Delhi celebrates I-Day

August 15th, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) Amid terror threats, the Indian capital Friday marked the Independence Day amid unprecedented security, with areas around the Red Fort, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over the country’s main official function, resembling a garrison town. Even by the standards of the tight security Delhi sees every August 15, the security forces were not ready to take any chance - to the extent that they frisked even their own personnel.

“How can there by any untoward incident?” asked an operative of an intelligence agency. “I myself get checked and frisked at least five times as I approached the Red Fort. How can any outsider enter this place?”

Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the heightened security would continue for the next few days.

“We are still on high alert due to Raksha Bandhan (festival Saturday). Security arrangements will remain at the same level for the next couple of days,” he said.

“Policemen will be out in force at markets, cinema halls, Metro stations, the airport and bus terminals,” Bhagat added.

Around 10,000 men and women from the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Central Industrial Security Force, besides 64,000 Delhi Police personnel, formed the inner and outer layers of the security ring at the Red Fort as Manmohan Singh delivered his fifth Independence Day speech since assuming office in 2004.

Indian Air Force helicopters hovered overhead, keeping an eye over the city. Sharpshooters and anti-aircraft guns were deployed in buildings all across the old quarters of the city.

As part of the security measures, the airspace in the vicinity of the Red Fort was declared a “no-fly zone” from Wednesday. In addition, train services were suspended near the Red Fort while Friday’s function was on.

Security was tight at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, parliament house, the bus terminals, railway stations, crowded markets, cinema houses and the Metro Rail network.

Although traffic on the roads was minimal Friday, the closure of border checkpoints led to hundreds of trucks getting stranded at all entry points to the city. Vehicular movement limped to normalcy in the afternoon.

Many who wanted to attend the Red Fort ceremony found themselves hampered by the traffic restrictions.

“It took me three hours to reach the Red Fort from my (west Delhi) home as the police had closed all connecting roads,” complained Roshini Sharma, a college student who wanted to attend the Independence Day celebrations.

“By the time I reached there, the function was over,” a disappointed Sharma told IANS.

Added Tushar Verma, who works for an advertising agency: “The police didn’t help us reach the venue. They were rude and shooed us away.”

But Rajesh Tuteja, a south Delhi based businessman, said it was time people learnt to live with some inconvenience on occasions such as Independence Day.

“People should not mind it as this is in national interest… We must stick to rules and regulations issued by the government at this time,” he said.

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