Institute rubbishes abuse slur, girl fights for life
Faction feud fuels Iskcon coup bid
Tug-of-war in temple
Mamata gags Madhabi after gaffe
Click for books at Bethune
Lock-out at EMC factory
Resettlers stake claim to Ray film centre plot
Assam tightens vigil on key installations
Tripura in grip of poll fever
European union in N-E backyard

 
 
INSTITUTE RUBBISHES ABUSE SLUR, GIRL FIGHTS FOR LIFE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
The condition of the second-year student of the Institute of Hotel Management and Applied Nutrition, Taratala, who attempted suicide on Thursday, continues to be serious, according to attending doctors at a city hospital.

The 20-year-old girl, admitted to the intensive care unit on Thursday afternoon after slashing her wrists, underwent surgery on Friday evening. A team of doctors, headed by plastic surgeon Anupam Golash, conducted a one-and-a-half-hour-long operation.

According to attending physicians, the student had slashed her left wrist with a kitchen knife. This damaged a portion of the nerve and tendon. She lost “a lot of blood”, forcing the doctors to arrange for “emergency blood transfusion” on Thursday night.

A hush descended on the Taratala campus on Friday. Newspersons were not allowed to speak to the students and securitymen escorted them straight to the principal’s office.

Reacting sharply to the police version that the girl had been driven to suicide after sustained “abuse” by some teachers, classmates and staff members. Suranjan Chatterjee, principal of the hotel management institute, said: “There is no question of her being a victim of any kind of exploitation on campus. She must have been frustrated, having fared poorly in her examination. This must have driven her to this.”

The police on Friday questioned five students of the institute. Sleuths went to the hospital and spoke to the attending doctors as well. But the girl’s fellow-students remained tight-lipped. A couple of them alleged that a section of teachers and hostel employees had warned them not to speak to the police or mediapersons.

“We are in catch-22 situation. We have started investigations based on the tip-off that the girl had been abused. But if the student herself does not register a complaint, we cannot register a suo motu case,’’ an officer of Taratala police station told Metro at the hospital.

Deputy commissioner of police, port, Harmanpreet Singh, who is spearheading the probe, reiterated that the case hinges upon the girl’s statement. “We have to wait till she is in a condition to speak to us. For that, we are in constant touch with the physicians attending to her. Her interrogation will decide what course this case takes,’’ Singh said.

According to investigating officers of Taratala police station, the institute authorities have failed to answer the following questions:

The girl was appearing for an internal examination to secure promotion from second to third year. She had completed her food and beverages practical paper on Thursday, which, according to both students and teachers, “is not a difficult exam at all” and definitely “does not hold the key to promotion or failure”. Then what drove the girl to despair on Thursday afternoon?

According to some of her classmates, the girl had “never failed” in any of her previous exams. Why, then, would academic pressure push her over the edge?

   

 
 
FACTION FEUD FUELS ISKCON COUP BID 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
Faction feud fuelled a coup attempt in the normally-serene Iskcon Temple on Friday. Around 50 devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness entered the Albert Road temple late in the afternoon, in an attempt to oust Adridharana Das, president of Iskcon, Calcutta. Five from among the challengers and two defenders were arrested when the confrontation took a violent turn.

“A few devotees from outside had entered the temple earlier, while a group of around 50 came in around 4 pm, armed with sticks,” said D. Sengupta, additional officer-in-charge, Shakespeare Sarani police station. “When we arrived on the spot, the two factions were fighting it out in front of the temple.”

Trouble at the temple has been brewing for some time. Das had filed a case “against over 70 gurus over a year ago”, alleging that their authority was contrary to the “legally binding directives” of Srila Prabhupada, “rightfully the sole initiating guru for Iskcon”. The case is now being heard at Calcutta High Court.

Friday’s revolt, led by followers of Jayapataka Swami and Bhakti Charu Swami, was “in accordance with” a recent Governing Body Commission directive divesting Das, accused of “corruption”, of his powers, The Commission, constituting 32 Iskcon gurus, had passed a resolution on March 2, by which Das “is no longer president”.

The Commission, alleges Das, who is also chairman of the Iskcon Revival Movement, comprises gurus who have “unauthorisedly... set themselves up as new initiating gurus... siphoning off donations and followers... We have finally summoned the courage to question this illegal system, by which gurus are elected as spiritual leaders. I have filed a case against these gurus. It is under their instructions that these disciples have come today to attack the temple,” said Das, amidst an “atmosphere of tension”. Das, president of over 20 years, “appointed by Prabhupada himself”, claimed he has received weekly death threats since filing the case.

The Calcutta-based rival devotees, who don’t reside at the temple, were still there late on Friday evening, with the police keeping a close eye on the proceedings. “We are devotees and we have every right to be here,” said Pulak Mukherjee, a sanyasi. “We are simply trying to implement the order of the Commission, which operates on the guidelines set by Prabhupada. We will not leave the temple till Das steps down.”

According to Mukherjee, the Governing Body had decided to remove Das as he had been “hiring out the Gurusaday Road premises as well as the Albert Road guest house, without depositing the proceeds, which runs into lakhs of rupees daily, in the Iskcon account”. Das claims that as the matter is “sub judice”, the disciples cannot challenge his authority without a court order.

   

 
 
TUG-OF-WAR IN TEMPLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
Neither divine intervention nor popular support could save a drug peddler from the long arm of the law on Friday morning. But not before some high drama revolving round a roadside temple.

Around 10.30 am, policemen from Gariahat thana zeroed in on Shibu Barman, a drug peddler on Kankulia Road. A raid on his shanty yielded both Shibu and five grams of heroin. Then came the twist in the tale. Shibu managed to wriggle free and make a dash towards a roadside Shani temple. He headed straight for the idol, sat beside it, and held on for dear life, begging forgiveness and beseeching the lord to bail him out.

The police were in a fix. How could they arrest the criminal without violating the sanctity of a place of worship? Residents of the area started gathering at the spot. Some had sage words of advice for the cops: “We think you should let him go... His genuine act of repentance must have reformed him.” The police patrol made it clear that there was no way they could let Shibu go.

“Why don’t you request him to come out of the temple and surrender?” they suggested. Repeated pleas from the crowd fell on deaf ears. The wanted man refused to budge from his seat of safety.

After waiting for half an hour, the police decided to force the issue. They were obstructed by a bunch of local residents. “Don’t dare enter the temple,” they warned. But the cops had had enough. They pushed the protesters out of the way and entered the temple.

A scuffle ensued. Shibu held on to the idol with all his might, as the police tried to drag him away. In the tug of war, the idol cracked.

The police arrested Shibu and emerged from the temple, only to face the flak from the mob.

“How dare you insult and destroy our deity?” they shouted. Pushed on to the backfoot, the police decided to adopt damage-control measures. They requested some local leaders to accompany them to Kumartuli, where they ordered a new Shani deity to replace the damaged one. This prompt police action pacified the protesters.

But back at the site, local Trinamul candidate Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar stepped into the fray. Lashing out at “police high-handedness”, she even lodged a formal complaint with CEO Sabyasachi Sen against the “brutal manner in which the operation was conducted”.

“The police did their duty and also prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn,” claimed DC (South) Ranjit Pachnanda.

   

 
 
MAMATA GAGS MADHABI AFTER GAFFE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
Till late on Friday, Madhabi Mukherjee wasn’t sure who she hated more — the chief minister or her party chief. The actress-turned-Trinamul candidate from Jadavpur, was “furious” after being ticked off by Mamata Banerjee for shooting off her mouth on television. At a recent chat show on a private Bengali channel, Madhabi had said: “Women from the villages don’t want to work for their living any more. They prefer to come to the city for a one-night stay and earn a lot of money.”

Trinamul leaders close to Mamata said the party chief had given the actress a “tongue-lashing” for her “callous remark”. Mamata went to the extent of warning Madhabi “not to make any statement to the press before consulting senior party leaders”. Party workers running Madhabi’s campaign said after being “humiliated by Mamata”, the actress decided to stop campaigning for her poll battle against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Then, senior party leaders stepped in to appease her. On Friday evening, she was back on the campaign trail, and could not be contacted.

Mamata Banerjee had reportedly told her associates that Madhabi’s comment would harm their poll prospects. Trinamul leader Ashis Chakraborty had booked Press Club on Wednesday for the actress to issue a clarification. But Madhabi backed out in the eleventh hour and the press conference had to be cancelled.

“I didn’t want to hurt the sentiments of anyone. All I wanted to say was that some unscrupulous women were keen on earning money in the city by dubious means,” the actress told friends.

It is learnt that many Trinamul workers in Jadavpur are “upset” at the remarks. “We are facing questions from voters and many of them have expressed their displeasure,” party workers told senior Trinamul leaders in charge of the Jadavpur Assembly constituency.

Trinamul workers in Kamdahari, near Garia, under Jadavpur Assembly constituency, had refused to allow the actress to address a rally in the area on Tuesday. Party workers urged her not to take the dais when Madhabi reached there to address her voters. The actress left the spot without addressing the rally. “If you address the gathering, people might ask you embarrassing questions about what you have said about working women,” the angry party workers told her.

Madhabi’s remark has not only created a stir within the party, it has drawn strong protests from city intellectuals and women’s organisations. The CPM-controlled Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity plans to file a public interest litigation against the actress.

   

 
 
CLICK FOR BOOKS AT BETHUNE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
The Bethune College library went on-line on Friday, becoming the first computerised college library in the state. The system was inaugurated by P.K. Ganguly, director of the department of public instruction, while Hirak Ghosh, principal secretary of the higher education department, opened the library.

Pushpa Misra, principal of the 123-year-old college, said both the science and literature wings of the library have been computerised. “Altogether 1,000 members, including the students, will enjoy the facilities of the new system,” she stated, adding that the library, with 80,000 books, is one of the finest in the state.

The Rs 7-lakh project took 10 months to complete. “The University Grants Commission gave us Rs 7 lakh for the development of the college. We also asked the state government for Rs 2.88 lakh, of which the higher education department has allotted Rs 2.25 lakh,” the principal added.

The college authorities have already issued identity cards with magnetic strips and individual code numbers to members, doing away with the cumbersome maintenance of files. The principal said the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Gol Park, had helped with the computerisation. “Joydeb Maharaj inspired us to launch the system. The Mission’s technicians will hold a workshop here to train our library staff,” Misra added.

   

 
 
LOCK-OUT AT EMC FACTORY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
A lock-out has been declared at EMC Steelal Ltd, a city-based factory owned by Congress leader Kamal Nath. This has created tension in the area. The factory, engaged in the manufacture of high-tension electrical towers, is located in Canal East Road, near Beleghata. It is a sister unit of EMC Ltd, which has another facility on Jessore Road, which is running.

On April 24 midnight, the factory management put up a “cessation of work’’ notice at the gate. Workers, who came on the morning shift, found the main gate closed and a cease-work notice put up. Soon after, all the workers gathered in front of the gate and started shouting slogans against the management.

U. Ganguly, a director of the company who has signed the notice, said the management had no alternative but to cease work as the factory atmosphere did not permit production to continue. The notice said production had been hampered by indisciplined workers, who often launched agitations and gheraoed the management staff.

However, workers refute the charges. “The allegation is baseless. We did not create any disturbance that might have affected production. Rather, although we have not got our Puja bonus and the past three months’ salary, we tried our best to achieve the production target. It is the management’s ploy to blame the workers for its failure,’’ said Kartick Das, who was camping in front of the factory gate with the other workers.

“There is a political motivation behind the announcement of the lock-out at the factory — to create an adverse impact among voters,’’ said Arup Chandra, secretary of EMC Steelal workmen’s union, the only union of the factory.

Former mayor Prasanta Chatterjee, who heads the union, met labour minister Santi Ghatak and informed him of the incident. Ghatak asked the labour commissioner to take the initiative to reopen the factory. According to the workers, there is a good demand for high-tension towers manufactured by EMC, as it is the only factory manufacturing the product in eastern India.

   

 
 
RESETTLERS STAKE CLAIM TO RAY FILM CENTRE PLOT 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April, 27: 
Calcutta High Court on Friday directed advocate-general N.N. Gooptu to produce all documents relating to the transfer of land to the Satyajit Roy Memorial Trust for construction of a film institute at Panchashayar, off the E.M. Bypass.

A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice G. Gupta passed the directive on a petition filed by Baker Bazaar Co-operative Housing Society, which alleged that the plot transfer had been illegal as it had already been registered in their name.

The 800 members of the society lived on the banks of Tolly’s Nullah. The then rehabilitation minister Prasanta Sur had handed over dag nos. 10 and 13 of Chakganuiagachi mouza to the society members to resettle them under the CMDA’s Pavement Dweller Project in 1988. Suddenly, they said, the government handed over dag no. 10 to the trust, without giving the society an alternative plot.

   

 
 
ASSAM TIGHTENS VIGIL ON KEY INSTALLATIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, April 27: 
Security has been beefed up at all vital installations and minority-dominated areas in Kamrup district in apprehension of militant attacks and communal clashes in the run-up to the May 10 elections.

City superintendent of police G.P. Singh today said 97 polling stations in Guwahati subdivision have been identified as “hyper-sensitive”, 219 as “sensitive” and 303 as “safe”.

He said the subdivision had been divided into 16 zones, each under the jurisdiction of a deputy superintendent of police. “We have identified 85 vulnerable areas and set up fixed pickets there. An officer, a constable and a homeguard will be deployed in each polling station in these areas,” Singh added.

The SP said the security forces currently at the disposal of the district administration were inadequate. “We need more forces to conduct the elections smoothly. Some more companies of the Border Security Force will be arriving soon. Seventeen companies, including eight central paramilitary units, are in the district at present,” he added.

Singh said security had been provided to both candidates and leaders working for various parties at the grassroots-level.

Kamrup superintendent of police L. Bishnoi said 230 polling stations in the district had been categorised as “hyper-sensitive”, 326 as “sensitive” and 424 as “safe”.

He said “extra precautions” were being taken in the district in view of the threat from militant outfits.

According to police records, 59 militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland and 23 of the Ulfa are still active in the district.

Kamrup district has a 11,28,337-strong electorate and 1,265 polling stations. Dispur constituency has the highest number of voters (2,15.074).

The polling station with the highest number of voters (1,539) in its register is in Guwahati West constituency, while one in Palasbari constituency has the lowest (146).

Dispur and Guwahati (East) share the record for the highest number of candidates (12), while only two candidates are in the fray in Chaygaon constituency.

Four centres have been designated for distribution of polling materials, Kamrup deputy commissioner D.N.Saikia said. There will be two counting centres, he added.

Saikia said horses and elephants would be used to ferry officials and materials to four polling stations in Guwahati subdivision due to the dismal condition of roads leading to these areas.

The deputy commissioner said 6,70,772 voters would be able to exercise their franchise through electronic voting machines, to be installed in 731 polling stations. The constituencies where these machines will be installed are Jalukbari, Dispur, Guwahati East and Guwahati West.

NSCN-K offers truce

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) today said it would announce a ceasefire with the Centre “very soon”.

In a statement here, the NSCN(K) said it would conduct a “referendum” before finalising the “terms and conditions” for talks with the Centre.

The outfit said the ground rules of the proposed truce had already been framed and submitted to the Centre.

The GOC (Nagaland), Maj. Gen. R.N. Kapur, confirmed the development. He said all formalities were complete and the truce would be formally announced soon.

The GOC said the proposed truce would not derail the Centre’s dialogue with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

Union home minister L.K. Advani had earlier said the Centre was considering the S.C. Jamir government’s appeal to extend the ceasefire to all Naga underground outfits.

   

 
 
TRIPURA IN GRIP OF POLL FEVER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 27: 
Campaigning for the byelection to the Banamalipur seat in Tripura has reached a crescendo.

Five candidates are in the fray, but the main tussle is likely to be between the Trinamul Congress, the Left Front and the Congress.Trinamul candidate Ratan Chakraborty began campaigning immediately after the deadline for withdrawal of nominations ended yesterday.

The Left Front, too, organised a rally in the Kalyani area. CPM leader Samir Chakraborty said though the Congress was a party of 116 years it had surrendered its honour and dignity to Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee.

The Left Front candidate is Prashanta Kopali of the CPI.

   

 
 
EUROPEAN UNION IN N-E BACKYARD 
 
 
FROM MONIDEEPA CHOUDHURI
 
Guwahati, April 27: 
Guwahati, April 27: It is a “sweet” lost-and-found tale spanning two continents and over half-a-century.

From South Wales, Lesley Sweet and her father John Arnold Sweet will be flying into this city early next year to meet 43-year-old John Earnest Duchi — their only living relative in Assam.

Duchi, a state government employee, is Lesley’s paternal uncle. It will also be the first meeting between cousins John Arnold and John Earnest though their parents were in touch through mail till the early seventies.

“It will be a reunion and I can’t wait for it,” Duchi said. “But the most excited member in the family is my daughter Sheena. She is desperate to meet relatives from her father’s side,” he added.

“My family and I are hoping to visit Assam sometime next year and we are quite excited,” Lesley Sweet e-mailed The Telegraph in her reply. Her husband and mother will also accompany her to the state.

The story dates back to World War I, when Duchi’s Italian grandfather Arnaldo Duchi arrived at Tezpur. He later married Mary Das, a local girl and settled there.The Duchis, in fact, became Assamese to the core with John Earnest’s father George too marrying an Assamese girl in Tezpur, where he settled. Earnest, whose wife is also Assamese, shifted to Guwahati in 1984.

The Sweet family’s relationship with Assam dates back to the 1940s. During World War II, Ernest Sweet, Lesley’s grandfather, had been posted in Tezpur as an officer with the Royal Air Force.It was in Tezpur that Ernest met Rosemary Duchi, John Earnest’s paternal aunt. They soon fell in love. Lesley’s father was born in Tezpur in 1943 and his brother George a year later.

“When my grandfather came back to this country, he brought his wife and the two children with him,” Lesley Sweet wrote. “Ernest Sweet died in 1994, but my grandmother will be 81 this year,” Lesley added.

Lesley’s hunt for her relatives began when her father expressed his desire to travel to the place of his birth: Tezpur. “I thought it would be a good idea to find out a bit more about Assam. I wondered if it will be possible to trace any family member in the area,” she wrote.

In response to a letter written by Lesley, the regional tourist office here asked her to contact a local tour operator who had successfully undertaken such tasks in the past.

Lesley soon made contact with the tour operator through the website, www.networktravelsindia.com.

Lesley’s search for her uncle ended in Silpukhuri here but the happy ending must wait till next year. “It will be a dream come true for me and my family,” Lesley said.

   
 

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