India celebrates Republic Day with pomp and hope

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 26, 2013 14:21 hrs

New Delhi: With millions taking part, India celebrated its 64th Republic Day Saturday with pomp and pride, with people in a few areas defying rebel groups to join official flag hoisting functions.

Men, women and children participated enthusiastically in numerous events across the length and breadth of the world's most populous democracy which was declared a Republic on this day in 1950.

It was the first Republic Day for President Pranab Mukherjee, and the chief guest at the main event in the capital was King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk of Bhutan, India's closest neighbour.

In New Delhi, there was a perfect blend of indigenous military hardware and rich cultural diversity as the country showcased its military strides as well as its roots with the past.

Time was when almost all the hardware on display was of foreign origin. This time around, it was the the opposite barring few exceptions. And what was on view was itself an exercise in contrast.

The smartly attired marching contingents came from the armed forces, the paramilitary forces, the National Cadet Corps and school students in their colourful best.

There were also tableaux from 19 states and government departments.

The highlight of the 100-minute parade was the nuclear-capable 5,000 km Agni-V ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, flight-tested last year.

A flypast by the air force provided the grand finale.

The day passed off peacefully all across India barring a minor bomb explosion in Manipur that injured no one. Republic Day functions were held in state capitals and district headquarters with patriotic zeal.

Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary and his Manipur counterpart Gurbachan Jagat appealed for peace, with the former asking rebel groups to end their violence spree.

Defying boycott calls by militant groups, hundreds of thousands turned up at official functions in Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya.

The scene was no different in the sprawling Bastar region in Chhattisgarh, a known Maoist den.

Central Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh hoisted the tricolour in a Maoist stronghold in Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district, saying Maoists could be battled with sound economic development.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik chose the event announce that his government would provide a kilo of rice at Rs.1 to the poor from February.

He said after unfurling the tricolour in Cuttack that he wanted to ensure food security to over 58 lakh families.

Patriotic fervour marked the celebrations in Andhra Pradesh despite unending acrimony over a separate Telangana state, with the issue marring a function in the Congress party office.

Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj used the occasion to advocate "discipline" in democracy to prevent the country slipping into "chaos and self-destruction".

In Srinagar, Rural Development Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar lamented that the gun had only caused destruction in Jammu and Kashmir.

In Jammu, Governor N.N. Vohra called for vigil on the border with Pakistan.

In Himachal Pradesh, people braved sub-zero temperatures at many places to celebrate the day with enthusiasm.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal unfurled the tricolour in Amritsar, not far from the Pakistan border.

Across Maharashtra and Gujarat, politicians and citizens hoisted the national flag in numerous places -- schools, colleges and housing blocks.

Ignoring a dense fog and icy winds, hundreds of thousands all over Bihar celebrated Republic Day, with Governor Devanand Kunwar leading the main function at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna.

There was no dearth of patriotism in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala either. In Chennai, thousands gathered at the Marina beach.

Students displayed a 1.5 km long and nine metre wide national flag in Andhra Pradesh's Karimnagar district.

Not to be left behind, more than 1,000 people marched in Allahabad to celebrate Republic Day on the banks of the Ganges at Kumbh Mela to demand efforts to save the holy river from pollution.

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