It will take more than a fire to stop ABP
Crater on roof, bed of bricks below
Kashmir hostage drama on election-eve
VIP battles kick off month-long war
Priyanka wants to earn her ticket
Offer to coach may go to Gavaskar, Kapil
26th title for East Bengal
Bhaichung gets No. 9 Bury jersey
Andhra police officer gunned down
To our readers

On a Sunday, two days after our office building has been devastated by perhaps the worst fire that Calcutta has seen for many years, you will forgive me if I indulge in a little nostalgia, a little sentiment and ? inevitably ? a little trumpet-blowing.

The trumpet-blowing, first. As you probably know, having read the newspapers and watched television, the fire was so severe that two floors of the building were gutted and our office is still uninhabited, largely because we are waiting to make sure that no part of the roof is going to collapse or that there is no serious structural damage. Despite that, you are holding a copy of The Telegraph. More to the point the paper came out yesterday because the editorial team worked all night from a small alternative location to ensure that readers got their morning dose of The Telegraph. Even more impressive, Anandabazar Patrika, whose offices are located on a floor that was devastated, produced an edition yesterday.

I can say all this without embarrassment because I can claim no credit for any role in this enterprise. I was in Mumbai when the fire broke out and the nearest I got to the smoke was while watching Star News. Besides, it wasn?t just the journalists who contributed to this astonishing achievement. It was the whole organization. Special mention must be made of the computer boffins who managed to put together an alternative network in a remarkably short time so that the papers could be produced.

Anybody who works for ABP will concede not everything is perfect in the organization. But of two things there can be no doubt. One: it is one of the few outfits in Calcutta that has a product that is world class.

And two: despite the fancy innovations, the identity cards that open the doors, the state of the art computer system and whatever, the real strength of ABP is the people. The only reason the papers came out on Saturday despite the devastation is that the people in this organization worked as a team.

That is why people like me always say that once you work for ABP, it becomes almost impossible to work for anybody else.

It is hard to be sentimental about a squat, ugly building where the majority of us have no alternative but to work in windowless rooms. But strangely, when I saw black smoke emanating from the roof, I put off the television, unable to watch any longer. My god, I thought to myself, I must be getting old if the sight of that building brings tears to my eyes.

I remember the building well. I first saw it in 1986 when I came to Calcutta to negotiate with Aveek Sarkar for a job as editor of Sunday. On the phone, Aveek was delightfully vague about all the details. What time did he expect to see me? What was the address? And so on.

?Don?t worry,? he said dismissively, ?just tell the driver you want to go to ABP and he?ll bring you here.?

The taxi driver I hired at the Grand did not know what ABP stood for. Ananda Bazar Patrika, I said helpfully.

?Amrita Bazar?? He asked.

That couldn?t be right. I consulted the letterhead on the note Aveek had written me. ?Prafulla Sarkar Street,? I said.

?Sarkar?? He was completely befuddled.

Help was at hand in the shape of Aruna Paul, an old friend, who I saw emerging from the Grand. ?Tell me where Aveek?s office is,? I implored. Paul went into a hasty consultation with the two ladies who accompanied her. Finally, they explained the way to the driver. Though I spoke no Bengali, I could tell that they were directing him to a newspaper office. I caught the words ?central avenue?.

My driver was charged with a new motivation. Darting in and out of the Chowringhee traffic, he rushed past Metro and broke a red light before turning right to deposit me at an old and impressive building.

Silly man, I thought, how could he have not known where this was? I paid him and entered the building. Where, I asked the watchman, did Aveek Sarkar sit? He looked at me as though I was mad. Other people came to stare at me. There were whispered conversations. Finally, they broke the bad news to me.

The driver had dropped me at Statesman House.

I walked the rest of the way thinking to myself that when Aveek Sarkar declared that Ananda Bazar was one of the five great media institutions of the world, he may have been exaggerating slightly.

In those days, the ABP office looked much as it does now ? or at least as it did before the fire. Only, it was less hi-tech and ? how does one put this delicately? ? less upmarket. There were no computers and Aveek operated not from the plush suite he has now, complete with Chesterfield sofas and Rosenthal crockery (miraculously, even though the rest of the third floor burnt down, Aveek?s office was untouched ? obviously, the fire god recognizes a Chesterfield when he sees one) but from an unattractive little room where you couldn?t see the furniture because the entire space was covered with important papers that he had neglected to sign for several years. (He still doesn?t sign them but they are now stored in somebody else?s room.)

What gave it a special character, however, were the bearers. I had come from Mumbai (then Bombay) where peons wore sparkling uniforms and saluted smartly. What a change therefore to find bearers who wore long shirts and dhotis, acknowledged you with a cursory shake of the head and looked, for all the world, like down at heel poets who hoped to get Ananda Publishers to give them a break!

Over the years, however, I learnt to respect the bearers. They may not have conformed to multinational standards, but they were as integral a part of the organization as the editors (actually, considering the editors were people like myself, they were probably more integral to the organization). They knew their jobs ? some like Shivu, my bearer could probably have done my job ? and they demonstrated the kind of loyalty that keeps ABP going.

It was tragic but not entirely surprising that the one person who died in the fire was one of Aveek?s bearers. Though the truth is difficult to establish, some accounts have it that he refused to leave the third floor till it was too late, because he felt that it was his job to try and help.

What else do I remember about the building? I remember the canteen which managed the difficult feat of sprinkling sugar on the omelette sandwiches. (After two such sandwiches, I started sending Shivu to Amber to get my lunch) I remember the buzz that used to go down the corridors when Aparna Sen or Tiger Pataudi ? both ABP editors ? would walk to their offices. I remember the near riot that occurred in 1990 when Aveek invited Amitabh Bachchan to take tea with ABP?s editors. The riot came as a shock to both men. Aveek refused to accept that his employees would not meekly disperse once he told them to. And Amit, who was going through one of his cyclical bad phases, was thrilled to find that he could still generate this kind of hysteria.

I remember the old motor vehicles department (now replaced by a new motor vehicles department across the street), run by a dodgy old codger whose manner suggested that each time he sanctioned a car, his heart missed a beat. I remember my office which became something of a tourist attraction in the building because nobody could understand why I had done it up entirely in black and white.

But enough sentiment. By Monday or Tuesday, the windowless rooms at 6 Prafulla Sarkar Street will probably be occupied again. The whirr of computers, the jangle of telephone rings, the beeps of the fax machines and the tantrums of temperamental writers will once again fill the walls of the building. And yes, we?ll be back to complaining about the canteen, bitching about motor vehicles and hassling the artroom to finish our pages.

When you work for ABP you realize that it takes more than a fire to stop this organization from functioning.    

Calcutta Sept. 4: 
The fire that devastated the top floor of ABP Ltd?s four-storied building in central Calcutta yesterday had in all probability originated from the accounts department located on the northwestern side of the building, forensic experts today said in a preliminary report.

The fire, which started around 4.30 last morning, had raged for 10 hours before it was put out by the fire brigade. One employee of the company died of suffocation while another is still missing.

Forensic experts and senior fire brigade officers visited the affected floor today and examined the debris.

The formal forensic investigation will begin on Monday, according to deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Narayan Ghosh.

?It is still not clear how the fire began,?? he said, adding that the accounts department has been sealed.

A burnt smell still wafted across the area this morning as workers chipped away at debris. Wisps of smoke curled out intermittently from the third floor and fire personnel cordoned off the affected zone.

Deepak Sarkar, a fire brigade officer, said: ?There are mounds of brick and twisted metal piled in heaps. The rubble is sitting precariously on the roof of the second floor. We cannot spray jets of water because we fear that the roof might further weaken and sag under the force of the water. We have to be extremely careful while clearing the rubble.??

The building was in darkness as rivulets of water trickled out. With torches in hand, workers climbed up to the third floor and surveyed the damage.

The long corridor between the Anandabazar Patrika editorial department and the administrative, circulation and accounts sections of ABP Ltd has been reduced to a bed of bricks and mangled metal.

The editorial department, which was fully computerised and renovated only last year, was in cinders. The other offices on the third floor were a vast pile of black bricks.

Wires dangled in mid-air and wooden planks lay shattered on the ground amid thick shards of glass.

The heat was intense even today and a noxious smell emanated from the debris. However, the roof on the northern side of the building was still intact. Fire personnel used saws to cut the burnt wooden frames that were imbedded in the walls. Heaps of damaged almirahs, burnt furniture and documents were moved through the day.

According to experts, the fire propelled by the breeze had leapt out of the accounts department and raced towards the eastern and northeastern side of the building.

Like yesterday, ABP employees joined forces to save the thousands of books and historical documents kept in the library on the second floor, which is one of the finest in the country.

Library staff said collections of old newspapers stored on the top floor were ravaged by the fire.

The damage to the books and documents in the library could not readily be ascertained. The journals have been covered by tarpaulin sheets to prevent water from hose pipes seeping in.

The office of ABP Limited Employees? Cooperative Credit Society was also gutted. A spokesman for the society today said about Rs 80,000 in cash, fixed deposit slips worth Rs 40 lakh, accounts ledgers, furniture, equipment and documents relating to the society have been reduced to ashes.

?We have lodged an FIR with the Bowbazar police station. We will have to build from scratch,? he said.

Employees reported for work this morning but not before taking a glimpse of the building. As they stared at the office in disbelief, citizens streamed in offering words of comfort. Throughout the day hundreds stood near the building and wondered if they could be of any help.

Messages poured in, expressing support. Anuradha Choudhury, a teacher of St Xavier?s Collegiate School, said: ?You are not alone in your sorrow. The entire family of The Telegraph here and abroad is with you in your hour of crisis. If you have no ?home?, we do, and till the time you are able to get reorganised, please use our ?homes?, our telephones, our fax numbers and our e-mail addresses. Your newspaper of the 4th is a living testimony to your strength, your commitment.??    

Sept. 4: 
In a pre-dawn strike a day before Jammu and Kashmir goes to polls, militants today stormed a building in Kupwara and took four Border Security Force jawans and two Intelligence Bureau officers hostage.

The building, which is surrounded by encampments of army and paramilitary troops, also houses the office of the local returning officer.

National Security Guards personnel were called late in the evening to mount a rescue operation after attempts by army and paramilitary forces to enter the building failed. There was heavy exchange of fire through the day between the captors and the security forces. One CRPF jawan was injured in the firing.

But before the NSG commandos arrived, the troops forced their way into the building around 7 pm and, in a swift operation, killed all three militants and rescued the hostages. One BSF jawan died in the encounter.

In Turtuk, along the line of control, nine soldiers were killed and 12 injured in heavy shelling by Pakistani troops. A Northern Command spokesman said Pakistani artillery fired 400 rounds of heavy artillery and 335 rounds of mortar on a newly constructed post at Point 5685 in the sector.

The hostage drama in the Handwara area of Kupwara district raised eyebrows in North Block because the public health engineering building was believed to be heavily guarded. Besides, a maximum alert had been sounded in the state several days ago. It was decided during discussions with the state?s security top brass that every effort would be made to ensure that the militants did not find soft targets in the run-up to the polls.

But this morning, the militants walked into the rooms where the Intelligence Bureau officers were fast asleep. Within minutes and without much resistance, the three militants took the six men hostage. Before entering the building, the militants had targeted it with rockets and heavy assault rifles. They also shot dead a surrendered militant who resisted them. Initial investigations revealed that they belong to the Lashkar-e-Toiba group.

The home ministry has been fearing that attempts will be made to disrupt the electoral process in Kashmir and terrorise voters.

Since July 13, militants have been attacking security forces with impunity. For the first time ever, militants have even struck at army camps. Most of the raids have been in Kupwara. Thirty soldiers have died in at least 12 guerrilla attacks in Kupwara, Baramullah, Budgam and Srinagar districts.

Deputy election commissioner Subhas Pani said in Delhi the hostage situation in Kupwara was being closely monitored by the Election Commission. He confirmed that the building housed the office of the local returning officer but said that did not mean the electoral process would be affected.

?Though it is not directly linked to the electoral process, we are maintaining close contact with the J&K chief electoral officer and have advised him to be in touch with the state director general of police,? Pani said. He hoped polling would pass off without fresh violence.

Life in Srinagar was paralysed today in response to a strike called by the separatist All-Party Hurriyat Conference, which has called for a boycott of the polls. The government has kept almost all Hurriyat Conference leaders under house arrest.

Srinagar, which is one of the two constituencies in the state going to the polls tomorrow, has been taken over by the security forces.

State chief secretary Ashok Jaitley said every attempt has been made to conduct smooth elections in Srinagar and Ladakh.    

New Delhi, Sept. 4: 
All eyes are on Bellary as the country steps into a monthlong polling schedule tomorrow. Nearly one-third of the Lok Sabha constituencies will elect their representatives, but the results will be known only after the last phase of polls in early October.

Tomorrow?s battle royal is in Bellary in Karnataka where Congress chief Sonia Gandhi takes on BJP?s ebullient Sushma Swaraj. Bellary has been in the news since Sonia filed her surprise nomination there last month.

The BJP got wind of the Congress? plans and despatched Sushma, who has been camping there since, and has even picked up more than a smattering of Kannada. Sonia has done well towards the end, staying on in the constituency with daughter Priyanka to add the last punch.

As many as 16 states and Union Territories will vote tomorrow and 966 candidates are in the fray for 145 seats. Polls have been staggered over five days through September and October because of the preoccupation of paramilitary troops in insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir and increased threat perception from the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan. Nearly 11 lakh NCC cadets will help security personnel constitute the Thirteenth Lok Sabha. After Bellary, it is the mandate of Gandhinagar that has caught the nation?s attention. Here, former chief election commissioner, T.N. Seshan, has tried to queer the pitch for home minister L.K. Advani. But the tempo that Seshan has built up lacks the credibility that Sushma has been able to infuse into her campaign in the traditional Congress bastion of Bellary, where the party has never lost an election since 1952.

Also of great interest is the South Delhi seat where former Union finance minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress faces V.K. Malhotra, the BJP?s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha.

In Outer Delhi, the BJP is trying to carry through a former Delhi chief minister, Sahib Singh Verma. His bete noire and another former BJP chief minister, Madan Lal Khurana, is contesting from Delhi Sadar. Other heavyweights in the fray in the first phase are Union ministers Rangarajan Kumaramangalam (Tiruchirapalli), H. Ananth Kumar (Bangalore South), S.S. Barnala (Sangrur), Sukhbir Singh Badal (Faridkot), Kanshiram Rana (Surat) and Jagmohan (New Delhi).

The fates of former Union finance minister, P.R. Chidambaram, Congress heavyweight from Andhra Pradesh, K. Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy, Congress general secretary, Sushil Shinde, and former Lok Sabha Speaker, Shivraj Patil, will also be decided tomorrow.

Some important Assembly contests also begin tomorrow. In Karnataka, the newly-formed BJP-Lok Shakti-Janata Dal (U) alliance will take on the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) of former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda. An easy victory has been predicted for the BJP alliance, and there are dissensions already on who the next chief minister should be.

In Andhra Pradesh, chief minister Chandrababu Naidu hopes to make the most of the alliance he has struck with the BJP. The Congress has a tough fight on hand and its performance may not be as remarkable as last time.


The plane climbed and banked, slicing through the cottony clouds. While Sonia Gandhi sat composed and withdrawn far removed from the mass-contact messiah she had become in the last days of her Bellary blitz, daughter Priyanka did the talking.

Her mood changing from sunny to grim, from introspective to chirpy according to the subject, Priyanka spoke about politics, vegeterianism, ?Mama? and Sushma Swaraj on the two-hour trip.She neither silenced, nor strengthened the buzz about her joining electoral politics, choosing instead to say that contesting is not something that is inherited, but deserved. ?Inki ichha par hai (It is up to their will),? Sonia said when asked about whether her children would soon contest.

Priyanka jumped into the fray, interrupting her mother and came up with an answer reminiscent of her Bellary punch. ?I have no such plans until I work hard to deserve that.? Whenever she spoke of her mother?s adversaries, Priyanka was charged with emotion. She hit out at George Fernandes and Sushma for questioning Sonia?s contribution in Indian politics. ?Let them make the kind of sacrifices my mother has made. Then, let them talk about it,? she snapped.

At times like this, Sonia joined in the conversation. She called the campaign against her ?negative?. ?Vajpayeeji must tell the nation if there was any instance in Indian society when a daughter-in-law was treated like this or such questions were raised. Is it part of Bharatiya sanskriti?? she asked.

Sonia alleged that Vajpayee and the BJP had nothing positive to flaunt. Instead, they were trying to make her foreign origin an issue. ?The people of India will give a befitting reply.?

Mother and daughter laughed at the poll surveys, particularly one which said that Sushma would win in Bellary. ?Let us wait till the counting,? Priyanka said. If this sounded like routine election spiel, there was more to follow. Sonia said the Congress would do ?extremely well? in the first phase of polling.

?We will do well even in Maharashtra where we had recently faced some problems. There is a lot of enthusiasm among the masses and party workers. I?m satisfied,? she said.

She claimed she had ?genuine reports? about Sugargate. ?The higher-ups from both the countries are involved,? she said, alleging that Nawaz Sharif?s family benefited from sugar imports. Priyanka, however, provided a change from the speeches which the electorate of Bellary had had to hear over the last few days.

Asked why her husband Robert Vadra was not travelling with her, she said with a grin: ?My hubby has no interest in politics.? She even fielded questions on having turned vegetarian two years ago. It was her personal decision, she said.

Yesterday, both Priyanka and Sonia had relished South Indian food at Congress leader K.C. Kondaiah?s house. Through the journey, mother and daughter made plans for the week ahead. The schedule was prepared with the help of V. George and Capt. Vijay Trehan.    

Calcutta, Sept.4: 
Influential members of the Board are in favour of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, legends both, being ?sounded out? on accepting the national coach?s job.

Incumbent Aunshuman Gaekwad?s term ends with the three-match series vs the West Indies in Toronto (September 11-14) and his successor will be named at the Jaipur AGM, later this month.

Of course, success in the on-going tournament in Singapore ?- and Toronto ?- will enable Gaekwad ?bounce back? but, at the moment, the mood isn?t quite pro-Gaekwad.

Appointed in November 1997, Gaekwad had his term extended at the last AGM (Calcutta). Since then, though, the team has seen many more lows than highs and with the change in captaincy already having been effected, the heat is on Gaekwad.

That India have made the Singapore final should allow Gaekwad to breathe a little easy. However, for the time being only.

Besides Gavaskar and Kapil, the others being discussed are Ravi Shastri and Mohinder Amarnath. Interestingly, the India A and colts? coach, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, appears to have little support. Today, that is.

Srikkanth, though, can be expected to lobby hard ?- he will, for instance, bank heavily on South Zone heavyweight A.C.Muthiah, who is almost certain to succeed Raj Singh Dungarpur as Board president, in Jaipur.

But if Srikkanth is to land the job, Muthiah?s support alone won?t do. In fact, currently, chances are that the Board will break with tradition and not elevate the colts? and A coach.

Past beneficiaries of this unwritten policy have been Sandeep Patil, Madanlal and Gaekwad himself.

Sounding out Gavaskar and Kapil is one thing, but the billion-rupee question is: How will they respond?

?At this point in time, I can?t commit whether I?ll say yes or no... You?ve asked me a hypothetical question... What I can say is that I?ll consider it (the offer), if I?m approached,? Gavaskar told The Telegraph.

Gavaskar?s initial reaction, however, had been: ?Look, I?m happy where I am... I wouldn?t like to get into anybody?s way...?

That Gavaskar has gone on record about his willingness to ?consider? the offer, if made, is significant. After all, not many weeks ago, he?d bluntly said: ?I?ve invested so much of my emotions in Indian cricket... I?ve been very involved... Now, emotionally, I?ll be less into it.?

Kapil, on the other hand, has always declared he?ll do ?anything for the country.? Yet, speaking exclusively the other day, he turned cautious: ?I haven?t thought about it (coach?s job)... Therefore, won?t say anything now.?

His tone, though, did suggest he would consider the offer. If made, of course.

The coach?s first assignment will take him to Nairobi for the September 25-October 3 quadrangular.    

Calcutta, Sept. 4: 
Nothing unexpected happened at the Salt Lake Stadium today. Mohammedan Sporting played like Mohammedan Sporting, East Bengal won 1-0 to clinch their 26th League title and the 15,000-odd drum-beating fans danced merrily on the aisles.

Yet, there was something amiss in the East Bengal celebrations. The coach was a dejected man and the dressing-room hardly resembled that of a team which had only minutes ago emerged unbeaten Super Division champions.

Not only had East Bengal scored the lone goal via a debatable penalty, they failed to sign off like the champion team they were. ?I can?t tell you how dejected I am... having to win the last match through a penalty after creating eight-nine chances is very frustrating,? said Bhowmick. ?I?d have been happy if the team had scored at least two field goals and finished in style.?

Unusual words from a man who had featured in several league-winning teams in his playing days, but had never tasted success as coach. ?I am happy as any parent would be to see his children pass an exam, but there?s no special feeling,? Bhowmick said without, in the least, sounding like a man who was pretending.

Indeed, East Bengal could have matched the five-goal margin Mohun Bagan notched up against Mohammedan Sporting a few days back. Despite lacking the customary fluency and rhythm ?- primarily because the team missed regulars like Rennedy Singh, Ranjan Dey and Chanchal Bhattacharya ?- Bhowmick?s boys opened up the rival defence often enough. Unfortunately for him, the likes of Suley Musah, Raman Vijayan, Sheikh Sanjib had abandoned their scoring boots.

All the East Bengal passes were directed to the right where Musah worked up a hot pace. He himself squandered four chances and saw Vijayan missing two in the first half itself. Just when it seemed that East Bengal would have to pay for being too Musah-centric, the goal happened.

Vijayan, fed by Carlton Chapman, was confronted by Aslam Parvez and Shakeel Akhtar. The former failed with his sloppy tackle, leaving Akhtar to push Vijayan off possession. Though it happened inside the penalty box, the infringement didn?t warrant a penalty. Referee Udayan Haldar thought otherwise and Musah gleefully accepted the offer.

The coach picked Jackson, Chanchal and Rennedy for their consistency throughout the league. ?My defence is well organised... I now need to ensure the men upfront convert the chances that are being created. Otherwise how will we do well in the National League, especially in the away matches??


EAST BENGAL: Gopal Das, Suley Musah, Jackson, Falguni Datta, Ratan Singh, Anit Ghosh, Carlton Chapman, Dinesh Dhondial, Ramesh Rawat (Tushar Rakshit, 46th), Raman Vijayan (Sheikh Sanjib, 75th), Bijen Singh.    

Calcutta, Sept. 4: 
Gone is the craze for No. 10. In fashion these days for soccer strikers is the No. 9 jersey. That was Bhaichung Bhutia?s preference, and that?s what he got at his new English second-division club Bury FC.

Receiving the official club jersey from his agents at a press conference this morning, the charismatic Bhaichung said: ?I was offered the option of numbers 6, 9 and 15. I opted for 9.?

The white-and-blue shirt, with ?Bhutia? printed on the back above the number and the sponsors? name (?Birthdays?) splashed across the chest, sat pretty on Bhaichung as he posed for lensmen.

But it will be a while before Bhaichung actually gets to wear his new jersey for an official Bury match. ?The work permit, applied for three weeks back, should be obtained in about three-four more weeks,? informed Jas Bains and R.C. RajProhit, Bhaichung?s promoters and directors of Sapphire Enterprises Ltd. ?We are not anticipating any problems in acquiring it as Bhaichung has recommendations from people like Keith Vaz (the first India-born minister in Britain) and John Gorman (ex-deputy of Glenn Hoddle and current coach of West Bromwich Albion).?

As far as his international clearance is concerned, the formalities has already been set in motion. ?We have spoken to the AIFF president (Priya Ranjan Das Munshi) and he has assured us there won?t be any hitch,? Mr Bains said. If clearance is needed from his previous club East Bengal, ?we?ll do it and I?m confident there won?t be any problems on that front either.?

Bhaichung, who is returning to England next week after a three-week holiday at home, will have to go through a tough one-month training schedule at Bury to get back in shape. ?That shouldn?t be a problem as I?ve been through similar schedules when I was there earlier.?

Bury FC are currently lying fifth in the 24-team second division, having won two, drawn and lost one game each in early season matches. And even if it takes a month or more for Bhaichung to get into the playing XI, he needn?t worry as the club has 46 matches to play in the league.

Indians for England

The officials of Sapphire took the opportunity to announce that the Indian national team will tour England to play three friendly matches next July. The schedule has been set up after consultations with AIFF president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Also, England-based Permi Jyoti will turn out for the Indian national women?s team. Permi, an Indian passport-holder who currently turns out for Fulham, will join the Indian squad on its preparatory tour of Norway in October.    

Hyderabad, Sept. 4: 
Naxalites of the banned People?s War Group struck on election-eve, gunning down a top Andhra Pradesh police official, Umesh Chandra, at the busy Sanjivreddynagar crossing this morning.

Chandra?s bodyguard and driver were also killed. A red alert has been sounded and the government has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information on the assailants.

The 33-year-old Chandra, who was assistant inspector-general of police (welfare and sports), was a distant relative of chief minister Chandrababu Naidu. His assailants came riding on motorbikes and fired at his car when it stopped at a traffic signal, police said.

The volley of bullets first hit driver Satyanarayana and then security guard Ramachandra Reddy. Chandra managed to clamber out of the car and tried to escape, but at such close range he stood no chance.

The daring attack comes just a day before the state goes to polls. As in the past, the PWG has called for a ballot boycott.

The murdered officer was earlier superintendent of police at the Naxalite-infested Karimnagar and faction-ridden Cuddapah districts. He is survived by his wife and son.

During his tenure in Karimnagar, he is supposed to have effectively checked Naxalite activities, particularly their practice of holding praja courts.

Chandra is the second IPS officer to be shot dead in Hyderabad. DIG K.S. Vyas was killed in 1993 while jogging at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here.    

The Telegraph website today is a truncated edition because of the fire in our office. Apart from the front page links are available to the east section only. We hope our readers will bear with us.     More on ABP's fire on 3rd September 1999

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