Lists unveiled in cloud of dispute
Hijack link to Pak diplomat arrest
Silent operators win the seats
India has first laugh in dentistry
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, April 13: 
The much-awaited Congress and Trinamul lists for Bengal elections were unveiled today, but the wait continued.

Disputes over three Assembly seats � two in Malda and one in South Dinajpur � still stood in the way of a poll partnership without any rough edges, though the lists were released almost simultaneously by the two parties today, the Congress� in Delhi and Trinamul�s in Calcutta.

The Congress list contains 59 seats, though under the sharing formula, it was allotted 57. The two additional seats � Harishchandrapur and Englishbazar � are under dispute, since both Malda leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury and Trinamul are staking claim. Along with these two, where it has left the choice of candidates to Ghani Khan, there are three more in which the party has not named candidates.

Three seats � the two in Malda and Kushmundi in Priya Ranjan Das Munshi�s territory South Dinajpur � appear on both lists. Trinamul, however, claimed that it has got Kushmundi in return for surrendering two other seats to Das Munshi.

Sources said Trinamul has exchanged Raigunj and Kaliagunj for Chopra and Kushmundi on Das Munshi�s request.

If Trinamul�s claim to have pocketed Kushmundi is true, the disputed seats left now are Englishbazar and Harishchandrapur.

Releasing the list, Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay said the two Malda seats were still under discussion. Asked how long it would take to resolve the conflict, Bandopadhyay said: �We can wait till the last date for filing nominations, if necessary.�

This is the second time Trinamul issued its list, the first having been prepared on the basis of the understanding with the BJP. The new list � 226-strong � has six new faces.

The new faces on the Congress list include Deepa, Das Munshi�s wife. Congress sources said in 42 of the seats allotted to them, they were in a strong position to put up a fight. Most of the recommendations made by the respective district committees � many of which are under former state party chief Somen Mitra�s sway � have been accepted.

Ghani Khan said in Malda this evening that he would not give up his right to Englishbazar. He claimed that AICC general secretary Kamal Nath rang him up today, asking for the names of candidates for Englishbazar and Harishchandrapur. Ghani Khan was happy to see both seats on the Congress list, though the dispute with Trinamul was still raging.

Ghani Khan said he had not discussed the issue with Mamata and preferred to settle it with the AICC. �Mamata is not my leader. Please don�t mention her name to me.�

Trinamul reacted with restraint, signalling that it does not want to do anything to upset Ghani Khan. Sudip Bandopadhyay said: �He is a senior political leader and has been a prime mover for a mahajot of anti-CPM forces in Bengal. Once the issue is settled, he will accept the party�s decision. We are sure he will come forward to help us remove the CPM from power.�

Trinamul sources feel Mamata may compromise by shifting her candidate from Englishbazar to Harishchandrapur, which should be acceptable to Ghani Khan.

Adhir Chowdhury, Congress MP from Berhampore, is unhappy with the choice of seats in Murshidabad, though his brother-in-law Arit Majumdar got a ticket. �We do not have much of a prospect in many of these seats,� Chowdhury said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked Kamal Nath and senior Bengal leaders to work on Chowdhury so that he does not put up a candidate against Atish Sinha, Congress Legislature Party leader, at Kandi.


New Delhi, April 13: 
A Pakistani diplomat who was detained yesterday by Nepal police for possessing 16 kg of explosives is suspected to have been closely linked to the five militants who had hijacked the Indian Airlines Airbus from Kathmandu in December 1999.

Mohammad Arshad Cheema, who, Indian security agencies believe, is a hardcore Pakistani intelligence operative and was functioning from the country�s embassy under the �cover� of a first secretary, was spotted at Tribhuvan International Airport a couple of hours before Flight IC-814 took off for New Delhi on the afternoon of December 24, 1999.

The �diplomat� was picked up yesterday from the house of his relative, Hussein Cheema, in Kathmandu�s New Baneshwar area. About 16 kg of an explosive substance, suspected to be RDX, was seized from the house. The Nepalese government today expelled Cheema and told him to leave the country by tomorrow.

Home ministry sources here said that within a day of the hijack, intelligence agents reported that Cheema, along with an �assistant�, was spotted driving into Tribhuvan airport in a car with Pakistani mission registration number plates.

Cheema was seen entering the complex with a �bag� which Indian security agencies believe had the initial cache of weapons that may have been passed on to the hijackers. �He probably used his diplomatic status to access an area within the airport complex which otherwise should have been well-guarded. He may also have provided back-up support to the hijackers who had crossed over from India long before the hijack,� an official said.

Officials in North Block said Cheema�s arrest and the recovery of the explosive substance �confirm the deep penetration made by Pakistani intelligence in Nepal and how the Hindu kingdom is being used to mount terrorist operations� against India. Security agencies are now trying to ascertain from where Cheema procured the explosive material and what it was to be used for.

Sources said the Pakistani ISI operates from a number of �safe houses� not only in Kathmandu, but also along the Indo-Nepal border. The intelligence agency makes use of several anti-India leaders in Nepalese political parties as well.

Though Cheema says he is innocent and has charged Indian intelligence agencies with �planting� the explosives, government officials here have denied any involvement. But they agree that since the hijack, which caused much embarrassment to Nepal, Kathmandu has begun �cooperating� with Delhi in preventing and checking terrorist operations directed against India.


New Delhi and Calcutta, April 13: 
Two Congress leaders who made the least public noise about their dissatisfaction in the run-up to the announcement of the list of candidates have walked away with the biggest gains.

Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Somen Mitra, former Bengal party chief, have mostly got what they wanted.

The two that were most vocal about their nominees being given the short shrift � A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury and Adhir Chowdhury � have the least reason for rejoicing today. Though the two disputed seats in Malda � Harishchandrapur and Englishbazar � figure on the Congress list, the issue is by no means settled. Ghani Khan still has to work out a deal with Mamata. He appears ready to forgo other seats, but certainly not Englishbazar.

Adhir Chowdhury is not unhappy with the number of seats, but with their quality. He believes many of those are not winnable.

Another leader still licking his wound is Bengal party chief Pranab Mukherjee, who does not appear to have recovered from the bruising verbal duel with Das Munshi over the Durgapur seat during a screening committee meeting earlier this week. This seat is among the five on the Congress list where the names of candidates have been left �pending�, indicating that the dispute over it continues.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today despatched confidante Ambika Soni to mollify Mukherjee, who had walked out of the meeting after heated arguments with Das Munshi. Sonia asked Das Munshi, who called on her today, to patch up with Mukherjee for the sake of party unity. Das Munshi left for Calcutta later.

Somen Mitra had appeared to be struggling in the initial stage, but has succeeded in pushing through the nominations of most of his supporters. He himself retains Sealdah, though Mamata had openly opposed his candidature from there in the early days of alliance talks. Tapas Roy was Trinamul�s candidate from Sealdah, but has had to shift to Burrabazar in Mitra�s honour.

Although Ghani Khan is acting defiant, he may soften his stand on Harishchandrapur if he gets Englishbazar.

Unlike yesterday, Ghani Khan was in a good mood today when he spoke to central leaders. Claiming victory in retaining Englishbazar, he told Kamal Nath, AICC general secretary, that he would bag the �maximum� number of seats for the party from Malda.

Das Munshi has got Raigunj and Kaliagunj, the seats he had wanted by virtue of their coming under his parliamentary constituency. His wife, Deepa, has won nomination from Goalpokhar, which the Congress is in a position to win. Besides, he seems to have succeeded in getting Jainal Abedin, who he suspects of sabotaging one of his earlier elections, moved from Itahar. From Raigunj, Dilip Das � another Das Munshi pet-hate and Trinamul nominee � has also had to shift.


Washington, April 13: 
Indian dentists, perennial runners-up against their Chinese counterparts in the battle to preserve their reputation and practice, may at last have something to smile about.

In what could be the earliest example of dentistry in the history of mankind, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have discovered that 8,000 to 9,000 years ago dentists in ancient India had developed technology to drill teeth and remove decay.

Study of fossils from Mehgarh, now in Pakistan, has revealed tiny holes drilled into teeth on the biting surface of male molars, according to Andrea Cucina who was leading a team of academics conducting archaeological research on excavations brought to the university to study Mehgarh�s ancient civilisation.

Their findings have been published in this week�s issue of the journal, New Scientist.

Cucina and his colleagues actually stumbled on ancient India�s heritage in dentistry by accident.

They were cleaning the jaws and teeth of one of the Mehgarh fossils when it was noticed that the molar which was being cleaned had a perfect, tiny hole on the biting surface. Soon thereafter, a similar hole was discovered on the molar of another male fossil.

The researchers considered several possibilities during the study that ensued.

Since the ancient residents of Mehgarh tilled land, reared livestock and made jewellery even from stones such as amethyst and turquoise, Cucina and his team examined the possibility that the holes could be part of some dental decoration or the result of tooth sharpening.

�Even after years and years of looking at these teeth, it was something that struck me as very strange,� Cucina was quoted as saying in a press release by New Scientist.

Since the teeth were still in the jaw, the researchers ruled out the possibility that the holes were the result of any necklace-making effort which would have required piercing.

Mehgarh�s population did not tamper with their teeth as part of any funeral rites either. �He definitely used that tooth before he died,� Cucina was quoted as asserting, since the dental cavity had been rounded from chewing.

The jaws of the fossils were then put under electron microscopes: the sides were found to be too perfectly rounded to be cavities caused by bacteria. The teeth had concentric grooves which could only have been made by a drill.

That the teeth showed no sign of decay is being interpreted as testimony to the skills of ancient Indian dentists. The holes were exactly of the same diameter, suggesting that the residents of pre-historic Mehgarh had the tools � and the skill � for such delicate work.

The search is now on at the University of Missouri-Columbia for fossils with signs of dental decay because the researchers say this would establish that the drilling was therapeutic.

Speculation among the research team is that some herbal remedy must have been put into dental cavities of Mehgarh population to stop bacterial growth. �It is very tantalising to think they had such knowledge of health and cavities and medicine to do this,� Cucina said of ancient Indian civilisation.

The findings would put Indian dentists one up over their Chinese counterparts since China had hitherto been credited with great progress in dentistry in ancient times.

As a result of this heritage, Chinese dentists have enjoyed a glowing reputation worldwide. Even in cities like Mumbai and Calcutta, the declining band of Chinese dental practitioners have traditionally taken practice away from Indians.

Even if the latest research does not reverse such a trend, Indian dentists will now have something to hold their heads high.




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