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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Shadow of jailed Italian marines over big fat Indian wedding

Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times  London, September 02, 2014
First Published: 23:47 IST(2/9/2014) | Last Updated: 02:30 IST(3/9/2014)
A lavish, Bollywood-style wedding of the children of super-rich Indian families is scheduled this week in the picturesque coastal town of Fasano, south Italy, but the occasion has been overshadowed by the ongoing row over two Italian marines lodged in an Indian jail.
 
In an elaborate four-day wedding that includes chefs from India, elephants from France and local women dressed in sari, Ritika Agarwal, daughter of London-based mining magnate Pramod Agarwal, will wed Rohan Mehta, son of Arun Mehta, a former partner of a leading fashion brand.
 
A spokesperson for Agarwal, founder of mining major Zamin, told HT that he would not comment on the controversy.
 
The budget for the extravaganza is reported to be 10 million Euros to host and entertain 800 guests from September 3 to 6  in the town with a population of 40,000. According to Fasano mayor, Lello Di Bari, between them, the guests represent 20% of India’s GDP.
 
Di Bari is happy with the injection of large amounts of money into the local economy, but is also dealing with some resentment and opposition from supporters of the two Italian marines – Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre – who hail from nearby Brindisi in the Puglia countryside.
 
Girone and Latorre are lodged in an Indian jail, facing charges of killing two fishermen in Kerala, whom they assumed to be pirates, in 2012. The case has led to considerable diplomatic spat between India and Italy.
 
Supporters of the marines do not plan to disrupt the wedding, but will display banners and wear a yellow ribbon to call for their release. Local authorities have reportedly beefed up security to deal with possible protests.
 
Di Bari insists that the event will help local economy. He told the local media: “These are Indian industrialists, many of whom don’t even live in India, who have decided to come here, bringing Indian culture and a lot of euros. If 80 out of the 800 guests decide to pay a repeat visit, it will be a great result for Fasano.”
 
As local military veterans called for a boycott of the event, a Facebook page entitled ‘No Fasano administrators at the Indian wedding’ has attracted hundreds of supporters. The page says: “We cannot tolerate the sight of Fasano genuflecting before the plutocrats of a nation that holds two of our citizens hostage in defiance of international law.”
 
Two enormous structures are reportedly being built for the event, and local English-speaking girls have been hired to shower the bridal party with flower petals.
 
Locations in Italy, Spain and France have been favourites of Indian super-rich to host weddings. Agarwal had previously organised his other daughter Vineeta’s wedding in Venice in 2011.
 
Steel baron Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter Vanisha’s wedding to Amit Bhatia was held in France in 2004, and his niece Shrishti married Gulraj Behl in Barcelona in December 2013.

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