Atal second thought saves Modi
Freedom challenge confronts Delhi
Back to school for lost melody
Bengal cracks whip on US visit
Bus kills boy outside school
Packed-hall salute to film leaves police cold
No more free love calls, try pre-paid
Mamata hints at Cabinet comeback
Carnage centrestage in women’s meet
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, May 6: 
In the first admission that the Centre had considered replacing the Gujarat chief minister, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told the Rajya Sabha that he had thought of sacking Narendra Modi ahead of the BJP’s national executive last month.

“I had thought of removing Narendra Modi before I left for Goa. But later, I felt the situation in Gujarat would be more dangerous if I remove Narendra Modi. And that is my correct assessment,” Vajpayee said today.

In Goa, Modi had offered to resign, only to have the proposal turned down by the BJP national executive.

Playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Opposition, the Prime Minister said his government will “fulfil” its duty after the Rajya Sabha passes a Congress-sponsored motion seeking the Centre’s intervention in Gujarat. In the same breath, he ruled out giving a “formal notice” to Modi or sacking him.

“I said in Gwalior yesterday that the debate on Gujarat in Parliament has already put the Modi government on notice. The government will fulfil its duty when the House passes the resolution seeking the Centre’s intervention in Gujarat,” he said.

After the Prime Minister’s intervention and home minister L.K. Advani’s reply to the 17-hour debate, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the resolution expressing concern over the continuing violence in Gujarat and seeking the Centre’s intervention under Article 355.

It was clear that the BJP differed with the Opposition’s interpretation of Article 355. For the Opposition, implementing the Article meant a logical progression to Article 356 or imposition of President’s rule. But Advani said: “Article 355 enjoins on the Centre to play to the state an assisting, and not an adversarial, role.”

For the umpteenth time since violence broke out in Gujarat two months ago, Vajpayee tried to “correct” statements attributed to him.

The Prime Minister said that in Goa, he had spoken about two faces of Islam — moderate and fundamentalist. “I have said elsewhere that Hinduism also has two faces and I accept Vivekananda’s Hindutva and not the strand propagated now,” he said. “I can’t even think of casting aspersions on any religion.”

Vajpayee said that if any Hindu organisation jeopardised national unity there were laws to take care of them. “I am convinced they will not do so,” he added.


Washington, May 6: 
The release of Myanmar’s political leader Aung San Suu Kyi has thrown up the biggest regional challenge to Indian diplomacy since Sri Lanka erupted in ethnic frenzy in the 1980s with tragic results for Delhi, culminating in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

The consequences of this week’s events in Yangon will be particularly important for India’s Northeast. Along with Thailand, India is uniquely placed in influencing events in Myanmar.

It is typical of the way things are done in that part of the world that exactly a month ago, external affairs minister Jaswant Singh and his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai, met the generals in Yangon for what was ostensibly a trilateral meeting on transport links.

The political situation in Myanmar was at the core of these talks which provided crucial inputs leading to yesterday’s decision to free Suu Kyi.

In the initial years of the last decade, Thailand had prevailed on the then foreign secretary J.N. Dixit and, in turn, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to change the policy of keeping Myanmar’s junta at arm’s length and going all out as flag-bearers for Suu Kyi on the world stage.

Since then, India has invested its goodwill heavily in Myanmar, a process that gathered steam under the present government.

In February last year, Singh and Myanmar’s minister for construction, Saw Tun, opened a 160-km Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road, built by the Indian Army’s Border Roads Organisation at a cost of $30 million.

The significance of that highway, linking Moreh in Manipur with Kalewa in Myanmar, is that it bridged the gap between South and Southeast Asia.

Delhi’s vision is that it will be extended to Mandalay and, ultimately, be the link in a proposed highway connecting Asia to Europe.

The highway is only one of several Indian initiatives. During his visit to open the road, Singh commissioned the Myanmar-India Friendship Centre for Remote Sensing and Data Processing.

Set up by the Indian Space Research Organisation, its role in processing and disseminating data from satellites in this sensitive region is enormous.

India is also helping in oil and gas exploration in Myanmar’s Arakan region which can be piped to India if an agreement with Bangladesh can be worked out.

There has been criticism from bleeding hearts in Delhi that India is cosying up to the men in uniform in Yangon.

What is missed is that it is a policy which has balance. India is home to the biggest Burmese community in exile, which has become as much a part of Indian society as the Tibetan refugees.

All India Radio’s daily broadcasts in Burmese still provide the easiest, cheapest window for the people in Myanmar to the free world.

When Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, the second most important leader in Yangon, visited India with most of the government’s top leaders in November 2000, defence minister George Fernandes refused to receive the delegation. Fernandes has been a long-time champion of democracy in Myanmar.

Then there is Usha Narayanan, India’s First Lady of Burmese origin, who has almost been a surrogate guardian to Suu Kyi.

The President’s wife has known the democracy leader in Yangon from her childhood. A strong relationship emerged when Suu Kyi was studying in Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and later in Delhi University.

The choice before South Block will be whether it can exploit its considerable assets in Myanmar in the coming months. Or fritter away these assets as was the case with Afghanistan in the last five years and thus open up the sensitive eastern region to terrorism, drug trafficking and stepped-up insurgency from across the border in Myanmar.


Lahore, May 6: 
More than half a century after its formation, Pakistan is trying to revive and reclaim its classical music heritage. In pursuit of that aim, for the first time, Lahore’s National College of Art (formerly the Mayo School of Art) has decided to offer a four-year graduate programme in South Asian classical music.

Such academic activity may seem perfectly normal in India, with its Bhatkhande School of Music, Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, the ITC Sangeet Research Academy and the music departments of various universities. But for Pakistan, this is a pioneering venture.

Till now, Pakistan did not have any institution where students could learn music as an academic discipline. While music as a subject was mentioned in the syllabi at the intermediate, bachelor’s and master’s level, it was never formally taught.

But how did classical music meet this fate in Pakistan? “In terms of talent, we were not at a complete disadvantage at the time of Partition. Those who chose to come to Pakistan included Amanat Ali Khan, Barkat Ali Khan (brother of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) and Fateh Ali Khan of the Patiala gharana; Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Nazakat Ali Khan of the Shyam Chaurasi gharana; Roshanara Begum of the Kirana gharana; Asad Ali Khan (Ustad Fayyaz Khan’s nephew) of the Agra gharana and Sardar Khan (Taanras Khan’s grandson) of the Delhi gharana.

“Sharif Khan Poonchwala who played the sitar and the veena and a number of tabla players like Shaukat Hussain of the Punjab Baaj school, also came to Pakistan. Shaukat Hussain and Alla Rakha belonged to the same school and were disciples of the same teacher,” said Sarwat Ali, professor of musicology and one of the moving figures behind the NCA programme.

But, according to Sarwat Ali: “The moment they arrived here they realised that the old system of patronage had collapsed.” And the state did not step in to fill the vacuum.

“They were left at the mercy of the market and they had no market. They gradually lost their audience. They either dissuaded their children from following in their footsteps or the children themselves opted for film music or ghazal singing. In the last decade, some of them moved to pop music — about half of those singing or playing in the pop groups are children of the great masters,” he pointed out. The net result, he said, was that Pakistan lost out on its musical heritage.

“Those who had a sizeable following were either singing film songs like Noorjehan, ghazals like Mehdi Hasan or the qawwali like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But the classical form really suffered. You could see the gradual decay with the great musicians dying one by one — out of poverty, lack of acceptance and appreciation,” he explained.

Hence the need to revive this tradition which is as much Pakistani as it is Indian. To this end, a year ago, the NCA approached Raza Kazim, who runs the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Art and Philosophy in Lahore, for help in setting up a department of music.

At Sanjan Nagar, Kazim was encouraging research on the arts, especially music. Kazim told the NCA that to understand what ails classical music in Pakistan what was needed was a department of musicology and not of music. There was a need to look at causes beyond the lack of patronage, awareness and, of course, the partition, he argued.

Sarwat Ali worked with Raza Kazim to set up the musicology department at the NCA. He had worked at the NCA earlier as the curator of its art gallery after setting up the Shakir Ali Museum which houses the works of Pakistan’s most famous painter after whom the museum is named. Sarwat Ali was a civil servant on deputation to the NCA and went back to his cadre once that came to an end. But his heart was in music and the fine arts.

When the opportunity came to set up the department of musicology, he decided to seek pre-mature retirement from the civil service. While Raza Kazim took charge as the head of the department, Sarwat Ali became the first professor of musicology at the NCA.

Sarwat Ali bemoans the lack of classical music resources in Pakistan. The difficulty in sourcing them from India, he pointed out, was all the greater at a time when even mail between the two countries had been affected by India banning all modes of direct transport between the two countries. “We would very much like to have books and music. We are short on music resources — both in terms of audio archives and printed material,” Sarwat Ali said.


Calcutta, May 6: 
The Bengal government today broke its silence on the visit of US officials to Calcutta Madarsa with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ordering a probe and his colleague virtually showcausing the officer in charge of the institute.

Higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty today called Moniruzzaman, who looks after the madarsa, and sought an explanation from him for allowing the US officials to interact with the teachers without the government’s sanction.

Two days after the CPM leadership criticised the US officials’ visit to the madarsa, the chief minister gave expression to his government’s resentment by asking home secretary Amit Kiran Deb to probe the matter.

“I have asked Deb to probe the circumstances that led to the US officials’ visit,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings. Asked if such a visit was permissible, he said: “You know what the country’s laws are, decide for yourself.”

There is no law that prohibits diplomats from making a visit, but the Bengal government expects to be kept informed as part of protocol.

The minister-counsellor of the US embassy in Delhi, James Callaghan, had visited Calcutta Madarsa with Rex Moser, director of the American Center, and another official, Ramendra Sarkar. They had spoken to some teachers there, enquiring about the madarsa system of education, its syllabus, prospects and plans for future development.

CPM state secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas had said on Saturday the team did not inform the government before visiting the madarsa.

“Professor Moniruzzaman knew about the visit four days earlier but did not bother to inform us. This is unbecoming of a responsible head of an institution. We got to know about the visit from the media,” Chakraborty said.

He called up Bhattacharjee during the day to brief him about steps he intended to take.

As directed by Chakraborty, the principal secretary of the higher education department, S.N. Ghosh, today asked Moniruzzaman to put down in writing what had prompted him to allow the US officials to visit the institute. “We are awaiting a reply from Prof. Moniruzzaman,” he added.

Moniruzzaman said: “I shall send my explanation in a day or two. It was a mistake on my part not to have informed the government.”

Gordon Duguid, press adviser to the US embassy, said there was nothing wrong in an American team visiting an educational institution. “This is part of Callaghan’s portfolio to make himself aware of the education system in India. And, he keeps visiting colleges, universities and other educational institutions. The visit to Calcutta Madarsa is significant to us since this is the oldest madarsa institution in India, founded in 1780 by Warren Hastings,” he said.


Calcutta, May 6: 
Thirteen-year-old Vishal Shaw, a bright Class VIII student, was scurrying across the road at 6.35 am to reach school in time for the assembly when a speeding bus crushed him to death.

The driver of a bus on route 218, out to overtake another bus, ran over the cheerful boy, leaving him to die on the road outside his school, next to the Bangladesh High Commission.

Passers-by rushed Vishal to hospital, but he died before they could get there.

The teenager, who had joined Central Model School only this year but was already a favourite with the teachers, had told his parents before leaving home that he would have to hurry because he had a lot of work to do.

He had been performing very well at school, not only in academics but also in extra-curricular activities.

“Vishal had leadership potential. Whenever teachers were not around, he would control the students very well,” said one of his teachers.

Witnesses said Vishal waited for some time at 147 Park Street before he started crossing the road to reach his school, where the morning assembly was to begin in five minutes. Within seconds, the killer bus appeared. It knocked down the boy, leaving him writhing in pain in a pool of blood, and raced on.

“Vishal was very fond of his three-year-old brother, who has no idea about the enormous loss in the family. But all day, he has been asking for bhaiya,” a relative said.


Patna, May 6: 
Ek admi apna gaonse de do,” she demands, turning to the audience, her face taut with the fury of a violated girl.

Hum sab taiyar hai,” the crowd roars back in the darkness of the hall, their voice drowning the staccato bursts of automatic gunfire, as a bloody fight rages between the rebels and police.

Welcome to Lal Salam, the first ever film on Naxalites now showing in Bihar.

The film has left the state police squirming and struck a chord among young backward caste men and women who have been thronging the movie halls in places like Buxar and Muzaffarpur.

One of the earlier scenes show policemen raping the tribal girl, played by Nandita Das. In another, they are shown urinating on a tribal man for refusing to accept lower wages.

Intelligence reports with the Patna police headquarters say that in a number of districts where this movie is being screened, outlawed Naxalite groups are going for block bookings for their comrades. In Patna’s Apsara, which is running to full houses, ragtag idealists from radical outfits and their sympathisers form the majority of viewers.

One report from Begusarai said the film’s pirated versions have been sold to key leaders of the radical People’s War, which is exhibiting the film in remote tribal hamlets in Garwa, Palamau and parts of Santhalpargnas under the cover of night. According to sources, copies are also being smuggled out to Nepal to boost the morale of the retreating Naxalite cadre.

Produced by Sanjeev Karambelkar, Lal Salam is based on the real-life experience of some leaders of the outlawed People’s War Group. Director Gagan Vihari Boratte claims to have once met them in Nasik.

The film portrays all that the rebels have been fighting for over the last three decades: their struggle for the deprived tribals involved in the tendu patta trade and against the contractor-police nexus.

In some of the most authentic depictions of how a dalam -— area wise group — operates, the film shows what strategies they adopt while fighting the police.

What has made it more attractive for the rebels is the presence of Gadar and his revolutionary songs, written in Telugu but translated into Hindi.

“I have reported the factual position in tribal areas of the country and why people are turning to Naxalites,” said Karambelkar. “It is because of government inefficiency and apathy.”

Adds Nandita: “I have not seen the finished version of the film. And I have not heard any reports on it. So I am not really in a position to comment. But the film does deal with Naxalism and raises a debate on violence and non-violence. There are certain points with which which people will identify. But the film does not offer any solutions.”

Director Boratte, however, says he is uncomfortable with the fact that Naxalites “have taken” to the film. “I only wanted to point out that if some people have taken to guns as an answer to their problems, we should sit up and take notice. I don’t want the film to send out any pro-Naxalite message,” he says.

In a Patna hall, a majority of the audience included members of the PWG, its student sympathisers and poor tribal and backward caste men and women. During scenes when the police are shown raping Nandita, a deathly hush falls. The silence turns into a roar of approval when Nandita fights back.

A student of Patna College is thrilled. “We may be losing in Nepal now but victory will be ours,” he says.

The film’s popularity has put the police on their toes. Sources said district superintendents have been told to keep watch on cinema halls for any senior Naxalite leaders.


Calcutta, May 6: 
The girlfriend syndrome has caught up with corporate executives — and they’re having to pay for their dalliance.

Cost-cutting companies that have been picking up the tab for the mobile phone bills of their executives are loath to pay for the personal calls of their mobile-toting executives.

Enter AirTel with the solution: it’s offering its subscribers the benefits of a post-paid and a pre-paid connection which will be accessible from a single mobile phone number.

Most companies provide a post-paid facility to their executives but have become aware that their truant managers have been happily making personal calls on their mobiles — and these have been STD and ISD calls as well.

AirTel’s solution, which is being tried for the first time in India, allows the customer the option of routing the calls over the pre-paid route or a post-paid one.

The solution, which is being tested in Calcutta, will soon be offered in other AirTel circles like Delhi.

It ensures that everyone is happy: the official calls get routed over the post-paid route and the company picks up the tab; the personal calls are routed over the pre-paid route and the executive pays for those out of his pocket.

The executive is happy because he gets a couple of benefits too: he does not have to pay an activation fee for the pre-paid account. All calls routed through the Magic card will start with an (*) and will be debited from the pre-paid account.

The subscriber also has the freedom to use the pre-paid option as and when necessary, as there is no expiry period for the added pre-paid connection.

Explaining the concept, Deepak Gulati, chief executive officer of Bharti Mobitel, which operates the AirTel brand, says: “The subscriber can avail of the options and benefits offered by both the post-paid and pre-paid platforms through their existing mobile number. We have added a complimentary Rs 10 Magic pre-paid account on all AirTel post-paid connections in Calcutta.”

“The main benefit is being able to make long-distance calls without paying a security deposit,” adds Gulati.

“We expect to divert some of the long-distance traffic from PCOs to mobile phones with this concept. Also, the option will allow people to segregate their personal and official calls.”

Gulati expects around 50 per cent of the subscribers to use this option in the next two to three months.


Calcutta, May 6: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today hinted at her possible re-induction into the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet in the near future, saying “the Prime Minister wants us to rejoin his government”.

“Vajpayeeji has made it clear that there are no hurdles to our rejoining the Union ministry. He (Vajpayee) never wanted us out of the Cabinet. We had quit the ministry on a matter of principle. We had left the NDA Cabinet voluntarily. We will also return on our own free will,” she said.

Trinamul sources said Vajpayee might undertake a reshuffle after the budget session of Parliament, preferably towards the end of this month.

As far as the portfolios are concerned, Mamata’s first preference will be the railway ministry, since she had taken the initiative of implementing a number of pending projects in Bengal during her tenure as the railway minister. Some of these projects such as the Digha-Tamluk line and the Eklakhi Balurghat project are yet to be completed.

Other possible portfolios for the Trinamul leader include coal, rural development and surface transport. Apart from the Cabinet berth, Trinamul expects at least one more portfolio of a minister of state.

However, Mamata clarified her primary concern was restoration of normality in riot-torn Gujarat. “Let the riots die down first and then only we can think about other things,” she added.

Reiterating her demand for chief minister Narendra Modi’s removal, Mamata pointed out that the Vajpayee government was playing a proactive role in controlling the riots in Gujarat.

“He (Vajpayee) appointed K.P.S. Gill as the security adviser to the Gujarat government and has invoked Article 355 of the Constitution to restore peace in the state,” she added.

Referring to the forthcoming election of the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mamata hoped that the Telugu Desam Party boss and Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, would reconsider his party’s stand and nominate a candidate for the post.


Chennai, May 6: 
The huge Kamaraj Arangam on the arterial Anna Salai was temporarily renamed as Geetha Mukherjee Hall as curtains went up on the 16th national conference of the National Federation of Indian Women today.

Octogenarian freedom fighter Meena Krishnaswamy hoisted the customary flag and federation president Deena Pathak formally opened the four-day meet which had echoes of the Gujarat carnage and the plight of women there ringing loud and clear. The riots that rocked the secular roots of the country held centrestage as Anuradha Sriram sang from the film Bombay, calling for peace.

Six women delegates from Pakistan could not make it to Chennai today as they are still waiting for their visas, said Amarjith Kaur, general secretary of the federation. But an array of women writers, intellectuals, political leaders and social activists were present and jibes at the Centre and its failures were common at the conference of the CPI’s women’s wing.

Kaur spelt out the twin focus of the meet — economic empowerment and Gujarat.

The Centre, “under pressure” from the international finance capitals and institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, is a major obstacle in women’s economic independence, Kaur said. Women were the “first and worst” sufferers in any communal riot, she added. Only a “united women’s movement (in Gujarat) will thwart the designs of fascist forces”, she thundered.

Improving the rate of female literacy is the key to empowerment, said Justice Prabha Sreedevan of Madras High Court. It is important to “internalise” the thought that “I am a woman and I am precious”, she said. Women must realise “we are the power” so that they are not “kicked-about by men”.

Tamil Maanila Congress leader and former Union minister Jayanthi Natarajan blasted defence minister George Fernandes’ remarks on crime against women in the Lok Sabha during last week’s debate. His remarks against women were “worse than the rapes” perpetrated in Gujarat, Natarajan said. “None of us should rest until George is dismissed from the government.”

While cautioning against the Sangh parivar forces trying to “brain-wash” the women in Gujarat, Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Organisation, called the RSS the “Rashtriya Sarvanash Sangh”. The Sangh was trying to mobilise a section of the women in the state, she alleged.

“Only three FIRs regarding rape have been filed in the entire state since the violence broke out; it is not just the process of law in Gujarat, but also the judicial process that has been subverted,” she said.

Actress and social activist Nafisa Ali said: “One year ago, I went to Gujarat with a group of young volunteers after the earthquake. I was all alone and never did anybody ask me to what caste or religion I belonged.”

“And today, when I again went to Gujarat, I felt very disturbed to see the communalisation of politics.”




Maximum: 34.3°C (-2)
Minimum: 27.4°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 85%,
Minimum: 62%

Sunrise: 5.04 am

Sunset: 6.02 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of light rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts

Maintained by Web Development Company