Spitfire wind sows death in its wake
Border beckons big guns for desert storm
Advani opens war book
Born in Bollywood, made in UK
Cannes gets edgy as Devdas goes missing
Riot-torn tiptoe back home under guard
Delhi exchanges standoff notes with Tehran
Riots throw up samaritan
Congress banks on Goa turncoats
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, May 20: 
Hot winds from the west sweeping across the heat bowl of the central Indian plains enveloped south Bengal in a searing hug, killing seven people and taking the temperature up in Calcutta to a 23-year high.

The city reported a maximum temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, seven degrees above normal. The last time the temperature crossed 43 was in 1979, when it touched 43.2.

Two of the seven deaths in heat stroke occurred at Jadavpur. Anwar Ali Mukhtar, 38, and Dilip Pal, 40, collapsed on the road and died on way to the hospital.

Three persons died at Memari in Burdwan and two others at Nalikul and Polba in Hooghly. The three who died in Memari were identified as Naresh Soren, 35, Sheikh Samad, 40, and Ultad Ali, 45. In Nalikul, Hanif Mollah, a railway hawker, died after he fell unconscious while drinking water at the station.

The weather office forecast a “moderate heat wave” over the next two days, with temperatures expected to stay above 40 degrees. It said parts of Gangetic West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand would be under the spell of the heat wave. “No rain clouds are in sight,” the Met office said.

The regional meteorological centre at Alipore said the heat wave had been building up since last night when the wind, coming in from the south, changed course to blow from the west. As a result of the wind passing over the dry western land-mass, daytime humidity dropped sharply today to 21 per cent (minimum) compared with 60 per cent yesterday.

The deputy director-general of the Met office, R.N. Goldar, said that before 1979 the peak was 43.7 degrees in 1958. The highest temperature recorded in recent memory is 44.1 degrees on June 1, 1924.

“Every time the temperature had risen like this, it had been noticed that the course of wind had changed and the wind blew from dry areas. This time, too, dry and warm wind from the western parts like Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and north interior Orissa swept over south Bengal raising the temperature,” he said.

The dry and hot west wind, blowing at about 35 to 40 km per hour, over Calcutta and the 11 south Bengal districts has caused the heat wave. “If the wind blows from the south, the temperature can’t rise sharply because it would be blowing over the Bay of Bengal,” Goldar added.

A cyclonic circulation of air shaped up today over Gangetic West Bengal, western Bihar and adjoining Jharkhand about 3,000 feet above sea level. However, the cyclonic circulation will not bring rains if there is no incursion of moisture from the Bay of Bengal.

“If it moves eastwards and the wind-flow changes to fetch some moisture from the bay to feed the cyclonic circulation, then only some rains can be expected,” a weatherman said.

Calcutta was also hit by water scarcity in many areas coupled with prolonged bouts of power cuts. As the day wore on, there were fewer people and cars on the streets. Buses and minibuses plied with their windows shut to keep out the hot wind.


New Delhi, May 20: 
Six months into the eyeball-to-eyeball deployment, India and Pakistan will move forces, fly aircraft and carry out military manoeuvres close to the international boundary again tomorrow in an atmosphere of high-pitched rhetoric, even as shelling in Jammu and Kashmir continues.

Defence minister George Fernandes, army chief General S. Padmanabhan and Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy will be in the Ganganagar-Bikaner sector to witness a firepower demonstration — part of a scheduled series of exercises under Operation Parakram — in which an estimated 80 aircraft of the Indian Air Force and units of 2 (strike) Corps of the army will participate.

The exercise — probably dubbed Operation Parakram III — will go ahead, weather permitting. A duststorm in the desert over the last couple of days has reduced visibility considerably. Tomorrow’s demonstration will be held for a few hours in the morning. The MiG series of aircraft, Jaguars and Mirage 2000s will be involved. Although the exercise is in the Western Air Command area, aircraft from the Central Air Command are likely to be involved.

Pakistan, which had put its Army Reserve North (ARN) on alert since December, is understood to have moved some more elements of its strike force close to the international boundary opposite the Akhnoor, Samba and Ranbir Singh Pura sectors in Jammu and opposite the Ganganagar-Bikaner alignment.

At the least, the moves signal brinkmanship of a high order. At its worst, the manoeuvres raise fears of a military move spiralling out of control and provoking an action that can be construed as an act of aggression. Usually, at the time of military exercises, the directors-general of military operations of India and Pakistan use an institutionalised mechanism to keep in touch and sort out the time and place for exercises. There is no official word on whether that hotline is active.

Britain’s chief of defence staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce is slated to arrive in Delhi on Wednesday and can be expected to bolster western efforts to broker peace.

The Indian military exercise tomorrow is according to a schedule drawn up at least weeks ago and was public knowledge. The army and air force are reported to have carried out a rehearsal over the weekend. A joint briefing for the demonstration, in which the army will probably provide dummy targets for IAF aircraft, was held in end-April.

The series of manoeuvres against the backdrop of deployment have marked the standoff since December all along the international boundary right through the western stretch of the Line of Control.

It creates a fog of military activity that is difficult to pierce. Till now, it is only the northern stretch of the Line of Control — Dras, Kargil, Batalik right up to Siachen — that appears to be relatively quiet. In the interim, there have been at least two violations of airspace — one by an IAF transporter in Kargil, and another by a Pakistan Air Force cargo aircraft over Gujarat.

The commander of 2 Corps, Lt. Gen. N.C.Vij, was posted out to Army Training Command, Shimla, after reports in January that he had moved armoured units too close to the international boundary.

In the area bounded by the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, Pakistan’s Army Reserve North with armoured and mechanised columns have dug in. Its Army Reserve South (ARS) was reported to be on the west bank of the Indus. Should the ARS cross the river, the location of its units could be either opposite southern Rajasthan or opposite upper Gujarat.


New Delhi, May 20: 
The Centre today raised by another notch the tone and sweep of the build-up, disclosing that the army has been asked to consult the ‘war book’ and bringing merchant navy under the command of the navy.

“Certainly,” PTI quoted home minister L.K. Advani as replying to a question on whether the army has been asked to consult the book.

A retired general explained that the ‘war book’ lays down the sequence of actions to be taken when an act of war has been carried out against the country or when war is impending.

The ‘war book’, usually kept at all regimental headquarters, also contains day-to-day records of previous wars.

“I do not understand why such things should be discussed in the media,” the retired general said.

“Unless the objective of using such rhetoric is to draw international attention to defuse a potentially explosive situation or to provoke the enemy into an act of desperation that can lead to war.”


Cannes, May 20: 
A Bollywood film with a difference lurks in the sidelines here — away from the excitement around Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai.

It’s in English, for a start and made with a modest £1 million budget. Called Bollywood Queen, it’s scripted and directed in London, by an Englishman, Jeremy Wooding. It had a market screening, the first, in Cannes last night, from which the press was kept out.

An industry source explained: “If the press gives a bad write-up, it may be difficult to sell the film, which is why journalists are normally excluded from market screenings.”

However, The Telegraph managed to sneak in by claiming lifelong friendship with the director and other members of the cast. In the event, Wooding need not have worried.

Bollywood Queen, British made with a mixed English and British Asian cast, has every chance of being a worthy successor to Bend It Like Beckham.

The lead female role is played by Preeya Kalidas, this season’s hottest Asian actress who is also the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Bombay Dreams, due to open in London shortly. She is cast as Gina, a 19-year-old independent Indian girl in London who would much rather snog her English boyfriend, Jay, than her Indian fiancé, Dilip.

And there is a lot of kissing in the movie, Wooding admitted proudly, as he was warmly congratulated by members of the audience after last night’s screening.

He said as director he would love to see his movie, which he described as a “Bollywood remix”, released in India, but he was artistically committed to the kissing.

“There is so much kissing in the movie because there is none in Hindi movies,” Wooding emphasised. “We are saying what’s wrong with the two lovers kissing because that is what we do in London movies?”

He has drawn the line at kissing, though, and not made the film sexually explicit. “It’s a family movie as well as being a young London movie. It’s a 12 certificate movie.”

Wooding can claim this is probably the first Bollywood kind of movie, with song and dance, made in English. There is even playback singing, probably also a first for a British film, with Kalidas miming the words and a well-known British Asian singer, Najma Akhtar, undertaking the Lata Mangeshkar role.

The story involves Gina ditching her Indian boyfriend for an English boy, much to the fury of the families on both sides.

Wooding said he had nursed the idea for 12 years. “It’s a Romeo and Juliet style drama set in London, a musical genre meets Romeo and Juliet and that reverberates around a Bollywood theme.

“It self-references not only Bollywood but also the musical genre as well. You have Grease-style (the John Travolta-Olivia Newton John cult movie) college dancing which has been appropriated by Bollywood for typical Grease-style moments. We are reappropriating that back here and we are sending it back to the world in a different remix.”

Wooding, who has studied Hindi films closely, has added humour by making a play of lack of continuity, fantasy sequences, sudden bursts of song and dance (against London backdrops) and touches of gangland rivalry in the style of West Side Story.

At one point, Gina, who works for her family’s clothing business, makes a getaway from her disapproving brother by tossing three bales of silk from a first floor window. The bales are coloured green, white and saffron. Wooding said he had written the script with Kalidas in mind. Occasionally, during shooting, Kalidas and other cast members had objected to some Bollywood sequences.

“You have to know the Bollywood vocabulary to vamp off it,” he commented.

“We had a saying on the set, ‘Don’t fear the cheese’. Preeya and others would say, ‘It’s a bit cheesy’. I would say, ‘No, it’s cool to be kitsch at the moment.’”

Taking time off from rehearsals for Bombay Dreams, Kalidas — she has been featured as the cover story in numerous British glossy magazines recently —turned up in Cannes as well for yesterday’s screening. She mimes to the Hindi numbers in the film but sings all the English songs.

“It’s a family movie,” she stressed. “Gina is 19. At the moment there are not many movies that appeal to the younger generation and make us feel we can relate. That is what I am trying to do with Gina, to make her as real as possible.”

Playing the lead in Bollywood Queen, which is due for release by September, as well as in Bombay Dreams, means she has become the girl to watch this summer.


Cannes, May 20: 
Festival organisers in Cannes are getting a little edgy as India’s special entry, Devdas, is due to be shown here on May 23 “and no one can get in touch with Sanjay Leela Bhansali”, an events organiser said.

One organiser, an Indian woman involved in making arrangements for the Indian stars in Cannes, disclosed: “We believe that he is still in the editing suite, doing post-production.”

Assuming things “will be all right on the night”, the director of Devdas has got to fly in with his $12-million blockbuster by the morning of May 23 when his film is due to be shown to the media, followed by a gala red carpet screening later that evening.

If anything goes wrong, India and Bollywood will have mud on its collective face, for Devdas has been heavily plugged in such large-circulation trade journals in Cannes as Moving Pictures, Screen and the Hollywood Reporter, all of which publish daily editions during the two-week festival.

Contrary to earlier reports, Shah Rukh Khan is expected to arrive in Cannes for the screening, along with his wife, from London, where he is taking a family holiday and also receiving treatment for a troubled back. But until the main lead in Devdas does turn up, there is no knowing what he will do. Predictable Bollywood stars are not.

Meanwhile, Madhuri Dixit, who plays Chandramukhi in the film, is also expected to come, although she is said to have left getting a French visa until the last minute. “We are trying to sort it out,” said a tense Indian official.

One thing is certain as far as the French immigration authorities are concerned: no visa, no Madhuri, Bollywood star or not.

All being well, Aishwarya Rai, who plays Paro, is expected to complete the Devdas trio. All that is now required is for Bhansali to come with his film.

Sushma Swaraj, the information and broadcasting minister, is due to arrive in Cannes today and host a big party at the Carlton Hotel as part of “India week”.

Guests at the party will include Shekhar Kapur, who has been in Paris giving the finishing touches to the music on The Four Feathers, which represents his debut as a Hollywood director.

Kapur was spotted on the Croisette, the famous beach at Cannes, where he said: “I am just here to party — I don’t want to see anything. I was just asked to come to the India party.”

Also seen hurrying on the Croisette was the bustling figure of Gurinder Chadha, the British Indian director of Bend It Like Beckham, which is currently at number three in the British charts, having registered a record by getting to number one.

“The film has made Pound 10 million,” she told Srichand Hinduja (of the UK-based NRI business house), Cannes’ best known Indian resident whose family has had a villa here for 25 years and who is throwing a party for 150 people in honour of Raj Kapoor’s family.

Led by Randhir, the Kapoors are here to mark the retrospective to Raj Kapoor. The family has had a long relationship with the Hindujas.

“It stretches back 40 years to his father, Prithviraj,” said Hinduja. “I was the first to distribute Shree 420. My company is called Sangam after Raj Kapoor’s film. I was the first man to take Raj Kapoor to a premiere in Tehran,” disclosed the businessman.


Ahmedabad, May 20: 
Under police protection, riot refugees have begun to return to their homes in trickles as Ahmedabad passed nearly a week without a major incident.

The city’s new police chief, K.R. Kaushik, who is spearheading efforts to resettle victims of communal violence in their forsaken homes, hopes to build on the trickle and get even refugees from Naroda-Patia and Gulbarg Society in the walled area of Ahmedabad, which saw the most gruesome killings, to go back.

Of the 448 families that fled their homes in two localities — Shakerkotda and Madhavpura — about 100 have returned. After talking to local people of both communities, the police began to rehabilitate refugees where there was no or little damage to houses, and residents had fled simply out of fear.

Additional police commissioner Satish Sharma confirmed the development, saying that they were being given police protection. Some 50 families of Dasumiya ni Chali which has 125 houses, 36 families of Burkhani Apartment in the same area and five families in Raman Dahya ni Chali went back home in the last few days. All these areas are being manned by the State Reserve Police and CRPF personnel.

At Bibi Ji Masjid relief camp, around 1,400 people had taken shelter, but there are only around 600 with most having returned. Ibrahim Shaikh, who is in charge of the camp, while admitting that the situation had improved, said everybody would love to return home provided they were given compensation.

“If the government is really sincere about rehabilitating victims, it should provide adequate compensation. We have suggested that instead of giving compensation, let the government rebuild houses. There has been no response.”

Reconstructing houses is easy compared to efforts to rehabilitate refugees from Naroda-Patia and Gulbarg Society, where 100 people died on a single day on February 28.

Inamul Iraki and Safibhai Memon, co-ordinators of the Dariyakhan Ghummat and Shah-e-Alam relief camps, which shelter over 7,000 refugees from those two places, said: “It is out of question. Nobody from these two localities wants to return and they should not be forced.”

The police chief is still optimistic that with “adequate police protection”, they, too, can be made to go back.

“We will do whatever we can to ensure that they feel secure when they return home. And for that we are taking necessary steps, forming peace committees with people from both the communities,” he said.

For instance, in Gomtipur, another area that bore the brunt of the rioting, a Rapid Action Force team organised a meeting between members of either community yesterday.


New Delhi, May 20: 
India today made a serious attempt to win over Iran, an important player in Asia and a leading Islamic country, explaining to it Delhi’s stance to “act decisively” against Pakistan-backed terrorists responsible for attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, including last Tuesday’s killings at Kaluchak.

The current tension in India-Pakistan relations, particularly the troops build-up along the border and the possibility of yet another war between the two neighbours, was one of the issues discussed at the Indo-Iranian Joint Commission meeting which began here this afternoon. The meeting, which gives the two sides a chance to review bilateral relations and share perceptions on international and regional developments, will conclude tomorrow.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who led the Indian delegation, explained Delhi’s position on the current standoff with Pakistan to his Iranian counterpart and commission co-chairman Kamal Kharazzi. The attack in Jammu and Delhi’s decision to ask Pakistani high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi to leave were some of the other issues that came up for discussion.

“Iran fully understands India’s concern,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said. “The meeting helped us to sensitise Tehran on our concern and approach to the current situation in the region.”

Following the conclusion of the joint commission meeting tomorrow, the two sides are likely to come out with a joint statement which is expected to condemn terrorism and express the resolve of the two countries to fight together the war on terrorism.

India and Iran already have the Tehran Declaration which was signed by the two sides during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to the Iranian capital last year. The declaration, which provides an over-arching structure to the bilateral relations, condemns and rejects terrorism in all its forms, irrespective of its justification and cause.

But Iran, a leader of the Shia world, is also close to Pakistan and despite difficulties in its relationship has been one of Islamabad’s main allies. In the past year or so, however, Delhi has made attempts to build closer ties with Tehran.

The Afghanistan war, where both sides backed the Northern Alliance when it was fighting the Pakistan-backed Taliban regime in Kabul, offered an opportunity to the two countries to come closer. Both sides are now trying to find areas where they will not only work together but also make the Hamid Karzai regime in Afghanistan stable and stronger.

Terrorism and drug trafficking are the common concerns that Iran shares with India. Other issues discussed at today’s meeting included developments in Afghanistan and ways and means to expand the “strong and cordial” relationship that the two countries enjoy to the economic front where cooperation has not really taken off.

Iran has one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas and India, with a fast growing economy, is one of the biggest markets. Predictably, both sides are stressing on cooperation in the energy sector. The proposed Indo-Iran gas pipeline was also discussed at the meeting. At present, feasibility studies of both overland and sub-sea routes for the proposed pipeline are being carried out. The overland route, if cheaper, would include a long stretch through Pakistan. But at the moment, both options are open to the two sides.


Kanij (Kheda), May 20: 
Vikramsinh Shersinh Jadav is a hero whose story has travelled far and wide in Gujarat.

The man obviously enjoys his new-found glory as he meets journalists, politicians and social activists to narrate how he brought the Muslims of his village back, fed them with his own money and used his powers to ensure that they feel secure.

Reclining on a charpoi on a ground-floor room of his two-storeyed house at one end of the village, the man puts it simply: “Where will they go? It’s their village. It’s not they who killed Hindus at Godhra.”

When the houses of Muslims in his village were burnt down and three young men of the community done to death, two of them at another village, Vikramsinh realised that things had gone horribly out of hand.

“We took shelter in the forest across the river when houses were burnt down (on March 1). We came back two days later, but the rest of our houses were burnt that day,” Hossain Mia, who works as the peon of the gram panchayat, narrates the story now familiar in village after village in Gujarat.

For the next seven days, most of them hid in the forest, leaving only at night to get food, while others took shelter at the relief camp at Mehmabad, the nearest municipal town. Vikramsinh sent them word to return, but they were still too scared.

On March 19, the man, who owns more than 100 bighas of land in the village, sent nine tractors, one small truck and a jeep to bring about 500 Muslims back. “He not only brought us back, but spends his own money to feed us even now,” says a riot victim.

They received compensation from the government varying from Rs 2,000 to Rs 14,000 — but that obviously is too little. Muslim organisations like the Jamat-e-Ulema Hind are helping to rebuild their shattered homes.

Didn’t the saffron brigade bother him for thus helping the Muslims? “There are no RSS, Bajrang Dal or VHP here. No one would dare come here.” Why did he do it at all? “All this violence was the handiwork of the Patels,” the man, a Darbar (kshatriya), says. It’s a complaint that one hears again and again in Ahmedabad, Anand, Vadodara and other places in Gujarat — the allegation that the rich Patels used the violence to strike at Muslim business rivals like the Bohras and the Memons.

The panchayat sarpanch, Jagdeshbhai Keshavlal, a Patel, one of the most powerful communities in Gujarat, did not, however, put up any resistance to Vikramsinh.

But the tale has a footnote that is not so happy. Although the Muslims are now staying in the village, life isn’t easy. They still cannot go out to Batwa, the industrial town close to Ahmedabad, where they earned their living. “Their Hindu employers say it’s still not safe to take them back to work,” Vikramsinh says.

Back at the village, the Muslims still wait to get back to life.


Panaji, May 20: 
The Congress in Goa has come under fire from party members for its choice of candidates for the May 30 Assembly elections. Nearly one out of every three nominees for the 40-seat House is a politician who has defected and jumped parties, often, more than once.

Both former chief minister Francisco Sardinha and the man till a fortnight back the BJP deputy chief minister, Ravi Naik, have been allotted tickets, causing dismay among a number of Congress supporters here.

Similarly, the former number 3 in the BJP Cabinet, Ramakant Khalap, is now the Congress candidate from Mandrem constituency.

While the Congress went about nominating “winnable” candidates, the Delhi-appointed party observers, headed by R. Chennithala, have faced flak for allegedly doling out tickets to controversial and corrupt individuals. Tickets were reportedly available to aspirants willing to cough up lakhs of rupees.

“I couldn’t carry on in the race for a ticket simply because I didn’t have the money to keep on fighting,” said disappointed Congressman Sushruta Martins. Martins, a homeopath and son of freedom fighter J.F. Martins, had been hoping for the Panaji ticket.

In a show of strength, the Congress also kept its former chief minister Wilfred de Souza, now a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, hanging fire till the eleventh hour before ditching him over plans for a possible Congress-NCP alliance.

This is expected to divide its support base further, especially from among the minority voters. As of now, Christians and Muslims put together form nearly one-third of the vote base that would get split between the Congress, the Wilfred de Souza-dominated NCP and the United Goans Democratic Party.

Former long-time Congress chief minister and ex-Speaker Pratapsinh Rane, who had a hand in the BJP government’s survival in Goa, is now actively canvassing for the Congress.

Rane never left the Congress, but his flagrant bias for the BJP enabled it to continue in power. Rane’s son Vishwajeet held a plum post in the Goa Tourism Development Corporation till recently.

Of late, however, Rane has been heard lambasting the BJP. He lashed out against chief minister Manohar Parrikar over the burning of the Soccoro mosque and demanded that the names of the culprits be revealed. “The chief minister has hatched a conspiracy to instigate communal violence before Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s visit,” Rane alleged.

Parrikar, on the other hand, alleged that police were inquiring into reports suggesting that some Congress leaders were “creating” communal tension in the state prior to Sonia’s visit on May 23.

For the past several weeks, the Congress image has been receiving a boost in Goa. With the violence in Gujarat showing no signs of abating, several senior BJP politicians had defected back to the Congress to avoid a backlash from minority voters. But the Congress seems to have frittered away the advantage and landed itself on slippery ground by opting for defection-prone candidates.

It may be recalled that the BJP, which won just 10 seats in the June 1999 elections, had ruled Goa for 16 months, a regime that was propped up by defectors mainly from the Congress. Prior to that, for a year the BJP ruled Goa by proxy by getting a long-time Congressman to rebel and run a government dependent on BJP support.




Maximum: 43°C (+7)
Minimum: 30°C (+3)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 21%

Sunrise: 4.56 am

Sunset: 6.09 pm


Hot and sultry weather. Heat wave conditions likely to prevail

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