New year gloom engulfs Nepal
Delhi police in silent census
Basu seat in the benches
Jhumpa bridal party hits town
Calcutta Weather

Kathmandu, Dec. 31: 
Dying embers of the Hrithik Roshan controversy in Nepal were stoked by a fresh burst of violence in which two people of Indian origin died and by an untimely remark by a BJP leader.

Unknown assailants fired on a rally organised by the Sadbhavna Party, dominated by people of Indian origin, to protest against the controversy over an alleged comment by Hrithik. In the firing in Rajbiraj bordering Bihar, two people — identified as Mahendra Chowdhury and Kushilal Yadav — died.

In the capital, bombs were hurled at the houses of three Nepali Congress leaders — D. Badu, education minister, Sushil Koirala, general secretary, and Govinda Joshi, a former minister.

The incidents occurred as Nepal was preparing to spend the first day of the new year in the life-halting embrace of a strike called by the Left parties, demanding dismissal of the Girija Prasad Koirala government.

Koirala’s task of controlling the unrest at home and mending fences with India was made even more difficult by a comment by senior BJP leader K.R. Malkani. He told a website yesterday that it was a mistake by Delhi not to have accepted Nepal’s offer of accession to the Union when it was made to Jawaharlal Nehru by King Tribhuban.

Nepal’s deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudyal said: “We will lodge a strong diplomatic protest with the Indian government. It is unfortunate that such remarks are being made by senior Indian leaders, that too in the wake of the Hrithik episode.”

Aware that such a comment will give a handle to anti-India elements in Nepal to whip up public sentiment, New Delhi scrambled to distance itself from the statement.

“The remarks do not reflect the views of the government of India,” foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. “It is important that at this juncture, we avoid any misunderstanding and misperception and work to strengthen the traditional ties of goodwill and friendship between the peoples of the two countries,” he added.

The ruling BJP also distanced itself from the views of its national executive committee member. The party said Malkani’s remarks were “unfortunate” and did not reflect the view of the BJP.

Malkani had said: “I think, we made a serious, very foolish mistake when Tribhuban offered to accede to India and Nehru said: ‘No, No, duniya kya kahegi (What will the world say )?’”

This is not the first time Malkani has embarrassed the government. His strong criticism of the ruling BJP in Parliament had earned him the title “Comrade Malkani” from the Left.

The Indian foreign ministry spokesman stressed that India has long-standing, close and friendly relations with Nepal and the Nepalese people based on the fullest respect for each other’s sovereignty and national aspirations.

Despite the damage control effort, there is apprehension in Delhi that Malkani’s remark may give a fresh lease of life to Leftwing demonstrators who will bring Nepal to a standstill from tomorrow.

A nine-party Left combine has given the strike call, but at least one of them — a major constituent — was not willing to go along.

Deputy prime minister Poudyal appealed for revocation of the strike call, but ruled out acceptance of the Left demand for Koirala’s resignation. “The timing of the bandh will not only harm Nepal’s economy, but will have an adverse impact on the country’s image in the international arena,” he said.


New Delhi, Dec. 31: 
Stunned by the attack in the Red Fort, Delhi police have begun a silent citizenship search in the capital.

The exercise amounts to a census, but is not being called so. Policemen are moving from door to door inquiring into the background of all residents. Through this operation, Delhi police will check on new arrivals to the city and find out if they are Indian or suspected foreigners.

Asked why they could not wait till the census, due shortly, Delhi police sources pointed out that the results of that huge population-count would not be known in 2001. After the Red Fort raid, for which Lashkar-e-Toiba claimed responsibility, and the subsequent threat to the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s office in South Block, the police could not take chances.

Senior Delhi police officials said the exercise was launched following a meeting with senior home ministry officials, at which the city police chief, Ajai Raj Sharma, was present.

All police stations have been told to quietly carry out an identity check of all residents without inviting a political furore.

Obviously, the Opposition has not yet got wind of the move, since there has not been the expected hue and cry, particularly as the Opposition Congress is at the helm of the Delhi government.

A couple of years ago, when Delhi police tried a similar identity check in the ghettos on both sides of the Yamuna, they had met with massive resistance. At the time, the objective was to segregate Bangladeshis. Around then, the Maharashtra government was also attempting to send Bangladeshis home.

The difference now is that the police are coming with a detailed questionnaire to almost all landlords and are not willing to leave out the affluent South Delhi or West Delhi areas of the ambit of their search.

They are focusing on information about tenants, asking questions like how long they have been residing at the present address, what are their occupations and if any adult relative has joined them recently.

Leaving nothing to chance, they are also inquiring about the date of transaction of the property and since when the present landlord has been staying in a particular house with the necessary documents of possession.

Never before have the police carried out such a check in middle-class localities of Delhi. It appears that the unsettling legitimacy the Red Fort raid’s mastermind, Ashfaque, had acquired soon after arriving in Delhi has triggered the search. He had rented a flat in an apartment block at Ghazipur in east Delhi and had even acquired a small business of his own.


Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
When Jyoti Basu rises to say: “Mr Chief Minister, Sir,” where will he rise from?

For the fourth time in his 54 years of parliamentary politics, Jyoti Basu’s position in the Assembly is going to change. From the chief minister’s chair, Basu will move to the CPM benches in the Assembly session starting January 22, the last of this House.

There are nine sets of circular benches in the Assembly for the 294 members. Basu’s new seat is likely to be in the front row of the third set of benches. The pink cushion Basu used to rest his back on in the chief minister’s chair will also be put on his new seat.

The Speaker, Hasim Abdul Halim, said members are allotted seats considering age, seniority and health. “We have identified a seat which will be finalised after a meeting of the advisory committee to be held next week,’’ he said.

Basu has been an ordinary MLA, leader of the opposition and deputy chief minister, apart from chief minister. Except between 1972 and 1977, he has held the post of an MLA since 1946.

The seats of chief minister, deputy chief minister, chief whip, Speaker and leader of the Opposition are well defined. Basu is the only person who has taken all these seats, except the Speaker’s.

Basu used to sit on the second bench to the left of the Speaker when he entered the House as an MLA in 1946. In 1952, he moved as leader of the Opposition, a position he held for 14 years. The next shift took place in 1967 after he became deputy chief minister in the United Front government. In 1977 he occupied the chief minister’s chair where he sat for almost 24 years. The fourth — and possibly the last — change is on its way.


Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
After a Scottish castle and a Bangalore spa, it’s the turn of Singhi Palace in Gariahat.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s bridal party is in town. The Pulitzer prize-winning bride is still missing, but is expected shortly. So is her handsome American boyfriend with Greek blood. They will conduct their mixed marriage in perfect Bengali style on January 15.

Jhumpa’s parents — Amar and Tapati Lahiri — and her younger sister Jhelum are frantically running about town now with the 550-strong guest list in their hands.

A vermilion-red wedding card streaked with turmeric is doing the rounds, too, announcing the good news in English and Bengali: that Jhumpa Lahiri, alias Jhumpa Nilanjana — her grandmother had named her Nilanjana — is to tie the knot with Alberto Vourvoulias, her boyfriend of some years, at the air-conditioned south Calcutta wedding house.

One can almost hear the sehnai strains.

It’s still not decided what shade of Benarasi Jhumpa will wear. “But we would like to see her in red. She is so fair. She will look gorgeous in red,” says Tushar Sanyal, Jhumpa’s maternal uncle, who has designed the card and is very close to her. There are not too many Indian items in the trousseau.

An omnivorous bird which roosts in tall trees after nightfall, the peacock is not known to be shy but skulks into the dense forests once disturbed.

The birds’ breeding season is from June to September.

The Burmese peafowl — a species related to the India peacock — is very scarce in Assam. The only known concentration of the bird is in Yangoupokpi-Lokchao in Manipur. “The last reports were of a few stragglers from Barak reserve forest of Cachar in the early 1970s,” writes Choudhury.

Regarding legal protection of the bird given by the international conservation agencies, the book states that except for Schedule 1, no birds have been given protection under Schedule 2 and 3.

They are clubbed en masse in Schedule 4. This disparity is very great as many birds are included in Schedule 1 despite being found abundantly.

Assam has more than 900 species and subspecies of birds, including 280 winter birds. The Northeast being the meeting point of two zoo-geographic regions — the Indian and the Indo-Chinese — the diversity of birds is very rich here.

The Asian waterfowl census has revealed that Assam has a significant population of globally-endangered species like the spotted-bill pelican, greater adjutant and lesser adjutant storks and the ferroginous duck.




Maximum: 26.5°C (0)
Minimum: 14.3°C (0)



Relative Humidity

Max: 96%
Min: 44%


Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 15°C
Sunrise: 6.22 am
Sunset: 4.58 pm

Maintained by Web Development Company