After war, close encounter at United Nations
Vain search for identity in death?s anonymity
Grow up, Kapur tells censors
Presidency teacher accused of sex abuse
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Aug. 4 
India and Pakistan are getting a chance to stage their first high-level diplomatic encounter since the conflict in Kargil. The South Asian rivals are slotted to speak at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 22.

Encouraged by the international support it received on Kargil, India is looking forward to the UN session with confidence. But it is not taking things easy. It is gearing up to counter the tricks Pakistan may have up its sleeve.

Indications are that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will represent his country. He is expected to use the occasion to bring back international focus on Kashmir and win brownie points for Pakistan.

Since the UN session is in the middle of the month-long general elections here, foreign minister Jaswant Singh will represent India. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is likely to be busy with electioneering.

Singh, a Rajya Sabha member, too, will chip in with the campaigning, but he is not the BJP?s star crowdpuller. He will have more time on hand as he is not in the poll fray.

The possibility of a meeting between Sharif and Singh on the sidelines of the General Assembly is not being ruled out. Though there have been no requests yet, the session has traditionally given world leaders the opportunity to meet one another.

Officially, India?s stand is that it will not return to the talks table till Pakistan re-affirms the sanctity of the Line of Control and assures Delhi that it will stop cross-border terrorism. But this position is not sacrosanct. It will, therefore, not be a surprise if the leaders agree to meet in New York.

In 1997, too, India and Pakistan had spoken on the same day in the General Assembly. But this came about as an unscheduled meeting was fixed up between President Bill Clinton, Sharif and then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral. So India and Pakistan swapped slots with other nations.

This year, India has an advantage as it is slated to speak after Pakistan and will have the chance to counter Sharif?s arguments.

Islamabad is aware of this, and might swap slots with another country to go one up on India.

The plenary session of the General Assembly begins on September 14 and will continue till October 2. Key nations are slotted to speak in the first half of the session.

Nepal has approached India to swap slots. But Delhi is not keen as Kathmandu is due to speak only at the end of the month. ?The interest of world leaders who attend the General Assembly as well as the public runs out towards the end. It will be good if India speaks on the day allotted to it,? a foreign ministry official said.

India feels Pakistan will highlight its appeal to the Mujahideen to withdraw from Kargil as its bid to avert a nuclear war in South Asia. It is also likely to hold up Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint and seek third-party mediation.

India is yet to decide the focus of its speech. It may generally refer to Indo-Pak ties and the Kargil war. But if Islamabad tries to seek global mediation on Kashmir, Delhi might highlight the issue of cross-border terrorism.    

Gaisal (North Dinajpur), Aug. 4 
They lay, the nameless dead of Gaisal, bloodied, bloated and barely covered by sheets. Rescue workers next to the blackened bulk of the twisted train uncovered their disfigured faces for loved ones. But many of the maimed corpses were difficult to identify: Gaisal?s dead were mostly left to anonymous cremations after a gory death.

Only 62 bodies have been identified and the toll of the crash between the Brahmaputra Mail and the Avadh-Assam Express put at 282. Rescue workers are still rummaging in the debris for bodies.

The stench of rotting flesh was so powerful that doctors found it difficult to stay in the morgues. The North Bengal Medical College morgue has 154 bodies. But superintendent Milon Banerjee said the ice on which the bodies have been placed is running out.

The row of corpses, infested with maggots, is getting longer. ?We don?t get upset at the sight of a corpse. But these are grotesque. You can barely tell male from female,?? said a sweeper at the hospital.

The mutilated state of the bodies was an agony relatives of victims were having to endure. Vinod Rai from Begusarai in Bihar went into the morgue looking for his father and came out numb. ?There is nothing left of his body. What shall I take back home? I don?t want the family to see him like this. I shall cremate him here,?? he said.

The district administration said it will wait 72 hours for relatives to identify a body. ?Otherwise, we will have to cremate the bodies,?? said district magistrate Prashant.

Some relatives, like Harbhajan Lal of Imphal, glanced at a body and claimed it. Looking for his wife Rangbini Devi who was on the Avadh-Assam Express, Lal scoured the morgues in vain. Finally, as he walked past the white shrouds at the site of the accident, he pointed to a corpse.

But the district administration said he was in shock and refused to hand over the body. ?Some are claiming bodies to satisfy their hearts. They will console themselves that at least they were able to say goodbye. We need proof that the person is claiming the right body,?? said a district official.

The district magistrate is asking relatives to produce ration cards or find a belonging which will help identify their loved ones. ?This method is not foolproof, but we are left with few alternatives,?? said district magistrate Prashant.

Sunita Kumar of Patna ? who said one of the bodies might be that of her sister ? was told to find a belonging of the victim.

NFR general manager Rajendranath said the salvage operation took time because extricating the bodies was difficult. ?The corpses were disfigured and we had to be careful not to mutilate them further,?? he said.

The 30 sweepers deployed to carry the corpses added to the chaos. Most were inebriated and told district officials they would not work unless they were given more to drink. ?These bodies are stinking. We feel like throwing up,? said Sadhuram Valmiki, a sweeper.

Chief commissioner of railway safety S. Mani inspected the site and said the inquiry will begin tomorrow. The special train carrying about 500 survivors of the Brahmaputra Mail reached Delhi today.    

New Delhi, Aug. 4 
The censor board refuses to grow up. So says Shekhar Kapur, director of Elizabeth. Worse, it believes Indians are not grown up enough to see and hear what?s fit for the eyes and ears of the rest of the world.

After receiving international acclaim, the film has got stuck on the director?s home turf. The censor board, headed by former actress Asha Parekh, has decreed three cuts after watching the film.

Kapur does not object to an ?Adult? certification for the film as furiously as he does to the cuts. ?If the censor board continues to believe the Indian mind to be far less mature than the rest of the world, I will bow to their greater wisdom and agree to an adult certification,? he said.

Before Kapur, it was Mahesh Bhatt whose Zakhm got hacked by the same overzealous board. Deepa Mehta, director of the controversial film Fire, was luckier.

She managed to get around Parekh and her colleagues who deigned to release her film on lesbianism without any cuts even after the Shiv Sena raised a war cry.

?I think the censor board does not understand film makers who believe in the craft, they think we are nautankis (crude entertainers)... they try to make us believe we are idiotic,? Kapur said. With him was Joseph Fiennes, who acted in Elizabeth.

Fiennes said he had enormously enjoyed working with Kapur but the audience here is still to see him as Lord Robert Dudley.

With Kapur refusing to make the cuts, the Indian premiere of the film, scheduled at the Siri Fort auditorium last evening, was cancelled. The premiere was to be attended, among others, by the President and the Prime Minister. President K.R. Narayanan has already seen the film once at a private screening in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

?Every shot is as necessary to the film as a move on the chess board,? justified Kapur.

According to the censors, there are three ?objectionable? scenes in Elizabeth. In one, a chopped head is impaled on a spear, in another a man refers to a woman?s genital as ?quinny? and the other is a lovemaking sequence showing a man?s buttocks and a woman?s breasts. Kapur insists all the three scenes are crucial to the film: without the chopped head being shown the film would not be able to convey the identity of the beheaded Duke; similarly, the use of the word ?quinny? was deliberate because the Duke wanted to insult the Queen in the English court.

Originally slated for release on August 6, Elizabeth will now have to await a decision by the Appellate Board of Film Certification, to which Kapur is appealing.

Rachna Chhachhi, a media consultant for the film, told the Associated Press the makers would cite the example of Steven Spielberg?s Saving Private Ryan to fight their case. Spielberg had insisted that his film be shown in India just as it was seen elsewhere in the world.

Elizabeth has won an Oscar and four British Academy Film Awards and grossed $100 million in box office sales. It is also the first ever film made by an Indian director for a foreign producer.

Kapur?s fulmination has cut no ice with the censor board and its chairperson Asha Parekh, known for her dancing-around-the-trees films.

In a recent interview, the chairperson listed her favourites among directors and zeroed in on troublemakers like Kapur and Bhatt. The last two, feels Parekh, are lusting for controversy and attention while ?nice human beings? like Yash Johar, Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai ? mainstream Mumbai cinema ? are never a problem for the board. ?Do filmmakers who work abroad have horns that they should be given preferential treatment?? she was quoted as having said.

This is not the first time Kapur is jousting with the censors. He had earlier clashed with the board over Bandit Queen.

The Kapur-Parekh verbal slugfest has already whetted the appetite of Indian audiences. But all they have got to see of the film is an exhibition of the costumes at the British Council here.    

Calcutta, Aug. 4 
A senior teacher of Presidency College was today sent on leave after a student accused him of molesting her.

Sources in the college said that on Tuesday last week the teacher had allegedly attempted to molest a post-graduate student when she went to his chamber before class hours to get her copies corrected. They added that the teacher himself had asked the student to see him.

In a written complaint to the principal, the girl?s parents have pressed for action against the teacher, the sources said.

The government took the decision to send the teacher on five days? leave after the students met the state director of public instruction (DPI) and submitted a memorandum demanding the teacher be punished. They are seeking his immediate transfer.

But, before this, the college had referred the matter to the government at the insistence of teachers, students and the girl?s guardians. ?We cannot transfer any teacher right now because such decisions cannot be taken till the elections are over. But the transfer will definitely take place after October 3,? Piyush Kanti Ganguly, the DPI, said.

The teacher admitted he was on leave till Saturday but claimed that the decision was his. ?I have heard that one of the students has lodged a complaint against me, but the authorities have not informed me of the nature of the complaint,? he said.

College principal N.C. Mukherjee refused comment.

Sources said since Presidency College is directly controlled by the state higher education department, the government has ordered an inquiry. Further action will be taken on the basis of the probe report, higher education department sources said.

Shocked by the teacher?s behaviour, the student had hurried off the campus on the day and has not returned since, some of her classmates said.

Students of the department boycotted classes the whole of last week in protest against the incident. They even gheraoed the principal, demanding removal of the teacher.

After receiving the complaint from the girl?s parents and students, the principal had held meetings with other teachers of the department in an unsuccessful attempt to settle the matter amicably.

?This is the most scandalous incident that has ever taken place in the history of this prestigious institution. We are shocked that the authorities did not punish the teacher until we forced them to do so,? a student said.

The students alleged that the college was trying to hush up the incident, fearing it would affect on-going admissions to undergraduate courses.    

Today?s forecast: One or two spells of light rain accompanied by thunder.
Temperature: Maximum 32.1?C ( Normal)
Minimum 26?C (Normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 97%
Minimum 74%
Rainfall: Trace
Sunset: 6.14 pm
Sunrise: 5.12 am    

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