Valour and colour on parade

The last time people gathered on the India Gate lawns in large numbers, it was in solidarity for a young woman who was brutally raped by a gang of six men. They were protesting the failure of the government machinery to safeguard women in the capital.

Over a month later, they gathered here again on a chilly but pleasant Saturday morning. This time, to bear witness to a display of the country's rich cultural heritage and military prowess and to mark its 64th year as a Republic.

"Though invisible now, the thousands of candles that lit up Rajpath and India Gate continue to emit the warmth and hope for a better future," the presenters of the ceremony said, echoing the sentiments of many present there.

Asserting that the focus is now on the security of women and children in the country, they said an initiative titled "Ahimsa Messenger" is in pipeline to address violence against women.

President Pranab Mukherjee took the salute for the first time after assuming office in July last year.

The impressive march past was watched by Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the chief guest this year, his wife Queen Jetsun Pema, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and political and military brass.

Central Delhi turned a fortress for the Republic Day celebrations with helicopters flying overhead, snipers on rooftops and armed personnel at every nook and corner.

Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi), K C Dwivedi said, "Nearly 10,000 Delhi Police personnel, including 700 women police officers, were deployed exclusively for the Republic Day celebrations at India Gate, Rajpath and Red Fort areas. We also put in over 400 door frame metal detectors and over 200 CCTV cameras covering the entire parade route."

With more people turning up to watch the parade than could be accommodated, the entry to the galleries, particularly enclosure 23, which is directly opposite the Presidential enclosure, was stopped for a while.

This year's 19 tableaux 14 from states and five from ministries told the story of scientific advancements and cultural heritage of the country. The tableau from Jammu and Kashmir showcased the contribution of modern science to the traditional handicraft industry of Pashmina shawl-making. Recently, the scientists in Kashmir cloned the first ever Pashmina goat 'Noori' to revive the dying industry.

The tableau of the I&B Ministry, 'Celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema', drew loud cheers from the crowd. The tableau, Cinema Mayur Pankhi, pays respects to numerous landmark movies, legendary musicians, singers and actors.

The next to follow was a breathtaking dare-devil motorcycle performance by 135-member Army Service Corps' team, Tornadoes.

The grand finale of the parade was the spectacular flypast by the IAF. The flypast was led by a Vic formation of three Mi-35 helicopters, followed by the three Super Hercules, again in a Vic formation, and by C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

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