Patriotic songs on Metro platforms, three tier-security check along roads leading to Chandni Chowk, hundreds of tricolours mounted around the walled city and two huge LeD screens — all these and more welcomed thousands who turned up at the Red Fort complex to celebrate the 68th Independence Day.
In a first, the LeD screens showcased the national heritage of different states and also the events that unfolded during the freedom struggle.
An hour before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived, the screens showcased prominent events of the Indian National Movement — from the Revolt of 1857 to the final struggle for Independence. A special mention of Veer Savarkar and his contribution to the national movement was also showcased.
The first big cheer from the crowd came when the two screens displayed images of Modi — sporting a bright red turban, paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.
“Ye aya desh ka sher (Here comes the lion of the nation),” cheered Modi supporters. The excitement grew manifold as the PM’s cavalcade entered the fort complex and moved past schoolchildren seated in formation.
When Modi held forth on the ramparts of the Red Fort, there was barely a pause between cheers from the crowd.
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When the PM made a reference to chaiwallas in his speech – “ab chaiwalla bhi paisa bana sakta hai” — a group of 25 chaiwallas applauded. “He is the real PM of the common man. He is asking even chaiwallas to dream big,” Ramlal, a tea shop owner from Meerut, said.
A group from Rajasthan, sporting yellow turbans, were “happy and proud” that the PM too had decided to sport the same look.
Jawans too could be seen among the crowd cheering Modi on. S K Subudhi, a BSF jawan posted at Red Fort, was glad he got off duty at 4 am. It gave him time to change into a new cotton shirt and make it to the lawns of the fort to hear Modi speak.
“This is the first time I have come to the Red Fort for Independence Day and I have come only to catch a glimpse of Modi and hear him speak,” he said as he cheered Modi for his proclamation that he was addressing the nation not as pradhan mantri but as pradhan sevak.
Another first-timer at the celebrations was Ashwani Kumar Mahato, a 60-year-old farmer from Sheohar, Bihar. Pointing to the LeD screens, he said, “Those are really smart. Modiji looks like an ant up there on the pavilion. But he looks so big and clear on the bada television.”
Of the few women who made it to the venue was Barnali Ghose, a housewife from Kolkata. “Until now, we have seen the celebrations only on TV. But the atmosphere here is electrifying,” she said.