While the Tricolour and songs rent the air around Red Fort with a conspicous mood of patriotism, enthusiasm about Prime Minister Modi’s maiden speech was certainly the unmissable element of the 68th Independence Day celebration at Red Fort on Friday.
The high-point, however, came when, disregarding the multi- agency security cover, he went amidst the schoolchildren and they surrounded him for a photograph, a handshake or just a simple glimpse.
The Tricolour flew high and about 3,500 schoolchildren from 42 schools across the Capital along with NCC cadets sang patriotic songs. Dressed in three different colours, the sitting children were seated to display the number 68. It was also for the first time that about 10,000 citizens were allowed to witness the ceremony at the venue. They shouted patriotic slogans, cheered and applauded as the PM delivered an hour-long starting at 7.33 am.
The security agencies were on their toes throughout the two-hour event. A posse of armed guards from Delhi Police, Special Protection Group, NSG and plainclothesmen from IB and other security agencies guarded the ‘fortified’ the Red Fort and roads leading to the venue. But they had their work cut out every time Modi went close to the crowds, be it during the ceremonial guard which was held closer to the audience this time or after the speech when he walked straight out of the security cover to greet the schoolchildren who had arrived at the venue at 4 am.
Earlier, the PM arrived at Red Fort in a cavalcade of black SUVs after paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. He was offered a guard of honour by a contingent consisting of an officer and 24 men from each of the Armed Forces. The Army, being the coordinating service, had its contingent for Prime Minister’s Guard drawn from the 8th Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (Siachen)- one of the most decorated battalions of the Indian Army followed by a 21-gun salute.