Barring Kashmir and Manipur, India celebrates Independence Day peacefully
India on Monday marked 70 years of its independence with peace and joy but the celebrations were marred by bombings in Manipur and a militant attack in Kashmir that killed a para-military officer.
As the nation immersed itself in patriotic fervour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and chief ministers across the state listed achievements of their governments in their Independence Day addresses watched by millions.
Many of the governments announced a string of measures for their people including a plan by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to hike minimum wages in Delhi by about 50 per cent.
The main function of the day was, as every year since Independence in 1947, held in Delhi where people in large numbers assembled in front of the historic Red Fort to listen to their Prime Minister on a windy morning.
Among other things in his more than 90-minute address to the nation, Modi urged Indians to fight social and religious divisions and make the country stronger.
“Every citizen should fight against the differences in the society on the basis of caste and class. We have to take everyone together, be it Dalits, tribals, oppressed and people from the financially weaker section,” he said.
Modi’s bete noire, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Prime Minister to implement his wage hike scheme throughout the country.
“Those who have less in life should have more in law. So we have decided to increase the minimum wages in Delhi by about 50 per cent,” Kejriwal told a packed Chhatrasal Stadium in the national capital.
In Delhi, amid terror threats, the authorities had thrown thick security cover in and around the city, including the area around the Red Fort.
Snipers were deployed and anti-aircraft guns installed around the historic fort, and much of Delhi was turned into a garrison town.
Security was also heightened in the restive Kashmir Valley. But militants still attacked paramilitary forces in an old city area and killed a senior Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer, police said. Two militants were also gunned down in the gunfight.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called for peace in the Kashmir Valley which has been on the boil since July 8 killing of a rebel commander. It triggered widespread unrest that has left 56 people dead and thousands injured.
Srinagar wore a deserted look following a shutdown called by separatist leaders in the valley which has remained under curfew for much of the past five weeks.
In the northeastern state of Manipur, three security personnel and two girls were injured as two bombs exploded on deserted streets of Imphal amid a shutdown called by militants, officials and residents said.
In the neighbouring Mizoram, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said the state “is the most peaceful in the country heading for a steady progress of development”.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar of Tripura, also in the northeast, lashed out at the central government for what he called its attempts to snatch all powers of the state governments and for trying to force the states to beg for aid.
In Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recalled the Indian Freedom Movement, services of the freedom fighters and sacrifices of the martyrs for India’s freedom from the British rule.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh announced a six per cent hike in dearness allowance (DA) for state government employees and pensioners from January 1 this year.
In Haryana, Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki felt giddy at the Independence Day parade due to hot and humid conditions after he unfurled the national flag.
Down south, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked the people to be watchful against fundamentalists and sought public support in the stand against subversive thoughts and activities.
In the Karnataka capital Bengaluru, patriotic fervour gripped the city as thousands of people, including women and children attired in colourful clothes, thronged celebrations for the Independence Day anniversary.
In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said, “Freedom does not mean just the right to speak, write… True freedom rests in economic freedom.”
The Independence Day was also celebrated in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.