Why we need to 'de-militarise' Republic Day
When we celebrate Republic Day, and not Armed Forces Day, there needs to be more of fun and colour, and less of khaki, argues Anil Chowdhry
As a person who has been actively involved in the elaborate arrangements for the grand pageantry of the Republic Day parade for almost a decade -- first as the head of the Delhi Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau and then Intelligence Bureau's VIP security wing, I have always felt the rules of the show need to be recast.
While in service I was bound by norms to remain discreet, but now that sufficient time has elapsed since I retired, I have less hesitation in expressing my objections openly. I welcome comments, particularly opposing views.
The responsibility for organising the grand event, unique by the very nature of its scale, should be shifted out of the ministry of defence to the ministry of cultural affairs which should constitute a core group with representatives from the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, civic dodies, ministry of defence, home ministry, etc and sub-committees to manage the nitty-gritties of the arrangements.
If for no other reason, then simply because we are a democracy and a Republic, and not a military State. The MoD managing the entire show from issuing of the invitations to the approval of tableaux with soldiers in uniform marching on either side of the floats and folk dancers, makes no sense; in fact it is most inappropriate.
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Image: The Republic Day marchpast in New Delhi on Thursday
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
We should have more of colourful floats and folk dances
With ceremonials integral to the event, participation by the armed forces is understandable. But they should play a positive role unobtrusively, rather than being all over the place.
The programme needs to be pruned drastically by cutting out the march pasts by various contingents from the army to make the spectacle crisper and interesting.
One contingent each from the Army, Air Force, Navy, the central paramilitary forces and the police, in my view, should suffice instead of contingents including bands from different regiments of the Army marching past one after another with names of the commanders, band masters, etc announced repeatedly.
This is even more relevant since a feast of the best in martial music by the best defence forces bands follows a few days later at the Beating of Retreat.
I think the audience enjoys more than anything else the colourful floats and folk dances that bring out the myriad colours of India's diverse culture, and we should have a lot more of these.
Image: Kashmiri schoolgirls in traditional attire perform at the Republic Day celebrations
Are we celebrating Republic Day or Armed Forces Day?
A display of India's defence power is perhaps in order, but not the entire range of its defence-preparedness need be showcased.
Paying of tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on India Gate and award of medals for gallantry to our brave soldiers are perfectly in order, but to be subjected to the antics of an army supply corps despatch rider sipping tea from a cup and saucer, while riding on his Enfield Bullet, appeared rather ridiculous!
Are we celebrating our freedom and democracy on Republic Day or the Armed Forces Day? If it is the former, there should be more colour and fun and less of khaki. Is it an occasion to rejoice or is it a solemn day -- I ask my fellow citizens, especially the intelligentsia.
I say all this, but the situation will not change because in the government we all know how to guard our turf, and the defence forces do a better job of guarding theirs than others!
Happy Republic Day!
Image: The Indian Army's T-72 Ajeya tanks take part in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Thursday
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters