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Thursday, January 27, 2000

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Sigh of relief over peaceful R-Day parade

NEW DELHI, JAN. 26. The sigh of relief heaved by the Delhi police at the peaceful completion of the 50th Republic Day Parade today was quite literally audible. After converting the parade route, especially the area around India Gate, into a veritable fortress for more than a week, the police ensured that the much-feared terrorist strikes remained mere threats.

The countdown began at 4 a.m. when the final check was initiated. A spell of rain on Tuesday night did not deter the securitymen who went over every inch of the parade route, stretching from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Red Fort. Over 10,000 security personnel had been deployed along the route.

As a damp dawn broke over the Capital, thousands of policemen were ready for the visitors who began to trickle in by 7-30 a.m. Checking at the entry points was strict and policemen frisked everyone throughly. All the cars which made it to the allotted parking spaces were pasted with a sticker saying they had been checked for bombs. The vehicles were checked by the anti-sabotage squad specially constituted for the occasion. The stickers and car parking labels had to be displayed on the windscreens.

Barricades had been put up at all major points, from where India Gate could be accessed, like Windsor Place and Janpath roundabout. To ensure that no one went without being frisked, narrow corridors for pedestrians had been made on the footpaths.

The Policemen ensured that those who entered the sealed enclosures were not carrying anything. No food item was allowed inside. One visitor was even asked to get rid of a packet of chewing-gum. The ban on the entry of mobile phones, transistor sets, bags and such items was strictly enforced.

Except for journalists, no one was allowed to take a pen inside the enclosures. Mediapersons were made to write with their pens so that there was no scope for any doubt. even newspapers carried by some visitors to wipe the wet chairs had to be dumped outside the enclosures.

Earlier, snipers took positions atop the buildings along the route. Armed with binoculars, they maintained a constant vigil during the parade. On the ground, the area was crawling with personnel from the Rapid Action Force (RAF), mounted police, commandos from Central police organisations and intelligence agencies. For the VVIPs, a special bullet proof enclosure was installed on the platform where they were seated.

Security arrangements were made under the close supervision of the Deputy Commissioners of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police who constantly moved around and mingled with the crowd.

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