Unofficial Pak talks track opens
Bloodbath belt police chief shifted
Shah shows strongarm signature
Priyanka father sees bet syndicate plot
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Jan. 24: 
Even as they support the second extension of the ceasefire in Kashmir, South Block mandarins are wondering whether it will be prudent to rush to the talks table with Pakistan.

Foreign officials argue that since it is not yet clear how far Pervez Musharraf is in control in Islamabad, Delhi should wait a little longer before resuming the stalled bilateral dialogue.

The possibility of Track-II diplomacy making headway gathered ground with former Pakistan army chief General Jehangir Karamat�s scheduled arrival in the capital tomorrow. Ostensibly, he will be here to participate in the third Asian Security Conference, to be inaugurated by defence minister George Fernandes on January 27.

Karamat, along with security experts from other Asian countries, has also been invited to the Republic Day parade.

The three-day seminar hosted by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses will give participants a chance to discuss key security issues in the continent. For India and Pakistan, it is being seen as the precursor to official talks.

The Congress today criticised the Kashmir policy and complained that the government took such a crucial decision as extending the ceasefire without consulting the Opposition. The party will meet the Prime Minister and urge him to build a national consensus before embarking on any ambitious policy.

Vajpayee, however, has the BJP�s support though he overruled its objections to the extension. �I feel that for the first time in 60 days, the Pakistan chief executive has expressed the desire for peace and if, in the course of this one month of ceasefire, word translates into action, it would be a welcome step,� BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said.

He added that Pakistan should put an end to militant violence in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. �For only then can we consider steps towards peace which can pave the way for useful and purposeful dialogue.�

Musharraf has maintained an ambiguous stand on the violence and argued that it would end only when Delhi resumes its stalled dialogue with Islamabad.

Many Indian officials are wary of this position. They argue that it shows Musharraf�s failure to take a tough line on sections in the Pakistani establishment bent on derailing the peace initiative.

�Even if we accept that despite his sincerity Musharraf is unable to control these elements, why should we talk to him?� a senior foreign ministry official asked.

He argued that Pakistan is desperate to restart the dialogue with India as it would help break its international isolation.

�What do we gain if we start the dialogue and the violence also continues in Kashmir and elsewhere,� he asked.


Calcutta, Jan. 24: 
Mamata Banerjee�s hate No. 2 after the CPM, Midnapore police chief Gourav Dutt has been transferred. The Trinamul Congress has been demanding that he be shifted from Bengal�s most violence-prone district, accusing him of being a CPM stooge.

The Midnapore SP will move to the calmer climes of Calcutta, taking up the post of deputy commissioner (I) at the special branch headquarters in Lord Sinha Road. Arvind Maliwal, SP (South), will replace Dutt.

After signing the order this morning, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee denied that he had acted under pressure from Trinamul. �It is a routine transfer of police officers.��

Trinamul welcomed the transfer, but was not happy with his new posting either. �This is our long-standing demand. But he should have been transferred to the Barrackpore police training college,� said party leader and mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The training college, however, important it might be to creating efficient policemen, is seen as a dumping ground.

Dutt�s shifting caused a ripple effect. At least 13 senior IPS officers in the rank of SPs and additional SPs have been shuffled.

Trinamul kicked up a storm during the byelection to the Panskura Lok Sabha seat, accusing Dutt of working for the CPI candidate, Gurudas Dasgupta.

Her party won, but Mamata continued her demand for Dutt�s removal from Midnapore which has been rocked by relentless violence, the latest being yesterday�s clash in which PWG activists killed a CPM supporter.

The Chhoto Angaria incident, in which Trinamul claimed 11 people died, saw a great deal of confusion being created over alleged statements made by officials.

Dutt was quoted as saying: �There might have been a bloody clash and gun fights on the night of January 4.�� The statement had caused embarrassment to the chief minister as initially the incident had been described as a case of minor arson. Apparently, this was the statement that sealed Dutt�s fate.

The Telegraph reproduces below parts of a conversation at Midnapore circuit house between Dutt and Trinamul leaders in front of the visiting NDA team on January 7.

Trinamul leader Madan Mitra wags a finger in front of Dutt�s face and says: �Don�t you know CPM supporters killed 11 of our supporters that evening? Tui nekami korchhis, bolte parchhis na?� (Don�t act coy. Why can�t you admit it?)

Dutt replied: �There might have been a clash in which someone may or may not have died.�


Calcutta, Jan. 24: 
Bengal Governor Viren J. Shah today said that �attempts to physically assault� him were made by rowdy legislators on the opening day of the current Assembly session.

On Monday, Opposition Congress and Trinamul MLAs heckled the Governor inside the House, angry at a letter written by Shah�s secretary reminding them of parliamentary decorum.

�There was a big strong chap I know, he grabbed my hand. It still hurts,� Shah said today, addressing members of the Fulbright Alumni Association. The Governor cited the unruly scenes in the Assembly as an example of a deterioration in the quality of life.

With a gathering of academics in front of him, the Governor said serious research and education should have led to an improvement in the quality of life. �(But) It does not show in parliamentary democracy,� he said.

Referring to the letter his secretary had written to legislators, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, on House manners, the Governor said he took full responsibility for the content. The Opposition has threatened a breach of privilege motion against the secretary.

�It is the Governor who directs his secretary to write. I told the legislators that the secretary writes on behalf of the Governor,� Shah said.

Ill-behaved legislators were not the only local warts that have caught the Governor�s eye, even though he was profusely appreciative of the infotech institutes, the law university and other centres of excellence that have been set up in the state.

�I once paid an unannounced visit to a government hospital and I saw that lower-level workers like ward boys and nurses were not there,� he said. �When patients ask for food, it is thrown at them. And if they protest, they are threatened.�

�We do not improve things because we think nothing can be done. These are real-life issues that need to be addressed,� Shah said.

�It makes no difference to the poor whether a British or an Indian official is in charge, their quality of life has remained the same.�

The Governor�s next target was education. Being the chancellor of all universities except Viswa Bharati, he was critical of the way higher education was conducted. �I do not just attend convocations, but I interact a lot,� he said.

�Do you think the standard of education has gone up or down in the past 50 years?� Shah asked.

On the contrary, he noted the excellent work being done by non-government organisations. He said while free primary schools in the districts suffered from a high dropout rate, many NGOs were running educational institutions in a more effective way. As instances, he mentioned a nonagenarian and an octogenarian working at Diamond Harbour.

�I am very proud to be the Governor of West Bengal for one principal reason (I have to be very careful of what I say) and that is there are people from different walks of life and age groups who are doing very good work caring for others.�


Calcutta, Jan. 24: 
Dr Ashok Chopra, father of Miss World Priyanka Chopra, has decided to �fight back� against �the bloody lies of some motivated people� accusing him of having �sexually abused� a 12-year-old girl 25 years ago.

Chopra filed a criminal case in the Bareilly chief justice magistrate�s court on Tuesday, seeking �prosecution, for causing defamation, against Shivani Saxena, her husband Rajiv Saxena, and her father Dr Suresh Chandra Saksena and Savvy magazine�.

Shivani, 37, had alleged, through an affidavit, that Dr Chopra, her father�s junior officer at Ferozepur, had �molested� her twice in January 1976. �He scarred me for life... When, after so many years, I heard about him and saw his pictures in the papers, I decided it was time to tell the world the truth, and to set an example for other girls who have suffered like me,� she had said from her home in Dubai.

�This is a conspiracy hatched by the betting syndicate involved in the beauty business. All this is to extort money. And they want my daughter�s crown, to make her suffer for upsetting their calculations. These people (the Saxenas) have, obviously, been paid by the mafia to sell this story and take revenge,� alleged Chopra. �I remember the girl as a kid in Ferozepur, she was so small. Her allegations are absurd. I�ve never done anything like that. I have got in touch with a whole lot of people who were there with us in Ferozepur then, and they have agreed to give affidavits supporting my case.�

The doctor claimed that the �timing of the character assassination� said it all. He, apparently, received �two threat calls in November� warning him not to send Priyanka to the contest, and then �one on January 22�, telling him �not to file a case�. But he said �there�s no stopping the fight against these ghatiya (low-life) people now�.

�I trust in God, the truth and the judiciary... All this has, in fact, brought me closer to my daughter who is urging me to demand a compensation of at least Rs 10 crore. We are preparing a civil suit demanding this amount which I will then give to mandirs, masjids, gurdwaras and girjas. The rest I will use to revamp the nullah system of Bareilly.�

He claimed to be �a decorated officer, and also the most popular �religious� singer in the area�.

�I am quite grateful to these people for making me so famous,� he laughed. �Who was Ashok Chopra before this? A piddly doctor in remote Bareilly... but now my practice has doubled as people want to show their support.�

His lawyer, S.K. Puri, confirmed that a civil suit would be filed soon in the high court, while the date for hearing the defamation case in Bareilly was February 6. �The legal notice will reach the Saxenas through the embassy,� he said.

The Saxenas, now in Germany, could not be contacted. But their legal counsel Gautam Khaitan said: �It�s up to the complainant to present their evidence. Meanwhile, we have registered a civil suit against the accused, after paying the court fees of Rs 190,000, demanding a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to be paid directly to an NGO dealing with sexually-abused children.�




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