You wake up on 26th January, the flowers that you receive on your family WhatsApp groups along with the good morning messages are swapped by the tricolor today, It’s Republic Day.
You are having your tea now and the forwards on your phone and songs like Mere Desh Ki Dharti on TV are hatching a sense of patriotism in you. Now, you’re in dilemma, whether to watch the India vs New Zealand match (watching cricket is patriotism maximus, right?) or you can watch the Republic Day Parade, which reflects and celebrates India’s Defence Capability, Cultural and Social Heritage. Tough choice? Or is it?
This year at the Republic Day ceremonial parade organised by the Ministry of Defence every year at Rajpath, New Delhi, Nari Shakti was at full force. For the first time in the history of the paramilitary, an all-women contingent from the Assam Rifles participated in the parade, the contingent of 144 women personnel was led by Major Khushboo. Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi, a first generation Army official made history by becoming the first woman Army officer to lead an all-male contingent of Army Service Corps. The Army’s daredevils motorcycle team saw a female member, Captain Shikha Surabhi. Captain Bhavna Syal led a transported satellite terminal’s contingent. Lieutenant Ambika Sudhakaran led a marching naval contingent of 144 sailors. The Central Industrial Security Force participated at the parade after the gap of 11 years, they celebrated 50 years of service to the nation. Having the highest percentage of women (6%) among all paramilitary forces, its tableau showcased the role of women in the force.
Besides women power at its peak, the parade had many firsts this time. For the first time, four INA veterans in the 90-95 age group participated in the parade, IAF’s AN32 flew on biofuel during the flypast over Rajpath and Shanknaad, a military tune based on a poem by Mahar Regiment veteran, was played for the first time.
The parade began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial at India Gate and along with the three chiefs of the armed forces paying homage to soldiers who lost their lives in combat. President Ram Nath Kovind, the first lady and the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who was the chief guest this year, arrived in a cavalcade escorted by 46 President’s Bodyguards.
Voicing opinions, asking the right questions, questioning the status quo is very important in a democratic republic like India. We celebrated the country’s diversity on the occasion of Republic Day but are we accepting, adapting and welcoming the diversity at the ground level? We celebrated women power but are the women in the country safe? At gatherings and get-togethers, we love to criticise the government but how many of us will exercise our right to vote this year? These are a few questions we must ask ourselves. We have to move past One Day Mataram and think about the nation every day. Not feel patriotic only when we win cricket matches, forward the tricolor on WhatsApp or by listening to deshbhakti songs on TV but also by exercising our rights and performing our duties towards the nation.