Thousands of people including foreign dignitaries witnessed the 70th Republic Day celebrations at the Rajpath in New Delhi, where India showcased its military might including rising women power in the armed forces and cultural heritage. The main celebration ended with a majestic fly past by the pilots of the Indian Air Force to the delight of the spectators, among whom was South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the chief guest for the Saturday’s event.
The Republic Day function began with the National Anthem after Prime Minister Narendra Modi received chief guest Ramaphosa and President Ram Nath Kovind at the main stage. It was followed by the traditional 21-gun salute. President Kovind awarded Ashok Chakra to Nazir Ahmad Wani, the first martyr from the Kashmir Valley to receive the highest peace time gallantry award. Ashok Chakra was received by Wani’s wife and mother.
Women power was the main attraction this year’s Republic Day parade at the Rajpath. Women officers led the contingents of the Navy, the Army Services Corps and the Corps of Signals.
In a first, Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi led all-male Army Service Corps (ASC) contingent during the Republic Day parade. Kasturi is be the first lady officer to lead an all-male contingent at the Republic Day parade.
Major Khushboo Kanwar, 30, and mother of a child, led the contingent of the Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in the country. Brimming with pride, she told news agency PTI, “Leading an all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles is a matter of great honour and pride for me. We have practiced very hard…I am a daughter of a bus conductor from Rajasthan and if I can accomplish this, then any girl can fulfil her dream.”
The K-9 Vajra and the M777 howitzers took part in the parade for the first time this year. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) displayed its Medium range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) and the Arjun Armoured Recovery and Repair Vehicle (Arjun ARRV).
Among the tableaux representing individual states were one from Assam playing a popular song of late Bhupen Hazarika, who was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna on Friday. The tableau from Punjab displayed the story of Jallianwala Bagh massacre that happened in 1919.
The spectacle ended with Indian air force aircraft whizzing past the saluting base. The Fly Past was led by Advanced Light Helicopters Weapon System Integrated (WSI) ‘Rudra’ and two Advanced Light Helicopters, ‘Dhruv’ of Army Aviation in ‘Diamond’ formation.
The theme of the parade was the 150th birthday of India’s independence leader, Mohandas Gandhi.