King lets probe enter palace
Doctored theories, doctor’s thesis
Velvet pad on weak knee
Sen season, on stage & screen
CM reads do-it-now riot act
Calcutta Weather

Kathmandu, June 6: 
Having ascended the throne over an unprecedented royal tragedy, Nepal’s King Gyanendra today made history by opening the palace interiors and exposing the royals to public scrutiny.

In a decision that has no parallel in the palace history, the king today announced that the members of the committee set up to probe last Friday night’s royal massacre would be given access to the venue of the shooting and the military hospital where the dead and the injured were admitted and be allowed to talk to “all those present at the palace” at that time.

In an obvious attempt to allay suspicions and lend credibility to the probe, the king also agreed to let the probe committee members talk to doctors who examined the victims at the military hospital, experts and other people. They have also been given permission to take pictorial evidence at both the palace and the hospital.

But the royal proclamation, issued by the palace press secretariat this evening, said the tenure of the probe would remain three days and that the committee would determine the investigation procedure.

Taranath Ranabhat, the parliament Speaker who is a member of the committee, said the tenure would begin from the time the terms of reference of the probe are announced. This means the committee has three days from tomorrow to complete its job.

With Opposition leader Madhav Kumar Nepal yesterday refusing to join the committee, it now has only two members — Supreme Court Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhyay and Ranabhat, who belongs to the ruling Nepali Congress Party. The two members had two sessions so far — a seven-hour meeting yesterday and another today that lasted three hours, said information minister Shivraj Joshi.

The communication from the palace press secretariat today said the king had accepted the resignation of Madhav Kumar Nepal from the committee. Madhav Kumar’s party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), has, however, expressed its support to the “investigation process”.

Justifying his action, Madhav Kumar told The Telegraph today that he had opted out on the question of “legality” of the procedure for formation of such a committee but said his party had agreed “in principle” to cooperate with the probe. His party was prepared to send a nominee to the committee if necessary, but it did not allow Madhav Kumar to be on it.

The Opposition leader’s refusal to join the probe has caused a rift among political parties even before the probe formally got off the ground. The Nepali Congress charged Madhav Kumar with duplicity. “All parties agreed to the formation of the committee. In fact, Madhav Kumar was anxious to see that he was included in the committee,” said Sushil Koirala, Nepali Congress general secretary.

“What he did subsequently was obviously for political considerations,” he complained.

Rashtriya Prajatantra Party general secretary R.N. Sharma questioned the Opposition leader’s decision to back out of the probe, saying it was he who had suggested that the chief justice head the panel. He conceded that Madhav Kumar’s decision would adversely affect the popular response to the committee’s findings.

Most political analysts saw in Madhav Kumar’s move an attempt to dissociate himself from the committee’s report because it was unlikely to satisfy all sections of the people. The CPN(UML) would not like to be part of the report if it lacked credibility. The party could also exploit this in its campaign against the Nepali Congress in future.


Kathmandu, June 6: 
Imagine this. Having consumed a heady cocktail of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, Prince Dipendra gets into an argument with father King Birendra and mother Queen Aishwarya over his marriage proposal with the girl of his life, Devyani. Sent back to his room upstairs in the residential quarters of the palace by an angry king, he returns to the drawing room armed with one “assault rifle” in each hand and starts gunning down the royals.

He then grapples with King Birendra’s brother, Dhirendra, whom also he shoots down. But he stops when cousin Paras, son of the new King Gyanendra, says something like “Enough is enough”. Stopped, Prince Dipendra walks over to the image of goddess Durga and shoots himself with a pistol, obviously dropping the two assault rifles by now.

And he begins all this by firing shots in the air. All this time, the aides-de-camp of the individual royals and the palace guards can do nothing to stop the killer prince, let alone the roomful of family members, some of whom try to run away to the adjoining garden.

If that seems a heady cocktail too, that is precisely what is on offer from some reconstructionists of the palace murders. Reconstruction theories are flying thick and fast ever since the shooting and to suit one’s chosen murder story, one picks and chooses threads. Earlier versions of the plot are amended, changed and added to. For instance, one theory, offered by a foreign television channel two days ago, had Dipendra having been shot in the back, in addition to his self-inflicted shot through the temple. Today it modified it, saying the story of the shot in the back was not true.

A doctor who claimed to have treated both Dipendra and Dhirendra, after they were brought to the military hospital, added a curious turn to the story. Obviously not willing to be quoted, he said Dipendra had shot himself through the left temple. He did not have an answer when asked why a right-hander, who was so inebriated, would choose to shoot through the left temple.

The same doctor blew the lid off another early version which claimed, rather dramatically, that Dipendra , after being rebuked by his father, went up to his room, changed into battle fatigues and then came down to start the shooting. Today, the doctor said when Dipendra had been brought to the hospital, he was wearing a plain shirt and a pair of trousers.

He, however, had something even more dramatic to say about Dhirendra’s condition when he was brought to the hospital. Dhirendra, according to him, had only a minor wound in his right hand and had some of his ribs broken. “But he was certainly not in a critical condition.” He had no knowledge how Dhirendra’s condition deteriorated so fast. He was declared dead day before yesterday.

There was no convincing answer as to how some members of the royal family had survived, virtually without so much as a scratch.


Mumbai, June 6: 
Don’t take an extended prime ministerial hand of friendship towards a thrice-fought neighbour to mean a week knee. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who checked into a Mumbai hospital for a knee operation, made it clear today.

Vajpayee, who has invited Pakistani chief executive Pervez Musharraf for talks in New Delhi, was in no mood to signal he was weak, at least physically.

He asked reporters at Mumbai airport not to “exaggerate” his illness before riding a car into Breach Candy hospital to keep his appointment with surgeon Chittaranjan Ranawat, who has flown in from New York to replace Vajpayee’s osteoarthiritis-afflicted right knee joint tomorrow.

The 77-year-old leader said it was a “small” operation and regretted that it would keep him in hospital for 10 days. But the media should not read too much into his long hospitalisation. “Jitna beemar hun, utna hi likhiye; na kam, na zyada (write exactly what I am down with. Don’t play down or exaggerate it),’’ Vajpayee said.

With a smile, he added: “I am sorry to have come and troubled you once again.” This will be the second time Vajpayee will go under the scalpel in seven months to make himself more mobile.

Faced with criticism from hawks for his decision to invite Musharraf when Pakistan showed no sign of withdrawing support to Kashmiri militants, Vajpayee wanted to forestall any speculation on his health at this juncture.

This is the only point he made at the airport news conference, apparently called to show him “in good health and spirit” to the media and the people.

Last October, he had driven straight to the hospital from the airport for his operation on the left knee, dodging the waiting reporters and photographers. Mediapersons waiting at Breach Candy had not got so much as a glimpse of him when he had entered the hospital through a side entrance.

Vajpayee today spoke to reporters for more than 10 minutes, looking cheerful and fielding questions that centred mostly around the Musharraf’s proposed visit to New Delhi.

“It feels good,” the leader said cryptically, asked how he felt about inviting the Pakistani general after Kargil. “We met last time on the battlefield; now we will meet in an abode of peace,” Vajpayee said with a smile.

Vajpayee’s media adviser Ashok Tandon said the summit with Musharraf, expected by mid-July, was top on the Prime Minister’s “post-operative” agenda. Next were expanding his Cabinet and facing the Opposition in the monsoon session, also in mid-July.

Musharraf, in a message, wished Vajpayee well yesterday as the Prime Minister prepared to leave for Mumbai with his aides and family after viewing a late-night showing of Lagaan, an Aamir Khan film.

Vajpayee today praised Musharraf for trying to restrain Pakistan’s Islamic clergymen from making provocative anti-India remarks in the run-up to the summit. He said he would not mind discussing with the Pakistani general any issue, including Jammu and Kashmir.


Mumbai, June 6: 
It would be senseless if you thought — like a lot of other people — Rima Sen was Moon Moon Sen’s daughter. But then it would make perfect sense if you thought Nandana Sen was Amartya Sen’s daughter. And, then again, if you thought there’s too much of Sens, it wouldn’t be nonsensical, not at all.

For, there are really too many of them in Mumbai’s showbiz, not accounting for the most sensuous of them all, Sushmita. Nandana and Rima, as it happens, are making news at the same time.

One appears on-stage as a cool, all-black-clad, empowered, Gen-X type of a woman. An ad pro, she doesn’t shrink from throwing ideas at a party about an enlightened sanitary napkin campaign. The other appears on-screen as, well, a pretty face about which not much else is important.

Nandana, the Nobel laureate’s daughter so far associated with non-mainstream cinema, is making her professional stage debut as a victim of child abuse.

Rima is co-starring with alleged drug offender Fardeen Khan in the movie Hum Ho Gaye Aap Ke. Her pictures with Khan at a movie function were splashed over all major dailies recently. For no Raima or reason, she was instantly mistaken as Raima, Moon Moon Sen’s actress-daughter, who would appear quite indistinguishable from her younger sister Riya in the first place. The confusion was unendurable. Is Bollywood too small for all these Sens or is it that nubile actresses look too much like each other to be sensational?

Nandana, though still quite overshadowed by her surname — however, looks like herself. Tall and lissome, her face framed with a mass of curls, in 30 Days in September — the latest offering from Mahesh Dattani, one of the country’s better-known playwrights who write in English — the dusky Nandana appears as Mala, a woman with a troubled past.

The play, which premiered last week at Prithvi Theatre, may have been panned by some — it was described as “a tedious, too-long, late-night weepie” by a critic — but her character leaves Nandana excited.

Mala, the cellphone-wielding pro, is seemingly confident, but her “personal life is a morass of insecurities”. Haunted by the sex-abuse she faced in her childhood — the play was commissioned by RAHI, an NGO working with survivors of incest and child abuse — she is hungry for love and at the same time terrified of love. She is a woman conflicted with the entire range of conflicting feelings.

Life is much simpler for Rima, who was born and brought up in Calcutta, but would rather not dwell too much on biography. “My role in Hum Ho Gaye Aap Ke is very simple, so simple that it is hard to define,” she says. A former model with about 40 commercials to her credit, her first movie is due for release in July.

“I play a woman of today — a very confident girl — in Hum Ho...,” Rima adds.

The 5’5” actress — without heels, she asserts — is starring in another film, Jaal, with Sunny Deol, Tabu and Jackie Shroff. “There, I play a bubbly 20-year-old, very different from the one in Hum Ho...”

What makes sense to this Sen is her motto: movies, movies and more movies.

For the other Sen, who has appeared in Gautam Ghosh’s Gudiya, two Canadian, one American and one Italian film, acting alone isn’t enough.

Nandana is a writer, too, and in a film that is a Norwegian-Indian co-production she is doing both. Selected to act first, she was also asked to take over the writing of it later. That is where she sees herself in the future — on the interface between acting and writing.

Same Sens, different sensibilities.


Calcutta, June 6: 
Convinced the New Left was about to relapse into the ways of the old, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today rapped his ministers hard.

Today was the last date for the ministers to submit their departments’ annual plans to industry minister Nirupam Sen. But only a handful met the deadline.

The “do-it-now” slogan appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. Enraged, Bhattacharjee asked his Cabinet to buck up.

Sources at Writers’ Buildings, however, said most of the new ministers — and there are many of them — appear to be enthusiastic about their work.

But Bhattacharjee was not impressed. He reportedly expressed dissatisfaction at the delay in submitting annual plans. This had an immediate effect. Many ministers sent their departmental officials to Sen’s chambers during the afternoon with incomplete plans but with the promise that the complete versions would follow soon.

The ministers also had to face another Bhattacharjee sermon — this one on regular attendance in the House when Assembly is in session. Sources said Bhattacharjee asked his ministers to be present in the House, especially when they had to answer questions on the functioning of their departments.

He also asked them — particularly the new ministers — to do their homework before answering questions. The Opposition should not get any stick to beat the government with, the chief minister told his colleagues in no uncertain terms.




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