File - PTI Photo/ Shailendra Bhojak
Independence Day Celebrations Peaceful Across India

Patriotic fervour gripped the country today as it celebrated its 68th Independence Day with unfurling of tricolour and tributes to martyrs while Chief Ministers announced a number of schemes to accelerate development and appealed to extremists to shun violence.

The celebrations marked by colourful parades and other events in the state capitals passed off peacefully with authorities making elaborate security arrangements in view of boycott calls given by Maoists and some insurgent outfits.

From the issues of development, tacking insurgency to security of women and children, the leaders flagged the challenges faced by their states and announced steps to deal with them.

In Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah unfurled the tricolour at Bakshi Stadium where he slammed the "boycott politics" of separatists, saying it has not achieved anything and urged the people to make use of their power to vote as it helps in development.

"What has the boycott of elections achieved in the past 25 years? Jammu votes in numbers, Ladakh votes in numbers but not Kashmir," he said, adding that "boycott politics of separatists over 25 years has not achieved anything".

The Chief Minister presented an overview of the major achievements of his government during the last nearly six years, saying main sectors of roads, water supply, power, education and health received focused attention.

In the newly created Telangana, the historic Golconda Fort in Hyderabad was the venue of the Independence Day celebrations where Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao launched the distribution of three acres of land to Dalits after hoisting the national flag.

In Imphal, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh appealed to militants to lay down arms and participate in the development programmes undertaken by the government. Independence Day was observed in Manipur amid heavy security deployment in view of a 'general strike' called by major insurgent organisations.

A similar appeal was made by Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar to insurgents to give up violence. In Shillong, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma called for a coordinated approach from Centre and other NE states to address the root cause.

In Maoist-hit Jharkhand, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said violence cannot bring solution to any problem, emphasising that development alone could fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi unfurled the tri-colour at Gandhi Maidan in Patna and delivered his maiden Independence Day speech amidst continuous rains.

While Manjhi announced a plethora of schemes, including a bank account for every family, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the state will organise "Krishi Mahotsav" annually beginning this year for the benefit of farmers.

In Chhattisgarh, which has been battling Maoist violence, a CRPF jawan was injured in a minor IED explosion in Sukma district

The celebrations were by and large peaceful in the state, officials said.

Despite a boycott call by Maoists, Independence Day was celebrated across Odisha with gaiety and enthusiasm with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik promising to implement a special policy for speedy empowerment of girls and women.

Though no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state, suspected Maoists put up black flags in some pockets in Malkangiri district, police said. In Mayurbhanj district, posters put up by suspected naxals calling for boycott of I-Day celebrations were seized in Jhadpokhria area.

In Karnataka, which is reeling under cases of atrocities against women and girls, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said his government is committed to prevent such incidents and they would be dealt with "mercilessly".

Promising a new transformation in the lives of women, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced launch of a scheme under which bank accounts in the name of women of 1.5 crore families will be opened and aid and benefits directly transferred to their accounts.

Addressing the Independence Day function on the state assembly premises after unfurling the national flag, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav asserted that the progress of the country was not possible without the development of UP.

Yadav, whose government has come under attack over recent incidents of rape and riots, said it was focusing on good law and order which was essential for prosperity and progress and stressed that security of women was among the topmost priorities of the government.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan raised the issue of affordable housing and said the state government will ensure that middle income group people are able to afford their own houses.

For the first time in West Bengal, Police Medals and commendation awards were conferred to IPS officers and officials of various departments for their distinguished service by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Independence Day.

Delivering the maiden independence speech at Kurnool (the capital of erstwhile Andhra between 1953 and 1956 before the united Andhra Pradesh came into being), Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said his government is chalking out plans to develop the state on lines of Silicon Valley.

He also sent signals to his Telangana counterpart that he is ready to sit and discuss unresolved issues that have cropped up post division.

Kerala Chief Minister cited the troubles being faced by expatriate workers in countries like Iraq and Libya and said internal employment generation was vital instead of depending on outside jobs.

The excitement among the young and the old to be part of celebrations was palpable. Ninety-year-old Ramo Devi travelled all the way from northwest Delhi to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak from the ramparts of the Red Fort in the national capital.

Colourful processions, parades and cultural programmes were held across the country with leaders unfurling flags at party offices.

Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator, Shivraj Patil unfurled the tricolour in Chandigarh, while Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal hoisted the flag at a state—level function at Patiala.

Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister and ruling Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal unfurled the tricolour at Bathinda.

In Haryana, newly appointed Governor Kaptan Singh Solnaki unfurled the flag at a function held at Ambala, while Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda unfurled the flag at Panipat

At the India-Pakistan joint border checkpost in Attari, Border Security Force personnel gifted eight boxes of famous Indian sweets and fruits to Pakistan on the occasion of Independence Day.

In Jharkhand, Governor Syed Ahmed was taken ill while addressing the function to mark the 68th Independence Day in Dumka. He was taken to hospital and later discharged.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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