From sleeping on sidewalks to waiting in queues for long hours to see a display of the nation’s diversity and military might at the Republic Day parade, hundreds of people from across the country began arriving at the security gates near Rajpath since early morning hours on Sunday.
As per police estimates, more than one lakh people turned up for the annual event. Among these, over a thousand were left out after entry was barred by 9 am as the stands filled up. Despairing, with tickets in hand, the only compensation for those waiting outside was the air show.
Police personnel said they had been stationed at the gates near Rajpath around 3 am, by which time visitors had started queuing up. C P Singh, a police personnel at the site, said, “People were seen sitting and sleeping on the sidewalks since probably 1 am. We opened the security gates around 4 am; by then, there was already a long queue.”
As the time for the parade drew near, the queues began losing order. Amarinder Singh (65), a retired bank manager, said he queued up at the security gates at 6.30 am, but did not manage to get in.
“I couldn’t walk after some time because some people were trying to break into the line and my wife almost fell on the ground. We decided to wait outside. This is the first time that I am not attending the parade. People start assembling way before and there is no order… it’s very crowded,” he said.
With vehicle movement barred on the roads around Rajpath, those who couldn’t get to the stands took seats on sidewalks and roads where hawkers sold tea and snacks.
Since the parade could not be seen, the crowd settled with taking photographs and speaking with the National Security Guard personnel, dressed in black, and SWAT forces, in blue, deployed at the site.
For many, the compensation came when the dramatic air show began, which brought on cheers and efforts to catch a selfie with the aircraft.
Neelima Gite (29), a doctor from Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, watched the show from Man Singh Road with her husband and four-year-old son, Shalvin.
She said, “We wanted Shalvin to see the parade as he has only seen it in movies. We couldn’t go inside because of the crowd. When Shalvin saw the air show he was excited. He grabbed my phone and took pictures of the planes. He was curious about the big planes and why only three planes were flying at a time. We were happy that he could enjoy it.”
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