India marked its 69th Republic Day this year. Republic Day honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.
The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950 with a democratic government system, completing the country’s transition towards becoming an independent republic. 26 January was chosen as the Republic day because it was on this day in 1930 that the declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the Dominion status offered by the ruling British.
A special day
This year’s Republic Day was special in a way that there was not one, but 10 chief guests at the event, as all the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) leaders had been invited to be a part of celebrations. The national capital was wrapped in a thick security blanket to ensure peaceful celebrations. Special teams, anti-aircraft guns and snipers were deployed to keep a vigil on the eight-km parade route from Rajpath to Red Fort. Hundreds of CCTV cameras as well as drones were watching people’s movements along the parade route. Nearly 60,000 security personnel from the Delhi Police, and central security forces had been deployed in central Delhi.
The parade was presided over by President Ram Nath Kovind. This ceremonial parade also displays the rich heritage and culture of the country along with its distinct diversity. The Republic Day parade began at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where Prime Minister Modi paid homage to the soldiers who died in the line of duty. The national anthem was played with a 21-gun salute after the unfurling of the tricolour.
India flaunted its military prowess and cultural diversity at the parade in the presence of the ASEAN leaders. The highlight of the iconic parade was a team of Border Security Force (BSF) women who performed daredevil stunts on motorcycles, receiving a standing ovation from the spectators. President Kovind took his first Republic Day salute from various wings of the armed forces.
The Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military award, was posthumously conferred on Indian Air Force’s Garud Commando Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, who single-handedly shot down three terrorists during an anti-terror operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bandipora on November 18, 2017.
President Ram Nath Kovind handed over the Ashoka Chakra to Jyoti Prakash Nirala’s mother Malti Singh, and wife Sushma. Corporal Nirala became the first Indian Air Force Commando to receive the award posthumously. Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime military award, was conferred on Major Vijayant Bisht of the Army who led an ambush in the Chorgali forest of Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri district, killed two terrorists and saved the life of another soldier during an ambush.
President Kovind had approved 390 gallantry awards and other Defence decorations for the Armed Forces personnel and others. The awards included one Ashok Chakra, one Kirti Chakra, 14 Shaurya Chakras and 28 Param Vishisht Seva Medals among others.
Let’s show more respect!
Every year, as an army daughter, I am compelled to write about the protocol laid down at the Republic Day parade, and the lack of etiquette shown to the widows of our brave martyrs. It is rather dismal and upsetting to see only the President and the three Service Chiefs stand up in respect during the solemn award ceremony, while the other dignitaries watch the whole show, sitting comfortably in their seats. Decency demands that everyone stands up respectfully when the martyred soldier’s family member comes up on the dais to receive the award. There is a huge difference in my opinion between protocol and respect for the dead. It is of prime importance that at such solemn occasions we must look after our war widows and the dependents of martyrs with compassion.
One cannot forget the sacrifices of the fallen soldier which has been made not only for their country, but for each one of us as well. For there is nothing greater than this. It is only the soldier who displays exemplary courage while facing the toughest of situations and fighting for their country.
Let us also not forget that this day is celebrated to emphasise the fact that no person, law, rule or government is bigger than the constitution, as the latter is the sole governing manual of our country. May we always have freedom to choose, freedom to live and freedom to dream… Let us salute the sacrifices made by freedom fighters and soldiers who made us realise the dream of an independent and unified India.
Long live: Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity!