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SUNDAY HINDUSTAN TIMES, NEW DELHI
JANUARY 26, 2014
Democracy’s parade: Looking back
R-DAY A modest celebration to uplift a
broken nation’s spirit has transformed into a
platform to showcase its ambitions to be a
superpower, writes M RAMAKRISHNAN
January 26 was never meant to be celebrated as India’s
Republic Day. Not up until 1950 at least.
The Indian National Congress, in its annual gathering in Lahore in 1929, had decided the day would
instead mark purna swaraj (complete independence)
from British rule from 1930 as against conflicting
demands for a dominion status.
It was only 20 years later that the Constitution of
India was made effective on the same date and India
truly became a republic.
The first military parade was held in 1948 as Prime
Minister Nehru felt it could uplift the spirits of a
nation undergoing the trauma of a violent partition.
He promised it would happen every year from then on.
His defence minister, Baldev Singh, made sure that a
two-star general visited Nehru’s house daily for a week
to help him perfect the salute for taking guard.
It started out as a modest, hour-and-fifteen-minute
show; a 35-year-old carriage drawn by six sturdy
Australian horses ferrying President Rajendra Prasad
from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Irwin Stadium
(now the National Stadium) witnessed by just 15,000
people. Today, the parade is nothing short of a grand
show of the nation’s military and cultural arsenal that
sees the participation of more than 25 marching and
mounted contingents, 20 military bands, 30 cultural
tableaux and 30 aircraft and 1,200 schoolchildren. Close
to 105,000 people will witness this spectacle through
television and also live webcasts.
The first and the 65th Republic Day parade share a
key connection: They precede what arguably was and
is the largest democratic exercise of voting a government to power anywhere in the world. More than a
hundred-million people turned out to cast their votes
in 1951. In a few months, more than five times as many
are likely to elect the 16th Lok Sabha.
President Rajendra Prasad on a horse
carriage on Rajpath during the first
R-Day celebrations in 1950. DEFENCE WING
®® Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and
Defence Minister Baldev Singh at the
®® Governor General C Rajagopalachari
greets Vice Admiral W E Parry, Gen. K
M Cariappa and other officers in 1950.
®® Dr S Radhakrishnan gives a posthumous
gallantry award in the 1960s. HT PHOTO
®® President Rajendra Prasad takes guard
at the 1950 parade.
®® French President Nicolas Sarkozy with
President Pratibha Patil in 2008.
®® Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, ride
through the streets of Delhi with
President Prasad in 1961. GETTY IMAGES
®® South African President Nelson Mandela
with his Indian counterpart Shankar
Dayal Sharma in 1995.
®® President A P J Abdul Kalam with
Russian President Vladimir Putin on the
58th Republic Day celebrations. HT PHOTO
The controversial Bofors Gun on display in 1990.
IPS officer Kiran Bedi leads the Delhi Police contingent in the 1975 Parade.