The sanitised roads of Lutyens’ Delhi were adorned with the Tricolour and flower arrangements to mark the 70th year of India’s Independence Monday morning. Less than 5 km away, the roads leading up to the Red Fort in Old Delhi bustled with hundreds of civilians to filled with excitement for hoisting of the national flag at 7 am there.
Licence plates of adjoining states, along with those of the Delhi NCR, moved bumper to bumper looking for a spot closest to the Red Fort in order to get a clear view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he addressed the nation from the ramparts of the monument. Miniature flags were seen on the handlebars of motorcycles, which carefully meandered their way through numerous security pickets.
A heavy security blanket was in place to ensure a smooth conduct of the Independence Day ceremony in the national capital. Several police personnel were seen directing the crowd to safe corners from where they could witness the Independence Day celebrations.
As the crowd badgered the police to allow them entry into the Fort, a constable said, “People who really wanted to hear Modiji reached here at 2 am. Even those with passes are not allowed to enter the Red Fort premises once the ceremony begins.”
Despite being denied entry, the excitement of the crowd did not lessen as they formed groups around LCD screens, a few even climbed trees, cheering and applauding as the PM made his speech. Enthusiastic groups of youngsters were seen painting the Tricolour on each other’s faces, singing patriotic songs and taking selfies in front of the LCD screens which were broadcasting the speech.
But not every one in the crowd seemed happy.
A young couple from Aizawl, who recently moved to Gurugram to work in the hotel industry, were hoping to watch the Independence Day ceremony in Old Delhi for the first time Monday morning.
Unaware of the changes in city routes on August 15, the couple reached the venue at 8.30 am only to be told that the entry to Red Fort had been closed.
“We had left our house around 6 am. We did reach central Delhi in less than an hour, but we were not sure about the route to Red Fort. Many roads were barricaded by the police and it took us a while to find our way,” said Kim.
As the crowd swelled, 47-year-old Nilanjana Bose, a resident of Kolkata, waited anxiously outside for her husband and daughter who had managed to gain entry. “As we were not allowed to carry cell phones, I have no way of reaching them. I am standing close to the exit in the hope that they will see me on their way out,” Bose said.
As the national anthem indicated the end of the ceremony, the crowd grew calmer for a minute before shouts of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Jai Hind” reverberated in the bylanes of Old Delhi as the crowd dispersed.