The inauguration of the celebration of the 150th year of India's First War of Independence will take place in a function to be held at Red Fort on May 11 in the presence of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, UPA chairperson and other dignitaries, announced HRD Minister Arjun Singh in New Delhi on Thursday.
Addressing a joint press conference along with Minister of Youth and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar he said that May 11 will also see the culmination at Red Fort of a massive 80 kilometer "memorial yatra" from Meerut to Delhi demonstrating "the zeal of youth for national building".
Replying to a question on inviting the NDA chairman and former Prime Minister Vajpayee for the celebrations when the Congress stand is that BJP did not play any role in India's freedom struggle , Mr Singh said, "The NDA does play an important political role even though BJP did not play any role in the freedom struggle. There are other parties like Janata Dal which played an important role."
Former Prime Ministers VP Singh, IK Gujral, Deve Gowda and Chandra Shekhar are being invited to participate in the inaugural function.
The national youth rally organised by the Nehru Yuvak Kendra, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, will bring together 30,000 youth (6,000 girls) from all over the country including 1,000 each from North east, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and adjoining areas, 3,000 NSS volunteers, 2,500 NCC cadets, 2,000 Bharat Scouts and Guides, he said. Five hundred folk artists will also participate in the rally, besides several tableaux, he added.
Starting from Victoria Park (re-named as Jung-e-Azadi Park) after unfurling the national flag the rally will halt at Modinagar, Muradnagar, Ghaziabad before reaching the Red Fort.
The year long celebrations, he said will see special functions to be held on Aug 15, 2007 and 2008, and on Aug 9 ,2007 in Mumbai to commemorate the Quit India Movement, a major land mark on India's freedom struggle.
A National Freedom Museum is also to be set up at Red Fort and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry will be making a film on the 1857 First War of Independence. A number of postage stamps will be released, he added.
Fifty sites connected with the First War of Independence are being identified for conservation efforts, he added.
On April 6, a mega cultural programme of eminent artists involving internationally renowned poet and writer Javed Akhtar, acclaimed vocalist Padamshri Pandit Jasraj and actor and theatre person Farroque Sheikh will be organised at Meerut.