First taste of freedom and onion at five
Advani clears air on Atal
Crusade against bandh at SC door
Cover-up stink in death cell
See-and-scoot set stops to shop
Calcutta Weather

 
 
FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM AND ONION AT FIVE 
 
 
MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Aug. 3: 
Five-year-old Mobin today saw automobiles, skyscrapers and streetlights, even onions and potatoes for the first time in her life. Born to a jailed mother, who was swept across the Jhelum into Indian territory, Mobin has spent all her life behind bars in Jammu for a crime she did not commit.

Her mother, Shahnaz Pravin Akhtar Kausar, was released today after seven years in prison on the directive of a division bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Mobin was born to Shahnaz in captivity after she was allegedly raped in police custody.

The two were taken to the home of a Jammu lawyer where they will stay till the state government arranges alternative accommodation for them. The division bench has directed that “till the minor girl wants to stay in India and till she is accepted by the Pakistan authorities, she would stay with her mother in a government accommodation, which is available to a government servant of the lowest category in the state”.

Shahnaz, a resident of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was arrested in Jammu on October 6, 1995, for “illegal entry”. According to Shahnaz, she jumped into the river following differences with her husband, Mohammad Yunus, and in-laws, and was swept by the current to the Indian side where she was arrested by security forces.

Convicted on November 15, 1995, she was sentenced to one year in jail and fined Rs 500. Shahnaz was initially lodged in Jammu Central Jail, from where she was shifted to Poonch district jail on January 28, 1996. It was here that she gave birth to Mobin on October 6, 1997 — a result of the alleged rape by Mohammaduddin, a jail warden.

Shahnaz’s detention was extended several times. Quashing the detention ruling, the division bench of Justices Tejinder Singh Doabia and Sudesh Kumar Gupta said it “was passed without application of mind”.

The court granted the child Indian citizenship and state domicile and allowed her mother to stay in the country.

The bench also directed the state government to pay Rs 3 lakh as “compensation to be deposited in the name of Mobin”.

“Mobin repeatedly enquired about the tall buildings, the traffic on the road,” said advocate Aseem Sawhney, who escorted her to his home. “On reaching my home, she went inside the kitchen and started enquiring about potatoes and onions. Mobin says she has not tasted these in the jails. She is excited seeing a free life outside. They will stay with us till the government arranges accommodation.”

Shahnaz says she does not want to go to Pakistan. “I will now devote my entire life to bringing up my child,” she said.

“Shahnaz is free now and Mobin is enjoying every moment after their release,” said Sawhney, who later took the child to Jammu’s main market. “She told me to purchase lots of sweets and was thrilled with the activity around.”

   

 
 
ADVANI CLEARS AIR ON ATAL 
 
 
RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Aug. 3: 
The BJP’s first spectacle since the elevation of L.K. Advani unfolded according to the party script but for an “unspoken suggestion” attributed to the deputy Prime Minister, which prompted him to reclaim the microphone and issue an unusual clarification on Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s influence.

The one-day national council meeting at Talkatora Stadium was called to ratify M. Venkaiah Naidu’s appointment as BJP president. But once the ritual was accomplished, ears were straining and necks craning to catch clues on the power equations.

Naidu set the tone, describing Vajpayee as not just an individual, but a “phenomenon”. The BJP president snapped a semantic salute, too, reminding the audience of the similarity between the acronyms of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad — the RSS’ student wing where he began his political career — and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

But the trace of a cloud crept up on the hierarchical perception during Advani’s speech when he talked of how the Jan Sangh and its latter-day avatar went through four phases. The first from 1951 to 1968 under Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhayaya; the seventies under Jai Prakash Narayan; and the third from 1980 to 1996, which was described as the Vajpayee phase.

The fourth phase — which Advani suggested begun from 1996 — was cryptically defined as the one in which the BJP had to “prove that we are not only a party with a difference but a government with a difference”.

There was no hint that this phase belonged to Advani. But in the lunch break that followed his speech, BJP members came up with their interpretations which seemed to add to the perception that Vajpayee had been put in the past tense.

Reporters quizzed a senior minister close to Advani, but he merely smiled. When the council resumed, this minister went up to the dais and whispered in Advani’s ear. Vajpayee had not yet returned.

After BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley finished speaking, Advani intervened to clarify that what he meant was from 1980 to the present year, Vajpayee was the all-pervading influence on the BJP, its “yug purush”.

The clarification set at rest — at least for the moment — speculation on who called the shots, and the Prime Minister did not refer to the issue in his concluding address.

Referring to the “Kamaraj plan” — which involves cross-migration between the government and the party — Vajpayee said the goals of either were not antagonistic. “The government is a medium not an end, it is a marg (path) not the mandir (destination). The government is here to realise certain dreams but the party organisation is the weapon.”

Vajpayee said the BJP should strive for a clear majority in the next elections, but added that it would have to take its allies along. He said solutions to various problems would have to be found “keeping the party and national interests together”.

Advani, too, spoke of the virtues of consensus and how, “even if ideologies were different, idealism can cement parties together”. He recalled that in 1998, the prospective allies were ready to join hands with the BJP but for the party’s ideology. Therefore, the party went in for a common national agenda to which it was committed despite electoral routs that, Advani added, were often sourced to forsaking Hindutva.

The 19-page Delhi Pledge, which was adopted at the council, enshrined the BJP’s commitment to straddling the space between being a “party with a difference — different in terms of ideology, idealism, leadership and behaviour” — to giving “good governance” with the help of the allies.

   

 
 
CRUSADE AGAINST BANDH AT SC DOOR 
 
 
OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 3: 
Two months ago, on the eve of the last bandh called by the Trinamul Congress, Calcutta High Court had thrown up its hands, saying it was “helpless” to stop the law from being flouted.

Although the Supreme Court had ruled that strikes were illegal, there was no way the high court could stop Trinamul from going ahead. In frustration, it had observed: “As Bengalis, we hang our heads in shame.”

But the petitioner has not given up. With Mamata Banerjee’s bandh barely 48 hours away, Sreemoyee Das today filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, appealing for the de-registration of the party for violating the court’s orders.

The petition says the court should not only pass judgments but also ensure they are enforced. “The fruit of the judgment,” it states, should reach the “common mass for whom the judgment has been pronounced”.

The petition is expected to be heard on Monday, the day Mamata goes ahead with her bandh against the Centre’s move to bifurcate Eastern Railway.

On November 12, 1997, the Supreme Court had upheld a full bench judgment of Kerala High Court, declaring bandhs as illegal and unconstitutional. The observation of the apex court amounted to imposition of a judicial ban on strikes and hartals.

The petition urges strong action — in this case de-recognition by the poll panel — against any body registered under the Representation of Peoples’ Act which indulges in anything that is “unconstitutional, anti-people and thus anti-national”.

“It is the constitutional obligation of the whole judiciary to see that the law laid down by the apex court is not violated or infringed upon by the resolution of a political party,” the petition says. “A political party has no business to remain a political party when it loses its faith in the Constitution.”

In today’s petition, it was pointed out that bandhs “are unproductive, degenerating, causing loss to life and property, and posterity should be rid of such nagging negativism by all means, public good being supreme”.

But Trinamul is unfazed. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said they were not attaching importance to the court’s verdict on the special leave petition. “We are highlighting the people’s problem and bandhs are the last weapon left with us to protest the Centre’s step-motherly attitude towards the state,” he said.

Several organisations based in the city have also voiced their protests against the bandh call. The Jana Unnayan Mancha, a recognised party, and the Centre for Peace and Progress, have said the strike will be harmful for the common people.

   

 
 
COVER-UP STINK IN DEATH CELL 
 
 
BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND DEBARATI AGARWALA
 
Malda, Aug. 3: 
After the stench of tragedy, the foul smell of a cover-up is rising from the suffocation lock-up of Malda.

Reports being sent to Writers’ Buildings by the district magistrate and the police superintendent have contradicted each other on what led to the death of the two accused on Thursday.

The police appear keen on covering up their lapses. But an independent and mandatory magisterial probe being conducted by the district magistrate is all set to indict at least five to six policemen for negligence and inhuman conduct, leading to the custody deaths of Nemai Ghosh and Anish Das.

An initial report sent to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by police superintendent Pankaj Dutta late on Friday evening blamed the sultry weather and the cramped confines of the lock-up instead of the policemen on duty.

Dutta even clarified that the two men did not die inside the lock-up but were pronounced dead when taken to hospital. But district magistrate Ashok Bala, who has received the preliminary report, has instructed his officers to conduct a “thorough and unbiased” probe into the incident.

A senior official said that contrary to what the police were saying, the deaths had taken place inside the lock-up and that the police were trying to “cover up the mess”. “It is also a fact that the police on duty at the lock-up were selling water to those inside,” the official said. “All this would find a place in the district magistrate’s report.”

The “conclusive” report, however, is being prepared by deputy inspector general of police (Malda range) Amal Kumar Sarkar. He has been asked by the chief minister to conduct a thorough inquiry and submit the report directly to him. “I will try and send the chief minister the report as soon as possible,” Sarkar said. His report will focus on four key issues:

The policemen on duty at the court lock-up had demanded Rs 50 for a sip of water.

Most of the police force in the town was at Manikchowk and Ratua for pre-flood exercises till 5 pm, neglecting the fact that there were 262 prisoner suffocating inside the lock-up.

The prisoners were exchanging blows inside the lock-up for water while the policemen watched the “fun”.

Why no food was served to the undertrials inside the lock-up.

Unwilling to discuss whether heads would roll, Sarkar said: “All aspects behind the incident will be covered and are subject to my investigation. I will definitely recommend action. But there is no denying the fact that the extreme heat and the cramped conditions led to the deaths.”

The district police are also in a tight spot with Malda district judge Keya Basu saying the court was not informed about the large number of undertrials to be produced in court on Thursday.    


 
 
SEE-AND-SCOOT SET STOPS TO SHOP 
 
 
SEEMA GOSWAMI
 
New Delhi, Aug. 3: 
Last night’s Cue showing encapsulated the spirit of the third Lakme India Fashion Week. Rather than making fashion statements of the kind that are best restricted to couture shows, the designer team of Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna put out wearable clothes that are destined to fly off the racks.

The collection was built around leather and denim and the key shades of tan and brown. Butter-soft suede jackets, cut-out leather trousers, crushed silk skirts, baby-doll bustiers — these were clothes that real people wear.

Not surprisingly, these also turned out to be the clothes that real buyers are looking for. The Cue stall was the destination of most of them today, where they were pleasantly surprised by the prices on offer: suede trousers at Rs 2,800, silk skirts with hand-work at Rs 2,550 with men’s suits retailing at Rs 11,000.

Among those making enquires was Ratul Sood of Burlingtons, whose aim is to bring “affordable fashion” to Calcutta.

Burlingtons already sells clothes by Malini Ramani, Aparna Chandra and Satya Paul, and is looking at stocking the pręt lines with Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh and, of course, Cue.

Says Sood: “The creativity is there, the price is just right, now it’s just a question of looking if the designers have an infrastructure in place.”

Also on the prowl are the buyers from Kali, Indu Tibrewala and Anita Modi. Their brief is to find a more conservative look from among the wares on offer, as daring styles don’t have too many takers in Calcutta.

Reasonable prices are a priority, but says Tibrewala: “While Calcutta remains a very price-sensitive market, it is no longer the fashion graveyard it was earlier.”

Sanjay Bindra, of Biba Apparels, Mumbai, believes that designer ready-to-wear will soon become the fastest-growing segment in the Indian market. Bindra, who recently launched the pręt label of film designer Neeta Lulla (she designed Aishwarya Rai’s wardrobe in Devdas) in his Mumbai store, has his eye on the bridge label of J.J. Valaya. He hopes to retail his designerwear through a large distribution network that extends from Delhi, Mumbai, Calicut, Kanpur and includes Pantaloons in Calcutta.

Amreesh Kumar, son of fashion designer Ritu Kumar, who recently launched the Label line of casualwear at his mother’s eponymous stores, strikes a more cautious note. He says his will be a wait-and-watch attitude because the pręt market is an emerging one. “While the potential is undoubtedly there,” says Kumar, “there is always a danger of over-expansion. Designers should not extend themselves unless they have an infrastructure in place.”

Companies such as Raymonds are far more optimistic. Raymonds has launched three Be: stores — showcasing the designs of Raghavendra Rathore, Pooja Nair and Rajesh Pratap Singh among others — including one in Dubai and plans to extend its network to other Indian centres in future.

Says Aniruddha Deshmukh of Raymonds: “The objective of Be: is to provide a platform for designers to reach out to a wider audience, help them build a brand and make fashion a part of people’s lives.”

With this view in mind, Be: has kept the prices at a very competitive level, even if it means cutting into profit margins. The company sees the stores as a strategic investment, which may not make money now, but will eventually pay off.

Right now, the focus is on bringing global trends to India, standardising sizing (one designer’s large should not be another one’s medium) setting up viable price points, and bringing an element of professionalism into fashion designing. The idea is not to have watered-down variations of couture in the store; it is to have competitively priced quality clothes with a design element that offer the consumer value for money.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 29°C (-3)
Minimum: 24.8°C (-1)

Rainfall:

43 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 90%

Today

Sunrise: 5.11 am
Sunset: 6.15 pm

A few spells of rain or thundershowers

   
 

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