Thunderous applause greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his motorcade arrived at the Red Fort at 7.23 am today, with thousands of people who had assembled there rising to catch a glimpse of him. The prime minister, who unfurled the national flag at the historic Red Fort on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, was dressed in his trademark half-sleeved kurta and sported a turban. Modi got down from his black Range Rover and waved to the crowd, which included hundreds of schoolchildren. He was received by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra. The secretary introduced the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Delhi area, to Modi. The prime minister, accompanied by the GOC, then proceeded towards the saluting base where a combined Inter- Services and Police Guard presented a general salute to Modi. He then inspected the guard of honour contingent which consisted of one officer and 24 personnel each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Delhi Police. The Army contingent for the Guard is drawn from the 8th Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (Siachen). The battalion was raised as the First Battalion Border Scouts by volunteers who took up arms in the aftermath of the partition to check raiders who intruded into Poonch on December 18, 1947.
The PM then walked to the ramparts of the Red Fort and unfurled the tricolour at 7.30 am sharp. The protocol for the ceremony was changed a bit this time. The GOC, who escorted the PM to the ramparts, was given a seat near the platform this year. Earlier, the GOC used to stand. The unfurling of the tricolour was synchronised with a 21-gun salute fired by the gunners of the elite 2281 Field Regiment (Ceremonial). The Air Force Band played the National Anthem when the National Guard presented a “Rashtriya Salute”. The Army Contingent for the National Flag Guard is drawn from 11th Battalion of the Jat Regiment, a 53-year-old battalion. When the guards dispersed to the tune of Sare jahan se achcha, Modi was seen tapping the lectern in rhythm, as the notes softly faded. The Prime Minister then addressed the nation in a 57- minute long speech, his shortest so far. For the fourth year in a row, he spoke from an open air podium and not a bullet- proof glass enclosure. Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, BJP National president Amit Shah and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and J P Nadda, among others. Schoolchildren took positions to form the word Bharat in front of the ramparts of the iconic fort.