Sixty nine years ago today, India became independent. I remember being captivated while reading “Freedom at Midnight”, Collins and Lapierre’s book of the events leading up to the 15th of August 1947. I was hoping to go to the Red Fort in Delhi to witness the celebrations, but the whole area has been cordoned off and is off limits to all but vetted invited guests. Prime Minister Modi will address the crowds from above the Lahore Gate, as he did last year.
This article in the Times of India describes the security operation to counter any terrorist attacks. There will be 300 snipers in and around the Red Fort, sixty sniffer dogs, drone detectors, paragliders on the walls, teams of commandos equipped with sophisticated weaponry and 300 CCTV cameras. Guards will even be posted at 3,000 trees surrounding the Red Fort.
I had to smile when I read that the culture ministry posted a video on Twitter celebrating Independence Day, but featuring two Pakistani JF-17 jets, instead of Indian Teja light combat aircraft. The tweet was swiftly removed by red-faced officials. Ironically, in 2011, the Pakistan Navy mistakenly featured Indian warships in a full page newspaper advertisement.
I accompanied two colleagues on a trip to New Delhi on Saturday and we visited a posh shopping mall. The courtyard and atrium were decorated by kites in the colours of the national flag, orange, white and green. There were lots of Independence Day sales, but I didn’t feel tempted to buy anything.
I will not be attending the ceremony today. It is “off limits” for all MSF expatriate staff. The Delhi Police have issued advisory notices in the newspapers explaining what is not allowed at the flag raising – cameras, cell phones, umbrellas, for example. No food, no bags, no iPods, water bottles, cigarettes, screwdrivers, matches, either.