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Here gunshots are not heard during Bihar polls

By Salil Kumar in Bodhgaya
Last updated on: February 02, 2005 15:50 IST
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On February 3, during the first phase of the Bihar assembly election, violence and booth capturing are expected to take place in many places.

But there is one area where polling is expected to be peaceful and where prayers, rather than gunshots, will be the order of the day -– the area around the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Gaya.

It was under the Mahabodhi tree that Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment. The temple is now a World Heritage Site.

"Polling in the vicinity of the temple, in around half-a-km radius, is expected to be peaceful. There are around 6-7 booths within that area," says Sanjay Kumar, who runs a photo studio near the entrance of the temple. "During the Lok Sabha election, everything was calm here," he adds.

Rajesh Kumar, Lok Janshakti Party's candidate for Imamganj seat and who once represented the Gaya assembly constituency in the Lok Sabha, was gunned down during electioneering on January 23. "But that is not going to have any effect here," says Kumar.

However, foreign tourists don't want to take any chances.

Nina Frey, a 23-year-old German who came to Bodhgaya two days ago, says she plans to spend most of her day on Thursday praying at the temple 'because we heard that it may not be nice outside, there might be some trouble'.

"I think I will stay away from the (Gaya) town," says a tourist from England. "I don't plan to be in any crowd. I will be here for the usual meditation," she says declining to give her name.

Loe Yitsheong, a 27-year-old from Singapore who has been in Bodhgaya for two days, says, "My purpose of coming here was to spend some time meditating. What I have heard is that the locals may not perform their normal work, especially when it comes to transportation."

Lee, who is from England, says he hasn't heard much about the election. "Yesterday I saw many jeeps going past with loudspeakers. Unfortunately I don't understand what they say or which parties they represent."

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Salil Kumar in Bodhgaya