Net ahead, but personal touch must for the game
Girl confesses to planning dacoity
Teen toughs break into city centre office
Suicide’s bequest to Gujarat
Groom not a suitable boy
Noise can’t heal, it’s not music, says maestro
Nine boys held for fatal attack in Howrah
Army offers rebels Holi truce
ONGC hints at oil reserve in Tripura
Cong paralyses budget session for second day

 
 
NET AHEAD, BUT PERSONAL TOUCH MUST FOR THE GAME 
 
 
BY SUJIT BHAR
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
His genius apart, perhaps it’s a strange mix of traditional class and a certain cultural asymmetry that makes Viswanathan Anand different.

The world chess champion was in the city for a day and-a-half, and played in a simultaneous meet against 40 amateurs. He received a silver salver from The Telegraph, a golden sceptre from co-sponsors P.C. Chandra, who also gave his wife, Aruna, a diamond pendant. It was all part of the Alekhine Chess Club’s 25th year celebrations.

Anand is 31, and at the peak of his career. He won the World Cup in China and then the World Championship, and yet the hunger is still there. “Ten years, yes,” that’s what he gives himself in the game. “I’ll be looking at it pragmatically, and then decide, taking into account where I am at that point. But coaching looks a good enough bet.” And in India, too. “I don’t really see myself as having left India. Madrid is just a place I live in now, but I keep moving.”

It is, perhaps, this mobility that has “hardly left time for family life”, as wife Aruna points out, but it also has taken ‘Vishy’ through cities that he has started to love. “Singapore and KL (Kuala Lumpur), on this side, and then Amsterdam and Frankfurt and Madrid, surely. And I am liking Germany a lot.”

Europe has his fancy, otherwise, too. “Asia has a good chess background now, but it has miles to go before it can think of catching up with Europe,” feels Anand.

Quietly, at home, when chess is for that moment off limits, Anand tunes in to Bono and U2 and Freddie Mercury and Queen. “No Eminem, no way,” he waves away, smiling. “I have not been able to take on the recent flock, and stick to the oldies.” Ditto for Indian artistes.

When it is not the music system, it is the Internet. “Yes, I do get to surf quite a bit, and I don’t mean all the chess sites.” Anand firmly believes chess is going to have a heavier presence on the Internet. “They are sort of made for each other, and no wonder ClubKasparov had those zillions of hits for their on-line championship. It’s just sad that the server (Microsoft) could not stand up to the jamming.”

He promises he’ll be there when the game finally boils down to the Net version. “But I believe the person-to-person touch will remain. You need it,” smiles the down-to-earth champ.

   

 
 
GIRL CONFESSES TO PLANNING DACOITY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
After a day’s interrogation and four more arrests, the police have identified Sanjukta Basu Roy as the “mastermind” behind the robbery at a Harish Mukherjee Road house last Friday. Four men had entered the house, robbed the inmates of jewellery and cash, and taken Sanjukta “hostage”.

On Saturday night, Sanjukta returned home with a tale of how she had managed to give her abductors the slip and make her way back, by bus and then train, from somewhere in South 24-Parganas.

However, through most of Sunday, the police questioned Sanjukta and learnt that it was she who had first conceived of the robbery, on learning that a lot of jewellery had been brought to her maternal grandfather’s house from a bank. She had let in the robbers by opening the front door for them.

Sanjukta told the police that she had agreed to be “kidnapped” to avoid suspicion. According to her, after the crime, they travelled in a taxi to Kalighat, where three members of the gang got off with the loot, after an altercation, while Sanjukta and her partner, Mukhtar Ahmed, proceeded to Sealdah station to take a train to Bolpur.

Reaching late at night, the two spent a day there and then, running low on funds, Sanjukta returned to Calcutta, with a dramatic tale of escape. She broke down under sustained interrogation and decided to “cooperate” with the police to help them net Mukhtar. From her mobile phone, she called up several common friends, urging them to pass on the message that she needed to speak to him urgently.

On Sunday evening, Mukhtar called her up at home. Sanjukta told him she was “missing him”. Mukhtar agreed to meet Sanjukta at a restaurant near the EM Bypass. But he later called and changed the meeting point to Banspatti, near Park Circus Maidan.

Travelling in two taxis, accompanied by sleuths of the detective department, Sanjukta travelled to the designated spot where Mukhtar was waiting for her.

On a signal from her, the police swooped down on Mukhtar. Based on his confession, they raided a house in south Calcutta and recovered the stolen jewellery. On Monday, police trapped Mohd Nasim, Mohd Niyaz and Sheikh Shehzada, alias Bablu, from Mehendibagan, in Park Circus.

According to Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, Mukhtar had hired the three men for the robbery.

Sanjukta and Mukhtar were produced in Alipore police court and remanded to police custody for seven days.

   

 
 
TEEN TOUGHS BREAK INTO CITY CENTRE OFFICE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
Barely 72 hours after dacoits cleaned out a building on Harish Mukherjee Road, four armed teenagers on Monday raided a commercial firm in Chitrakoot building, on A.J.C.Bose Road, in the Bhowanipore area, and walked away with Rs 93,000 and three cellphones.

The four hoods took the lift to the seventh floor of the building and strode into an office around 2.45 pm. Since they brandished revolvers, none of the 18 employees present could make a murmur of protest. The hoods asked them to keep quiet in fluent Hindi and went straight for the cash box. They broke it open for the cash.

After the 20-minute operation, the teen toughs threatened the employees with dire consequences if they raised an alarm, and walked off with the cash and mobile phones. Even the security personnel posted in the building could do nothing to stop them.

The Bhowanipore police wondered how the youth escaped without anybody even trying to prevent them from doing so. Ranjit Pachnanda, deputy commissioner of police, south division, who visited the office immediately after the incident, said some of the staff must have been involved. “The dacoits must have masterminded the smooth operation with help from some of the staff,” Pachnanda said. He wondered why the manager of the firm, T. Sen, took nearly an hour to inform the police.

“The dacoits struck around 2.45 pm and left after the 20-minute operation. But the police were informed only around 4.30 pm. We are now investigating why the incident was reported so late,” he added.

Officials said they had interrogated some of the staff, the liftman and securitymen of the building but were unable to find out the whereabouts of the culprits. The interrogation of the staff will continue till Tuesday, they added.

Detectives are also trying to find out if the youths were involved in other dacoities in recent times. Residents of neighbouring buildings said they came to know about the incident only after police arrived on the spot. A picket has been posted in the building and restrictions have been imposed on entry of visitors.

   

 
 
SUICIDE’S BEQUEST TO GUJARAT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
A man who committed suicide in a hotel, probably on Saturday, has bequeathed the Rs 11,540 in his wallet to the victims of the earthquake in Gujarat. P.D.K. Chakraborty, who came from Bangalore a week ago, stayed in a hotel on Elliot Road, where his decomposed body was found on Monday. He came here on a business trip.

Chakraborty left the hotel every morning and returned in the evening. There was nothing in his behaviour to suggest that he would take his own life. Ranjit Pachnanda, acting deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, said Chakraborty stayed on the first floor of the hotel. The owner of the hotel and its staff did not suspect that anything had gone wrong even till Sunday. But on Monday, they became suspicious when a stench emanated from his room.

They knocked on the door repeatedly but nobody answered. By that time other boarders had gathered there. They, too, called the man by name but nobody replied. So they opened the door with a duplicate key and found his body on the floor. They discovered a bottle filled with some yellow substance.

They rang up Park Street police station. Thereafter, policemen went there and made arrangements for the disposal of the body. After going through his belongings they found a diary and Rs 11,500 in his wallet. In one of the entries in his diary, Chakraborty had written that no one was responsible for his death. His last wish was that the money was to be sent to the earthquake victims of Gujarat. He also requested that his family members should be informed of his death. But Chakraborty did not mention why he was committing suicide.

Pachnanda said: “It is really difficult to find out the reasons behind his committing suicide. We have already checked the suicide note and the hotel register. The handwriting is the same.”

The police are now waiting for the post-mortem report and are trying to contact his family. “We are interrogating the manager of the hotel and its workers to find out when they saw him last, and if they noticed anything unusual about his behaviour,” added Panchnanda.

   

 
 
GROOM NOT A SUITABLE BOY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
Siddhartha Roychowdhury is a 32-year-old commerce graduate from Bangabasi College in Sealdah. Acquaintances know him as a smart, successful railway employee posted in Chennai. He has duped parents of numerous prospective brides over the years, in the city and in Howrah and Hooghly. But his trail of fraud ended at Howrah station on Monday morning, arrested on charges of “cheating by personation”.

Siddhartha would select his ‘prey’ by flipping through the weekly matrimonial columns of newspapers. He would then pay a visit to the house of his ‘prospective bride’ as an eligible bachelor. He would quickly gain the confidence of the girl’s family, and then offer to take her relatives to Bangalore to meet his father. After accompanying them to Howrah station, Siddhartha would ask them to wait in a remote corner of the station, while he and some friends would slip away, bag and baggage, on the pretext of “collecting his railway employees’ passes for the train”.

Siddhartha’s latest ‘catch’ was Sapna Mitra of Bally, whose brother had recently advertised in a daily to get her married. Having charmed his way into the Mitra family, Siddhartha played the Bangalore card and brought Tarak and one of his friends to Howrah station. He asked them to wait in a corner of the new complex while he collected his “railway passes”. Instead, he headed straight for the taxi stand.

Some plainclothesmen from Howrah Government Railway Police station noticed Siddhartha “moving around suspiciously”, stopped him and took him to the police station. The police recovered Rs 3,500 from him, which he had taken from Tarak as the train fare for Bangalore. Siddhartha was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by Tarak.

“He says he loved the attention that he would get from his prospective in-laws,” says Nilmoni Barik, the officer-in-charge of Howrah GRP. Police sources added that Siddhartha had been turned out of his Sonarpur home by his father, for his habit of pursuing and duping girls.

   

 
 
NOISE CAN’T HEAL, IT’S NOT MUSIC, SAYS MAESTRO 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
The keyboard and song videos, the fusion fad and the noise passing off as melody, are stifling Indian classical music. That, coming from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is, surely, cause for concern

At MusicWorld on Monday to speak on the “music of my love”, the sarod maestro described classical instruments as the “purest form” of music, and urged people to “guard against the noise that is filling up the air these days, passing off as music, because noise pollutes, it can’t heal”.

The Ustad felt a lot of music labels are actually “doing a disservice” to the industry by providing a platform to “untrained singers”.

“This is the worst thing happening to music these days, and the videos with scantily-clad women crooning in tuneless, soulless voices are completely pointless,” he observed.

Besieged by autograph hunters, Khan went on to describe the keyboard as “a curse” to a lot of talented musicians. “Many of them who used to play instruments like the violin or the shehnai, have lost their means of livelihood with the keyboard producing the same notes, at the press of a button,” he lamented. He dismissed today’s fad for fusion music as “a temporary flirtation” which “doesn’t create a culture”.

A day after he played to a packed Science City auditorium, Khan stressed the need to “preserve our own identity and not ape the West blindly”. He said: “The last thing we should do is ignore or humiliate our own tradition.”

It’s in this vein that the maestro is turning to tradition for his next, a dream project — an album based on the “teachings and messages” of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, tentatively titled ‘Joto Mot, Toto Poth’. “This will be my tribute to Bengal, and to my fans in this music-crazy city of Calcutta... Ramakrishna’s preachings have always inspired me to make meaningful music. His message of humility and his saying ‘joto mot, toto poth’ drive me and give me energy. It reminds me that humility is most important, that no musician is complete, only God is complete.”

Also on the anvil is an album on the “colourful spring season in Bengal”, and a compilation of works of his students in Calcutta, where he holds frequent workshops these days. “Yes, Calcutta responds to my music in a very special way and I am trying to promote young talent here as best I can,” he said, reiterating his commitment to work with the “younger generation” of artistes because “they have more time for me to explain to them the concept of my projects”.

Calling for a judicious blend of tradition and technology, Khan remembered how the industry in India had to suffer in the past because music companies “never bothered” to package or market its products in a professional manner. “Kala hamesha jawan raheti hai, kalakar boodhe ho jate hain (Art is immortal, it’s artistes who age)... But art needs to be preserved and packaged properly. Now, with digital facilities and a much better marketing mechanism, we can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

Defining the music of his love, the maestro concluded: “The seven notes are the same in all schools of music and are as essential as the elements. Thus, whether it is Michael Jackson or Pandit Bhimsen Joshi singing, or me playing the sarod, it’s the same, provided the music is appealing and soothing to the senses.”

   

 
 
NINE BOYS HELD FOR FATAL ATTACK IN HOWRAH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
Nine boys, all between eight and 14 years old, were arrested in connection with the death of 14-year-old Kamalesh Yadav, alias Munna, on Sunday afternoon.

Police raided several areas of Howrah Maidan and Golabari on Sunday night and picked up the boys. The boys broke down minutes after interrogation and admitted their crime, Golabari police officials said. They have been accused of ‘unintentional murder’.

The boys were brought to the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate on Monday morning. They were subsequently transferred to the juvenile court in Salt Lake. One of the boys confessed he had taken the initiative and provoked the other boys to beat up Munna when he allegedly refused ‘to return their cricket ball’.

“Munna repeatedly refused to give back our cricket ball. I kept telling him it was not fair... We suddenly lost our cool,” he told interrogators on Sunday night.

The boy told police that Munna had abused him and his friends when their ball had entered on to their pitch.

“The boy confessed that he had struck Munna the fatal blow,” said Subodh Biswas, officer-in-charge of Golabari police station.

According to Biswas, the other boys have also confessed to having taken an active part in beating up Munna. “The others had hit Munna with the wickets. They are sorry for what they have done. They could not imagine that the incident would take such an ugly turn,” added Biswas.

   

 
 
ARMY OFFERS REBELS HOLI TRUCE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Feb. 26: 
The Army today announced that it will suspend operations against all insurgent outfits operating in Manipur for 15 days in view of Holi, known as Yaoshang here.

General-officer-commanding (GOC) of 57 mountain division Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh said in a news conference at Kangla Fort that the Army and Assam Rifles will suspend all military operations in the state between March 1 and 15.

The GOC said the insurgents could return during the 15-day unilateral truce and stay at their homes freely. He urged the militants to celebrate the Yaoshang festival with their families. However, they should not carry any weapons while visiting their families, he added.

Maj. Gen. Singh said if the insurgents attacked the troops during this period, the latter would retaliate. He urged the militants to consider his appeal and avoid all forms of violence during Yaoshang. “I advise all insurgents not to move around with arms, ammunition and explosive materials during the Yaoshang peace period,” he said.

The GOC said his decision had no political motive and was a peace offer from a soldier. He urged the state police and other paramilitary forces to consider suspension of operations during the period. He also urged the insurgent outfits to respect the peace opportunity.

The Army will, however, carry out its normal administrative duties during the period.

“My assignment here is not to kill the insurgents, but to bring them into the mainstream,” the GOC said. Saying the move had no hidden agenda, the GOC urged the media not to mix up his new venture with politics.

This is the third instance when the Army has announced suspension of operations in the Northeast during religious festivals. It had earlier suspended operations during Bihu in Assam and Christmas in Nagaland.

However, Maj. Gen. Singh said his decision had no connection with the suspension of operations in Assam and Nagaland. “It is a decision by 57 mountain division of the Army,” he added. The 57 mountain division covers Manipur, Mizoram and south Assam. The GOC said he may also consider suspending operations in the three districts of Barak Valley in Assam, where Manipuris reside in large numbers.

Chief minister Radhabinod Koijam had recently urged the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre to declare unilateral ceasefire with all insurgent outfits of Manipur.

Union defence minister George Fernandes said here on Saturday that the Centre fully endorsed Koijam’s view on declaring unilateral ceasefire with all insurgent outfits. The Army’s announcement is considered significant in view of these developments.

Asked about his troops’ human rights track record in the state, Maj. Gen. Singh said people should also see the circumstances leading to a particular situation. Though allegations were hurled against the Army, in most cases it was the insurgents who started the ugly incidents, he added.

“When my boys are the first to get injured or die and when they are under heavy fire, it is always difficult to differentiate between the innocent and the guilty,” he said. Human rights should also be applied to those jawans and innocent people killed by the insurgents, he added.

   

 
 
ONGC HINTS AT OIL RESERVE IN TRIPURA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 26: 
Analysis of sand samples by the ONGC has revealed that there might be a major underground crude oil reserve in Tripura.

ONGC chairman and managing director B.C. Bora said analysis of soil structure in the state after drilling showed signs of a major crude oil reserve. However, heavy pressure of natural gas has prevented deep drilling to confirm the existence of petroleum.

The oil major is planning to conduct an intensive survey soon. ONGC group general manager P.K. Adak has been authorised to invite tenders from technically-equipped organisations for conducting the survey.

Bora, speaking to mediapersons in a meet organised by Institution of Engineers secretary Chinmoy Debnath, said the survey will be completed in the coming six months.

Tripura’s geographical location and soil structure makes it difficult to say where the oil reserve exactly exist, he added.

The prospect of oil in the state has come as a morale-booster for ONGC’s Tripura project which is working under heavy constraints, including insurgency.

Bora said the ONGC will help set up gas-based industries in the state.

At present, the oil corporation is in a position to supply four million cubic metres of natural gas for industrial units.

However, the proposed projects and industries by the state government will require 46 cubic metres of gas.

Since 1972, a total of 90 wells have been drilled in Tripura, of which 45 are rich gas-bearing wells. The ONGC operates in 4,900 square kilometre of the state’s territory.

   

 
 
CONG PARALYSES BUDGET SESSION FOR SECOND DAY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 26: 
The ongoing Tripura Assembly budget session was paralysed by the Opposition Congress for the second successive day today.

The Congress has been demanding dismissal of inspector-general of police (intelligence) Kishore Jha for his alleged misconduct with MLAs in the Assembly premises on Friday.

Trouble started when TUJS Legislature Party leader Shyama Charan Tripura complained that TUJS legislators and lone IPFT MLA B.K. Hrangkhawal had failed to attend the session on Friday due to a Congress-sponsored bandh. The authorities should have arranged for vehicles, he added.

The Congress called the bandh in protest against the murder of party MLA Madhusudan Saha on February 20.

Criticising the bandh, finance minister Badal Chowdhury said the Congress had asked the TUJS to boycott the opening day’s session. However, the Congress changed its course of action and entered the Assembly without informing the TUJS and IPFT members, he added.

At this point, several Congress legislators, including Opposition leader Jawhar Saha, pressed the Speaker for dismissal of the police officer for misconduct and trespassing the House.

While the Speaker defended Jha’s entry into the Assembly, health minister Keshav Mazumder and finance minister Chowdhury objected to the Congress demand. The Congress members then ran to the Well of the House shouting slogans. The Speaker adjourned the house till 2 pm. Similar scenes were enacted after the House reassembled as the Congress stood its ground on Jha’s dismissal. Speaker Jiten Sarkar adjourned the House for the day.

Tripura crime graph

More than one person has been killed or kidnapped everyday in Tripura since the fourth Left Front government came to power in the state in March 1998.

This startling disclosure was made by chief minister Manik Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio, quoting official statistics on crimes in the ongoing budget session of the state Assembly.

Replying to a question, the chief minister said 1,208 people have been murdered and 1,252 people kidnapped during his government’s tenure from March 10, 1998 to December 31, 2000. There have been 226 incidents of rape during the same period.

The written reply of the chief minister said altogether 198 police and paramilitary personnel have been gunned down by the two banned militant outfits.

However, the success rate of security forces in counter-insurgency operations have significantly gone up over the past year.

From January 1, 2000 to January 31 this year, security forces have killed 49 insurgents belonging to various outfits and nabbed 150 in 94 successful operations.

The state government has rewarded 1,897 police, Tripura State Rifles and CRPF personnel for their gallantry and successful operations.

The state has also received considerable Central funds for modernisation of the state police force. The home department got Rs 6.42 crore in cash and Rs 18.26 crore in the form of sophisticated arms, ammunition, bullet-proof jackets, wireless equipment and vehicles.

Commenting on the statistics, Congress MLA Ratan Lal Nath said, “This proves that law and order in Tripura is the worst in the country. If we take into account the ratio of crimes in terms of population, the outcome is terrible.”

Murder kingpin held

The special intelligence team investigating the murder of Congress MLA Madhusudan Saha has made significant progress with BSF jawans nabbing one of the kingpins in the killing.

Professional killer Mantu Mia was arrested on Saturday with a revolver in Agartala when he was trying to sneak into Bangladesh. He told the investigators that the revolver seized from him was used to shoot the MLA.

Sources said all evidence and records would be handed over to the CBI if probe by the apex investigation agency is initiated by the state government.

   
 

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