Democracy's Parade: Looking back


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Special feature done for Hindustan Times on January 25, 2014.

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Democracy's Parade: Looking back

  1. 1. 14 | nation | SUNDAY HINDUSTAN TIMES, NEW DELHI JANUARY 26, 2014 REPUBLIC@65 myindiamyvote Democracy’s parade: Looking back 1 3 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. 2 4 6 5 7 8 9 10 11 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 1950 parade. DEFENCE WING ®® Governor General C Rajagopalachari greets Vice Admiral W E Parry, Gen. K M Cariappa and other officers in 1950. DEFENCE WING ®® Dr S Radhakrishnan gives a posthumous gallantry award in the 1960s. HT PHOTO ®® President Rajendra Prasad takes guard at the 1950 parade. DEFENCE WING ®® French President Nicolas Sarkozy with President Pratibha Patil in 2008. HT PHOTO ®® 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. HT PHOTO ®® 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. GETTY IMAGES ®® IPS officer Kiran Bedi leads the Delhi Police contingent in the 1975 Parade. HT PHOTO