Updated: January 27, 2017 1:41:53 pm
ON WEDNESDAY afternoon, 16-year-old Murad Khan received a call from Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh. His father, Mohammed, had called from the Sino-Indian border to convey a message: “Your wish will come true tomorrow. I have told my colleague to give you a pass. You can finally watch them.” Excited to watch the Black Cats, Murad left for the national capital from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp in Saboli, Sonipat, at 3 am on Thursday.
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Murad was among the thousands who had gathered at Rajpath to watch the debut of the Black Cat commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) — the elite counter-terror force — at the 68th Republic Day parade. “That is a MP-5 special assault rifle,” said an excited Murad, as the crowd welcomed the 140-strong contingent in black balaclavas with a euphoric round of applause.
The commandos were followed by the ‘Sherpa’ — a specially-designed hijack intervention vehicle, along with two gypsies used for anti-hijack operations. “My father told me that these were used in the Pathankot counter-terror operations. I want to show my friends in the ITBP camp that I saw this live,” said Murad, taking a video of the vehicle passing by.
“The ITBP has not participated in the parade for the last two years. Hence, we could not get the passes. This time, when we were informed at the camp last week that the Black Cats will march, I requested my father to get me a pass. I have grown up hearing tales of how my father underwent a tough training session as a mountaineer and a skier,” he said, adding that NSG commandos have to go through the most rigorous training.
Standing nearby, as excited as the 16-year-old, Babu Lal (65) said he decided to come to the capital for the parade all the way from Dausa in Rajasthan, after his son, who works as journalist, informed him that the NSG would be participating in the parade.
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“This is not first parade that I am attending. Last time, I attended the parade to see Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the Prime Minister then. This time, I have come to watch the NSG,” Lal said.
Even though most people had come to witness the nation’s military might and cultural diversity, a 149-member marching contingent from UAE comprising personnel from Presidential Guards, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army also received huge applause.
The event, which saw a full house, however, witnessed some chaos towards the beginning and the end. The entry point leading to gate numbers 30 to 35 saw hundreds of impatient people breaching security and barging through the gates, due to which some metal detectors were damaged. Towards the end, rain played a spoilsport, leading to exit points being jammed for at least half an hour.
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