Indian media say Holi 'provides respite from election fever'

Holi - a splash of colour and joy Image copyright AFP
Image caption Holi, the traditional festival of colours, marks the beginning of spring

Media are rejoicing that Holi, the traditional festival of colours that marks the beginning of spring, has given people a chance to take a break from worrying about politics and everyday problems.

"Leaders of all hues join Holi fervour," announces the Deccan Herald in a headline, adding that politicians from all persuasions had forgotten for a day about the forthcoming parliamentary elections and had joined the nation in celebrating the end of winter.

The Hindu agrees that "Holi provides respite from election fever" and exclaims that "colours ruled the streets" of the capital, Delhi, and other cities across the country. The paper reports that joy had even spread to the sometimes tense Indian-Pakistani border. In Attari, members of the Border Security Force greeted their Pakistani counterparts and smeared colours on them. Pakistani forces "reciprocated the greetings warmly", according to The Hindu.

Some dailies use Holi to draw attention to the plight of women in India.

"Finally, a splash of colour in the lives of Vrindavan widows," says The Indian Express. It carries a report from the holy city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh where an NGO, Sulabh International, brought 1,000 widows from six ashrams (monasteries) "to celebrate Holi with colours and flowers, which widows are not allowed".

Traditionally Hinduism frowns on widows remarrying and many have their social and economic power eroded.

"These women have been treated badly. The celebration was a way of telling them they are one of us," explains Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement.

The Hindu reports that four people have been arrested for allegedly molesting a female journalist who was covering a Holi event in Mumbai. It quotes the police as saying that they are looking for 30 more who are also involved in the incident.

"Holi does not give the licence to harass women," argues an editorial in Hindustan Times. It calls on the police to "deal severely" with "those determined to rain on others' parade with their intrusive antics".

Wikileaks vs Modi

Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seems to be the only politician to have incorporated the celebrations in his election campaign.

Hindustan Times writes that a Holi greeting from Mr Modi "surprised many as they received calls with recorded message from the Gujarat chief minister". The message, also uploaded on his official website, says "the country has been submerged into the colour of elections" and calls on voters to "change the fate of India".

In another "Modi election" story, the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks has clarified that it has not endorsed the politician, The Times of India reports.

The website founded by whistle-blower Julian Assange released a series of tweets explaining that it did not say that Mr Modi was "incorruptible". Wikileaks insisted that it had rather pointed out that the politician was popular because he was "viewed as incorruptible".

The clarification comes after BJP supporters were found circulating posters quoting Mr Assange as saying "America is scared of Modi because he is incorruptible", the paper recalls.

Arms imports

India's imports of arms have "almost tripled" compared to neighbours China and Pakistan, according to Swedish think-tank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Hindustan Times reports.

In the last five years, the procurement of weapons has increased by 111%, making the country's share in global arms imports rise from 7% to 14%, the paper cites SIPRI as saying.

"The world's top five arms importers are now India, China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia," the paper adds.

And finally, the religious town of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh may soon boast the tallest shrine in the world, The Indian Express reports.

The state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday launched a project for the building of a 70-storey temple.

"The shrine, with a traditional Nagara architecture at the entrance, will have elements of a glass facade that would stretch to the 70th floor," the daily explains.

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