Hasina regrets follow clean chit
Doctor slashed to death in daylight
Fair brother for Pakistan, stepmother for Bangla
Bill Gates falls off rich perch
Gloves off, BJP finds Mamata vices
Calcutta Weather

 
 
HASINA REGRETS FOLLOW CLEAN CHIT 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY AND BIDHAYAK DAS
 
April 22: 
Setting in motion reciprocal gestures on a day emotions ran high, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke to her Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee, expressed “regrets” and promised a “thorough” investigation into charges of torturing BSF jawans and mutilating their bodies.

Hasina’s assurance came hours after Delhi declared that the “Bangladesh government was unaware of the unilateral action on the part of the Bangladesh Rifles”.

Hasina, who runs the risk of a backlash in domestic politics if she is seen as yielding ground to India, expressed regrets but added that a “full investigation” would be conducted.

She can address critics at home by saying the expression of “regret” is a humanitarian gesture and not equivalent to an apology. The hair-splitting started immediately with the Bangladesh high commissioner telling a television channel that the “question of apology will be decided only after the investigation”.

During the 30-minute conversation — the first bilateral contact at the highest level since the eastern flare-up — Vajpayee conveyed to Hasina a “deep sense of hurt and anguish” over the torture and pointed to the “utter disregard” shown by BDR to international conventions, a PMO spokesman said.

The BDR earlier handed over two critically-wounded jawans and the decomposed body of another to the Border Security Force. They have been taken to the 118 BSF headquarters at Tura in Meghalaya. BSF inspector-general V.K. Gaur said a protest had been lodged with the BDR as the weapons of the BSF men have not been returned.

Union home secretary Kamal Pande told reporters after a meeting chaired by Vajpayee that the Baroibari killings were “a brutal act of murder”. The government will try to make a suo motu statement on the flare-up in the east in Parliament tomorrow.

“It is quite clear that eight of the bodies bore point-blank bullet wounds with mutilation and multiple injuries. Another BSF jawan bore wounds of strangulation,” Pande said. But he absolved Dhaka. “When the foreign secretary is saying so (that the killings were a unilateral BDR action), I believe it is with some responsibility.”

However, intelligence operatives have contested the claim that massive troop movements took place without the knowledge of the Dhaka military brass or the political establishment. Hasina holds the defence portfolio.

Intelligence sources said BSF officers posted along the border at Mancachar had picked up snatches of conversation between Bangladesh army officers on wireless that one batallion be deployed at Pyrdiwah and five at Mancachar. Messages to move in two brigades of BDR’s 19 division battalion were also intercepted.

Intelligence reports have also established that five battalions of the Bangladesh army had moved in uniforms towards three places in Meghalaya.

But officials conceded in Delhi that the Indian forces might have unwittingly lit the fuse by carving a footpath on “occupied” Bangladesh territory.

   

 
 
DOCTOR SLASHED TO DEATH IN DAYLIGHT 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, April 22: 
A dentist was murdered this afternoon as he was closing his chamber on Sundari Mohan Avenue near Park Circus.

Surya Chakraborty, 42, had locked his ground-floor chamber around 4.30 pm and was handing the keys to his assistant, 15-year-old Chitta, when two armed youths entered the premises.

They pushed the boy out of the way and hit Chakraborty on his head with iron rods. As the doctor slumped in a heap, they slit his throat. From behind a pillar, the stunned boy watched the men leave as quietly as they had entered. Chitta then ran up the stairs to the fourth floor, where the Chakrabortys lived, and informed Gopa, the doctor’s wife. She is also a dentist.

Gopa hurried down to find Chakraborty’s body lying in a pool of blood. He was taken to Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Adding a twist to the case, Chakraborty’s brother-in-law R.K. Bhattacharya said: “Surya and Gopa had received a few threat calls last week, warning them of dire consequences if they did not vacate the house.’’

Chakraborty attended two chambers, the one on Sundari Mohan Avenue and another at Rajabazar, near his in-laws’ residence. The chambers were usually closed on Sundays. But he had given appointments to a few patients and so made an exception today, Gopa said.

The incident has shocked the neighbourhood and the medical fraternity. Residents expressed their anguish to senior police officers when they reached the house for investigations.

Chakraborty’s colleagues recalled that the 1982-batch dentist was a man full of life. “He was a sober, polite and amiable man. I have never heard or seen him raise his voice or be angry with anybody. I can’t believe this,’’ said S.P. Sinha, a senior dentist of Dr R. Ahmed Dental College.

“This is shocking. We can never imagine that a doctor could be murdered in so ghastly a way,’’ said Madhumita Majumdar, Chakraborty’s batchmate at dental college.

Condemning the incident, Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, a senior doctor, said it reflects on the deteriorating law and order in the city. “We are scared. How will we attend our chambers?” he asked.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas visited Chakraborty’s house and spoke to Gopa and the victim’s father, Krishnapada Chakraborty. Biswas said: “Krishnapada is a member of our party. But there is no politics in this murder.” Trinamul Congress leader Sultan Ahmed, who also went to the spot, said it was a planned murder.

   

 
 
FAIR BROTHER FOR PAKISTAN, STEPMOTHER FOR BANGLA 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, April 22: 
India, which midwifed the birth of Bangladesh, has been denying its friend for almost 30 years what it was on the verge of handing over to Pakistan.

Following an initiative taken by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958, India and Pakistan had decided to swap demarcated territory without waiting for the process to be over in the east. The shortlisted areas included those labelled “under adverse possession” — an euphemism for occupied terrain.

Meghalaya’s Pyrdiwah and Assam’s Baroibari, where last week’s flare-up occurred, are also referred to as territory under India’s and Bangladesh’s “adverse possession”.

However, the approach that was adopted with Pakistan in 1958 was not followed with Bangladesh. Instead, India stressed during negotiations with Bangladesh that territory could be exchanged only after the entire boundary was demarcated.

As part of the Nehru initiative, Parliament passed in 1960 a Constitutional Amendment Bill — a requirement for ceding territory even if it is occupied by force. Such amendments need two-thirds majority. After a decade-long laborious process, India and Pakistan managed to finalise the boundary in the west.

The east was on the brink of catching up with the west a year later and the date — March 27, 1971 — was set. But it was not to be because of an event that changed the face of the sub-continent.

On the same day, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced the creation of an independent state — Bangladesh — triggering a chain of events that led to the War of Liberation.

Though India and Pakistan had demarcated nearly 3,000 km of the 4,000-odd km boundary in the east, the discussions were restarted in 1972 as East Pakistan ceased to be a country and Bangladesh was born.

To facilitate the border talks between the two sides, in 1974 an agreement was reached between Indira Gandhi and Mujib. India has 111 enclaves inside Bangladesh’s territory, while Bangladesh has 51 enclaves in India.

The two sides have completed demarcation of most of their 4,000-km boundary. Only 6.5 km remains to be demarcated. Another 35.5 km within West Bengal, though demarcated, has not been turned into a formal boundary.

Bangladesh has often impressed upon India that the speedy completion of the demarcation of the boundaries will help strengthen bilateral relations. Besides, it would have robbed the Delhi-haters’ club in Dhaka of an opportunity to tar India.

One of the key planks of the anti-India lobby is Delhi’s reluctance to part with the territory “occupied” during the war to train the Mukti Bahini.

Indian officials have argued that Bangladesh’s attempt to raise new issues and “reinterpret” the Indira-Mujib agreement have stood in the way of speedy completion of the boundary work. However, political opposition from those who fear losing their votebank is seen as the main stumbling block before the transfer.

After the demarcation is completed, the government has to inform Parliament and move a fresh constitutional amendment to exchange territory. Once this is done, the Indira-Mujib agreement can be ratified by Parliament.

However, such a scenario seems remote given the present political equation in the House.

   

 
 
BILL GATES FALLS OFF RICH PERCH 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, April 22: 
These are difficult days for Bill Gates. First, AntiTrust, a film by the Hollywood producer, Ashok Amritraj, is due to open in Britain in which the villain is a thinly disguised version of the Microsoft chairman.

Second, today’s Sunday Times gloats that Gates has allegedly been replaced as the world’s richest man by S. Robson Walton, who is said to be worth £45.3 billion and whose Wal-Mart retail group owns the Asda supermarket chain in Britain.

Gates, it is reported in the latest findings of the Rich List 2001, beat allcomers for three years “with a fortune that rose to £53 billion in 2000, but crashing dotcom shares have left him down to his last £37.5 billion”.

Philip Beresford, who compiles the Rich List, crows: “The high-tech slump has hit Gates’ Microsoft company hard. It’s been the year that brought cyberspace down to earth and showed the enduring appeal of old business.”

He acknowledges, however, that Gates can still afford extraordinary philanthropy and his charitable foundation gave away more than £1 billion last year. He adds that other Microsoft employees are not so lucky: some who borrowed heavily against share options now face bankruptcy.

Non-resident Indian businessmen Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja and NRI steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal have been listed as the year’s biggest “fallers” by the publishers of the list.

The Walton family’s fortune has been amassed in less than 40 years. From starting with one store in a small town in middle America, Wal-Mart now has more than 4,000 outlets worldwide. Robson Walton, the chairman, still lives modestly in the town where he grew up.

“Wal-Mart is in a business which is virtually recession-proof, selling food and consumer goods at rock-bottom prices,” says Beresford. “Though Microsoft shares have recovered slightly since our valuation, Gates still lags behind.”

Beresford predicts that Gates is only likely to regain the top spot if stock markets and shares in high-tech firms recover. The Walton fortune has dipped in the stock market turmoil — down from £52 billion — but not as much as that of Gates.

Perhaps more damaging to the long-term reputation of Gates is AntiTrust, the first Hollywood thriller set in Silicon Valley which will go on general release in the UK on May 5. It is also likely to come to India where Gates usually receives royal treatment.

Although the film has been vetted by lawyers, Amritraj explained to The Telegraph: “AntiTrust is a thriller set against the baddies of Silicon Valley. The actor, Tim Robbins, plays Gary Winston, a Bill Gates figure who is covert and corrupt in his style of handling anti-trust or anti-monopoly problems. It’s today’s version of Wall Street, very edge of your seat theme. It’s especially aimed at young audiences aged 14-24 years.”

This is also the age-group in India which dreams of heading west to Silicon Valley. In the United States, Microsoft has been waging a long-running legal battle with the US Justice Department.

Gates, who has been accused of being one of the pirates of Silicon Valley in an American TV programme, has been charged with ripping off other people’s ideas to build his Windows System. The case against him is that companies that did not license Microsoft applications suffered and that he used the Internet Explorer incorporated into Microsoft’s Operating System to eliminate Netscape, at one time the most popular device for searching the Internet.

In June last year, the court ordered Microsoft to be broken up into two companies. Gates has stepped down as Microsoft’s chief executive but remains its chairman.

   

 
 
GLOVES OFF, BJP FINDS MAMATA VICES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 22: 
The BJP finally washed the Trinamul dirty linen in public, leaving little doubt who its main enemy will be in the Assembly elections.

Ending the phase of “controlled criticism” after the divorce and ignoring the restraint shown so far by Mamata Banerjee, the BJP charged her with blackmailing and questioned her competence as a minister.

The assault was led by Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar, not known for sharing a good rapport with Mamata even at the height of the Trinamul-BJP honeymoon, while releasing his party’s manifesto today.

Sikdar claimed that it was the BJP which had taken “the frog from the well to the ocean”. “She was never an efficient administrator, but she was made the railway minister and given a chance to work for Bengal,” he added.

The bitterness was such that the party concentrated its firepower on Mamata, not the CPM which has branded the BJP its main enemy.

“After she resigned as railway minister and pulled out from the NDA, she kept on saying that she was waiting for the state BJP to respond and 39 seats have been kept aside for our party. What kind of politics is it? We knew that she was an expert in drama and now we find that she is also an expert in telling lies,” said Sikdar. He accused Mamata of holding talks with the Congress even when she was minister. “She hunts with the hound and runs with the hare,” he said.

The manifesto, released by state BJP president Asim Ghosh and vice-president Muzaffar Khan, said Mamata committed a “very serious political blunder” by resigning from the Vajpayee government.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 38.1°C (+2)
Minimum: 24.9°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 92%
Min: 20%

Today:

Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 38°C.
Sunrise: 5.13 am
Sunset: 5.57 pm
   
 

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