India salutes heroes on Republic Day (States Roundup)January 26th, 2009 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) India celebrated its 60th Republic Day with fanfare Monday, with national leaders mourning security personnel killed by terrorists and thousands attending official functions in the troubled regions after defying boycott calls from militant groups.Elaborate functions and parades involving school students as well as military, paramilitary and police personnel took place in all the states and union territories. Tight security was visible everywhere including in the national capital which hosts the most elaborate event to mark six decades of India embracing a Republican constitution.
In Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast, thousands defied boycott calls from separatists. Although the number attending the function at Srinagar’s Bakshi Stadium was put at only 300-400, officials pointed out it was the highest participation in two decades of militancy.
In New Delhi, President Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman president, took the salute at Rajpath in the heart of the city. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the chief guest, watched the 150-minute spectacle with keen interest.
Patil gave away posthumous Ashok Chakra awards, the country’s highest gallantry award in peacetime, to 10 widows and a mother of soldiers and policemen who died fighting terrorists in Mumbai, New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. A sombre Patil patted each of them on their shoulders and shared comforting words with them.
Security forces, on the edge in the wake of last year’s terror strikes in the country, heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the day.
Addressing the official function at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park, Governor S.C. Jamir paid tributes to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that killed some 170 people including 26 foreigners. India says the terrorists were Pakistanis. Jamir honoured 111 policemen with medals for bravery.
Jammu and Kashmir Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammed Sagar urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who watched the Republic Day parade on television from his hospital bed here, to resume the peace process with Pakistan, stalled in the wake of the Mumbai carnage.
“We appeal to the prime minister to restart the peace process between the two countries so that distances between them are narrowed down,” Sagar said in Srinagar. In Jammu, Governor N.N. Vohra called upon militants “to recognise the futility” of their separatist campaign.
People in the northeastern states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur defied a 17-hour general shutdown called by separatists to boycott the Republic Day celebrations.
In Raipur, Chhattisgarh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan praised the commitment of the security forces battling Maoists. Narasimhan’s speech was followed by an impressive cultural show by school children.
In Punjab and Haryana and their common capital Chandigarh, the Republic Day was celebrated with enthusiasm. Punjab’s new Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal unfurled the national flag in Patiala. His father and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal did so in Amritsar.
In Orissa, Governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare took the salute as thousands defied Maoist calls to boycott the celebrations, particularly in southern and western districts.
Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala unfurled the Indian flag on the Marina Beach in Chennai. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was absent from the function after being hospitalised due to back pain.
Braving the January chill, thousands of Bangaloreans thronged Field Marshal Manekshaw parade ground to see hundreds of children and youngsters presenting colourful programmes.
Kerala Governor R.S. Gavai stressed the need to improve the quality of higher education in the state. Republic Day celebrations in Bihar drew large crowds.
In Himachal Pradesh, Governor Prabha Rao commended the development initiatives undertaken by the state after paying floral tributes to the war heroes.
Jharkhand Governor Syed Sibte Razi expressed unhappiness over the stats’s poor development during the last eight years since it was carved out of Bihar, blaming political instability for it.
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