NEW DELHI, India, Jan. 26, Reuter: Nearly 10,000 policemen guarded the Indian capital on Tuesday to prevent possible attacks from disrupting India’s National Day celebrations.
Police set roadblocks at entry points to the capital territory and manned sandbag emplacements at key intersections while commandos in camouflage fatigues with submachine guns prowled New Delhi’s monumental central axis, the Rajpath.
The Broad, mall lined avenue, anchored by a monumental arch, India gate, on one end and the Presidential palace former home of the British viceroys on the other is the focal point each year of the two hour Republic Day parade, in which India displays its military might and ethnic diversity.
The parade will be reviewed by President Ramaswamy Venkataraman, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President Junius Jayewardene, the guest of honor, who arrived on Monday for a six day state visit.
Jayewardene met Gandhi on Monday to discuss last year’s Indo Sri Lankan accord which thus far has failed to end a Tamil separatist rebellion on the island. At least 37,000 Indian troops have been sent to Sri Lanka to enforce the pact.
Security was particularly heavy around the two leaders. Both have been the target of attempted assassination and Gandhi was clubbed by a Sri Lankan naval rating last year as he reviewed a guard of honor in Colombo.
Officials warned last week that several Sikh freedom fighters had entered the capital bent on disrupting the mammoth parade beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Police have posted picture of many of the wanted men on city walls and also have warned residents against suspicious objects that might contain explosives. As if to underline official security concerns, President Venkataraman in a Republic Day eve televised address warned that “violent groups appealing to narrow loyalties and base passions cause: repeated setbacks to our march towards progress.
“The cult of terrorism continues to vitiate life in certain parts of the country”, the 76yearold President said. But he said extremism would not deflect India from its basic values.
“We must let no one under estimate the basic adherence of our people to the values of tolerance, nonviolence and compassions,” he said.
Republic Day, India’s major patriotic celebration, marks the institution of the current constitution establishing the Indian Republic in January 1950.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 29, 1988