Student killed after rape bid
Govt vs govt in principal headhunt
Thousand laps and still making a splash
Asansol civic chief loses trust
Blinded for marriage refusal
Lahore Plus for annual summits
Cautious BJP restrains hawkish allies
Mixed Sonia reception
Lockout in riot-scarred tea garden
Padmashrees in truce retreat tussle

Kalyani, July 3: 
The body of a 12-year-old girl, with her throat slit and clothes removed, was found outside an abandoned factory at Chandmari in Kalyani this morning.

The school dress she was wearing when she went missing yesterday was recovered a few hundred metres away from the body.

Aloka Das, a Class V student of Nagendra Bala Balika Vidyalaya, went out to meet a friend after coming back from school in the afternoon. When she did not return home till late in the evening, her father, Madan Das, went to the police and lodged a missing diary. But the girl could not be found even after a search of the neighbourhood.

Madan Das, an employee at a Khadi emporium in Kalyani, told police that Aloka �left her school bag in the house around 4 pm, and told me that she would be back after visiting her friend. That was the last time I saw her�.

Some residents of the area told policemen that they had seen Aloka with a local youth, Surajit Basu. Later in the day, Surajit was arrested from his house by Kalyani police on charges of attempted rape and murder. �He was overpowered despite his attempts to flee,� said an officer.

He had lured the girl to the abandoned factory near a jungle and tried to rape her. �The girl resisted the youth�s attempts. Enraged, Surajit slit her throat with a knife,� said superintendent of police (Nadia) Ramphal Pawar. The police team recovered the weapon used to kill Aloka from bushes near the spot where the body was found.

A resident who had gone to the abandoned iron nail factory to collect wood this morning saw the body lying in a pool of blood and informed the police.

As news of the murder spread across Chandmari, residents rushed to the police station demanding immediate arrest of the culprit. �Aloka was very friendly, but never spoke to strangers. Surajit was meeting her of late, but we never realised that he had such evil designs,� a local youth said. The police later found out Surajit had a criminal record and was wanted in connection with some old cases.


Calcutta, July 3: 
The West Bengal Public Service Commission has been put in a potentially embarrassing position after a senior legal-cell official of another wing of the government has hauled it to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).

The official, who now looks after the legal cell of the directorate of public instructions, was one of the several senior education service officials who felt the PSC had erred while inviting applications for filling up principals� posts in government colleges.

He, with seven other potential applicants, approached the SAT for redressal, making it a rare instance of a government legal-cell official � who advises the government on legal matters � taking another wing of his own government to court.

The official, R.N. Mukherjee, who refused to speak to MThe Telegraph citing service rules, and his colleagues felt one of the clauses in the appointment notice denied many suitable candidates a chance to apply for the job.

Applicants for a principal�s post must have 15 years of teaching experience and a Ph.D. But the appointment notice, issued last year, �superimposed� the two clauses and required all applicants to have 15 years of experience as teachers only after having completed their research, say the justice-seekers.

This, say education department officials, denies many suitable candidates an opportunity for applying for the post as many of them did their Ph.D while teaching. Many teachers, especially those serving in colleges far from Calcutta, are forced to do their Ph.D after some years of service and, therefore, cannot have 15 years of experience after completing their research, explain officials.

The suit, filed by the teachers and officials, has put the government in a quandary; many state colleges now are without principals and this suit will delay their chances of getting principals before the academic year starts.

The PSC appointment notice has also irked teachers who wanted to apply for the post of professor. The notice, requiring applicants to have 10 years of teaching experience at the post-graduate level, has narrowed down the PSC�s options of getting professors to fill up the vacant posts, the All-Bengal State Government College Teachers� Association has said.

�Why should a teacher who has taught 10 years in universities want to teach in under-graduate colleges?� asked association president Benoy Bhushan Chakraborty. This, say teachers, means that scores of vacant professors� posts, too, will remain unfilled.

Another �vaguely-worded� clause � that discounts all other requirements in case an applicant is an �outstanding scholar with established reputation who has made a significant contribution to knowledge (sic)� � has also irked teachers. It was introduced deliberately to allow �back-door promotions�, they alleged.

A senior PSC official, however, said the allegations were ill-founded. �It�s true that many senior teachers haven�t been able to apply and our options were narrowed down,� he said. �But to ascribe a motive to the clauses is unfair,� he added.


Chinsurah, July 3: 
Basudev Ganguly has a regret: he couldn�t cross the river Hooghly 2,000 times to celebrate the new millennium last year.

He had planned to do that, but his eyes got in the way. At his age � seventy-plus � one has to make these small allowances.

But even an ailing eye could not stop him from crossing the mighty river 1,012 times last year. The Hooghly�s actually more than a river for him: it�s his very own gym.

Every day he crosses the river three or four times. That�s been his mantra for staying fit ever since he retired as an employee of Calcutta Telephones in 1994.

�I started feeling bored after I retired,� says the man from Bhatpara. �There was endless leisure and the river is in front of my home. So, I decided to swim daily.�

In 1998, he crossed the river 1,020 times. In 1999, 1,168 times.

Last year, he was determined to make it across the river 2,000 times.

But then this eye problem got in the way and doctors prescribed him antibiotics � for the first time in his life, he says � and advised him to lay off swimming for a while. So, for months, he had break his routine.

For, routine it has become. Every day, at the time of high tide, students of Hooghly Collegiate School and Loreto School see dadu come to the bathing ghat at Shandeswar Tala in Chinsurah.

Ganguly always dives into the river at the time of high tide. But before diving, he says his prayers to Shandeswar Shiva. He also brings small gifts for the kids who come to watch him swim and even keep his tally in their diaries.

For Ganguly, the father of two grown-up girls and a son, who passed his I.Sc. in 1959, life seems to have begun after retirement. You can see his eyes light up as he contemplates another day on his daily circuit: Bhatpara to Chinsurah Launch Ghat to Naihati to Shandeswar Tala to Bhatpara.


Burdwan, July 3: 
Chairman of Asansol Municipal Corporation (AMC) Sisir Dasgupta was today removed following a no-confidence motion moved jointly by the Left Front and the Opposition.

Out of 50 councillors, 43 were present in the discussion and they all voted against him. Dasgupta, however, was not present. AMC secretary Pradip Chakraborty said a notification would be issued in a month for the election of new chairman.

The controversy started during the May Assembly polls when the local committee secretary of Hirapur constituency, Dilip Ghosh, had filed nomination against the Left Front-sponsored RJD candidate, Sohrab Ali. Dasgupta and some other leaders, including mayors-in-council, Krishnendu Ghosh, Jaladhar Maji, supported the rebel candidate.

The district committee had earlier expelled 16 party members, including Maji and Krishnendu Ghosh.

The Forward Bloc is in danger of losing its grip over Kulti municipality following the expulsion of chairman Ujjal Chatterjee for anti-party activities.

Twenty-three of the 35 members on the civic board have tilted towards Chatterjee, threatening the party�s control over Kulti.

Chatterjee has declared he would run the municipality with support from the 23 commissioners.

The expelled leader has lined up a meeting with his loyalists tomorrow to prove his majority in the board. �I will show you on Wednesday that 23 commissioners are with me,� he said.

Chatterjee was expelled at a meeting of the party at Marwai Sanskriti Parishad on Sunday. Eleven members of the Burdwan district unit of Forward Bloc were present at the meeting.


Barrackpore, July 3: 
A Class XII student was blinded by a youth in her own house for refusing to marry him.

Sabita Haldar, a resident of Shaktinagar in North 24-Parganas, was jabbed in both eyes with a stake late on Monday after she spurned Shankar Madhu�s proposal for the umpteenth time. Shankar, a Bangladeshi who is employed at a tailoring shop in Maslandapur, is absconding.

Sabita was rushed to Habra General Hospital in a critical condition. She was later shifted to Calcutta Medical College. �Doctors say her eyes may have been permanently damaged,� senior officers at Habra police station said.

Sabita had reportedly been spurning Shankar�s advances over the past few weeks. The boy was seen pleading with her repeatedly while she was on her way to school. Of late, the two were also seen quarrelling heatedly.


New Delhi, July 3: 
The Indian establishment is thinking of a �Lahore Plus� formula to make the Agra summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf meaningful.

The formula is expected to encompass most of the confidence-building measures agreed to during the Lahore summit in February 1999 and a road map of a year-long programme for intensive interaction between the two sides, including converting the summit into an annual feature.

�Most of what India and Pakistan can achieve had been incorporated in the Lahore Declaration,� a senior South Block official said. �This in itself was an improvement on the past agreements between the two sides.�

The attempt now, therefore, is to look beyond Agra. Though the formula will not be called Lahore Plus � Indians are aware of Musharraf�s sensitivity to that name � many of the steps likely to be talked about for normalising ties will come from the Lahore agreement.

But an assurance from Islamabad that it is willing to give up its policy of �compulsive hostility� towards India is essential if this formula is to be implemented.

The Lahore peace process had been aborted following the Kargil intrusion a few months later. Musharraf, the main force behind the Kargil conflict, will now have to assure the Indian leadership that he wants good neighbourly relations with Delhi.

An intensive interaction at the political and official levels, particularly the annual summit between the two heads of government, was not part of the Lahore Declaration.

This was one of the main planks of the �Vision Statement� that India signed with the US during then President Bill Clinton�s visit early last year. The two countries have since had meetings and close engagements at various levels on mutually beneficial issues.

On the �core issue of Kashmir�, as Pakistanis like to describe it, there is very little that Indians can give. Officials here point out that the positions of both Delhi and Islamabad are well entrenched and neither side is willing to budge from its stand.

When India and Pakistan agreed on the �composite dialogue� in September 1997, identifying eight issues which need to be resolved, Kashmir was given priority over the others.

That Kashmir and peace and security � two of the eight issues � were to be handled by the foreign secretaries was an acceptance that these issues merit more focus than the remaining six which were to be dealt with by the respective ministries.

A thin line separates the Indian and Pakistani approach to the dialogue. Islamabad wants a discussion on �Kashmir plus all other issues� while Delhi says it is willing to negotiate on �all issues including Kashmir�.

Though there has hardly been any shift from this stated position on either side, some diplomats have started questioning the virtues of this stand.

�Does it really make so much of a difference if we say Kashmir and all other issues as the Pakistanis want us to?� a senior foreign ministry official asked. However, if this happens, Pakistan could see it as a major victory while many Indian experts might hit the panic button and say everything has been lost.

Attempts will be made with careful play of words to indicate that Indians are much more serious about discussing the Kashmir problem than in the past and the progress of this issue will be monitored by Vajpayee and Musharraf.

Or it may be left to the foreign ministers to meet at regular intervals, maybe more than once a year, to review the outstanding issues between the two countries.

South Block officials are at the moment briefing the Prime Minister on all �positional papers� � agreements reached between the two countries on various issues � and other important subjects where no agreement could be reached. Vajpayee�s advisers are explaining to him the reasons offered by Delhi and Islamabad in the past in support of their stand on various issues.

However, a lot will depend on what the Pakistan President has to say on Kashmir and other issues. Reports from Islamabad suggest that Musharraf is still playing his cards close to his chest and even his aides are not sure what he plans to offer at the negotiating table with Vajpayee.


New Delhi, July 3: 
Although NDA convener George Fernandes emphasised yesterday that the ruling coalition �overwhelmingly� advocated the use of Article 356 against the Tamil Nadu government, the BJP, which is the single-largest party, surprisingly counselled caution.

BJP sources said home minister L.K. Advani, external affairs and defence minister Jaswant Singh and BJP MP V.K. Malhotra have reportedly advised �restraint� and �handling the matter step by step�.

In contrast, the leaders of the major constituents present at the NDA meeting like Nitish Kumar of the Samata Party, Suresh Prabhu of the Shiv Sena and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (U) stressed that nothing short of dismissal could �undo� the �wrongs� allegedly inflicted by Jayalalitha against M Karunanidhi, Murasoli Maran and T.R Baalu. The only person from the BJP who went along with them was former party chief Kushabhau Thakre.

However, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reportedly sat silent through both the Cabinet and NDA meetings which he chaired.

BJP sources said the moderates� view was that �going step by step� was the best way of dealing with the situation. �If the cases against the Central ministers are withdrawn, the step can be treated as a form of apology. If after this we are still adamant and enforce Central rule, it may prove counter-productive,� sources said.

Apart from the NDA lacking the numbers in the Rajya Sabha to ratify the presidential ordinance imposing Article 356, the �moderates� also felt that the ground situation was not conducive. �Jayalalitha has just won an election by a thumping mandate. It is not as if she has been in power for three or four years and has discredited herself. People did not approve of the manner in which the DMK leaders were arrested and dealt with by the police, but their disapproval did not spill over into street violence. The DMK leaders claimed that 50,000 cadre members were arrested and, therefore, there was no one left to protest. But any politician will tell you even if the activists are behind bars, if the issue is strong and emotive enough, the masses can raise the banner of revolt. And this did not happen in Tamil Nadu,� sources said.

The hardliners, on the other hand, felt that Article 356 could be imposed rightaway and withdrawn just a couple of days before July 23, when the monsoon session of Parliament begins. The scenario scripted by this section was that Tamil Nadu would have a new Governor who would be the Centre�s hand-picked nominee and Jayalalitha would most probably be convicted in the disproportionate assets� case which is coming to a close soon because only one witness needs to be cross-examined.

Article 356, said sources, would serve three purposes: one, �getting rid� of the ADMK chief; two, circumventing Parliament�s approval by rescinding the ordinance before the session starts; and paving the way for the swearing-in of another member of the ADMK legislature party because by then Jayalalitha would have been convicted.

However, even the moderates were upset over the manner in which the Tamil Nadu bureaucrats and police had allegedly roughed up Karunanidhi, Maran and Baalu. Yesterday�s NDA meeting examined the matter of whether the Centre could take suo motu action against the �errant� officials and the conclusion was �no�.

However, the larger issue of Centre-state relations has also begun to bother the BJP in Tamil Nadu�s context. More so, since the dispute has arisen over a state government�s jurisdiction to act against Union ministers.


New Delhi, July 3: 
Both good and bad news await Congress president Sonia Gandhi on her return from a successful visit to the US and a brief stopover in London with son Rahul.

Senior leaders plan to tell her the good news first: Amma is back with the Congress. An ADMK delegation led by Thambi Durai today told AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad and spokesman Jaipal Reddy that the party�s alliance with the Congress was intact.

A fortnight ago, Jayalalitha had announced outside 10 Janpath that the tie-up was over and that she was negotiating with the People�s Front.

Sonia has summoned a meeting of former governors tomorrow to discuss the Tamil Nadu developments. Party leaders Romesh Bhandari, Motilal Vora, Mahabir Prasad, Shafi Qureshi, Khurshid Alam Khan and Shiv Shankar have been invited.

The bad news is from Bengal: the alliance with Mamata Banerjee is on the brink. Though trouble was brewing, Sonia will be disappointed because she shared a personal rapport with Mamata.

She had even sought to intervene from the US when the war of words between Mamata and Somen Mitra had reached a flashpoint. She had also asked AICC general secretary Kamal Nath to get in touch with Mamata and ask her to wait till she returned to India.

In the Congress assessment, three compulsions are forcing Mamata�s hand. One, after losing the Bengal Assembly polls, she has begun to look at the Congress as a liability. Two, her MPs may revolt if she stays with the Congress. Three, a section of the Bengal PCC is keen on breaking the alliance.

Though the Congress still hoped that Mamata would change her mind, it refused to officially react to her outburst in Calcutta today. However, an AICC office-bearer said in private: �She is unpredictable. Some of our leaders in Bengal, too, are working overtime to snap ties. It is all very sad. But we still feel that she will be an asset to the party in the long run.�

If Mamata calls off the alliance, the Congress leadership is unlikely to badmouth her. �In politics, there is no full stop. We can meet Mamata at some other crossroad. What is the point in burning bridges completely?� a party leader asked.


Jorhat, July 3: 
The Jayashree tea company today declared an indefinite �lock-out� in Towkak tea estate following the lynching of its group manager by labourers yesterday.

�Out of the four divisions of the tea estate, only one is functioning. The management has ordered a lock-out in the other three,� Sivasagar district superintendent of police K.P. Singdeo told The Telegraph over telephone.

Harpreet Singh Mann, group manager of Jayashree tea company, was lynched by an irate mob of labourers at his office. Mann had allegedly tortured a garden labourer on Monday.

Jayashree company has three gardens in Sivasagar district. Mann was the group manager of Manjushree and Towkak tea estates.

Four labourers, including a woman, received bullet injuries when Mann fired from his personal pistol in self-defence. The injured are undergoing treatment at the Assam Medical College Hospital in Dibrugarh. Their condition is stated to be stable.

Tea estate manager Sudhir Kumar Sarawal, who received head injuries in the attack, is said to be out of danger.

Three cases have been registered at the Sonari police station in this connection. The police have arrested the four personal security officers of Mann in connection with the illegal confinement of the tea labourer, Abhiram Tanti.

Police have also picked up four labourers for interrogation.

Mann�s body was cremated at the Sivasagar public crematorium today. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. His relatives arrived from Chandigarh today.

Police sources said the revolver Mann fired from was missing. The situation in the garden is tense but under control. �A police picket has been posted in the garden. The situation is under control,� a police officer said. The district administration is planning to hold peace meetings in the garden to diffuse the tension.

A tea garden manager had been hacked to death by angry labourers in Nazira six months back.

Even as a shaken tea community was trying to come to terms with the incident, allegations of highhandedness on the part of executives were rife. The tea garden labour community, which constitutes a large chunk of the state population, openly voiced their anger against the managerial cadre for treating lower ranked workers �inhumanly�.

�We are beaten up, abused in filthy language and even forced to work as domestic help in the managers� residences,� a labourer of a tea estate near Jorhat said.

A member of the All-Assam Tea Tribes Students� Association said, �The entire system of the tea garden was devised by the British, who ensured that they could lord over the labour community which consisted only of Indians.�


Imphal, July 3: 
A day after filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma threatened to boycott film festivals organised by the Union cultural affairs ministry, theatre director Ratan Thiyam and writer Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi today said they would return their Padmashree awards if the Centre did not revoke the territorial extension of its ceasefire with the NSCN(I-M).

Addressing a joint press conference at the Chorus Theatre complex here, the duo said the Centre had compromised Manipur�s �territorial integrity� to appease the NSCN(I-M).

�We have been conferred the Padmashree in recognition of our services in the fields of theatre and literature. It is a great honour, but we will be compelled to return the awards if the Centre does not revoke its decision to extend the ceasefire,� Thiyam said.

The theatre director said he would wait until July 8, the day Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani are scheduled to review the ceasefire, before relinquishing his award.

Echoing Thiyam�s views, Binodini Devi said returning the Padmashree was a sacrifice she would willingly make. �The martyrdom of 14 people on June 18 has awakened the Manipuris. I have no qualms in returning the Padmashree,� she said.

The writer said the Centre had done injustice to Manipur by extending its ceasefire with the NSCN(I-M) to the hill districts of the state.

Referring to the 2,000-year history of Manipur, Binodini Devi said, �Ours is not merely a state, but a civilisation. We deserve to retain our legitimate territory. The situation will go from bad to worse if the Centre does not realise this soon.�

Winner of many literary awards, Binodini Devi said the Centre should have taken Manipur into confidence before extending the ceasefire. �Instead of consulting Manipur, the Centre unilaterally took a decision on the issue. The fallout of this mistake is there for all to see,� she added.

Thiyam, too, criticised the Centre for extending the truce �without territorial limits� in a hurry. �It does not make sense to restore peace in a particular state by sacrificing the interests of another state. The Centre surely had no idea that the people of Manipur would rise as one against its decision to extend the ceasefire,� he said.

The theatre director said he was �greatly disturbed� by the death of 14 protesters in firing by CRPF personnel on June 18. Blaming politicians and bureaucrats at the Centre for the crisis in Manipur, he said, �It is obvious that they do not know anything about our history and contributions to the development of the country. Had these people known anything about Manipur, they would not have committed the mistake of extending the ceasefire to the state.�

The Centre�s failure to constitute a team to assess the situation in Manipur was a measure of its apathy towards the state, Thiyam said. �The National Democratic Alliance convened an emergent meeting following Karunanidhi�s arrest and deputed Samata Party leader George Fernandes to assess the situation in Tamil Nadu. But why didn�t the Centre send anyone to Manipur after 14 people were killed and the Assembly building reduced to ashes by protesters?� he asked.

The theatre director said he would inform the Governor and the President about his decision to return the Padmashree if the ceasefire was not reviewed.


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