INDIA. Mumbai, Maharashtra. In the backdrop of COVID-19, the celebration of India’s 74th Independence Day is expected to be a low key affair, given the adherence to social distancing norms, which prohibit large gatherings, across the country.
Independence Day is annually celebrated on 15 August, to commemorate the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom on 15 August 1947, the day when the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947, as passed by the United Kingdom Parliament, transferring legislative sovereignty to the Indian Constituent Assembly came into effect.
During the recent groundbreaking ceremony of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to people to maintain a distance of two yards from each other and wear a face mask. Needless to say that the social distancing norms will be strictly adhered to in Independence Day functions throughout India.
Function at Red Fort
The function at historic Red Fort in New Delhi will be limited to the Prime Minister’s speech, a 21 gun salute, unfurling of the national flag, the national anthem, and the release of tricolor balloons. The PM is expected to dwell upon efforts to become self-reliant. He is also expected to speak on the recent Indo-China border standoff. In his I-Day speech last year, he had highlighted the passage of legislation criminalizing instant triple “talaq” (divorce as a result of a husband repeating the word ‘talaq’ three times, constituting a formal repudiation of his wife, as per Islamic law), abrogation of Article 370 stripping Jammu & Kashmir of its special status, the need for population control, a provision of providing a water tap in every household and had projected the dream of a 5 trillion dollar Indian economy.
While every year Independence Day is a grandiose affair, this year the activities will be limited. Around 300 National Cadet Corps (NCC) have been invited, but schoolchildren, who used to present drills every year, have not been invited at the Red Fort. Instead, schools and colleges have been advised to organize inter-school, inter-college debates, quizzes, and competitions online.
Social distancing norms
The number of invitees for the Red Fort function remains restricted to 250, including high ranking government officials and members of consular corps, compared to the 900 invited every year. The chairs will be placed in designated areas and the staff present will have to be in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. A limitation also has been placed on the number of attendees for an ‘At Home’ reception at “Rashtrapati Bhavan”, the official residence of the President of India in New Delhi. Large congregations will be avoided and digital technology will be used to ensure maximum participation.
There will be no march of the Indian armed and paramilitary forces, nor will there be pageants showcasing scenes from the freedom struggle and India’s cultural diversity. Instead, the recently recorded performance of military bands across the country, as a gesture of gratitude towards COVID-19 warriors, will be displayed through large screens and digital media.
The Border Security Force (BSF) will be organizing an “Independence Day Walk” at its posts along the Pakistan and Bangladesh border on 15 August. Besides, senior officers will be spending two nights at border posts and training centers of the paramilitary on the eve of the Independence Day.
The Indian diaspora celebrates Independence Day around the world with parades and pageants, particularly in regions with higher concentrations of Indian immigrants. In some locations, such as New York and other US cities, 15 August has become “India Day” among the diaspora and the local populace. Indian Independence Day is also celebrated in China, Pakistan, Australia, Singapore and many other countries with traditional fervor, with the hoisting of the national flag and singing of patriotic songs.
This year a leading diaspora group in the US-the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, will be hosting India’s tricolor National Flag at the iconic “Times Square” in New York City. In a statement, the FIA said that it will be creating history on 15 August by organizing the first-ever flag hoisting ceremony at Times Square to commemorate Indian Independence Day. The Empire State Building will also be illuminated in hues of the tricolor flag: orange, white, and green on the evening of 14 August. The Consul General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal will be the Guest of Honour at the event.
Although this year, the I-Day functions will be more or less a subdued affair, it is expected to enthuse people with patriotic songs, played on the occasion across the country, reminding them about the sacrifices of freedom fighters and India’s armed forces.