Welcome chancellor, go back Prime Minister
PM prompts BJP, Trinamul unity
KLO escape from hospital
Vajpayee calls housing summit
Out-on-bail contract killer gunned down
IPC cover for Muslim women
Goon-studded gathering at Tiljala titan’s Iftar
Hindu Hostel polls deferred
‘Pro-West’ state earns Joshi ire

 
 
WELCOME CHANCELLOR, GO BACK PRIME MINISTER 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR AND BISWAJIT GHOSH
 
Santiniketan, Dec. 15: 
“You are our chancellor. You are our representative. We request you to please listen to us. We wait for you for years. Please give us the Saptaparnis.”

What began as a “request” from one enterprising Hindi Bhavan student, who snatched away a microphone from her teachers to make it, ended in what had never happened in Tagore’s university before. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the first Visva-Bharati chancellor to be asked by students at Amrakunja to “go back” to his Prime Minister’s job.

This, however, was not the only first that circumstances had forced Vajpayee into. He also became the first chancellor whose speech had to be amended at the twelfth hour to keep recent happenings within focus. He became the first chancellor whom no student was allowed to click for posterity and he became the first chancellor not to hand over the chhatim leaves to passing-out students. But being asked to go back to being a Prime Minister was most easily the most embarrassing one.

There were last-minute changes in the programme, with some students from other countries like Bangladesh and Nepal learning this morning that they would be denied their few seconds of glory with the Prime Minister of India. According to administrative officials, the changes were effected because of the changed security scenario following Thursday’s suicide attack on Parliament.

However, that was not enough to satisfy the students as they took off from where Pratibha Tripathi, the Hindi Bhavan student who did the unthinkable, left. Gestures of the hand asking the Prime Minister to “get out” — if he had not heard the angry shouts — made it clear that Vajpayee was not, at least for Visva-Bharati, in the same league as Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi.

“Both were victims of terrorism,” a third-year student said. “They lived very protected lives but that did not stop them from mingling freely with students and enjoying it,” he added.

A red-faced Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sujit Basu saw things differently. “What happened today will remain a black spot in Santiniketan’s history,” Basu said. He admitted that today’s events would be a “definite setback” for the university but refused to elaborate on what action the university would take against the “indisciplined”.

Vajpayee tried to settle things amicably. After hearing Tripathi’s request in stunned silence, Vajpayee told her that he “understood” how she felt and would have raised the same demand if he were a student.

“But there’s a slight problem,” he said. “It’s you who have made me an acharya and a Prime Minister and put me in such a spot,” he bantered.

Explaining patiently that he would try to fulfil the demands of both jobs, he spelt out a compromise: “I will personally hand over the Saptaparnis to the principal of each Bhavan and they will pass the certificates on to you.” But with a loud “no” greeting his proposal, he deflected the problem. “I leave it to your vice-chancellor to decide what’s to be done,” he said.

Taking the cue, Basu told students to “please understand the circumstances”. He then pleaded with them “not to make a scene”.

However, students, who also signed a memorandum protesting against the break in tradition, had had enough. When Vajpayee “symbolically” handed the certificates to Basu, “go back” slogans echoed once again. Louder cat-calls greeted Basu when he read out the traditional “Upadesha” and they reached a crescendo when he came to the part asking students to respect their chancellor.

The SFI, which is in a minority in the union, took the opportunity to protest against the practice of making politicians chancellors of their university. “Chancellors, instead, should be renowned intellectuals,” SFI spokesperson Sheikh Nurul Islam said.

However, those looking for saving graces got it. Enough was enough, felt a section of less-voluble students, trying to drown their friends’ din. Though it was not sufficient, teachers appreciated the somewhat muted appeals for sanity.

Santiniketan, which usually decks itself up for the visiting chancellor, dressed up more like Parliament today; five-point security checks, cars made to park at least a kilometre from the venue, everything reminded one of Thursday in Delhi.

Santiniketan, however, did try to behave normally. It demanded sanction for a museum, a VIP guesthouse and a modern auditorium for itself from its chancellor. Only, the chancellor restricted himself to hearing out the demands patiently and smiling his inscrutable smile.

   

 
 
PM PROMPTS BJP, TRINAMUL UNITY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s presence at Raj Bhavan this morning prompted state BJP and Trinamul Congress leaders to put up a show of unity against the ruling Marxists. The NDA partners had organised separate delegations to meet the Prime Minister, but the latter addressed them jointly before leaving for Santiniketan.

Vajpayee, who spoke at length about the need for strengthening national unity in the wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament, touched upon the not-so-cordial relationship between the two parties. “What about unity between the two parties here?” he asked.

State BJP president Asim Ghosh and Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee assured Vajpayee that they would maintain unity and coordinate their political activities to fight the CPM in the next panchayat polls.

According to informed sources, Vajpayee was originally scheduled to separately meet the delegations of the two parties at Raj Bhavan. However, when the BJP delegation first entered his room he changed plans and decided to meet them jointly.

Addressing the delegations of the two parties, the Prime Minister said: “One of our neighbouring countries has become jealous of our growing cordial relationship with Afghanistan and is supporting terrorist activities. Important Afghan leaders are coming to India. Their families are safe and happy here.”

Indicating the Centre’s determination to firmly deal with terrorism, Vajpayee said, “We had earlier won in Kargil. Leave the action part to us. We know how to deal with them.”

Pakistan has been told in no uncertain terms that it must stop supporting terrorism or face the consequences, the Prime Minister said, adding that it was now facing isolation in the international arena.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee appreciated Vajpayee’s call for fighting terrorism unitedly, while drawing the Prime Minister’s attention to “state-sponsored terrorism in Bengal”.

   

 
 
KLO ESCAPE FROM HOSPITAL 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Dec. 15: 
In the second incident of an undertrial escaping from the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital recently, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation activist Sunil Roy has given his guards the slip.

Roy, a 30-year-old KLO ‘lineman’, was arrested during Operation Kamtapur, the crackdown on Kamtapuri militants in November and was admitted to the high-security cell of the hospital on December 4. On Thursday morning, he was shifted to the male surgical ward of the hospital after the Jalpaiguri court granted him bail.

No sooner had the militant been moved than the Cooch Behar police got an arrest warrant issued against him for his involvement in another killing by the organisation. Roy was placed under arrest once again and four guards posted outside the ward. However, on Friday morning, by the time hospital authorities came to shift him back to the high-security cell, the militant had escaped.

“Roy was was shifted to the surgical ward on Thursday morning after the court granted him bail. But, subsequently, the Cooch Behar police issued an arrest warrant and he was promptly placed under arrest at the ward,” a senior police officer said.

“As it was past 10.30 pm and hospital authorities were not present to take care of the formalities of shifting him back to the prisoners’ cell, we deployed two police constables, a home guard and a national volunteer force member to guard Roy for the night,” the officer added.

“The escape was only detected early on Friday morning when hospital authorities went to check on the prisoner and found him missing. Apparently, Roy just walked out of the surgical ward,” he said. The officer maintained that the guards posted were either asleep or were missing from their post.

This is the second such incident at the hospital. On November 25, another undertrial escaped from the same ward. Both undertrials are still at large.

   

 
 
VAJPAYEE CALLS HOUSING SUMMIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has called for a summit of all chief ministers, finance and urban development ministers to arrive at a consensus on the country’s housing policy.

Vajpayee, who was here today to address the Operation Shelter seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, said the summit will be held before next year’s budget to incorporate resolutions. The meet will take into consideration the repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act, modern rent control and rationalisation of stamp duties and registration fees.

The Prime Minister said the participation of the private sector is needed to bridge the gap of three crore houses. “There is no paucity of land as vast areas remain unutilised,” he said.

   

 
 
OUT-ON-BAIL CONTRACT KILLER GUNNED DOWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Malcolm Pingault, arrested earlier in connection with the Khadim’s abduction case and later released on bail, was gunned down by unidentified assailants in the Lake Town area on Saturday morning.

A contract killer, popularly known as Tender Mama, 26-year-old Malcolm was killed near Kalindi bus stand on the crowded Jessore Road on Saturday. The assassins, riding in a Maruti van, pumped five bullets into his body.

“It was around 9 am. Malcolm, along with another person, got off an airport-bound private bus and were about to cross the road when a white Maruti van screeched to a halt in front of them,” said an eye-witness on condition of anonymity.

“The miscreants rolled down the window pane and opened fire. As Malcolm slumped to the ground, the goons fired another round in the air and sped away. Malcolm’s associate, too, melted in the crowd,” he added.

On hearing the sound of firing, residents panicked and fled the area. Businessmen downed shutters of their shops, leaving Malcolm unattended.

“The body was seen lying on the road for over an hour. Five bullets had pierced his neck and chest. Later, the Lake Town police removed the body,” said a shop-owner, who did not wish to be named.

According to preliminary investigation, Malcolm had moved away from Park Circus early on Saturday. He had gone to Green Park, Kalindi and S.K. Dey Road in the Lake Town area where he met Santosh, who had been picked up by the CID some months ago in connection with the Salt Lake stadium scandal.

A telephone index found in Malcolm’s pocket helped the police identify him and trace his relatives.

His wife Pubali was contacted at her father’s residence in Garia. Malcolm’s mother Molly also rushed to the police station from their Gaighata residence in North 24-Paraganas.

“Malcolm had been staying elsewhere for the past few days because of some urgent work. Last night, he was with his father Cedric in Park Circus,” Pubali said.

Malcolm had been picked up by the North 24-Parganas police in July-end, based on a confessional statement by Chunnu Mian in connection with the kidnapping of Parthapratim Roy Burman. “But the CID could not file a chargesheet against him, as there was no evidence to nail him in connection with the abduction,” said Partha Bhattacharya, IG, CID.

He was freed on bail from Presidency Jail on December 1, though a number of cases, including murder, are pending against him in the Calcutta police area.

Another key accused in the Roy Burman abduction case, Rajen, was gunned down by the Gujarat police in Rajkot last Sunday. According to the Gujarat home department, Rajen had snatched a service revolver from a policeman and tried to escape.

   

 
 
IPC COVER FOR MUSLIM WOMEN 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Calcutta High Court has ruled that women of all communities can invoke provisions of Section 125 of the Indian Penal Code while claiming alimony from their divorced husbands.

This section provides for maintenance of a divorced woman and her children, if any, by her former husband and specifies the amount to be paid depending on the circumstances of the estrangement.

The verdict, given by Justice Arunava Barua, was on a case filed by Anwara Khatun, who moved court on being denied alimony.

Khatun petitioned the high court that being an Indian she had the right to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code as well. “Women of all communities have the right to claim maintenance under the Indian Penal Code as it had been enacted for the benefit of all Indian women,” Justice Barua observed, citing a recent Supreme Court judgment.

Khatun will have to be paid a monthly sum by her divorced husband following the verdict.

Khatun, a farmer’s daughter from Onda, in Bankura, was divorced by her husband in 1994, two years after their marriage. She had a three-month-old daughter at that time.

The woman filed a case in Bankura district court, claiming maintenance for herself and her daughter. The district court ruled that her husband provide her with Rs 1,200 a month.

The husband petitioned the high court, claiming that his former wife had no right to fight the case under the Indian Penal Code as there was a separate law for Muslim women.

According to legal experts, under the Muslim Women (Protection) Act, a woman who has been given talaq will have to file a case against her husband. If he fails to provide the alimony, the law gives her the liberty to claim it from her former father-in-law or even her brother-in-law.

The provisions also state that a divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance from her neighbours and Wakf bodies if denied by her former in-laws. The process is a long-drawn one and respondents used loopholes in the legal system to deny women of their claims.

Justice Barua, who is a researcher in issues of cruelty to women in India said that a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had recently ruled that Section 125 of the Indian Penal Code was the main legal provision for providing maintenance for women in India.

“Other laws enacted for the benefit of women of a particular community should not clash with this law," The Supreme Court had ruled.

   

 
 
GOON-STUDDED GATHERING AT TILJALA TITAN’S IFTAR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
The Tiljala titan is finally back in his domain and this time with a bang. An Iftar party thrown by Mohammad Taslim, alias Chunnu, on Friday evening kept the local police on tenterhooks and the anti-Chunnu supporters locked behind closed doors, as hundreds of his loyalists turned up for the party.

Factory-owners, CPM-backed criminals including close aides of a CPM MLA, underworld agents from various parts of the city — all attended the party at Sapgachi 1st Lane, Chunnu Mian’s backyard. “The new officer-in-charge tried to stop Chunnu from entering our area for some time, but without success. The Iftar party was a show of strength for him in the Tiljala-Topsia area. We are very apprehensive of consequences now,” a tannery-owner of Tiljala told The Telegraph on Saturday.

The fact that the entire Tiljala police force was busy with security arrangements for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to the city helped Chunnu organise a huge party on grounds stretching from Sapgachi Lane to the spot on C.N. Roy Road from where Roy Burman was abducted on July 25.

“I was told that he had organised an Iftar party. As long as he does only that we have no problems,” said Subir Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station. Chunnu has a security agency and has made extensive inroads in the booming wetland sale business of late, sources said. The party was reportedly thrown to mobilise his forces.

After getting bail in the Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman abduction case, Chunnu had been prevented from entering the area by officer-in-charge Subir Chatterjee. “His return to Tiljala was imminent as there is no law to stop him from coming to his house. However, we are keeping close tabs on his activities,” Chatterjee said.

Local residents had met senior police officials last week and reported that several local criminals, who had fled the area after Chunnu’s arrest, have returned.

But his return has forced them to backtrack on their protest campaigns.

Criminal’s wife held: In a late night swoop on Saturday, the city police arrested the 27-year-old wife of Fatman, a key accused in the Bunty murder case and close associate of crimelord Gabbar. Jackie Brooks was picked up from a hideout in Ripon Street. The South 24-Parganas police arrested Jackie’s husband Fatman a few months ago.

   

 
 
HINDU HOSTEL POLLS DEFERRED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Academic activities came to a halt in Presidency College on Saturday following student agitations over elections to the boarders’ union in the college-run Hindu Hostel.

Later, the authorities deferred the elections indefinitely bowing to pressure from members of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), who gheraoed college principal Amitava Chatterjee and demonstrated in front of his office.

“I was left with no option but to postpone the elections. It is unfair to go to polls with police help,” said Chatterjee, after the SFI lifted its gherao.

Trouble started around 9 am as SFI members laid siege to the college, demanding changes in the election rules, so that Presidency research scholars and students of the college-run IAS coaching centre, boarding in the same hostel, could exercise their voting rights.

The SFI demand infuriated the Independent candidates, who urged the authorities to go ahead with the elections, keeping the research scholars and members of the IAS coaching centre out of reckoning.

Around 9.30 am, the principal hurriedly convened a meeting of the hostel’s tribunal committee, which directed the authorities to start the election from 12 noon, ignoring the SFI demand. But a college disciplinary committee, which also met to discuss the issue, suggested that the elections be deferred to avert “an unpleasant situation.”

Zaad Mehmud, an SFI leader, said of the 280 seats in Hindu Hostel, nearly 130 were occupied by under-graduate and post-graduate students of Presidency College. The remaining seats are shared by students of Goenka College, Maulana Azad College and Sanskrit College, Presidency research scholars and students of the IAS coaching centre. “It is surprising that boarders from Goenka, Maulana Azad and Sanskrit College have voting rights. But our own research scholars and students of the IAS centre are being deprived,” he said.

Debashis Samanta, a boarder belonging to the rival camp, felt the SFI agitation was “motivated” as the party wanted to stall the polls, apprehending a debacle.

   

 
 
‘PRO-WEST’ STATE EARNS JOSHI IRE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Union minister Murli Manohar Joshi on Saturday criticised the West Bengal government for neglecting Sanskrit and indigenous research in the state for the past couple of decades.

The Union minister for human resource development, science and technology and department of ocean development was speaking at the annual award function of Ladies Study Group (LSG), an outfit of the city-based Indian Chamber of Commerce.

Dr Manju Ray of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science was the recipient of the LSG Annual Award 2001 for her research on cancer cure.

Besides Bengal-bashing, the RSS ideologue came down heavily upon the Leftist academicians in the country for their pro-West stand and lack of contribution in the field of indigenous research.

“Research initiatives should be directed to solve problems related to people’s lives in our country,” said Joshi.

Though he pledged full government support for such endeavours, the minister made it clear that he was in no mood to sponsor pure academic and intellectual pursuits. Later talking to The Telegraph, he said: “We are working on a national science policy which would be tabled soon in Parliament. The proposed policy will address all these issues in details.”

Earlier, while addressing an audience comprising city socialites and industry captains, Joshi was less a minister and more a professor. During his 75-minute speech, he gave a chronological account of the evolution of modern science.

From the philosophy of Rene Descartes and Roger Bacon to Newtonian laws, from Darwin’s theory to the industrial revolution and from the Upanishads to the Internet — the physicist was at his pedagogic best while speaking on “Science and Spirituality”.

   
 

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