R-Day 2021: A tale of two parades

Our Bureau. New Delhi | Updated on January 25, 2021

The Indian Air Force contingent marches at Rajpath in New Delhi (File photo)   -  PTI

The slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ might well be apt for Republic Day 2021. Soon after the soldiers march through majestic Rajpath in full formal regalia, masks firmly in place, in front of a strictly limited audience, farmers would be spilling out in tractors elsewhere in the Capital with quintessential Punjabi verve and “all are invited” spirit.

India’s 72nd Republic Day is going to be different in more ways than one. If Covid-19 has meant a reining in of the usual pomp and pageantry associated with the parade, then the farmers’ tractor rally will try to steal the thunder from the show of military might and cultural diversity on display at Rajpath, making it the second year in a row when raging protests have overshadowed the big day. Last year, the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act was on.

It will also be the first time in 55 years that India will not have a chief guest for the proceedings with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelling. It will also be a much shorter parade with it ending at the National Stadium rather than Red Fort. Also, in keeping with the accelerated digital transformation sweeping everything post pandemic, the R-Day parade will also be on an app.

The app, called RDP 21, available on Play store as well as Apple Store, will live telecast the march, the tableaux, and other performances as well.

But there’s much to look forward to during the event, which will see a 122-member contingent of the Bangladesh Armed Forces leading the march on Rajpath. Commemorating 50 years of the country’s Liberation War, the Bangladesh contingent will carry the legacy of legendary Muktijoddhas.

Rafale jets will also be part of the R-Day event for the first time, flying at a speed of 900 kilometre per hour and carrying out a ‘Vertical Charlie’.

While 32 tableaux – 17 from States and Union Territories and nine from various ministries – will roll down Rajpath, the motorcycle daredevil cavalcade will be missing in action.

Like always the fly past will bring up the grand finale, with Dakota aircraft, MiG-29s and Sukhoi SU-30 doing formations.

The kisan parade

Contrasting the restraint in the official Republic Day parade will be the tractor rally that celebrates the ‘kisan parade’ to showcase the people’s opposition to three central farm laws. The rally will begin soon after the official Republic Day celebrations are over and will continue for at least 72 hours. On the eve of R-Day there were close to 1.25 lakh tractors piled up on Delhi’s borders ready to pour into the capital, according to Krishna Prasad of the All India Kisan Sabha.

The National Flag and the flags of various farmers' outfits adorn the tractors, along with multiple memorabilia, banners, and posters. Equipped with music systems and loudspeakers, distinctive protest music will be part and parcel of the tractor rally.

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Published on January 25, 2021
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