January 24, 2021 12:52:13 pm
For the second year in a row, Republic Day celebrations in the national capital will be held under the shadow of raging protests against laws passed by the Centre. In 2020, it was the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This time, thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at the borders of Delhi for more than two months, demanding the Centre repeal the three farm laws. This year’s Republic Day parade will also be the first major public event in pandemic times.
What is new this year?
The event will be pared down in terms of the number of spectators, the size of marching contingents and other side attractions. The spectator size has been reduced to 25,000 from around 1.25 lakh last year. The tickets for the general public have been limited to 4,500 this year. And keeping in mind social distancing, the size of marching contingents has been reduced from 144 to 96. The gravity-defying stunts by motorcycle-borne men also did not make the cut.
The parade will also be shorter this year. Instead of marching up to the Red Fort, the parade will end at National Stadium. Tableaux will be allowed to perform at Red Fort. Among the 32 tableaux in the parade, the Union Territory of Ladakh will be participating for the first time. It will showcase the Indian Astronomical Observatory, located at Hanle near Leh, one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.
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After France in 2016, UAE in 2017, the contingent from Bangladesh will mark the third instance of a military contingent from a friendly foreign nation participating in the parade.
Who is this year’s chief guest?
For the first time in 55 years, there will also be no chief guest at this year’s parade, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed “regret” that he would not be able to visit India due to the rising Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom. Last year’s chief guest was the “Trump of the Tropics”, Brazil president Jair Messias Bolsonaro.
Will the farmers’ tractor rally disrupt the event?
Unlikely. The rally got the nod from Delhi Police after farmers agreed to begin only after the completion of the official parade on Rajpath and not to venture beyond areas adjoining the protest sites. Farmers union leaders also underlined the rally will be peaceful and they will stick to the pre-decided route. Moreover, the Delhi Police has deployed a five-layer security in and around the city to maintain law and order. Sources in the police said over 40,000 police, ITBP and CRPF personnel will be deployed at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders. To nab miscreants, frisking at airport, bus, Metro and railway stations has been tightened. And the Haryana Police has decided not to grant leave to its personnel.
How big is the farmers’ rally?
According to police estimates, over 30,000 are at Singhu border alone as hundreds continue to pour every few hours, with tractors and trolleys carrying protesters arriving via the Eastern Peripheral Expressway.
On Saturday morning, farmer unions claimed that as many as 50,000 tractors had passed through borders between Punjab and Haryana.
Balwant Singh Ghudani, a farmer from Ghudani village of Ludhiana, told one of our reporters: “The number of tractors which have gone to Delhi, it seems that our parade will not end even in four days.”
The protesting farmers also plan to display tableaux of different states. Tableaus of farmers with a plough, bulls have been made by BKU (Ugrahan) committee with a message on implementation of Swaminathan report.
What is the response from other states?
At least 60 farmers’ widows from Vidarbha will participate in the ongoing agitation against the Centre’s three farm laws in Delhi on Republic Day. “The widows will narrate their stories and voice their protest against the farm laws,” Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavlambhan Mission (VNSSM) chairman Kishore Tiwari said.
In a show of support, farmers in Karnataka have planned a massive tractor rally in Bengaluru on Republic Day. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, leader of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), a farmers’ movement, said there would be around 25,000 farmers and over 10,000 tractors participating in the parade on January 26.
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