entire complex will be able to accommodate 5,000 people... Such projects will help us retain our human resources.”

The first few blocks of the complex will have 55,000 sq ft each. Though the second building is under construction and just the piling work of the third started, space in the third building is already in demand. “We will grow according to the demand. If the demand increases, we may grow bigger,” said Chatterjee.

The TCG boss, who was at loggerheads with the state government over Haldia a few months ago, said: “Five years ago, everybody told me that nothing will happen in this state. But now, I feel things are ready to happen. The government should facilitate private participation and stay away from day-to-day management... Governments are not meant to run a company. And the people of the state must also change their attitude.”

   

 
 
DATES CHANGED, B.COM PART I FROM MAY 29 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
Calcutta University on Wednesday announced the revised dates of its major under-graduate examinations for 2001.

Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, said the B.Com Part I examinations (three-year honours and general) under the new regulation will begin on May 29. The B.Com Part I examinations under the old regulation, too, will begin the same day.

Some of the major under-graduate examinations, originally slated to begin in March, had to be deferred in view of the university’s decision to implement its new policy to hold all major examinations during summer vacations.

The university felt the necessity to hold the examinations in May-June every year to enable the colleges to increase the number of teaching days. Till last year, the major under-graduate examinations would be held at different times of the year.

The university’s move to change the system followed a directive from the state government, asking the authorities to take steps to improve work culture and the academic standards of its under-graduate colleges.

The revised dates of the examinations were worked out by the university at its Syndicate meeting last week. According to the controller of examinations, this year’s B.A, B.Sc, B.Com (three-year honours) Part II examinations under the old and the new regulations start on May 3.

The B.A, B.Sc, B.Com (general) Part II under the new regulation will begin on May 14.

The B.A, B.Sc (three-year honours and general) Part I examinations under the new regulation will begin on May 30.

The B.A, B.Sc Part I examinations (two-year pass and three-year honours) under the old regulation, too, begin on May 30.

Adhikari announced that the practical examinations will begin on April 2. Colleges have been directed to complete the practical tests within April 30.

A large number of examinees of B.Com Part I, originally slated for March, alleged that they were inconvenienced by the university authorities’ delay in officially announcing the revised dates .

“Our college is still in the dark about the revised dates, as the university has not yet sent any official notice to the college about its decision to date. We have come to know about the deferment only from newspaper reports,” said a B.Com Part I examinee of Goenka College, in central Calcutta.

   

 
 
BAHU BRIGADE SETS UP BLOCKADE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
The police force, used to dealing with an agitation a day, hit a rare roadblock on Wednesday morning. For, confronting them on S.P. Mukherjee Road was a battalion of their better halves.

Fists raised in anger, shouting slogans and causing bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls during peak hour, about 150 wives of policemen squatted near Tollygunge police station. Their battlecry — “We want an immediate solution to the water crisis plaguing the area for the past month.” The cops were clueless. Prakash Kumar Ghosh, officer-in-charge of Tollygunge police station, said: “We had no information about this show of protest... They had not signalled their intentions, not even to their husbands.”

At around 9.30 am, the wives on the warpath emerged from the police quarters, beside the police station, swamped S.P. Mukherjee Road and took up strategic position to disrupt traffic. The police did not know how to react. With the protesters showing no signs of lifting the blockade, Ghosh and other officers started pleading with them.

“We told them, ‘please don’t do this. You all are policemen’s wives. So, if you hold up peak-hour traffic like this, our image will be tarnished’,” said Ghosh. But the plea fell on deaf ears. The bahu brigade refused to back down. “We are not ready to accept this. No tomorrow... We want water from today, right now,” they shouted.

The force then sent an SOS to Lalbazar. A message also went out to the Public Works Department. PWD engineers rushed to the spot and assured the women that “work on a deep tubewell will start today”. But that was not good enough. “We want water right now,” was the refrain. Ten mobile tankers of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Kashi Viswanath Seva Samity were hastily called in. This, finally, cooled frayed tempers. The women lifted the blockade and returned to the police quarters around 10.15 am. Work on the tubewell had started by afternoon.

Namita Upadhay, one of the demonstrators, said: “The police quarters were built in 1985. Since then, there have been only two pumps supplying water to 88 families. One of the pumps broke down five years ago. Since then, we have had to depend on a single pump, from which, now, we are getting water mixed with sand particles.”

On Tuesday, the water pump died, leaving all 88 families at the mercy of the water tankers. “We had to depend on water from roadside taps... We decided on Tuesday night that enough was enough. We would have to take to the streets to force the authorities to sit up and take notice,” said Urmila Banerjee.

   

 
 
CPM BANDH OVER CRIME IN RAJABAZAR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
It was a bandh with a difference — called by local leaders of the ruling party to protest “the breakdown of law and order” in the Rajabazar area. It hardly evoked a response, but the irony of CPM politicians pointing fingers at the police force was lost on none.

Most shops remained open and the movement of vehicles was normal. But there was an undercurrent of tension, with local CPM leaders blasting the police for their failure to check crime in the area. “Goons are having a field day here, threatening businessmen, looting shops, kidnapping and extorting at will, with the police doing nothing to stop them,” alleged a CPM leader.

The Trinamul was quick to pounce. “I congratulate a section of the CPM for confirming what we have been pointing out for so long — the deteriorating law and order in the city. With his own partymen accusing his force of inaction, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should step down immediately,” said spokesperson Pankaj Banerjee.

According to residents, a turf battle between the Nadeem and Munna gangs is raging at Rajabazar. The battlelines are drawn between Nadeem, Gudda, Mintu and Gora of neighbouring Colootola and Zakaria Street on one side and Munna, Pappu, Tupsi, Sona and Mona from Hajipara and Khalpaar, beside the Beleghata canal, on the other.

On Tuesday night, Munna and his men attacked a rival, whose condition is “critical”. Nadeem’s gang has vowed revenge. Last Sunday, the two gangs clashed at Parsibagan, with bombs and bullets flying. CPM leaders and the area’s residents blamed the spurt in crime to “a construction boom in the area... and corrupt cops”.

According to records at the local Narkeldanga and Amherst Street police stations, Munna, Nadeem and Gudda have several criminal cases pending against them. Deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, Mihir Bhattacharya, said the goons have been arrested “several times” but got bail with the help of “lawyers and political godfathers”.

   

 
 
APRIL DATE FOR BELUR MUSEUM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
The Ramakrishna Mission headquarters at Belur has decided to inaugurate the Sri Ramakrishna Museum, now under construction, on Akshay Tritiya (April 26).

“I stay on at Belur Math three days a week to supervise the final phase of work,” said Swami Prabhananda, secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. The museum is his brainchild. “I am very happy with the way the museum is shaping up,” said Swami Prabhananda.

Senior monks at Belur Math hope the museum will draw a record number of visitors. Being set up opposite the main temple, the museum will display articles used by Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples, including Swami Vivekananda. “Thakur’s clothes, Swamiji’s tanpura and his engineering equipment will be on exhibition,” said a senior monk.

The building that will house the museum used to be the main office of the Math. Sources said Re 1 will be charged as entry fee.

The Math authorities are considering the deployment of private guards to protect the exhibits and preserve the “sanctity” of the museum.

   

 
 
THEME FOR A DREAM THEATRE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan.17: 
Four times a week, Abhijit Adhikari and his friend Wrik Saptashaw, both 11, can’t wait to make it to the old Matalibari courtyard in Chetla after school. They are busy rehearsing for Bhalo Kajer Pala, a play adapted from a Munshi Premchand story. With the wide rows of cracked stairs on one side of the dilapidated building serving as the viewing gallery-cum wings, Abhijit and Wrik rattle off their lines with rare equanimity.

The duo, along with 38 other ‘students’, learns the rudimentaries of stagecraft at Matalibari. Their teacher, Pinaki Guha — associated with group theatre since 1975 — first with Indian Cultural Forum and then with the New Theatres Group — has given his young wards a theme for a dream theatre.

“I have been coming here since I was just two-and-a-half years old,” remembers Subhannita Guha, who made her first stage entry in Jyanto Putul, in an actor’s lap. Now, Subhannita, all of 11 years and a Class VI student of Kamala Girls’ School, has eight plays under her belt and hopes to make it big in the group theatre scene.

The kids, four to 14, handle Premchand, Sukumar Ray and Roald Dahl with equal ease, learning their craft in an ambience of rare bonhomie, where socio-economic barriers are broken through theatre.

“My initial aim, when I started off with this project way back in 1985, was to rehabilitate under-privileged children through art and theatre,” explains Guha, who was inspired to work with kids following a chance meeting with group theatre icon Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay during a staging of Habib Tanvir’s Charandas Chor.

“Very few take to theatre at an early, impressionable age, when their talent can be honed to perfection’ was what Ajitesh had told me and since then, a project to draw kids to theatre at a tender age was on my mind,” recalls Guha.

Thus, Chetla Kristi Sansad, which started as a music forum for adults in 1985, soon opened its doors to the children of the adjacent Matalibari slums. Initially, it started with under-privileged children only and it stayed like that till 1990.

But there were plenty of enquiries from families in the neighbourhood for sending their children to this drama class, forcing Matalibari to throw open doors to “middle-class children”.

Eight-year-old Ishita Das, a student of United Missionary School, loves to play Adbhut in Bhuter Naksha, but is quite adept at other roles too.

“I try to teach the children the virtue of versatility by making them interchange roles often. This also helps fight monotony... Most of the plays we do are fantasies, but the scripts are modified to reflect modern and relevant values to make the kids think as well as attract the adults to our productions,” explains Guha.

In this vein, Gagan Thakur’s Bhodar Bahadur is made into Agun Pathar, which talks of the threat of nuclear bombs. “The kids have so much exposure these days that old tales must be told differently so that their questions are answered.”

The Kristi Sansad kids are imparted lessons in production techniques, too. While ex-student Shayantoni Mitra, 25, is a make-up artist with Doordarshan now, Surajit Dey, 29, a set designer and puppeteer, has taken his shows abroad.

“Funding has been a perennial problem and we survive on call shows and personal donations, for which the children themselves go from door to door,” says Guha, who has dreams of arranging residential accommodation for his wards as a logical extension of his drama school at a later date.

This can then serve as “a complete rehab centre for needy children”, where their schooling and counselling will be taken care of and they will be encouraged to “do their own thing”.z

   

 
 
NDFB INSANE: BODO GROUPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Jan. 17: 
The All-Bodo Students Union (Absu) and the Bodo People’s Action Committee today criticised the banned National Democratic Front of Boroland’s threat to eliminate select Bodo leaders for allegedly indulging in “nefarious activities” against the militant outfit.

In a press statement, Absu president Urkhao Gwra Brahma described the NDFB threat as “words of insane mentality who might have lost their mental balance”.

The NDFB, in a statement issued to a section of the Press yesterday, threatened that “selective elimination and shoot-at-sight orders” shall be issued against the Absu, BPAC, Bodo Sahitya Sabha, All-Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation and the rival militant group the Bodo Liberation Tigers, if they do not “desist from their activities against the NDFB”. The outfit also declared these bodo orgaisations “banned.”

In a sharp reaction, the Absu-BPAC combine warned the NDFB that if the outfit did not “rectify itself”, the former would not hesitate to declare it as “the gang of despots.” The Absu president said in his statement that the NDFB’s decision to “ban” the Bodo organisation was nothing but “a conspiracy to finish the Bodo community”.

Ridiculing the militant outfit for fighting with the Absu-BPAC, the Absu president said, “If they have to fight for a soverign Bodo nation, then they should fight with the Indian nation and its army.”

Brahma said Absu is ready to accommodate the NDFB militants in Bodo society. “If they have lost the moral courage to face their so-called real enemy then they should admit their failure and come back to their own home,” he added.

The NDFB statement which was issued by its publicity secretary B. Erakdao, said the outfit had taken the decision to “ban” these Bodo organsations and carry out “selective elimination” at a recent meeting of its national council. The statement, however, said the date for putting the council resolution into effect could not be disclosed for obvious reasons.

Security measures for top Bodo leaders have been tightened following the NDFB threat.

   

 
 
ASSAM SEEKS CONSENSUS ON AREA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Jan. 17: 
The Assam government will circulate a list of villages proposed for inclusion in the Mising, Rabha-Hajong and Tiwa Autonomous Council areas of the state to the concerned members of the Assembly on Republic Day to elicit their opinion on the demarcation of boundaries of the three councils.

This was decided at a tripartite meeting here yesterday between the Centre, the state government and leaders of the autonomy movements belonging to the Mising and the Rabha communities.

The meeting also decided that the concerned legislators would get a fortnight’s time to put forth their suggestions or objections, if any.

Senior leader of the Mising Autonomy Demand Struggling Committee Ronoj Pegu said the meeting also decided that the proposed list of demarcated villages would be considered final if no objection was raised by the concerned legislators or from any quarter during this 15-day timeframe.

While the Centre was represented by joint secretary (home) in charge of Northeast, G.K. Pillai, the state government was represented by commissioner and secretary to the chief minister P.P. Verma and other senior officials.

All the three councils were set up by the previous Congress government without any demarcated boundary.

This prompted the leaders of all the three communities to launch fresh movement demanding immediate demarcation of council areas.

Ever since their constitution, these autonomous bodies were being run by the ad hoc bodies appointed by the state government.

Following intensified movement by various organisations of Mising, Rabha and Tiwa communities, the AGP-led alliance government constituted a high-powered committee led by state education minister Thaneswar Boro to examine the problems of demarcation of council areas and recommend measures to the state government for a permanent solution.

Non-demarcation of the council areas led to the postponement of the panchayat polls for an indefinite period. Though the state election commission had announced that the polls would be held in October-November, members of the Mising and Rabha councils moved the Gauhati High Court citing problems in jurisdiction without proper boundary of the respective councils.

Leaders of the autonomy movement reminded the Centre and the state government of the bitter experience that the Bodo organisations underwent over the non-demarcation of Bodoland Autonomous Council Areas (BAC).

The BAC was conceived as part of the Bodo Accord signed by the All-Bodo Students’ Union and the Bodo People’s Action Committee combine with the Centre and the state government in 1993.

However, the delay in the implementation of the Bodo Accord, particularly the non-demarcation of the council areas, prompted the Absu-BPAC combine to denounce the Bodo Accord and revive their statehood movement.

   

 
 
CULTURAL ICON REMEMBERED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Jan. 17: 
Rich tributes were paid to cultural patriarch Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwalla on the occasion of Silip Divas, his 53rd death anniversary, today.

The central function was observed at Tezpur under the aegis of directorate of cultural affairs in collaboration with the North-east Cultural Centre, Calcutta.

Speaking at a meeting held at the District Library auditorium there, state industries minister Gunin Hazarika and agriculture minister Chandra Mohan Patowary recalled Rupkonwar’s contribution towards the formation of the greater Assamese society and ethos.

As a part of the day-long commemoration, Artiste Awards for 2001 were presented to the Dilip Sharma and Prafulla Bora. Several other leading artistes were also felicitated.

Earlier, rich tributes were paid to Rupkonwar at a solemn function held at his ancestral residence. The day was also observed by different student and youth organisations. Silpi Divas was also marked by competitions of Jyoti Sangeet and recitation of his poems in different parts of the state.

Net chat: Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today fended off a barrage of queries from netizens during an online question-answer session at New Delhi.

Mahanta was asked 28 questions on various issues, including the recent mass killings, Illegal Migrants (Determinaiton by Tribunals) Act, drug trafficking, infiltration and the state’s economy, an official release said here.

Replying to the questions, Mahanta sought the people’s cooperation in solving the various problems of the state.

Earlier in the day, Mahanta attended the golden jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission at Vigyan Bhavan.

He was accompanied by his wife and Rajya Sabha MP Jayashree Goswami Mahanta, state ministers Biraj Sharma, Pradip Hazarika and Nurul Hussain.

   
 

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