INTRODUCTION: The Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who announced last week that a general?
INTRODUCTION: The Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who announced last week that a general election is to be held in the country later this year, visited the colourful Kumbh Mela Fair at Allahabad on Saturday (22 January).
SYNOPSIS: The Kumbh Mela is one of the India's greatest religious occasions, and it is held only once every twelve years. Millions of people attend it and they camp on the banks of the two rivers -- the Ganges and the Jumna -- which border the site. A large proportion of the pilgrims are Sadhus, or holy men of the Hindu religion.
Mrs. Gandhi's main engagement during her visit was an address she made to the Sadhus who are influential figures in the day-to-day life of the Indian people. She appealed to them to help rid the country of superstition so that all the people could join in the country's march towards peace and prosperity.
She assured them that the secularism affirmed in the Indian Constitution was not anti-religion, but rather pro all religions.
On the same day New Delhi, the two dominant "elder statesmen" of India's opposition parties, Mr. Jaya Prakash Narayan and Mr. Morarji Desai, were meeting to discuss their future strategy for the forthcoming election. Both men were jailed by Mrs. Gandhi in 1975 under the country's internal emergency regulations.
Mr. Narayan, who is 74, was released towards the end of 1975 because he was in poor health. But Mr. Desai, who is 80. had been released only four days before this meeting, following Mrs. Gandhi's announcement that the emergency regulations governing the country would be relaxed. Although Mr. Narayan has played little part in politics since his release from prison, he has consistently urged the opposition parties to merge to defeat the ruling Congress Party.