Guest Column/Looking within, this Puja
No active say in filling judges� posts
Teenager confesses to murder
Monsoon on its way out
Bosepukur bags puja award
Saifuddin hits road to gauge mass mood
Tripura tribal forum seeks total autonomy
Fake currency racket busted
Naxalites trigger fresh blast as Bihar mounts offensive

Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
The spirit of Durga Puja is the most wonderful experience in Calcutta. For 10 days we stop whining, moaning and groaning about our lot, our health, our wage, multinationals, computerisation, globalisation, drainage, water, sanitation, hospitals, roads, public transport, the police, the state government and Delhi. We stuff Lenin and Mao and Vivekananda and Aurobindo into the top shelf out of reach and let our hair down for some wholesome fun and friendship.

Hinduism is surely the most fun religion on earth. We believe our mythology to the point where the rest of the world looks astounded and considers us nincompoops. Those gifted with boring rationalism and who identify with the rest of the world, however, soon convert to Christianity or Islam or Buddhism, where Moses parting the Red Sea or talking to a burning bush is no myth and Christ walking on water is as real and authenticated as the frogs that rained upon Egypt. After all, the white man�s word can never be doubted and their superior intelligence never questioned because they speak French, Latin, German and English and helped �civilise� the rest of the world.

Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai� is wholly applicable when we are the only ones on the planet who seem to derive constant fun and pleasure from the mystical rituals and flamboyant practice of our astonishingly imaginative and powerfully evocative faith; in other words, from our worship of God. No beating of breasts here, just mass mucking about in unholi colours, drinking jars of bhang, dressing in great costumes and chanting hymns at fever pitches to the accompaniment of an ear-splitting clangour of cymbals, and then, suddenly disappearing to hibernate in Himalayan caves when we�ve had our fill. Bam Bhol�!

By Jupiter, European languages would be as bland as pink blancmange without the colour of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Shakespeare�s unequalled mastery over the English language was made more magical by his constant references to classical myths and fables. Egypt, arguably the greatest civilization of the past, with all its confirmed knowledge in mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, is made doubly fascinating by its creative peregrinations into the realms of heaven and earth, and life after death. Last and by no means the least, the Bible provides parallels of myth that have enriched Middle-Eastern and European thought for centuries and inspired the evolution of modern philosophy and contemporary interpretation.

In the final analysis, a myth is as much fact as truth is fiction. Each one of our faiths is a concoction of stories and man-made tenets in the name of a God who is always best known by the name given Him/Her in the local lingo derived from the aftermath of the Tower of Babel in Genesis � like Yahweh of the Amorites.

We are all waiting for the new coming � whether it is Kalki, Maitreya, Soshyans, Mahdi or Jesus the Christ. What fun.

The word myth is a technical term in religious anthropology and carries none of the popular implication that it is historically false or mere imagination. So why balk at it? The Judaic telecosmos began in the Garden of Eden. This was Paradise (interestingly, a Persian word) and the tenants were perfect, companions and children of God. At the end of the eschatological (linear and historical) drama was an apocalyptic end that would see us inhabit Eden again.

As one fragment of Jewish literature put it, �every grapevine would bear a thousand clusters, and every cluster would bear a thousand grapes, and every grape would yield a gallon of wine�. Hebrew religion had its own heritage before it was infused with Zoroastrian elements sometime after the 6th Century BC. By the time the concept had been filled out with details, the Hebrews had ceased to be a wandering tribe and had become a nation. The final scene of the plot was a �messianic age� in which the nation Israel would reign supreme over all the earth and peace would be forever and prosperity would surpass belief.

The white man now teaches us to fear �Islamic Fundamentalism� when the fundamentalists in Israel and the Bible-bashing Charismatic Evangelists in the United States are just as blind and fanatical. Covert missionaries infiltrated and replaced the Peace Corps, adding notches on their chalices by converting Africans and Asians and causing and continuing to precipitate more social havoc and cultural chaos than they care to admit, around the world.

In existing circumstances, there isn�t a hope in hell that any of the traditional religions of the world will obtain universal acceptance. But, happily, there is the �Highest Common Factor� of all religions, the �Perennial Philosophy� that Aldous Huxley laboured to instil, which has always and everywhere been the metaphysical systems of all our prophets, saints and sages.

It is perfectly possible for people to remain good Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims and yet be united in full agreement on the basic doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy.

The Muslim mystic Ibn Arabi is quoted as saying: �There was a time when I took it amiss in my companion if his religion was not like mine, but now my heart admits every form. It is a pasture of gazelles, a cloister for monks, a temple for idols, a Ka�aba for the pilgrim, the tables of the Law, and the sacred book of the Quran. Love alone is my religion, and whithersoever man�s camels turn, it is my religion and my faith�.

For the few who deprive themselves of the revelry of this gorgeous season of happiness and might read this, scribbled while gazing into the Saradiya Autumnal sunset, my Bijoya Pronams and best wishes. May we live harmoniously together and bury petty political differences that led to so much bloodshed before nature subdued us and cooled our tempers with a flood that has brought misery to so many millions of our brothers and sisters who cannot share our smile. Ma Durga came sailing in on a boat and the waters were stilled. May her blessings of peace and prosperity be on us all till she returns next year.

Your advocatus diaboli.

Telegraph Readers question NISITH ADHIKARI, minister in charge, law and judiciary department
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 

How many cases are pending in the high court and what steps have you taken for their quick disposal?

Bhupen Bose, Dum Dum Park.

Around 3.5 lakh cases are pending at Calcutta High Court and the number is increasing. Of the 48 sanctioned posts of judges, 10 are still vacant. If the number of judges is not increased, the pending cases can�t be disposed of. But since the state government does not have any power in this regard, we have taken up the matter with the Central government. The chief minister has taken the initiative himself.

Many public interest litigations are filed on various issues which delay the implementation of projects. Can this practice be stopped?

Bimal Saha, Salt Lake.

You are right. Development schemes are delayed as people often file a PIL against a project. We cannot prevent anyone from moving court as it is their democratic right. It is unfortunate that they do not give a thought to the needs of the masses. However, for quick disposal of such litigations, we have brought all PIL cases under a single umbrella. Our chief minister has requested the chief justice of Calcutta High Court to dispose of the cases as soon as possible so that no development projects are delayed. A particular bench has been designated for such cases.

There are allegations that a section of the public prosecutors helps criminals in getting bail or dismissing their cases. Do you have any plans to check such practices?

Sasanka Sen, Dhakuria.

We have received such allegations but there is no proof. If you can give me specific cases with adequate proof, I shall definitely take stern measures against the accused.

Your government is spending money to extend more facilities to judges and lawyers. But why are you not thinking of the problems of the litigants?

Ratna Ghosh, Entally.

It is not true that the state government thinks only of the judges or lawyers. We have undertaken several projects for the benefit of the litigants. We have built 45 new court buildings in the districts.

Keeping in mind the problems of the litigants, we have made arrangements for sitting, a waiting hall, toilets, restaurants for visitors there. We have also made such arrangements at the high court and the city civil court.

It takes a lot of time to get a copy of the judgment or any other legal document. Is there no way to hasten the process?

Madhabi D. Ghosh, Salt Lake.

We have undertaken elaborate plans for speedy functioning of the court and to make the process simple. We are computerising all operations of the high court. All the judges have been provided with personal computers. Many portions of the high court building have been renovated. The system of maintaining records has been computerised to enable litigants to get copies of judgments or any other document quickly.

Why are you not decentralising the judiciary system for the benefit of the rural people? How many cases are pending in the district courts and what are your plans for their quick disposal?

Pratap Roy, Duttapukur, North 24-Parganas.

We also feel for the rural people. It has been decided that courts will be set up at the block level so that people need not come to the district headquarters to file a case or attend a hearing. Nearly 12 lakh cases are pending at different district courts. We have taken steps to dispose them of as quickly as possible.

I believe senior citizens get priority of dates so that their cases are disposed of quickly. Is it applicable for both plaintiff and defendant?

R. Kumar, Prince Anwar Shah Road.

The chief justice of Calcutta High Court had already issued an order that cases filed by senior citizens are to be given priority in hearing. The senior citizens can also write to the chief justice and if the court finds that the letter can be treated as a petition, then it will hear the matter on priority.

The opportunity will be given only when the senior citizen is the plaintiff. In case the senior citizen is a defendant, he can write a letter to the chief justice or the district judges to get priority for his case.

Cases pile up in city civil courts for want of judges. Why is there a delay in their appointment?

Subhas Jajoo, Address not given.

I am aware of the problem. I admit that the vacant posts of judges and magistrates should be filled up immediately. Our government has taken some positive steps in this regard.

How long does a worker have to wait to get an award in the industrial tribunal? When a judge is transferred from an industrial tribunal to a labour court, how long does it take for his replacement to take over?

S. Ghosh, R.N. Chowdhuri Road.

Justice should not be delayed by even a day for any worker. But the problem lies elsewhere. The authorities against whom the worker has filed the case often manipulate the legal system. I myself try to fill up vacancies in the tribunals as early as possible.


Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Keith Ray, 17, prime accused in the Vishnu Kishan Chand Mahatani murder case, has confessed that he masterminded the killing.

Detective department chief Narayan Ghosh said on Thursday that the 17-year-old school dropout had roped in another teenager from Shillong to murder the 40-year-old businessman, who owned a jewellery shop at New Market. Mahatani was found with his throat slit open at his highrise apartment on New Park Road, near Park Circus, on September 12.

�Keith confessed that he held Mahatani responsible for destroying his academic career and was desperate to finish him off,� said an officer involved in the investigation. A team of detectives will leave for Shillong early next week to track down the co-accused, Vicky.

Keith told officials during interrogation that he had plotted the businessman�s murder with Vicky as he could not muster the courage to do it alone. According to detectives, Keith fled his Elliot Road residence after the murder and took refuge in a hotel on Sudder Street along with Vicky.

�We have information that the duo stayed in the hotel for the entire day after the murder and returned home late at night,� said officials. Keith�s father, Lionel Bernard Ray, refused to give him shelter and even called up Beniapukur police station to hand him over.

Ghosh said the boy had developed �severe psychological problems� after being expelled from a reputed city school and realising that his academic career had been ruined by his association with Mahatani.

Keith and some of his friends were regulars at �wild parties� hosted by Mahatani.

After he was expelled from school, Keith�s father packed him off to Shillong.

�The plan to kill the businessman may have taken final shape soon after Keith joined his new school in Shillong,� said an official.

Keith and Vicky arrived in Calcutta on September 6 and put up in a Sudder Street hotel. They landed up at Mahatani�s flat at around 9.15 pm on September 11. Keith went in first and found Mahatani alone in the house with his maid, Arati Das. Vicky entered a few minutes later and was introduced as a �friend who likes wild parties�.

�We all started drinking. While Vicky and I only had beer, Mahatani was sipping his whisky. After half an hour, when we realised he was drunk, we attacked him with a knife. Mahatani struggled, but was in no position to put up a fight. I held him down and covered his mouth with my hand to prevent him from shouting out. Vicky did the actual job... He slit Mahatani�s throat,� confessed Keith.    

Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
There�s good news for Puja revellers. The Met office said on Thursday that the �withdrawal phase� of the south-west monsoon had set in. �So, the showers won�t be quite as smart from tomorrow,� said Alipore Met office deputy director Mihir Guha.

Rain in the city on Thursday remained confined to central Calcutta areas like Bowbazar, Rajabazar and Esplanade. But the weather office did not record any rainfall in Dum Dum till Thursday evening. There was a light shower in Alipore in the evening.

The improved weather conditions on Thursday led to thousands thronging the pandals for Ashtami. Sporting new clothes, pandal-hoppers thronged the brightly-lit streets of the city.    

Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Committee has won the first prize of the Snowcem Ananda Durgotsav Arghya for best overall performance, which includes idol, decor, concept, ambience, lighting, theme, use of space, crowd management, cleanliness, control of noise pollution and safety measures. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 51,000.

Barisha Sahajatri of Behala won second prize (Rs 21,000) and Japur Bayam Samity Sarbojonin Durgotsav of Kalindi third prize (Rs 11,000), respectively. Ichapur Shibaji Sangha bagged the Rs 21,000-prize for best overall performance for pujas in Howrah municipal area.

Mohamaya Decorators won the award for best decor at Hatibagan Sarbojonin Durgotsav Committee, Dipen Roy for sculpting the idol of Sammilita Jayarampur Sarbojonin Durgotsav Committee and Shankar Guchait for best illumination at Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha. They got cash awards of Rs 11,000 each.

There will also be awards for the best short story, novel and article published in Puja publications and the best Bengali cassette of original Bengali modern songs (not remakes). The literary awards will be picked on the basis of popular vote from the puja issues of Anandabazar Patrika, Desh, Patrika, Aajkal, Pratidin and Bartaman. For the best cassette, puja releases by HMV, Gathani, Accord, Sagarika, Asha Audio, Atlantis and Concord will be considered.    

Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
A defiant Saifuddin Choudhury today unveiled his plan to begin a month-long mass-contact programme from tomorrow as a prelude to formally launching a new political party.

Choudhury, whose membership has been discontinued on charges of anti-party activities by the CPM leadership, said he will stay back here for a couple of days to collect funds for flood victims. He will lead a fund-collection drive tomorrow near Ultadanga in response to an invitation from a local Kabirajbazar Harmoniser Club.

�This is the time to devote for the cause of flood victims,� he said, adding that the CPM�s move to drop him at this hour of crisis was �ill-timed�.

�It is the duty of every communist to share the grief and sorrow of the marooned people in the flood-hit districts of Bengal,� he added.

Going by this, Choudhury seems to be on an image-building mission before launching the new party. However, detractors in the CPM said Choudhury�s gameplan to participate in the flood relief operations was intended to �judge people�s reaction to his complete dissociation from the organisation�.

They argued Choudhury rarely participated in such programmes on earlier occasions. �Choudhury was never in direct touch with the masses for several years even as he was party MP in 1996 and a central committee member till 1995,� a CPM leader said, adding, �he was basically confined to parliamentary politics.�

Asked if he will consider a plan for a pact with the Trinamul Congress in the wake of Mamata Banerjee�s threat to pull out of the National Democratic Alliance, Choudhury evaded a direct answer. �It is too early to make comments on the issue. But we are keeping a watch on the developments and will take a decision only after we first organise ourselves,� he said. Choudhury, however, did not rule out a tie-up with the Congress. �I strongly feel that the Congress is a secular party.�

Choudhury is optimistic about the consolidation of secular forces in the days ahead. �This is the only alternative to the existing Left Front in Bengal,� he said, adding, �our foremost duty is to unite democratic and secular forces and we will not share any platform with the parties having links with communal forces.�

Subhas under fire

The CPM today said it will seek an explanation from state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty for inaugurating the Durga Puja in the Kasba area violating party rules.

Party state secretary Anil Biswas said Chakraborty had gone against the party line by attending a puja celebration. �We communists never encourage direct participation in any religious programme or function,� he said.    

Agartala, Oct. 5: 
In a new twist to the ongoing tug-of-war between the ruling Left Front government and the Autonomous District Council (ADC) controlled by the Indigenous People�s Front of Tripura (IPFT) in Tripura, the latter has demanded complete autonomy as �enshrined in the Constitution and direct funding from the Centre.�

The IPFT leadership also endorsed that 20 lakh of the state�s estimated 26 lakh Bengali population were �aliens and infiltrators.��

Ever since the IPFT wrested control of the ADC in May this year through a �rigged� election with the help of the outlawed NLFT, a war of attrition has been going on between the state government and ADC authorities.

In a bid to gain control over the ADC areas, the IPFT-led council dissolved all village development committees formed by the Left Front government and reconstituted them with their own people � most of them overground collaborators of the NLFT� further antagonising the Left Front.

To compound matters, the IPFT has been pressing the state government to withdraw all staff on deputation and recruit their own employees � a proposition which is not feasible in view of the state�s budgetary position. More than 92 per cent of the funds come from the Centre.

In order to seek central intervention for redressal of grievances, an IPFT delegation led by chief executive member Debabrata Koloi visited Delhi last month and met the Prime Minister and home minister.

In a memorandum, the IPFT leadership accused the state government of starving the ADC of funds.

Citing an instance, it said for the 2000-2001 financial year, the council passed a budget of Rs 85 crore but the state government sanctioned only Rs 64 crore.

�The state government has reduced the council to an object of ridicule even though it had been constituted to fulfil the aspirations of the tribals ,� the memorandum said.

It also said 90 per cent of the state�s budget was being spent in urban and semi-urban areas and only 10 per cent was earmarked for the tribal-dominated interior areas within the council, even though only 33 per cent of the state�s population resided there.

The IPFT leaders have also demanded major amendments to the Sixth Schedule to ensure direct flow of funds from Plan and non-Plan heads, bypassing the state government.

The council has demanded transfer of all departments and an agreed formula for free and equitable distribution of funds between the state government and the district council.

The IPFT also dismissed the Indira-Mujib pact stipulating that March 25, 1971 be accepted as the cut-off date for granting citizenship rights and said those settled in the state as immigrants after October 15, 1949 be treated as foreigners and deported. The memorandum has evoked strong reactions from political parties specially the Trinamul Congress.

Drowned in Barak

Two youth were feared drowned in the swollen Barak river today when the country boat in which they were travelling along with 17 other passengers capsized in the mid-stream, reports our Silchar correspondent.

The ill-fated passengers were on their way to Kathigorah on the other bank of the river from the railway town of Badarpur near here.

Police said the boat went down the river when it was caught in a whirlpool.

While 15 of those on board the boat either swam to safety or were retrieved from the turbulent river, Badaruddin (27), and Abdur Rezzack (25), could not be traced by the divers in speed boats till mid-day today.

The small boat was reportedly over-crowded when it set sail. An irate mob ransacked the office of the lessee who used to manage the boat transportation on the Barak at Badarpur ghat.    

Jamshedpur, Oct. 5: 
Two persons were arrested after the Burmamines police unearthed a fake currency racket in the city yesterday.

At least Rs 50,000 in denominations of Rs 100 were recovered from the possession of the arrested persons identified as Tapan Kamaru and Ramesh. The kingpin of the gang, Chotan Sinha, is absconding.

Police sources said computer accessories, scanners and other material used for printing of fake currency have also been seized. A search is on to apprehend Chotan. The police have warned businessmen in the city to be careful about such currency, which has been in circulation for the past three months.

Giving an account of the recovery today, the police said Tapan, Ramesh and Chotan were loitering at a Durga Puja fair in Burmamines with fake currency. They were successful in duping many shopkeepers. But one of the shopkeepers became suspicious and brought the matter to the notice of puja committee members, who informed the police. A large contingent of police cordoned off the area and arrested them.

While Chotan managed to escape, both Tapan and Ramesh were arrested. On the basis of their confessional statement, officials of the Burmamines police station raided the houses and the screen-printing press of the accused at Telco�s Sankosai bustee and recovered fake currency in separate bundles of Rs 100 denominations. The printing press has also been sealed.

Criminal arrested: A criminal, Ranjit Chaudhury, chargesheeted by the police in at least 11 cases of murder, extortion and Arms Act, was arrested by the Sitaramdera police. One of his accomplices, Ashok Yadav was also arrested. The police recovered a countrymade revolver and six cartridges from his possession. The car in which the duo was travelling was also seized.

AJSU stand: The All-Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) today questioned the legitimacy of the court�s decision to acquit JMM leaders in the �payoff scandal�� when former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and and former Union minister Buta Singh were convicted. However, it argued that no member of Parliament was liable to face proceedings in any court under Section 105(2) of the Constitution.

Joining issue with other political parties, including the BJP in demanding review of the Constitution, AJSU founder president Surya Singh Besra said under CrPC and the Indian Penal Code, persons who gave and accepted bribes were both offenders and there was enough scope to initiate action against them.

Besra stressed the need for immediate amendments in the Constitution to plug loopholes and appealed to constitutional experts.    

Ranchi, Oct. 5: 
Bihar director-general of police K.A.Jacob today announced a �full-scale offensive� against extremist bases in south and central Bihar following the killing of Lohardaga superintendent of police Ajay Kumar Singh yesterday. However, Naxalites triggered a fresh blast in Giridih injuring six policemen this morning.

The Maoist Communist Centre detonated a landmine at Aura in Giridih district. Official sources said a sub-inspector and an assistant sub-inspector were among those injured. The patrol vehicle was blown to pieces. Sources said the extremists snatched a rifle, a service revolver and a pistol from the policemen.

The Lohardaga SP was killed in an encounter with Maoist Communist Centre extremists and his jeep was blown off in a landmine blast near Peshrar village under Kisko police station in Lohardaga district yesterday.

The state government today announced cash compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Singh�s widow. The state government also decided to recommend Singh�s name to the Centre for Ashok Chakra.

Jacob, who rushed to Ranchi to assess the situation told newswen today that in addition to a Bihar Military Police (BMP) unit which was being transferred from Gaya for deployment in extremist-infested areas of Hazaribagh, 100 mortars and 300 self-loading rifle were also being provided to the police for manning sensitive areas in Jharkhand. Jacob added that a crack team of nearly 40 commandos, trained in combating terrorists, are also being rushed to Lohardaga to boost the morale of the police force.

Contradicting reports in a section of the Press regarding withdrawal of a battalion of the Bihar Military Police from south Bihar, Jacob asserted that no withdrawal orders were issued by the state government and that all existing units of BMP stationed in south Bihar would remain in their places of posting.

Jacob said Singh�s killing was a �pure accident� without any political overtones. Jacob further stressed that there was no shortage of sophisticated arms and that all existing operations against extremists in south and central Bihar would be renewed with fresh vigour.

Singh�s body was brought to Ranchi from Lohardaga, where a guard of honour led by his widow Anupama Singh, superintendent of police, Ranchi city, was presented the slain SP.

All eyes were rivetted on Singh�s widow, who turned up in full police uniform to lend a shoulder to the cortege carrying her husband�s body.

The body was flown from Ranchi to Patna, from where it would be carried to Begusarai, Singh�s hometown, for the last rites.

Discontent is brewing in the state police force following Singh�s death. Police sources said despite numerous promises by the deputy inspector-general of police and the state government, no action has been initiated by the state government to modernise the force. Sources said the police are forced to counter extremists with outdated .303 rifles and obsolete communication systems, which are no match for the sophisticated weapons used by the Naxalites.

The entire Lohardaga-Gumla stretch has been converted into a battleground with the Maoist Communist Centre, People�s War and the Jan Sangharsh Mukti Morcha vying for supremacy.

Though no one has claimed responsibility for yesterday�s incident, police suspect that MCC masterminded the ambush.    


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