The De Jure Day anniversary, marking the legal transfer of French territories to India this day in 1962, was a low-key event at Keezhur, a hamlet on the outskirts of the capital, on Monday.
Although Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and Chief Minister N. Rangasamy were scheduled to participate, neither could make it to the event. Perhaps this is the first time since 2016, when the Puducherry government began to celebrate De Jure Day at Keezhur, that neither of the two Constitutional figures made it to the commemoration of a historic day in the freedom movement of erstwhile Pondicherry.
According to sources, Mr. Rangasamy was indisposed in the morning while Dr. Tamilisai reportedly pulled out due to an unavoidable exigency about an hour or so before the event was to start.
Agriculture Minister C. Djeacoumar hoisted the national flag at the Keezhur monument in the presence of Speaker R. Selvam. V. Aroumougam and K.S.P. Ramesh, MLAs, Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar and other officials.
The dignitaries later paid floral tributes at the monument as a mark of respect to the freedom fighters. Freedom fighters were felicitated on the occasion.
Earlier, on arrival at the venue, the Speaker and the Minister inspected a guard of honour of the Puducherry Armed Police.
Home Minister A. Namassivayam made a brief appearance just outside the venue to participate in a programme to distribute notebooks and food to schoolchildren as part of Independence Day celebrations hosted by party followers.
Though the Minister was not on the list of invitees on the government invite for the De Jure event, his presence at Keezhur and exit without visiting the venue caused a flutter.
The De Jure Day is among the triad of red-letter days connected to the freedom movement in the erstwhile Pondicherry.
After Independence Day, Puducherry also celebrates August 16 as De Jure Day to mark the legal transfer of power over far-flung properties from France to India and November 1 as Liberation Day, marking the de facto transfer of French territories to India on November 1, 1954.
It was Keezhur that witnessed a historic referendum rejecting French rule. India and France, following talks, had issued a joint statement on October 13, 1954, announcing a procedure for deciding the status of the French settlements. On October 18, 1954, the elected members of the Representative Assembly and the municipal councillors of Pondicherry and Karaikkal took part in a referendum at Keezhur.
Of the 178 members voting, an overwhelming majority of 170 members favoured the merger of French Indian territories with India. This led to an agreement on the de facto transfer of French territories to India, which was signed in New Delhi between the two countries.
Though De Jure Day is a public holiday in the Union Territory, it was after sustained pressure from the French Indhiya Puducherry Pradesa Viduthalaikala Makkal Nala Narpani Iyakkam, a political party, that the momentous occasion began to be commemorated at Keezhur since 2016.