French President Francois Hollande is the chief guest of Republic Day parade. amid a heightened terror threat in the wake of Pathankot air base attack. Apart from the French president’s presence there are several new attractions in this year’s Republic Day parade.
The duration of parade has been reduced by 25 minutes this year. The event at Rajpath has been cut from 115 minutes to 90 minutes.
After a gap of 26 years, an Indian Army dog squad drawn from the Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) will be taking part, along with their handlers. The last time an army dog squad had participated in Republic Day parade was in 1990 and before that in 1963.
The army dogs are no ordinary pets as their history is full of valiant tales and testifying the martial credential is the fact that Remount Veterinary Corps is decorated with a Shaurya Chakra and close to 150 commendation cards.
A 76-member French Army contingent led by a French military band comprising 48 musicians, will also be marching on Rajpath.
For the first time, the parade will see an ex-servicemen tableau where Army veterans will showcase their role in nation building.
The Republic Day marks the day when India’s constitution came into force on January 26, 1950 declaring India a democratic Republic. The date is the anniversary of Purna Swaraj Day held on January 26, 1930.
Dr. Srinath Raghavan noted historian and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research observed that one thing about republican tradition is that of an armed citizenry. That is the origin of some of these parades. “It is counter intuitive that India which came out of colonial rule and adopted an independent constitution would follow these parades,” he said.
He said that Republic Day parade is an attempt by the state to project its image on its own citizenry and beyond and in that context despite India having a nationalist movement which claims that we won freedom through non-violence even early India ended up following them.
However, it is curious to note that there was no RD parade in the British era. It was an invented tradition which we ended up following. “I don’t see any way we end up doing away with it,” Dr. Raghavan said on whether the huge expenditure on the parade is justified.
Sometimes the parade also serves as a platform to send a message of national unity. For instance after the humiliating defeat in the 1962 war with China, for the RD parade of 1963 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had invited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the march-past.
“RSS was invited by the government due to the good work by the swayam sevaks. Our participation was covered newspapers of the day,” Manmohan Vaidya, National Spokesperson of RSS told The Hindu.
After Indian forces entered Dhaka and liberated Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, in December 1971, 4 Guards unit of the Army which spearheaded the Dhaka operations gave a military guard of honour to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh.
The selection of personnel is a very rigorous process. The selection process starts in the units 3-4 months before that. The first selection starts in June and the men are trained in regimental centres. Each regiments turn comes once in three years and usually only those in peace locations are involved.
“The units are informed beforehand so they start preparation much earlier. They congregate in Delhi by end November,” said Lt Gen Thomas Mathew (retd) who led a marching contingent twice in 20004 and 2005. He noted that the parade is timed to the last minute and there is thorough coordination with all services.
When asked about his experiences about the parade Lt Gen Mathew recalling an experience as a young Lieutenant in 1969 when he his battalion was doing regimental guard to then President Zakir Hussain. During the rehearsal for the parade there is a practice of having someone as a dummy President for timing and coordination. “In 1969, I was the dummy. It was a unique experience on the practice run. All timings are marked and fine-tuned,” he recounted.
In another instance again in 1969 the flag was upside down when unfurled during Beating the Retreat ceremony but fortunately it was a rehearsal, recalled Lt Gen Mathew. Till then the unfurling was done by a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) but after this it was decided that it will henceforth be done by a commissioned officer.
Apart from the effort and time invested in rolling out the columns and colourful tableau, there is also a huge financial cost involved. According to reports and Right To Information (RTI) reply from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) the centre spent Rs. 320 crore on the parade in 2014. In 2001, the expenditure was Rs. 145 crore and kept increasing over time.
Time to time there are questions on the justification and need to spend so exorbitant amounts on a four hour show. But every time these voices get drowned in the flow of patriotic fervour and nationalism.
Indian republic day chief guest list
As every year, the India would follow the great Indian culture and tradition “Atithi Devo Bhav” of welcoming the prime Minister of another country as a chief guest. Next year, the Republic Day 2016, the India may heartily welcome the France President, Francois Hollande, as a chief guest at the Indian Republic Day. Below is the list of all the chief guests welcomed in India at each Republic Day from the year India was declared as the Republic country till 2016:
Year Guest Name Country
2016 President, Francois Hollande France
2015 President, Barack Obama USA
2014 Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe Japan
2013 King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck Bhutan
2012 Prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra Thailand
2011 President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Indonesia
2010 President, Lee Myung Bak Republic of Korea
2009 President, Nursultan Nazarbayev Kazakhstan
2008 President, Nicolas Sarkozy France
2007 President, Vladimir Putin Russia
2006 King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Saudi Arabia
2005 King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck Bhutan
2004 President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Brazil
2003 President, Mohammed Khatami Iran
2002 President, Cassam Uteem Mauritius
2001 President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika Algeria
2000 President, Olusegun Obasanjo Nigeria
1999 King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev Nepal
1998 President, Jacques Chirac France
1997 Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday Trinidad and Tobago
1996 President, Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso Brazil
1995 President, Nelson Mandela South Africa
1994 Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong Singapore
1993 Prime Minister, John Major United Kingdom
1992 President, Mário Soares Portugal
1991 President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom Maldives
1990 Prime Minister, Anerood Jugnauth Mauritius
1989 General Secretary, Nguyen Van Linh Vietnam
1988 President, Junius Jayewardene Sri Lanka
1987 President, Alan Garcia Peru
1986 Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou Greece
1985 President, Raúl Alfonsín Argentina
1984 King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck Bhutan
1983 President, Shehu Shagari Nigeria
1982 King, Juan Carlos I Spain
1981 President, Jose Lopez Portillo Mexico
1980 President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing France
1979 Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser Australia
1978 President, Patrick Hillery Ireland
1977 First Secretary, Edward Gierek Poland
1976 Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac France
1975 President, Kenneth Kaunda Zambia
1974 President, Josip Broz Tito Yugoslavia
Prime Minister, Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike Sri Lanka
1973 President, Mobutu Sese Seko Zaire
1972 Prime Minister, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Mauritius
1971 President, Julius Nyerere Tanzania
1969 Prime Minister, Todor Zhivkov Bulgaria
1968 Prime Minister, Alexei Kosygin Soviet Union
President, Josip Broz Tito Yugoslavia
1965 Food and Agriculture Minister, Rana Abdul Hamid Pakistan
1963 King, Norodom Sihanouk Cambodia
1961 Queen, Elizabeth II United Kingdom
1960 President, Kliment Voroshilov Soviet Union
1958 Marshall Ye Jianying People’s Republic of China
1955 Governor General, Malik Ghulam Muhammad Pakistan
1954 King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Bhutan
1950 President, Sukarno Indonesia