Red-light go-ahead to Water
Parties abetting criminals: Basu
Trader freed in joint offensive
Maid search in Phoolbagan case
Amsu warns of public curfew on polling day

Calcutta, Feb 19 
Calcutta�s sex workers rallied behind Deepa Mehta�s plans to shoot Water in the city on Saturday, and among them were some widows forced into the trade.

In the crowd gathered at Esplanade stood Saraswati Sarkar. Scarred by three decades of life in Sonagachhi, she drew a parallel between herself and the widows of Varanasi. Reports of the row surrounding the shooting in Varanasi have not eluded her. �My companions and I support Mehta because the widows of Varanasi who sell their bodies to survive are not unlike us,� she said.

�The widows of Varanasi are like myself, persecuted and exploited. The film tries to depict our pain, our ordeal and our life stories,� Saraswati asserted.

Along with her friends, who reside in the dingy brothels of Sonagachhi, Saraswati expressed her solidarity with the crew if they came to the city to make the film. �If shooting is stopped by people who do not want to expose reality, our tale will remain untold,� they said.

Kajol Basu, among the 1,500 sex workers who had gathered opposite Metro cinema, had come to register her protest against attempts to scuttle the making of Water. �We know the pain of a widow as well as one who has been pushed into selling her body, either to feed herself or her family,� Kajol said.

Surprisingly, almost all at the rally knew the drama and the controversy which forced Mehta and her crew out of Varanasi.

Laboni Das of Howrah said the Varanasi widows themselves had not protested against the film. �It is only a few outsiders who are making all the fuss,� she said.

Shyamali Haldar, from the suburbs, felt the people protesting Water were hardly religious. �After the film is complete, these so-called religious people will be unmasked. That is why they are trying to block the film,� she said.

Shyamali said both widows and prostitutes were victims of circumstance. The Varanasi widows, she felt, were worse off than the sex workers at Sonagachhi.

The rally lauded the West Bengal government�s stand on agreeing to let the film be shot in the city. It sent a memorandum of its solidarity with Mehta to the governor and the President.    

Calcutta, Feb 19 
Chief minister Jyoti Basu has blamed political parties for patronising criminals. He asked the parties not to back crime and, instead, help the government break the criminal-politician nexus.

�I am convinced goons have unleashed terror in Behala and other areas with help from political parties. The administration needs cooperation from them to tackle the spurt in crime,� Basu said.

Last month, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas had told a rally at Kasba the party was ready to join forces even with the Trinamul Congress for combating the criminals.

Laying the foundation of a college at Sarsuna, Basu said he will convene an all-party meeting on the problem. His tirade was prompted by Trinamul MP Krishna Bose seeking his intervention in tackling anti-social activities in the Behala-Sarsuna belt, part of her parliamentary constituency.

Former minister Asoke Mitra, minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty and mayor Prasanta Chatterjee also addressed the gathering.    

Calcutta, Feb 19 
A trader, S. Biswas, was kidnapped from his shop on Chakraberia Road on Friday afternoon. Officers of five police stations fanned out in south Calcutta and rescued him late at night. The kidnappers, however, escaped.

Biswas was in his shop at 2.30 pm when a car screeched to a halt in front of it. Five youth got off and forced Biswas into the vehicle at gunpoint. He was taken to a dilapidated house at Jhallar Math, in Tollygunge. The gang leader, Pappu, and an associate, Raju, phoned Biswas� family and demanded Rs 30,000 for his release. The family was warned not to call the police.

On a tip-off, police officers fanned out in search of the trader. They raided houses which the gang often visit. A team that went to Jhallar Math were told Pappu and Raju had been seen there.

Informers took the police to the house in a slum where Biswas was detained. The officers broke open the front door and saw him crouching in one corner of a room, hands and feet bound. The gang may have sensed the police were zeroing in on them and escaped.    

Calcutta, Feb 19 
The police are on a hunt for a maid of Anu Dalmiya, burnt to death with two daughters at her Motilal Basak Road residence in Phoolbagan on Friday.

The Dalmiyas had hired the middle-aged woman, called Mashi, about six months earlier. �We do not suspect foul play, but it is strange that she disappeared after the incident,�� police said.

The bodies of 35-year-old Anu and her two daughters were recovered from their flat on Friday. Sleuths said Anu�s mother-in-law had gone to Lake Town to visit an ailing relative. She told the detectives Mashi had been in the house when she left.

Anu�s brother, Kishor Agarwal, arrived on Saturday. He has not filed a complaint with the police. He said his sister had been suffering from depression. Anu�s third child, Ayusree, 8, is in a nursing home. She is traumatised and unable to speak.

A team of forensic experts will visit the flat on Monday. They will draw up an inventory of the belongings to check if anything is missing.    

Imphal, Feb. 19 
The All-Manipur Students� Union (Amsu) has threatened to call a �public curfew� on Tuesday, the day of the second phase of polling, if its finance secretary H. Chandeshore Sharma is not unconditionally released by tomorrow. The Amsu also banned election meetings and the use of loudspeakers from 12 noon today.

The state government cannot release Sharma unconditionally except on bail as a top functionary of the banned United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was arrested from his house in November last year. Some office-bearers of the ruling Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) today moved bail for Sharma�s release in public interest. The chief judicial magistrate granted bail to Sharma today, but he refused to sign the personal bond.

In separate incidents, several election camps of the BJP have been ransacked by suspected militants since yesterday. Sources said this happened after the BJP refused to pay money to a militant outfit. Though state BJP leaders admitted that they had received an extortion demand, they refused to disclose the name of the militant outfit.

Security was beefed up today in all BJP election offices. Sources said suspected militants have asked BJP workers not to campaign. According to reports, several BJP elections offices were ransacked in Yaiskul, Singjamei, Thangmeiband, Uripok and Langthabal.

Repoll peaceful: Repoll was held in 34 polling booths under 10 Assembly constituencies in Outer Manipur today. No violent incident was reported. State election office sources said the turnout was 82 per cent.

Repoll will be held in 66 more polling booths under four Assembly constituencies in Churachandpur district on Friday and March 8. Repoll will also be held on Friday in 21 polling booths in Singhat, six in Thanlon and one in Churachandpur town.

Repoll will be held in 38 of the 46 polling booths under Henglep constituency on March 8. As no armed securitymen were posted in Henglep, Kuki militants had indulged in largescale rigging and booth capturing on February 12.    


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