Army wants Sena flags lowered at Shivaji Park

The Army, preparing the Shivaji Park for its 'Know-Your-Army Mela' that starts Saturday, is believed to have informally asked the Shiv Sena to lower their saffron flags at the makeshift memorial at the cremation spot of Bal Thackeray, lest the flags come in the way of helicopter rotors during the event. The Army, through informal channels, also expressed the "bigger issue of protocol" as the choppers in diamond formation will display the National Flag, and flags of the Indian Army and Southern Command.

"These flags represent certain philosophies and we cannot have any other flag in the vicinity," said a senior Army official. The Army had scouted for an open ground for six months and selected Shivaji Park over other grounds in the suburbs and Mahalaxmi racecourse. "We have High Court permission for the whole ground from December 12-18. We have certain responsibilities towards the ground and the crowds that will visit us," said the officer. During their first 'ground reconnaissance' on Sunday, the Army had found that a portion of the ground was occupied by a "local party". According to officials, the Army follows certain "fixed ground formats" during events like 'Know-Your-Army Mela'. The exhibition will follow the same ground plan as displayed in Thiruvananthapuram this month. The equipment will be displayed in the same formation in Karad on December 22-23. The double engine aircraft on full thrust will stabilise 10 metres above the ground and 12 men will slither down. There cannot be loose flags around.

"On Tuesday, during ground mapping, we found the structure and the floating crowd a hindrance to our plan. When we were measuring the ground, they approached us and asked us for our identity. Legally, only we have permission to use the ground for the dates chosen. We explained it to them (Shiv Sena) and told them all our flags are fastened and secured and theirs are not. It can pose a problem during the downwash of helicopters. We hope good sense prevails," he said.

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