President ram Nath Kovind taking the salute at Rajnath Grounds

Thousands of spectatorswatched, amidst great excitement, as President Ram Nath Kovind, Commander-In-Chiefof the Indian Armed Forces, took the salute on Sunday 26th January,for the 71st Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Beside the IndianPresident was the Chief Guest for the occasion, the Brazillian President, JairMessias Bolsonaro. Other high level dignitaries at the Salute Dais was India’sVice President, Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indiangovernment ministers. The great show was witnessed by the diplomatic corps inIndia; many of who turned out with their families to watch the dazzling Januarydefence show of soldiers and arsenal; of India’s rich cultural diversity and ofthe unity of the country despite the diversities in it.  

The Republic Day Paradeis an annual celebration of the promulgation of the Indian home-grownConstitution on 26th January, 1950. The birth of India’s RepublicanConstitution started in September, 1947; a fortnight after India becameindependent from Britain on 15th August, 1947. Though politically independent,the new state was a constitutional monarchy run by a governor-general on behalfof King George VI, the head of the former colonial power. The newly independentcountry set to write its own constitution. A committee led by Dr B R Ambedkar,a doctor of letters in Economics, was appointed to draft the constitution. Thisrelentless fighter for his fellow Dalits (untouchables) and women’s rights,started the challenging task of writing a unitary constitution for his country.The 308-member Constituent Assembly which he chaired for two years, debatedvarious articles which were to form the Constitution of India.  The final document was signed by CA delegateson 24th January, and two days later, on 26th January,1950; the Indian Constitution was promulgated. The first President to be swornin under the new legal dispensation was Dr Rajendra Prasad; while the formerConstituent Assembly turned itself into a provisional Parliament until the 1952elections.

March pasts bydifferent army regiments, as well as by the Indian Navy and Airforce are thetraditional, colourful aspects of the Republican Day Parade. So are the floatsby all the 29 States which are welded into one, to form this giant of acountry. From Goa to Gujarat and thence to Himachal Pradesh; to Jamnu andKashmir in the north; thence to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in the east; anddown to Tamil Nadu in the south east: each state comes on the parade grounds ofRajpath, to display its unique peoples, their history and their way of life.

The Republic Day Paradeconsists of three days of state events including a civilian awards ceremony performedon its eve. It was during this ceremony in 1990 that the writer of the IndianConstitution, Dr B R Ambedkar, was posthumously given the Bharat Ratna, thehighest civilian award. This year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi performedanother very important aspect of the Parade: laying a wreath at the tomb of theUnknown Soldier. The grand Beating Retreat ceremony performed in spectacular fashionby all the bands in the main event, brings the Republic Day Parade to an end. 

India’s strong defence,educational and cultural links with Africa are shown by the number of Africanheads of state who have been Chief Guests of the Republic Day Parade. Theseinclude Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in 1971, Mobutu Sese Seko in 1973, KennethKaunda in 1975, Shehu Shagari of Nigeria in 1983, Anerood Jagnauth of Mauritiusin 1990, Nelson Mandela in 1995, Abdelaziz Boutefilike of Algeria in 2001 and ahost of others. Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria was the second Nigerian Presidentto be Chief Guest at the Parade in 2000. Last year, the President of SouthAfrica, Cyril Ramaphosa, followed in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, as thegovernment of India Chief Guest for the Republic Day Parade.