Plagiarism charge in hot pursuit, Maleeha Lodhi flies home
Left cry for lock-up police scalp
Cruel trick on 21.75 teacher
Rebel retaliation on Modi
Naik to clear air on scam
Temple proof excavation plan draws VHP threat
Laloo and clan fodder for small screen spoof
Pawar beeps on Sonia radar
Fashion show lets hair down
Calcutta Weather

Washington, Aug. 4: 
The curtain may have gone up on the mysterious departure of Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan�s highly visible and hugely popular ambassador to the US, at the pinnacle of her career.

Lodhi gave up her job to Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, until recently high commissioner in New Delhi, on Friday, a day before an American university professor of Pakistani origin in Pennsylvania openly alleged that the journalist-turned-ambassador had plagiarised her Ph.D. thesis at the London School of Economics (LSE), and subsequently, an article she had written in 1983 for an academic journal in the US.

Washington�s media circuit, where Lodhi was a regular fixture, and its large diplomatic community were completely taken by surprise when Lodhi announced a few months ago that she was quitting her job as ambassador here.

Especially since she used to boast that the high point of her career was late last year when Pakistan was transformed from its near-pariah status in the US as a dictatorship which fostered Islamic terrorism to the darling of the White House and the staunchest ally of the Pentagon.

But it now turns out that Hafeez Malik, professor of political science at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, had written to secretary of state Colin Powell as early as February this year urging the Bush administration to declare Lodhi persona non grata and send her back to Pakistan.

A potential scandal about her alleged plagiarism has clearly been in the making since then.

�Maleeha Lodhi, who has stolen the intellectual property of an American scholar, must be taught an appropriate lesson,� Malik wrote to Powell.

He has also represented to LSE, seeking a full investigation into Lodhi�s alleged plagiarism and seeking revocation of her Ph.D. degree if the allegations are proved.

In addition to being a professor at Villanova, Malik is editor of the Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, which published Lodhi�s article in 1983.

He has authored or edited 13 books on international affairs and is a visiting professor at the Foreign Service Institute of the US state department.

Malik�s dogged campaign against Lodhi is not, however, entirely unselfish. Some time ago, Lodhi publicly insulted Malik by asking him to leave a formal dinner hosted by her after the professor said at the repast that Islamabad should not send women envoys to Washington.

The full story of the ambassador�s alleged plagiarism has been exposed this weekend in South Asia Tribune, a web newspaper here founded by Pakistani journalist Shaheen Sehbai.

Sehbai, who was until recently editor of The News, an English daily which is part of the Jang group of publications, fled Pakistan in February to escape the wrath of General Pervez Musharraf, who wanted three staffers of the newspaper sacked.

In a letter to Sehbai, Philip E. Jones, whose work was allegedly plagiarised by Lodhi, has confirmed that �much of what she wrote in that (1983) article was taken from my Ph.D. thesis. She did footnote the thesis once, but there were a number of word-for-word borrowings, which she did not footnote. This I know and can demonstrate�.

Jones is a professor at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. His doctoral dissertation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in April 1979 was on �The Pakistan People�s Party: Social Group Response and Party Development in An Era of Mass Participation�.

Lodhi�s doctoral thesis at LSE two years later was on �Bhutto, The Pakistan People�s Party and Political Development in Pakistan: 1971-77�.

Jones has confirmed that Shahid Javed Burki, a Pakistani who was vice-president of the World Bank more than two decades ago, had sought a copy of his thesis to be sent to �a student in London who also was writing on the Pakistan People�s Party�.


Malda, Aug. 4: 
The protest pitch against the lock-up tragedy soared with the district Left Front committee demanding action against the superintendent of police and other policemen blamed for the deaths, but the Malda administration said it had received �no official orders� from the government for an investigation.

Three days after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced a probe into the deaths of two persons in the local court lock-up, deputy inspector general of police (Malda) A.K. Sarkar said he was yet to receive the order.

�I have been in Malda since August 1, overseeing everything. But I have not received any orders from the government to investigate the two deaths,� Sarkar said. The district police had conducted an inquiry �on its own� and sent a four-page report to the government on Friday, he added.

District magistrate Ashok Bala said he has not received any orders for an inquiry either. The district administration had, however, investigated the entire episode as required by law.

�We have not been asked to investigate the deaths. What we are doing is routine. In the event of any lock-up death, a magisterial inquiry is necessary. So two magistrates are doing the job,� Bala said.

Condemning the casualties for the first time in a meeting at the CPM office, the district Left Front committee demanded immediate transfer of Malda superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta and action against other policemen on duty at the lock-up on Thursday.

�What happened in the lock-up is shameful. The superintendent of police cannot evade his responsibility for the two deaths. The policemen on duty at the lock-up that day are equally responsible. We cannot let them go unpunished,� district Front chairman Jiban Moitra said.

The Front had kept quiet when the BJP and the Trinamul Congress took to the streets on Friday to protest against the deaths. A groundswell of opinion against the police might have prompted the Left demands, sources said.

Moitra said the Front has demanded �exemplary punishment� for those responsible. The district committee has sent its report containing the demands to the state committee.

The Left leader also castigated the judicial department for the �prevailing unhealthy� atmosphere in the court lock-up. �I hope the judicial department takes note of what�s been happening there since it�s located inside the court and do something about it,� he said.

The district Congress called for a CBI inquiry into the custody deaths. Its president, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, an MLA, said the party was also considering taking the police superintendent to court.

The sources said the deputy inspector general visited the lock-up this morning, additional superintendent of police Manoranjan Saha in tow. Dutta was conspicuously absent during the visit. The district magistrate said the magisterial inquiry would �take time�.


Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
From bhuture (ghost) teacher to bona fide teacher, Pranab Sengupta covered the distance in one day.

The principal of Basak Bagan Primary School, the institution in North 24-Parganas where Sengupta has taught for 29 years at a salary of Rs 21.75, branded him an �unapproved� teacher on Tuesday only to correct himself the next day.

On Tuesday, district primary school council chairman Madhusudan Chakraborty arrived at the school with officials from the Barasat office. He walked into the classroom where Sengupta was holding an examination for Classes III and IV and demanded: �What are you doing here?�

�You should be in newspaper offices now,� was the caustic remark that followed, a reference to reports in The Telegraph about the teacher�s plight. Sengupta gathered his wits and said: �I am conducting examinations.�

Chakraborty then entered headmaster Bikash Chandra De�s office and asked him to give in writing, on the school letterhead, that he was ready to accept �responsibility� for letting an unapproved teacher take classes. In front of surprised school staff, De wrote that Sengupta was an �unapproved teacher who forcibly entered the school and took classes�.

But as soon as the council chairman left, Sengupta contacted his lawyer Saibalendu Bhaumik and asked for documents that showed he was an �approved� teacher.

When the headmaster was shown the papers, he wrote another letter the next day taking back his statement in the first. �It appears from records available with the school that what I wrote earlier is not true,� De said. �I did not know all the facts then,� he added.

The education directorate had appointed Sengupta as an assistant teacher in January 1996, an order which was subsequently confirmed by the school education department in an official memorandum in August 1997, the headmaster said.

�I was overawed by the senior official�s visit and was too puzzled to realise the full import of what I had written,� De said on Thursday. It is not common for an official of the rank of council chairman to visit a school.

Soon after the headmaster cleared the air on Sengupta�s legal status, the teacher wrote his fourth letter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Giving details of the incident, Sengupta complained that the council �chairman had forced De to write that I am a bhuture (ghost) teacher�.

He asked whether Chakraborty was more powerful than the state government or Calcutta High Court, which had recognised him.

�I have not yet given up hope,� Sengupta said on Thursday. �I am confident that the open browbeating by government officials will show the court who�s right,� he added.

Chakraborty refused to comment when contacted.


Ahmedabad, Aug. 4: 
Chief minister Narendra Modi was thrown a double challenge today, one by a minister of his government and the other by the Opposition Congress that virtually launched its election campaign, making governance the focus.

It is the retaliation by Haren Pandya, the minister of state for revenue, that holds greater threat for Modi, though. Slapped a showcause notice by Gujarat party chief Rajendrasinh Rana, Pandya hit back, accusing the chief minister of maligning him.

Without naming Modi, he declared: �If an individual thinks that I am going to be loyal to him, let me make it clear I am not going to succumb to him.�

At Modi�s behest, Pandya was asked to explain a report that a minister had deposed before the Lokayukta to testify that the chief minister had directed the then city police commissioner not to take any action during the Gujarat bandh on February 28, a day after the Godhra massacre.

The charge implicit in the showcause was that Pandya was the minister who had testified. In his reply, Pandya denied having criticised the government�s handling of the riots as well as having deposed.

�I intend not to be a victim of some individual�s ego, likes and dislikes,� he said.

The bad blood between the two goes back to Pandya refusing to vacate his Ellisbridge constituency, the scene of some of the worst riots, for Modi. The chief minister had to contest from Rajkot-2, which is not considered safe any more.

These sources said Modi is preparing the ground to expel Pandya so that he can contest from Ellisbridge.

In his reply, Pandya suggests that the chief minister is simply looking for an excuse to besmirch him. �It is harmful for the party to seek a clarification from a party leader on the basis of baseless matters and go with it to the print and electronic media in the form of a press note with an intention to malign somebody,� he said.

Already at war with the section in the party led by predecessor Keshubhai Patel, with Pandya, Modi has opened a new front. Although Pandya had welcomed the removal of Patel, the two are likely to find a common enemy now in the chief minister who is leading the party into one of its most crucial elections ever.

With the Congress showing signs of having found new life under Shankersinh Vaghela, Modi can barely afford a divided house. At a rally in north Gujarat, Vaghela appealed to farmers, facing an acute water and power crisis, to get rid of the �BJP�s misrule�.


New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu today said the petroleum minister would make a statement on the controversy over the allotment of petrol pumps and LPG agencies.

At a press briefing, Naidu said he had asked Ram Naik to make transparent the procedures, practices and guidelines followed in the selection process.

The government and the BJP were put on the mat after a series of press expos�s alleged how Naik had reconstituted dealer selection boards that left them with no choice but to favour friends and relatives of party leaders. The BJP had so far maintained that allotments were made by a three-member panel headed by a former high court judge and the discretionary quota was used only to benefit Kargil widows.

BJP members also contended that indiscretions were committed even by Congress governments, implying that there was no need to raise a furore now.

Naidu had tried to defend Naik at yesterday�s national council meeting, asking how he could be personally involved when there was an independent selection board. Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, however, took a potshot at his colleague, saying there was no point in using the Congress as an alibi to justify current misdemeanours.

Last week, the Opposition had stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament and demanded Naik�s resignation. Members called for a CBI probe and said all allotments should be put on hold till investigations were over. �Until the outcome of the inquiry is known, Naik should not hold office,� Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said. �If MPs are involved, it does not matter which party they belong to. The law of the land should apply.�

The Opposition refused to buy minister of state for petroleum Santosh Gangwar�s statement that allotments had been made to those who had applied in 1994-95, when the BJP was not in power.


Lucknow, Aug. 4: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has opposed the suggestion of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court that the Babri Masjid site be excavated to verify if a Ram temple existed under the demolished mosque.

The chairman of the VHP-controlled Ramjanmbhoomi Nyas, Ramchandra Paramhans, today warned the authorities not to shift the idol of Ram Lalla installed at the disputed site for the proposed excavation.

�The Hindu community will not tolerate (it) if the idol was shifted for any reason whatsoever,� Paramhans said.

After the pran pratistha (installation) ceremony according to Vedic rites, no deity can be shifted, even temporarily, he explained.

�It is against the Hindu religion and no court or government has any right to interfere in religious matters,� the VHP seer said, threatening a countrywide agitation if an attempt was made to excavate the site in Ayodhya.

Paramhans contended that doubts over whether a temple existed there had been cleared after many artefacts, including carved blackstone pillars, were found among the debris of the demolished structure.

He dared the court to suggest excavation beneath the disputed Gyanbapi Masjid in Kashi. �There is proof that once upon a time Kashi Vishwanath temple existed there,� he said.

The mahant has decided to convene a meeting of Hindu religious leaders soon to discuss the controversy triggered by the court suggestion.

The VHP�s stand could create a dilemma for the Mayavati government in Uttar Pradesh, which will have to implement the court�s order should it rule in favour of excavation.

A direct confrontation with the VHP could create a rift in the BJP, whose continued support is necessary for the survival of the ruling coalition in the state.

The Mayavati government is already in hot water over the Supreme Court directive that it clarifies its stand on the trial of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and others in the Ayodhya demolition case.

The apex court has ordered the state government to decide within eight weeks if it is going to issue fresh notification. �We are taking legal opinion on the matter,� the chief minister said.

The BJP is expected to put up stiff resistance to any move to revive the criminal cases against Advani and seven others, including Union ministers M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharti and BJP state chief Vinay Katiyar.

The trial has been on hold since February 12 this year, when Allahabad High court quashed the state government�s notification for the trial as defective.

Mayavati�s predecessor, Rajnath Singh, had taken the stand that his government was not bound to issue a fresh notification unless the court directed it to do so. Moreover, it could not issue the notification till the CBI, the investigating agency, made a request.


Mumbai, Aug. 4: 
Watch Laloo in action with his family every week. Oops! It�s not Laloo Prasad Yadav � it�s Raamkhilavaan CM.

Starting tomorrow, every Monday and Tuesday, SABe TV will air Raamkhilavaan (CM) �n� Family. In the serial, Raamkhilavaan � he is the chief minister of �Kalpnikpradesh� � is a replica of Laloo Prasad, though the serial�s makers insist that the resemblance is purely coincidental.

They add there�s also no design in the fact that Raamkhilavaan�s wife is named after a sweet. She is Imarti Devi (never mind Rabri Devi).

Imarti Devi is the �pativarata nari and possesses all the qualities that go into the making of the perfect politically-correct wife�.

When Raamkhilavaan entered politics, his first child was born, and she was called � not Misa � but Rajneeti. Her sisters Party, Ghotali and Sarkar followed at crucial junctures of his career and were named accordingly. Bahumat is his youngest child. His father won with an overwhelming majority the day he was born and the child was rewarded with the name.

Then there is Puttan Yadav, Imarti Devi�s brother, who buys MLAs for Raamkhilavaan.

�We wanted to do a political spoof. In this country, where politics takes such absurd turns, what can we do but laugh? We now even have a set of interchangeable foreign minister and finance minister. If we start taking all this seriously, we can only despair,� says Ashwini Dheer, the writer, who has a number of comedies for the small screen to his credit.

�Raamkhilavaan is only the embodiment of the Indian politician,� he adds. What about Imarti Devi? �She may or may not take over as chief minister,� is all that Dheer can say.

In the serial, Vineet Kumar, replete with grey Sadhna-cut hair, white dhoti kurta and Bhojpuri accent, plays Raamkhilavaan.

Sushmita Mukherjee (Kitty of Karamchand), wearing bright cotton sarees in the Bihari style, sindur bindi and with a forehead smeared with sindur, plays Imarti Devi.

Imarti Devi, however, appears to have a much greater hold over Raamkhilavaan and his doings than Rabri seems to have over Laloo�s actions.

As the episodes unfold, Puttan Yadav procures MLAs for Raamkhilavaan. To outbid other parties, Puttan agrees to pay Rs 75 lakh to each MLA ready to join his jijaji, with perks thrown in.

IAS officers come cowering to the CM, laden with vegetables as gifts. The chief minister�s foreign trip works out as a package deal for his family as well. As he takes the oath to look after his state, his family is shown taking an oath simultaneously � to always use the taxpayer�s money for their own benefit.

Raamkhilavaan also does something Laloo acquired notoriety for, though other chief ministers are also using the same trick now � he holds his own MLAs hostage to keep them from joining the rival camp.

The makers of the serial, directed by Vinay Krishna Acharya, seem to have an implicit faith in Laloo�s sense of humour, though, as they fear no adverse reaction from him. �As I said, this serial is not about Laloo, though Raamkhilavaan�s wig is like his hair. Let it come on air, then we will see how people react,� says Dheer.


New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is under increased pressure to streamline relations with Sharad Pawar as the Maharashtra Congress is split down the middle on whether to treat him as a friend or a foe.

Sonia�s recent phone conversation with Pawar sparked speculation that efforts were on to bring him back to the Congress.

But �homecoming� is not on Pawar�s immediate agenda. Instead, the Maharashtra leader is pitching for a poll tie-up with the Congress. He met Sonia�s political secretary, Ahmad Patel, to suggest forging an alliance for the Gujarat elections.

The Nationalist Congress Party chief wants Sonia to set aside 20 seats, but the Congress is reluctant to concede more than six.

The Congress would rather have a merger than seat adjustment. Sonia�s managers said Pawar was too shrewd to be trusted. �What is the guarantee that he will stick with us if he gets, say, 20 Lok Sabha seats in the next general elections? In this era of coalition politics, 20 seats can play a crucial role,� an AICC functionary said.

The feedback from the Maharashtra Congress was to either improve relations with the NCP or sever links with it, he said. �The idea is to either treat the NCP like a friend or a foe instead of the current state of confusion and double standards,� a Maharashtra MP added.

Sources said there had been a series of secret meetings between Sonia�s emissaries and Pawar to pave the way for his return to the party. But there are many obstacles that could mar or delay the rapprochement.

On his part, Pawar is said to have reconciled to the idea of Sonia�s supremacy as the Congress chief and has accepted that the issue of her foreign origin was no longer relevant after the Supreme Court confirmed her as a legitimate citizen of the country.

Current political developments in Maharashtra and the Nationalist Congress Party�s failure to grow as a political party outside western Maharashtra are said to have tamed Pawar. In the Congress, known Pawar-baiters who formed a coterie around Sonia, namely Arjun Singh, M.L. Fotedar and V. George, have been replaced by a new team that was once close to Pawar.

In Sonia�s scheme of things, Pawar�s return is important. It would bury the issue of her foreign origin. In Pawar, she will have someone to counter the rise of L.K. Advani in the BJP.

In terms of electoral gains, Pawar�s return would consolidate a united Congress in the traditional stronghold of Maharashtra, where it bagged eight out of 48 Lok Sabha seats. As there are no signs of the party�s revival in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, a good showing in Maharashtra would be crucial in the next general elections.

A section of the Maharashtra Congress is more than keen on the prospects of Pawar�s return on grounds that it would stabilise the ruling coalition. The Democratic Front government headed by Vilasrao Deshmukh is shaky on account of the uneasy Congress-NCP relations.

�Now that we have been successfully doing business for more than two-and-a-half years, we should institutionalise our relationship. Repeatedly, the mandate is for both of us to work together so Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar should take a note of it,� said an AICC functionary.

The Pawar camp admitted that talks were on but remained unsure about its success. Sonia, they said, is surrounded by many who would not relish the prospects of Pawar�s return.


Aug. 4: 
Saturday night spelt party time at Lakme India Fashion Week. The tone was set by the Sunsilk show, built around film hairstyles of the last four decades. And as television�s funny man Sajid Khan bounded on stage to introduce the show in his inimitable style � which takes in mimicry, dry wit and a healthy dose of slapstick humour � the magic of the movies took over.

The show that followed was a bit Bollywood Dreams meets Chitrahaar, but nobody was complaining. They were too busy laughing hysterically at every mildly funny crack from Khan, clapping along to the music and wolf-whistling as their favourite stars were recreated on the ramp.

The flavour of the Sixties was captured by beehive hairdos, a la Nanda and Asha Parekh. The bohemian Seventies found expression in the funky short crop of model Jesse Randhawa as she did that whole Zeenat Aman-�Dum maro dum� number. The Eighties saw the disco queens (both male and female) doing their bump-and-grind routines, in the dishevelled hairstyles of the period. The Nineties were epitomised in the abbreviated bob and long straight hair that Kajol and Rani Mukherjee respectively sported in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, with the models romping on stage to the strains of �Ladki badi anjani hai�. And the new century was depicted through the gyrations of a Hrithik Roshan lookalike, who danced along to �Ek pal ka jeena�. Then hairstylist Joseph �Neeko� Abriol, specially imported for the occasion, displayed hairstyles for the future, over which it is best to draw a discreet veil.

The show, choreographed by former model Achla Sachdev, had a breezy energy that went down well with the Saturday-night audience, which was clearly out to have a good time � and never mind the clothes. Which was just as well, given that they were tacky replicas of film outfits, with neither fit nor finish to recommend them. But costume designer Neeta Lulla � basking in the glory of having dressed Aishwarya Rai for Devdas � seemed oblivious to their shoddiness, as she strode confidently down the ramp to a smattering of polite applause. The hairstylists, Javed Habib, Samantha Kochar and Neeko, had a slightly warmer reception, though their own coiffures could hardly be held up as shining examples of their craft.

The party mood was carried over to the Rohit Bal show, which rocked just as hard as the designer does every night on the social circuit. The hall was overflowing with Bal admirers, who didn�t mind standing at the back or even squatting in the aisles just so long as they got a glimpse of the master�s oeuvre. And Bal didn�t disappoint with his confident mens-only collection under his new label, Balance.

A rabid animal lover, Bal used faux leather to make a political statement, with finishes ranging from metallic, textured to pretend-patent. In a collection best described as biker chic, trousers and jackets were embellished with silver anklets, silver zips, copper trim, coloured inserts in faux-snakeskin and floral prints. Photo-prints were used to great effect, as was the high contrast of black with white and red. Belts were worn low down with the legend �Bal� etched in a confident squiggle to draw the eye. Faux leather T-shirts with gold lettering, T-shirts with hoods worn balaclava-style gave a funky edge to the collection as did the floral trousers in a patent leather finish. The knits had a more conventional appeal, with pastel colours, distressed fringing and a floral motif running through.

The buyers� verdict will be in soon, but the audience clearly loved it. Each new line was greeted with wild applause, as Bal�s clients and friends made their approval clear. Among those cheering from the sidelines were Rekha Purie and Feroze Gujral, fellow designers Suneet Varma, Ravi Bajaj and Rajesh Pratap Singh. But the highest media attention was reserved for a quiet man sitting in the first seat of the first row: Robert Vadra, accompanied not by wife Priyanka but Misha Grewal (wife of designer Ashish Soni, his friend from his British School days).




Maximum: 31.4�C (-1)
Minimum: 25.7�C (0)


4.3 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 76%

Sunrise: 6.14 am

Sunset: 5.12 pm


A few spells of light to moderate rain, with one or two heavy showers

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