Wed, 17 April 2024
BJP leader kidnapped by insurgents in Arunachal

Timeline  Refresh

21:40   BJP leader kidnapped by insurgents in Arunachal
Hours after a Bharatiya Janata Party leader was kidnapped in Arunachal Pradesh, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Pawan Kumar Sain on Wednesday said no interference in the poll process by underground elements will be tolerated and stringent action will be initiated against such activities.

Sain's assertion came following abduction of the BJP leader by insurgents in Longding district and the alleged use of underground elements by a poll contestant in the same district which falls under the Arunachal East Lok Sabha seat.

Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) Chukhu Apa acknowledged the abduction and said that police and paramilitary forces are on the job to rescue the person.

The IGP, however, refused to provide details of the incident.

Longding Deputy Commissioner Bekir Nyorak and Superintendent of Police Dekio Gumja declined to speak.

The northeastern state, which has two Lok Sabha seats, will hold the elections to the parliamentary and 60-member assembly simultaneously on April 19.

However, out of the total 60, the ruling BJP already won ten unopposed.

"We have convened a high-level security meeting today to discuss the incident and the deputy commissioners of Longding and Tirap were directed to ensure that there should not be any interference in the poll process by any underground groups," the CEO told a press conference in Itanagar.

Assam Rifles and other paramilitary forces have been asked to intensify security measures, Sain said.

Naga insurgents are active in three eastern districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding and they indulge in abduction, extortion and other anti-social activities.

In the past few years, several cadres of various insurgent groups have been arrested in the region.

When his attention was drawn to allegations that a candidate in Longding was using insurgents who issued letters to villagers directing them to support the contestant, Sain said if any candidate is found indulging in such activities, the Election Commission would disqualify him.

"A special platoon of central armed police force has reached Longding during the day and already carried out area domination. Around 13,176 personnel of CAPF and state police are working on the ground to conduct peaceful polling in the state," the CEO said.

He added that since the announcement of polls, as many as 36 law and order incidents have been registered where one person died and another 33 injured.

Sain said that out of the total 2,226 polling stations in the state, 480 polling booths fall under shadow areas, while 588 booths have been identified as critical and 443 as vulnerable.

The official added that as many as 87 inter-state nakas are operational in the state to thwart anti-social elements from outside from trying to disrupt polling.

"We will ensure a free and fair polling without any violence and will not tolerate any violation of model code of conduct. We have already suspended an additional deputy commissioner and a senior government official for favouring candidates," he said.

The CEO said that on April 15, polling parties were airlifted to four polling stations in remote Kra-Daddi district, while five more groups went to various distant regions on Tuesday.

Out of the total 2,226 polling stations in the state, 228 could be reached only on foot.
20:41   Ghulam Nabi not to contest from Anantnag-Rajouri
Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad will not contest the Lok Sabha elections from Anantnag-Rajouri seat in Jammu and Kashmir, his party said on Wednesday.

DPAP's provincial president, Kashmir, Mohammad Amin Bhat said the party has now decided to field its leader Mohammad Saleem Parray from the seat. 

People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference senior leader Mian Altaf are contesting from the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary seat.

"Azad will not contest the elections (from Anantnag-Rajouri seat)," Bhat told reporters in Anantnag.

"A meeting took place with Azad and it was decided that advocate Saleem Parray will be the DPAP candidate for the Anantnag-Rajouri seat," he added. 

The DPAP leader said Azad has some reasons not to contest -- without divulging those reasons.

"He gave some reasons (in the meeting) and then we took a decision on fielding Parray from the seat," Bhat said.

On April 2, the DPAP announced that Azad will contest from the Anantnag-Rajouri seat.

"Today the core committee of DPAP met and we have decided that (party president) Ghulam Nabi Azad will contest the Anantnag-Rajouri seat," DPAP leader Taj Mohiuddin had said.   -- PTI
19:52   JU withdraws nod for Ram Navami celebration
The state-run Jadavpur University in Kolkata on Wednesday withdrew the permission it gave to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad to celebrate Ram Navami on the campus amid protests by Left-backed students' organisations.

The varsity had given the permission to celebrate Ram Navami near Gate 3 from 11 am to 2 pm, they said.

In a notice, Registrar Snehamanju Basu said written complaints were received from different groups of students that such a programme may lead to disruption of peace and harmony on the campus.

In view of that, the 'no-objection' was being withdrawn, the notice said.

The notice also cited a letter from the Higher Education Department that flagged the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which is in place for the Lok Sabha polls, and for 'safeguarding the right of every individual for peaceful and undisturbed home life'.

Calling the varsity's decision unfortunate, the ABVP alleged that under pressure from Left-wing organisations such as All India Students Association (AISA) and Students' Federation of India (SFI), the authorities withdrew the permission.

"Only a day ago, the registrar had given permission for the event, which would have been peaceful. Today, suddenly they took a U-turn," an ABVP leader said.

An official of the varsity said the authority did not want a re-run of January 22 when several senior professors were manhandled amid a face-off between different students' outfits during a programme for commemorating the Ram Temple consecration ceremony.

So, the moment certain groups raised objections over Ram Navami celebrations on campus, the permission was withdrawn, he said.   -- PTI
19:46   PM skipped upper Assam as he afraid of facing tea garden workers: Cong
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Nalbari on Wednesday, senior Congress leader Pawan Khera claimed that the PM skipped upper Assam where polls are due in the first phase as he was 'afraid' of facing tea garden workers for 'not fulfilling' promises.

Stating that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's 'Nyay Yatra' was not permitted in Guwahati in view of commuters' problems, Khera criticised Modi for holding a roadshow through the busy Guwahati-Shillong Road on Tuesday evening, claiming that it created problems for all, from patients to office-goers since the morning.

Addressing a press conference in Sivasagar, Khera said, "We don't know why the prime minister is not coming to upper Assam. He is going to Nalbari where elections are in the third phase. Perhaps he is afraid of facing tea garden workers here as their daily wages are still at Rs 250 and four-laning of national highway is yet to be completed."

Elections to five Lok Sabha constituencies -- Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaziranga, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur -- in upper Assam are scheduled on April 19, while Nalbari comes under the Barpeta seat where polls are on May 7.

"When Rahul Gandhi ji wanted to take out 'Nyay Yatra' in Guwahati, he didn't get permission. Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said he (Gandhi) will be put into jail. Sarma, however, allows closing of the GS Road for Modi," Khera alleged.

He maintained that after the declaration of elections, the prime minister is only a 'caretaker PM and rules should be applied to everyone'.

Khera also slammed the prime minister for not visiting violence-hit Manipur.

"The PM is coming to Nalbari but Manipur isn't far from here. We have told him earlier that if Himanta Biswa Sarma does not take him there by helicopter, we will give him a ticket to go and see the condition there."

The senior Congress leader participated in a motorbike rally covering various parts of the Jorhat constituency.   -- PTI

IMAGE: Women hold placards during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's public meeting for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, in Nalbari on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo
18:58   BJP expels Manipur leader ahead of LS polls
Just two days ahead of the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday expelled one of its leaders in Manipur, E Dwijamani Singh, from the party for six years.

Singh of Hiyanglam Mandal of the saffron camp was expelled for 'violation of party's rules and regulations', a statement issued by the BJP's Manipur unit said.

Singh, an ex-MLA of the Congress, joined the saffron camp in 2022 after being denied a ticket by the grand old party.

Immediately after his expulsion from the BJP, Singh returned to the Congress.

He was accorded a warm welcome by party's Inner Manipur candidate Angomcha Bimol Akoijam at the Congress Bhavan in Imphal. Inner Manipur constituency will go to polls on April 19.   -- PTI
18:01   EC advises WB Guv against visiting Cooch Behar
The Election Commission has advised the West Bengal governor to call off his proposed tour of Cooch Behar on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls' first phase as it was violative of the Model Code of Conduct, sources said on Wednesday.

Polling is scheduled in Cooch Behar on April 19 and the 48-hour silence period when campaigning is barred begins on Wednesday evening.

Having come to know of the proposed tour of West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose on April 18 and 19 to Cooch Behar, where polling is scheduled on April 19 and silence period is starting from this evening, the Election Commission (EC) has advised that the proposed tour may not be undertaken, the sources said.

Under the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), no local programme can be organised for the governor as proposed in his issued programme, the EC noted in its communication to the office of the governor.

The commission has also noted that the entire district administration and police force will be occupied in election management during April 18 and 19. 

The visit of the governor would be a diversion for them from time-bound poll-related work as they will have to provide protocol and local security cover to the 'unexpected' proposed visit 'without an imminently known requirement'.

According to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951, the 'silence period' for Cooch Behar starts from 6 pm April 17, which brings in a multitude of restrictions and a higher level of enforcements by election authorities, the sources said.

The EC has issued standing instructions to all district election officers and district police chiefs to ensure that all high-profile persons, campaigners and political workers, who are not voters of that election area, exit immediately on beginning of the 'silence period' to ensure a free and fair poll process, the sources observed.   -- PTI
16:34   Trinamool manifesto promises repeal of CAA
The Trinamool Congress on Wednesday released its Lok Sabha poll manifesto promising several social welfare measures and repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) if the opposition Indian Natinoal Developmental (INDIA) bloc comes to power at the Centre.

Releasing the manifesto at the party headquarters in Kolkata, TMC's Rajya Sabha party leader Derek O' Brien said, "These are the promises which we will fulfill as part of INDIA bloc, when it forms the next government."

"We promise to control petrol and diesel prices through the formulation of a price stabilisation fund. We also promise to repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and stop the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in the country," senior TMC leader Amit Mitra said.

The party also promised to provide ration at doorstep and 10 free cooking cylinders for BPL families.

The TMC walked out of the INDIA bloc in January over disagreements regarding seat-sharing with the Congress in Bengal.

However, the Mamata Banerjee-led party had said it continues to be part of the INDIA bloc at the national level.   -- PTI
16:25   Flights to be halted for 5 hours on Apr 21 at Thiruvananthapuram airport
Flight services from the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram will be suspended for five hours on April 21 for the smooth continuation of the holy 'Painkuni Arattu' procession of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple across the runway, TIAL said on Wednesday.

The Thiruvananthapuram International Airport Ltd (TIAL) said the flight services would be suspended from 4 pm to 9 pm on April 21.

It said the updated timings of the flights are available with the respective airlines.

The airport has been pausing operations and rescheduling flights twice every year for decades to enable the bi-annual centuries-old ceremonial procession of the shrine to pass through the runway.

The practice of the temple procession taking that path to reach the Shangumugham beach for the holy bath of the idols began centuries ago and it has been continuing even after the establishment of the airport in 1932.

When the airport was constructed at the particular place, the then Travancore King Sree Chithira Thirunal had made it clear that facility would be open for public for 363 days in a year and for two days for Lord Padmanabha, the titular deity of the royal family, according to historians.

The royal era ritual has been continuing even after the Adani Group took over management of the airport.

The airport issues a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) twice every year before the runway is closed during the bi-annual Alpassi festival which falls in October-November and the Painkuni festival in March-April.   -- PTI
15:38   If there is no tampering with EVMs...: Priyanka
Ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Indian National Congress' general secretary Priyanka Gandhi campaigned in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur and said that if the country conducts fair elections without any tampering of EVMs, then the Bhartiya Janata Party will not secure more than 180 seats.

Speaking to ANI, the Congress leader questioned the basis of BJP's claim of securing more than 400 seats.

She said, "On what basis are they saying that they will get 400, are they astrologers? Either they have done something from before and they know that they will secure more than 400 seats. Otherwise, how can they say that they will get 400 seats?... If today in this country, the elections are conducted in such a way in which there... is no tampering of EVMs, then I can say with full confidence that they will not gain more than 180 seats, in fact, they will win less than 180 seats."

She also said that she views the election from the people's point of view and stressed that the elections should be conducted based on the issues of the people.

"I am saying this everywhere to the people, that this election should be the election of the people. It should be conducted on the issues of the people."

Attacking PM Narendra Modi and BJP leaders, Priyanka alleged that the BJP is not talking about unemployment, and inflation.

"They are not talking about the issues of unemployment and inflation. They are not talking about the real issues faced by farmers and the women. All the conversations are happening only to divert the people's mind."

Claiming that people want change, the Congress leader said that people have not seen any development in their lives for the past 10 years and PM Modi has got disconnected with the people.  -- ANI
15:09   Israeli airstrikes hit 40 Hamas targets in central Gaza
Israeli forces in central Gaza destroyed rocket launchers and Hamas terror infrastructure, while also eliminating terrorists, the Israel Defence Forces said on Wednesday morning.

One of the strikes was on a Hamas squad operating an armed drone near Israeli troops.In additional strikes, Israeli aircraft struck several rocket launchers that were primed to fire rockets at Israel.

More than 40 targets were struck, including underground launching posts, booby-trapped buildings, military structures where armed terrorists operated, observation posts, and underground locations.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas's attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7.

Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead. -- ANI/TPS
Sen with her daughter Koel
Sen with her daughter Koel
14:30   Shoma Sen walks out of Mumbai jail after 6 yrs
Academic-activist Shoma Kanti Sen was released from Byculla jail in Mumbai at 1.30 pm on Wednesday.

She was arrested in June 2018 in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

The Supreme Court granted her bail on April 5, 2024, while taking cognisance of the 'composite effect' of the delay in framing charges coupled with her prolonged detention.

14:01   Maha agrees to grant benefits to Maj Sood's wife
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday informed the Bombay high court that it has decided to grant financial benefits to the family of an Army Major, who was killed in the line of duty in Jammu and Kashmir four years ago.

Aakriti Sood, the widow of Major Anuj Sood, had moved the high court seeking benefits (monetary) for ex-servicemen under two government resolutions of 2019 and 2020.

Major Sood lost his life on May 2, 2020, when he was rescuing civilian hostages from terrorist hideouts.

He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously.

The state government had initially said Sood's family was not eligible for the benefit and allowance as the resolutions were only for those born in Maharashtra or who have had a continuous stay of 15 years.

A division bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Firdosh Pooniwalla had earlier directed the government to consider Sood's case as a special and exceptional one and extend the benefits.

The court had said if the government could not do so, then the court would pass appropriate orders.

On Wednesday, Advocate General Birendra Saraf told the bench that the government has decided to extend benefits to Sood's family as a special case. 

The government has decided to pay a sum of Rs one crore (Rs 60 lakh to Aakriti and Rs 40 lakh to Sood's father) and also Rs 9,000 monthly payment to Aakriti.

The bench appreciated the government's decision and said the government has given respect to a difficult situation.

"These are real human agonies. Always there is an exception...It is a special case," the court said.

"We highly appreciate the stand taken by the chief minister and the state government in considering the petitioner's case as a special case and granting benefits," the court said.

The bench disposed of the petition noting that the amount shall be disbursed as expeditiously as possible.

Aakriti Sood in her plea had challenged the communication received from the government on August 26, 2020, denying benefits claiming that Sood was neither born in Maharashtra nor residing in the state for the last 15 years. 

The plea contended that the family has been residing in Maharashtra for the last 15 years as wished by her late husband.

She added that Sood always intended to reside at Pune in Maharashtra.  -- PTI
13:26   Ram Lalla's 'Surya Tilak' done on Ram Navmi
The 'Surya tilak' of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya was done at noon on Wednesday on the occasion of Ram Navami using an elaborate mechanism involving mirrors and lenses by which sunbeams were directed on the forehead of the Ram idol.

This is the first Ram Navami since the consecration of the Ram idol at the new temple, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22. 

Prakash Gupta the spokesperson of the temple told PTI, "The Surya Tilak was done for around 4-5 minutes when the sun rays were directly focused on the forehead of the Ram Lalla idol."

"The temple administration prevented the devotees from entering the sanctum sanctorum at the time of the Surya Tilak to avoid overcrowding," Gupta said.

Dr DP Kanungo, the Chief Scientist at CSIR-CBRI, Roorkee, told PTI, "As planned, the Surya Tilak of Ram Lalla was perfectly executed at 12.00 pm" 

The system was tested by the scientists on Tuesday. Dr S K Panigrahi, a scientist at CSIR-CBRI Roorkee, who was also associated with the project said that the basic objective of the Surya Tilak project is to focus on the 'tilak' on the forehead of Shri Ram idol on every Shri Ram Navami day.

Under the project, sunlight will be brought on the forehead of Lord Ram at noon on Shri Ram Navami in the Chaitra month every year.   -- PTI
13:01   Kashmir boat tragedy: Search on for the missing
Rescuers searched the Jhelum waters on Wednesday for three people who went missing after a boat capsized in the river the day before, claiming six lives, officials said.

The search operation resumed in the morning. Teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Jammu and Kashmir Police are engaged in the operation, they said.

They said the Indian Navy's marine commandos (MARCOS) have also been pressed into service.

According to the officials, three people are missing.

The boat, which was carrying mostly schoolchildren, capsized in the Gandbal Nowgam area in Srinagar on Tuesday.

Six people were pulled out of the Jhelum river, which has swollen over the last couple of days due to incessant rains in the Kashmir valley.

Officials said 19 people were on board, out of which six drowned and 10 were rescued.

"A joint combing operation resumed at 6 am after last night's watch and ward. There are teams of SDRF, NDRF and river police. We are trying to retrieve the bodies of the three missing persons. The operation will continue," said SDRF Deputy Superintendent Muzaffar Ahmad.

He said the operation has been extended up to 4 km from the spot where the boat capsized.

Senior police and civil administration officials, including divisional commissioner of Kashmir, inspector general of police, deputy commissioner of Srinagar and senior superintendent of police, Srinagar, continue to monitor the situation and rescue operation.   -- PTI
11:57   Rahul breaks silence on contesting from Amethi
Amid intense speculation over whether he would contest the Lok Sabha polls from Uttar Pradesh's Amethi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said he would abide by his party's decision on it.

Gandhi made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

Asked whether he would contest from Amethi besides Wayanad, Gandhi said, "On Amethi, the party will decide. Whatever order I get, I will abide by that."

"In our party, these decisions are taken in the CEC (Central Election Committee) meeting," he stressed.

Both Amethi and Wayanad will go to polls on April 26.

There is speculation that besides his declared seat of Wayanad in Kerala, Gandhi might also contest the Lok Sabha polls from Amethi, a seat he represented for three straight terms earlier, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from Rae Bareli, a seat that was previously held by her mother, Sonia Gandhi. 

Both seats are considered bastions of the Gandhi family and the local units of the Congress have demanded that the two scions of the family contest from there.

The Congress has forged an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh and is contesting 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled to be held in seven phases starting April 19.

The counting of votes will be taken up on June 4.   -- PTI
11:19   AAP launches 'AAP Ka RamRajya' website
Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday launched its "AAP Ka RamRajya" website to showcase the party's concept of "Ram Rajya", saying Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tried to realise the ideals of Lord Ram in the national capital.
The website launch came ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the first phase of which will be held on Friday, and coincided with the Ram Navami festival being celebrated in several parts of the country.

During a joint press conference, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said the website will showcase AAP's concept of "Ram Rajya" as well as the work done by the party's governments.

"Chief Minister Kejriwal accomplished wonderful things -- good schools, mohalla clinics, free water and electricity and free bus rides for women -- in the last 10 years for realising 'Ram Rajya'," Singh said.

This is the first time that Kejriwal is not among his people on Ram Navami, Singh said and alleged that the Delhi chief minister was sent to jail in a "baseless" case on the basis of statements from "false" witnesses.

AAP leaders Atishi, Saurabh Bharadwaj and Jasmine Shah were also present at the press conference. -- PTI 
11:04   BJP will only get 150 seats: Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the Bharatiya Janata Party will win only 150 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"I do not do prediction of seats. 15-20 days ago I was thinking the BJP would win around 180 seats but now I think they will get 150 seats," Gandhi said while addressing the joint press conference with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.

"We are getting reports from every state that we are improving. We have a very strong alliance in Uttar Pradesh and we will perform very well," he added.

Criticising PM Narendra Modi's remarks on poverty, Gandhi said, "No one is saying poverty will be ended in one go, but we can make strong efforts for it."
10:58   India's population estimated at 144 crore
India's population is estimated to have reached 144 crore, with 24 per cent in the 0-14 age bracket, according to a recent report by the UNFPA.
The United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) State of World Population - 2024 report -- "Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights" -- revealed that India's population is estimated to double in 77 years.

India leads globally with an estimated population of 144.17 crore, followed by China at 142.5 crore, according to the report.

India's population was recorded at 121 crore during the last census, conducted in 2011.

The report further detailed that an estimated 24 per cent of India's population is aged 0-14 while 17 per cent is within the 10-19 age range.

The segment aged 10-24 is estimated to constitute 26 per cent, with the 15-64 age group making up 68 per cent. Additionally, 7 per cent of India's population is aged 65 years and above, with men having a life expectancy of 71 years and women 74 years.

The report has found that 30 years of progress in sexual and reproductive health has mostly ignored the most marginalised communities worldwide.

According to the report, the child marriage percentage in India was at 23 between 2006-2023.

The report noted that maternal deaths in India have fallen considerably, accounting for 8 per cent of all such fatalities worldwide.

"India's success is often attributed to improved access to affordable, quality maternal health services as well as efforts to address the impact of gender discrimination on health outcomes," the report said.

However, the report noted that India continues to see dramatic inequities in maternal death risk.

Quoting a report on "Estimates and Correlates of District-Level Maternal Mortality Ratio in India" by PLOS Global Public Health, the UNFPA said recent research into India's 640 districts revealed that while nearly a third achieved the sustainable development goal of reducing maternal mortality ratio below 70 per 100,000 live births, 114 districts still have ratios of 210 or more. -- PTI
10:36   Rahul Gandhi to address 2 public meetings in Karnataka today
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will address public meetings at Mandya and Kolar in Karnataka on Wednesday for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
According to Congress sources, he is scheduled to land in Bengaluru around 1.20 pm from where he will go to Mandya by a chopper and address a poll rally at around 2.10 pm. He will then fly to Kolar to address a public meeting at around 4 pm.
Both Mandya and Kolar are going to polls in the first of the two-phase elections in Karnataka.
It is his first visit to the state after the poll schedule was announced a month ago.
Interestingly, the Congress is facing Janata Dal-Secular, which is BJP's ally, in both seats.
While it will be a direct contest between JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy and Congress' Venkataramane Gowda, popularly known as 'Star Chandru' in Mandya, the fight is between Congress' K V Gowtham and M Mallesh Babu in Kolar. 
While 14 constituencies in the southern part of the state will see polling on April 26, the second phase of voting in northern districts will be held on May seven. -- PTI 
10:07   'Divya Abhisheka' performed for Ram Lalla in Ayodhya
Divya Abhisheka of Ram Lalla was performed at Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya on the occasion of Ram Navami on Wednesday.

Ram Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Ram and a temple was recently consecrated at the place where he is believed to have been born in Ayodhya.

This years Ram Navami is being celebrated for the first time in Ayodhya's Ram temple after the Pran Pratishtha of Ram Lalla.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted people on the occasion of Ram Navami and said Ayodhya is in incomparable bliss as this is the first time the festival will be celebrated there after the consecration of the Ram temple.

"The first Ram Navami after the Pran Pratishtha in Ayodhya is a generational milestone, weaving together centuries of devotion with a new era of hope and progress. This is a day crores of Indians waited for," Modi said in a series of posts on X.

This is the fruit of the hard work and sacrifices made by the people of the country over many years, he said.
09:27   US reacts to Modi's 'ghar me ghus kar' remark
Quizzed about reported statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on crossing borders to kill terrorists, the Biden administration said the US would not involve itself on the matter but "encouraged India and Pakistan to avoid any escalation and find a resolution through dialogue".
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was responding to questions at a news conference on Tuesday on alleged operations by India in other countries to eliminate terrorists.
When asked if Modi and Singh's comments can be seen as "confessions" on the alleged "assassination of (Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh) Nijjar in Canada, (designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh) Pannu's murder-for-hire plot in New York, and killings in Pakistan", Miller said the US will not get involved in the matter.  
"The United States is not going to get into the middle of this, but we do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue," the State Department spokesperson said. 
To a question on why the US has not considered sanctions on India over the matter, Miller said, "I am never going to preview any sanctions actions, which is not to say that there are any coming. But when you ask me to talk about sanctions, it's something that we don't discuss openly."
Earlier this month, Singh, referring to New Delhi's assertive approach to dealing with cross-border terrorism, had said if terrorists try to disturb peace in India or carry out terror activities, a befitting response will be given, and if they run away to Pakistan, India will enter the neighbouring country to kill them.
The defence minister was responding to a question on a report by British newspaper 'The Guardian' that claimed Indian intelligence agencies carried out assassinations of terrorists in Pakistan as part of an emboldened approach to national security after 2019.

At an election rally in Uttarakhand recently, Modi said, "Whenever we have had a weak government in the country, our enemies have taken advantage. Under this strong government, atankwaadiyon ko ghar mein ghus ke mara jata hai (our forces are killing terrorists on their own turf)."
09:03   India is doing quite well: IMF
India is "one of the strong performers", the International Monetary Fund, which in a report projected a 6.5 per cent growth rate for the country for the year 2024, said on Tuesday.
With this, India continues to be the fastest growing economies of the world and ahead of China's growth projection of 4.6 per cent during the same period, it said.
"Indeed, India is one of the strong performers. We had a fairly sharp revision in the Fiscal Year 2023 to 2024, the one that is ending, and that has just ended. Then we have 0.3 percentage point upgrade for Fiscal Year 2024 to 2025. So India is doing quite well," Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, chief economist of the IMF, told reporters at a news conference in Washington.
Growth in India is projected to remain strong at 6.8 per cent in 2024 and 6.5 per cent in 2025, with the robustness reflecting continuing strength in domestic demand and a rising working-age population, according to the latest edition of the World Economic Outlook released by the IMF ahead of the annual spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.
At the same time, growth in emerging and developing Asia is expected to fall from an estimated 5.6 per cent in 2023 to 5.2 per cent in 2024 and 4.9 per cent in 2025, a slight upward revision compared with the January 2024 WEO Update.
"Growth in China is projected to slow from 5.2 per cent in 2023 to 4.6 per cent in 2024 and 4.1 per cent in 2025 as the positive effects of one-off factors including the post pandemic boost to consumption and fiscal stimulus ease and weakness in the property sector persists," the IMF said.
Global growth, estimated at 3.2 per cent in 2023, is projected to continue at the same pace in 2024 and 2025. The forecast for 2024 is revised up by 0.1 percentage point from the January 2024 WEO Update, and by 0.3 percentage point from the October 2023 WEO, the IMF said.
Responding to a question, Daniel Leigh, Division Chief, IMF Research Department moderation partly reflects the tightening in monetary policy and the tightening in fiscal policy, which is necessary to bring inflation down. -- PTI
08:58   Owaisi declares support for Prakash Ambedkar
All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi has declared his party's support for Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) leader Prakash Ambedkar who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Akola seat in Maharashtra.
Notably, the AIMIM and the VBA tied up for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but the alliance broke during the Maharashtra assembly elections held later that year.

"We believe the leadership of Dalits should come up. I appeal to the AIMIM team from Akola to vote for Prakash Ambedkar," Owaisi said on Tuesday.

Prakash Ambedkar is the grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar.

The AIMIM will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Pune, Owaisi said and declared the candidature of Anis Sundke.

Owaisi also tried to reach out to Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange, saying, "A person with a thin physique has shaken the state government. I was expecting that Jarange would form a political party. Because justice will be done only after forming a political party and winning elections".

Owaisi alleged that all parties are ganged up against AIMIM's Aurangabad Lok Sabha member Imtiaz Jaleel in the elections.
"Two Shiv Senas, two NCPs, BJP and half Congress have come together. People should ask them about their stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR)," he added. -- PTI 
File image
File image
01:12   UK criminalises creation of 'deepfake' images without consent
Despicable people who create sexually explicit "deepfakes' will face prosecution under a new law going through its parliamentary journey, the British government said on Tuesday. 

Deepfake refers to images and videos made to look hyper-realistic, with the victim usually unaware and unable to give their consent. 

Under the new offence, those who create such images without consent face a criminal record and an unlimited fine. 

If the deepfake content is then shared more widely, offenders could be sent to jail. 

"The creation of deepfake sexual images is despicable and completely unacceptable irrespective of whether the image is shared," said Laura Farris, UK Minister for Victims and Safeguarding. 

"It is another example of ways in which certain people seek to degrade and dehumanise others -- especially women. And it has the capacity to cause catastrophic consequences if the material is shared more widely. This government will not tolerate it. This new offence sends a crystal-clear message that making this material is immoral, often misogynistic, and a crime," she said. -- PTI
Shooting accused Vicky Gupta and Sagar Pal in Mumbai police custody/ANI Photo
Shooting accused Vicky Gupta and Sagar Pal in Mumbai police custody/ANI Photo
00:56   Shocked to learn about his involvement: Father of one of Salman home shooters
Joginder Shah, the father of Sagar Pal, who was arrested for allegedly opening fire outside the residence of actor Salman Khan, on Tuesday said he was shocked to know about his son's involvement in the incident. 

The Mumbai police have arrested Sagar Pal (21) and Vicky Gupta (24), both residents of Mahsi village in Bihar's West Champaran district, from Gujarat's Kutch a day after they opened fire outside Khan's Bandra residence on Sunday. 

"I was really shocked to learn about his involvement through social media... We don't know how it happened. He was never involved in any crime earlier." 

"He was a simple person... he was working in Jalandhar (Punjab), I don't know how he reached Mumbai," Shah, a daily wager, told reporters. 

According to the Mumbai police, Pal and Gupta were on the run after firing five rounds outside Khan's residence. 

They were picked up from a village in Kutch district of Gujarat on Monday night. 

West Champaran superintendent of police D Amarkesh said no member of the accused's family has been arrested. -- PTI
00:42   8 Indians charged with abduction, human trafficking in Nepal
Eight Indian nationals have been charged under various sections of Acts related to human trafficking, organised crime and abduction Kathmandu two months after they were arrested for duping 11 compatriots on the promise of lucrative jobs abroad, the police said on Tuesday. 

In mid-February, 11 Indians, mostly students, were held hostage for over two weeks with a promise to facilitate travel to the USA. 

They were rescued after Nepal police bust a human trafficking racket and arrested eight Indian mafia members along with their Nepali accomplice. 

The police have submitted an investigation report to register cases against the eight Indian nationals for the crime at the Kathmandu District Attorney's Office. 

The arrested include Abdul Rahim, Charanjit Singh, Nipun Gupta, Ramchandra Sharma, Hindu Singh Yadav, Ashok Kumar, Ravi Mewade and Manish Kumar Malhotra, according to Kathmandu District Police Circle statement. 

Named as unki Operation' as the case turned out to be similar to the situation shown in popular Indian actor Sharukh Khan's 2023 movie Dunki, Nepal police said, the 11 persons were kept as hostages in a rented house for more than a month on the outskirts of Kathmandu. -- PTI
00:28   EC orders X to take down posts of YSR Cong, AAP
The Election Commission has ordered social media platform X to take down select posts of YSR Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, N Chandrababu Naidu and Bihar deputy Chief Minister Samrat Choudhary for violation of model code of conduct, the microblogging site said on Tuesday. 

The orders were issued on April 2 and April 3 and a follow-up email was sent by the poll panel on April 10 in which it cited a violation of the "voluntary code of ethics" if 'X' fails to remove the four posts reported to it. 

'X' said the Election Commission of India has issued takedown orders requiring the microblogging site to act on posts containing political speech shared from elected politicians, political parties and candidates for office. 

The poll panel found that the objectionable posts were in violation of the model code of conduct that bars criticising political parties based on any aspects of the private life of leaders or workers of other parties that are not connected with public activities or based on unverified allegations or distorted facts. 

"In compliance with the orders, we have withheld these posts for the remainder of the election period. However, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts and political speech in general," the microblogging site said. -- PTI