The 72nd Republic Day parade on 26 January witnessed a lot of debutantes. There were also first-time misses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A 122-member Bangladesh contingent, two IAF women pilots, air forces’ made-for-India multirole fighter aircraft Rafale, troops deployed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and a tableau of the newly constituted union territory of Ladakh made their first appearance in the parade.
However, for the first time in over five decades, the Republic Day parade had no foreign dignitary as the chief guest as Prime Minister of Britain Boris Johnson, who had earlier consented to grace the occasion, had excused himself later due to a spike in new-strain Covid cases in the United Kingdom.
Moreover, there was no participation of military veterans and motorcycle-borne daredevils, who used to be the parade’s centre of attraction in past years, this time. Due to Covid-19-necessitated restrictions, even the route of the marching contingents was curtailed till National Stadium (C-Hexagon of India Gate), unlike last time when it was till Red Fort.
However, the government allowed tableaux to roll down till Red Fort, with the size of the marching contingents reduced from a regular 144 to 96 so as to observe social distancing among personnel. Masks were mandatory among them. The number of spectators was restricted to 25,000, drastically reduced from 1.5 lakh this time.
All Covid-19 restrictions notwithstanding, the enthusiasm of spectators was high. The armed forces showcased their latest weaponry like T-90 tanks, Brahmos missile system, Pinaka multiple launch rocket system, bridge laying tank T-72, integrated communication electronic warfare system and one upgraded Schilka weapon system. Some of these systems are currently deployed in Ladakh to prevent any Chinese incursion.
Two Param Vir Chakra and one Ashok Chakra awardees were awarded in this parade, which was led by parade commander LT Gen Vijay Kumar Mishra, AVSM, general officer commanding Delhi area, and his second-in-command Major General Alok Kacker, chief of staff Delhi area.
Bangladesh parades on Republic Day of India
The 122-member Bangladesh military personnel marched in two contingents — a marching contingent and a military band. The first comprised personnel from three services. A flight lieutenant, navy lieutenant, one Major and 3 Lt Colonels led it.
Talking to media before the parade, Bangladesh Army Colonel Mohtashim Hyder Chowdhury, who is leading the military team to India, said, “It’s a great honour for us to become part of India’s 72nd Republic Day parade. Most of the parade personnel are from those Bangladesh units that were raised during the 1971 Liberation War.
In fact, we are very fortunate to be part of the parade of “our friend” India at a time when our country is celebrating 2020-21 year as the birth centenary of the father of or nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the 50th year of Bangladesh’s independence. We express our gratitude to all those Indian veterans who sacrificed their lives in the 1971 liberation war. ”
This was the third time India hosted a foreign contingent to participate in the parade after the French troops in 2016 and the UAE personnel in 2017.
Seventeen marching contingents from the armed forces, paramilitary, Delhi Police, NSG, NCC and NSS along with 15 military bands being in the parade. The Indian Army was represented by a mounted column of 61 Cavalry, seven mechanized columns and six marching contingents.
The Indian Navy’s tableau showcased models of Indian naval ship (INS) Vikrant and naval operations that were conducted during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) showed two tableaux, one showcasing light combat aircraft Tejas’ successful take-off from aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and another displaying full complement of the anti-tank guided missile systems.
Ladakh comes out of Jammu and Kashmir’s shade
A total of 28 tableaux from different states and departments marched on Rajpath. Since coming out of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh came with its own tableau in the parade. It depicted the iconic Thikse Monastery, the region’s rich cultural heritage and the vision of Ladakh to be carbon neutral.
The Uttar Pradesh tableau displayed a model of the upcoming Sri Rama temple.
The tableau of the Department of Biotechnology showcased the indigenous production of Covid-19 vaccines, highlighting India’s self-reliance in the fight against the pandemic.
The theme of Digital India inspired the tableau of the Ministry of Electronics & IT, Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat, the Ministry of Labour tableau, showed the segments, benefiting the most from the labour codes.
Other attractive tableaux were the sun temple at Modhera in Mehsana District of Gujarat, tea-tribes of Assam, shore temple and other monuments of Pallava Dynasty in Tamil Nadu, Bhakti Movement and saints of Maharashtra. Four cultural items were presented by schoolchildren.
The centre of attraction of the parade was the IAF displaying the country’s air prowess amid times of the LoAC standoff with China. A total of 42 aircraft flew in different formations but all eyes were on the Rafale fighter when it performed a “vertical charlie” at the end of the flypast. A vintage Dakota aircraft, a squadron of which had helped Indian troops ‘save’ Srinagar from tribal militants backed by Pakistan in 1947 and also played a key role in Bangladesh’s liberation war, flew over Rajpath.
Apart from two Rafales, Sukhoi-30s, MiG-29s, Apache and Chinook choppers turned a lot of eyeballs. Another IAF woman pilot Flight Lieutenant Swati Rathore got the honour to be the first woman to be part of this year’s flypast when she flew a Mi-17 V5 helicopter in a formation of four choppers.
Though the 90-minute parade awaited with the release of balloons by the Indian Meteorological Department, Delhi police personnel, who have been on their toes since 26 January morning for the parade preparations, started gearing up for another “march” of the day – protesting farmers’ tractor rally, which is likely to go on till late 26 January evening.