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Bengal again stands out with high voter turnout amid sporadic poll violence

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Kolkata, May 25 (IANS) After the completion of the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal on Saturday, two unique features typical to the state make for an interesting picture — high voter turnout and poll-related violence.

In all six phases of the ongoing elections, Bengal’s voter turnout was higher than the national average amid reports of poll-related tension and violence.

In the first five phases, while the national voter turnout average ranged from 61-66 per cent, Bengal saw 76-81 per cent polling.

Even in the sixth phase on Saturday, the polling percentage for the eight Lok Sabha seats in Bengal was 77.99 per cent till 5 p.m., substantially higher than the national average of 57.7 per cent till then.

While this bodes well for electoral politics, the state’s image also got tarnished by reports of poll-related tension and violence in all six phases.

The state went to the polls in the backdrop of widespread violence witnessed before and after the panchayat elections last year that claimed 55 lives. Keeping this in mind, the Election Commission initially decided to deploy 920 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in the state with a phase-wise gradual increase in deployment.

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However, given the history of poll violence in the state and the incidents reported during the first five phases, 1,020 companies of CAPF were deployed in the state for the sixth phase alone, out of which 101 companies were kept as reserves.

Sources said the same number of CAPF personnel will be deployed for the seventh and final phase of elections on June 1 when the nine remaining seats in the state will go to the polls.

The poll panel has also decided to retain 320 companies of CAPF in the state till 15 days after the results are announced on June 4 to prevent events of post-poll violence, a phenomenon witnessed on a large scale after the Assembly elections in 2021.

While polling was more or less peaceful compared to the past elections in the first two phases on April 19 and April 26, reports of violence went up substantially in the third phase on May 7, mainly in the two constituencies in Murshidabad district that are infamous for poll-related tension — Jangipur and Murshidabad.

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A similar trend continued in the fourth phase on May 13 with reports of violence coming in from Baharampur, Birbhum, Bolpur, and Bardhaman-Durgapur Lok Sabha seats.

In the fifth phase on May 20, violence was reported from Howrah, Uluberia, Hooghly, Serampore, and Barrackpore.

The sixth phase on Saturday proved to be the most violent so far, as incidents were reported throughout the day from all the seats that went to the polls barring Bishnupur and Purulia.

–IANS

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Nearly 3 lakh devotees perform Amarnath Yatra in 15 days

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Jammu, July 14 (IANS) During the last 15 days since it started on June 29, nearly three lakh devotees performed Amarnath Yatra as another batch of 4,889 enthusiastic pilgrims left for Kashmir valley on Sunday.

Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) officials said nearly three lakh devotees had ‘Darshan’ inside the holy cave during the last 15 days while 4,889 Yatris left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in two escorted convoys for the Valley today morning.

Of these, the first escorted convoy carrying 1,896 pilgrims in 78 vehicles left at 3.05 a.m. for north Kashmir’s Baltal base camp.

Second escorted convoy carrying 2993 pilgrims in 105 vehicles left at 3.55 a.m. for south Kashmir’s Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camp.

The cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that wanes and waxes with the phases of the moon. Devotees believe that this ice stalagmite structure symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva.

The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 metres above the sea-level in Kashmir Himalayas. Devotees approach the cave shrine either from the traditional south Kashmir Pahalgam route or the north Kashmir Baltal route.

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The Pahalgam-Cave shrine axis is 48 km long and it takes Yatris 4-5 days to reach the shrine. The Baltal-Cave shrine axis is 14 Km long and it takes one day for the pilgrims to have ‘Darshan’ and reach back to the base camp.

4,434 Yatris left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu in two escorted convoys for the Valley on Sunday.

The first escorted convoy carrying 1,721 pilgrims in 64 vehicles left at 3 a.m. for north Kashmir’s Baltal base camp. The second escorted convoy carrying 2,713 pilgrims in 101 vehicles left at 3.35 a.m. for south Kashmir Nunwan’s (Pahalgam) base camp.

This year’s Yatra will conclude after 52 days on August 29 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.

–IANS

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Keen to experience 'Band, Baaja, Baraat', European travellers say 'I Do' in Rajasthan

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Jaipur, July 14 (IANS) Indian marriages are something new on travel agents’ itineraries as there are many couples who want to visit India and exchange vows following Indian rituals.

For them, it is like marriages are made in heaven but are celebrated in Jaipur.

Keen to experience the ‘Band, Baaja, Baraat’, they have started requesting Indian travel agents to arrange for wedding outfits, bouquets, garlands, wedding destinations, flowers, priest, and fire so that they can tie the knot following Indian traditions.

Many of these couples are married who just want to experience the grandeur of big fat Indian weddings and hence are coming here to solemnise their wedding in Indian style.

Recently, one Monica Barbon from Milan, Italy, decided to give a surprise to her husband Enrico Scroccaro and organised an Indian-style marriage in India.

Both of them were part of a group of 14 esteemed travellers from Milan, Italy, and were taking a trip to Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.

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Monica, deeply enamoured by the richness of Indian culture and tradition, orchestrated a heartfelt surprise for her husband Enrico, commemorating their 15 years of marriage with a sacred ceremony in the heart of Jaipur.

This entire wedding experience was filled with emotions, Rajasthani folk music, ancient rituals, and the warmth of traditional wedding customs.

The sacred vows were exchanged at the Laxmi Nritya Gopal Temple under the guidance of revered priests of Jaipur.

From the soul-stirring melodies of folk music to the intricacies of timeless rituals such as the phere ceremony and varmala exchange, every moment was infused with the essence of tradition and culture.

Adding to the enchantment, Monica and Enrico’s attire, specially designed in advance, resonated with the grandeur of the occasion, reflecting a harmonious blend of Italian elegance and Indian splendour.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, a decorated car awaited Monica and Enrico, ready to whisk them away to their hotel.

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Speaking in this reference, a travel agent Sanjay Kaushik from ‘Rajputana Holiday Makers’ said that foreign tourists these days want to visit India to experience the rich culture and tradition.

They have been sending emails requesting experiential tourism.

Around six to seven couples have sent their requests to tie the knot following Indian rituals in Jaipur.

Being from European nations, they want to experience the beauty of Indian weddings wearing Indian costumes, jewellery and make-up with flowers and mehendi, etc, he says.

He further says that these couples express a desire to tie the knot in places like Pushkar, Udaipur, Jaipur and Jaisalmer.

When we choose a wedding destination, we ensure that locals too benefit as they are given tasks to provide flowers, vegetables, cooks, etc.

So overall, it’s a kind of sustainability being practised simultaneously while serving such clients which makes it a win-win for all, he adds.

–IANS

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UP: Man arrested for killing brother to claim insurance money

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Barabanki (Uttar Pradesh), July 14 (IANS) A man shot dead his elder brother in Barabanki to claim the Rs 10 lakh insurance payout his brother’s death would have fetched, the police said.

However, the plan was revealed and he was arrested on Saturday.

Sanitation worker Arvind Kumar was shot dead on July 5.

Police investigations revealed that Arvind was shot by his younger brother, Virendra.

Police said Virendra had an illicit affair with Arvind’s wife. He needed money to settle his debt and decided to eliminate Arvind to claim the insurance money through his wife.

Barabanki Superintendent of Police, Dinesh Pratap Singh, said that on the night of July 5, Arvind Kumar, 35, a resident of Murai Majre Madhnapur village in the Badosarai police station area, was shot dead while sleeping in the front room of his newly constructed house.

Initially, it was reported that someone from outside shot him through a window. However, during a forensic examination by Forensic Science Laboratory experts, it was determined that the shot was fired from close range. Later, based on surveillance, it was found that Virendra’s location was at the same spot, said the police.

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“A team questioned him and Virendra could not give a reason for his location and broke down,” the police added.

Virendra, who deals in property transactions, had borrowed money from several people and was in debt.

Further probe revealed that Virendra also had an illicit relationship with Arvind’s wife and frequently visited her at a rented house in Barabanki.

The police have found the firearm used in the crime and have sent the accused to jail, the police said.

–IANS

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Akhara Parishad to issue I-cards for saints, seers in Maha Kumbh

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Prayagraj, July 14 (IANS) For the first time in the Maha Kumbh, scheduled to be held in early 2025, saints and seers of different akharas will be given identity cards that will give them access to the Mela areas, said a top Akhara Parishad official.

The decision was taken by Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP).

“The process for making ID cards is on. ID cards are being made for all officials, including seers, mahamandaleshwar, mandaleshwar, naga sanyasis, etc. associated with the 13 akharas,” said ABAP President Mahant Ravindra Puri.

The identity card will bear the name, age, name of the guru, name of the siddha, madhi, dhuni, Aadhaar number and PAN number along with a photo of the seer.

The decision is aimed at identifying fake saints and keeping them away from the Maha Kumbh.

The ABAP, after the recent Hathras stampede in the religious discourse of Bhole Baba, has announced that it would weed out ‘black sheep’ and prevent people from getting duped by fake seers.

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–IANS

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BJP chief Nadda to address party's UP executive meet today

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Lucknow, July 14 (IANS) BJP President J.P. Nadda will preside over the State Executive meeting of the party in Lucknow on Sunday, a party spokesman said.

This is the first executive meeting time after the BJP’s poor show in the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh.

According to the BJP spokesman, closed-door sessions will be held in which party lawmakers will place their views before the National President and the state leadership of the party.

Around 3,000-3,600 delegates from across the state will attend the meeting at the Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University auditorium.

Along with the party’s sitting MLAs and MPs, all Lok Sabha candidates who lost the poll have been invited.

Besides, MLCs, Zila Panchayat chairpersons, Nagar Palika adhyakshas (municipal heads), district presidents, and all office bearers of the party will attend the meeting.

“Usually, 300 to 400 delegates attend the State Executive meeting of the BJP. But this time around 3,000- 3,600 delegates will attend the meeting,” said Hero Bajpai, State BJP Spokesperson.

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After winning only 33 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJP had constituted 40 teams with two members each to visit 78 Lok Sabha constituencies to figure out reasons for the party’s poor show and submitted their reports to the State BJP President Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary. They received feedback from party workers.

These issues could come up before BJP President Nadda at the State Executive meeting on Sunday.

Earlier, BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) B.L. Santhosh was in the state capital on a two-day visit on July 6-7.

B.L. Santhosh met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak and regional heads of the party to discuss several issues along with the party’s performance in the state in the Lok Sabha poll and the by-election to 10 Assembly seats to be held later this year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Badlapur BJP Legislator Ramesh Mishra stoked controversy by stating that the BJP would lose the 2027 Uttar Pradesh elections if Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is not removed from office.

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This statement comes amid growing discontent, with some leaders, including ministers, claiming their pre-election warnings about anti-incumbency and other issues were ignored.

However, hours later Mishra retracted his video statement saying it was read out of context.

Union Minister and Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel had also raised concerns about irregularities in government appointments, particularly affecting OBC, SC, and ST candidates as damaging the party’s prospects.

–IANS

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