As Indian and Chinese officials sat across the table to firm up security details of the relay Olympic torch down Rajpath, there were clear hints that the common man might not get a glimpse of the flame during the 45-minute run but their children just might.
India is keen to line up Rajpath with thousands of school children to cheer the relay torchbearers as they jog down from Rashtrapati Bhavan gate — President Pratibha Devisingh Patil would be out of the country on her first state visit — to India Gate.
Officials said the 3.5-km run could take about 45 minutes, right from the time Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna flags off the torch on the evening of April 17 and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit receives it.
Chinese commandos from Beijing's Special Police Force — members of the Olympic Holy Flame Protection Unit designated as flame attendants — would form the first cordon around the torchbearer, Indians the second.
Commandos of the National Security Guard would constitute the second cordon. Besides these commandos, there are expected to be nearly 6,000 policemen — in uniform and in plainclothes — deployed along the stretch.
“An impregnable security cordon would be thrown around Rajpath, with very strict restrictions for entering the lawns of Rajpath,” a security official said, conceding that the aam aadmi could get left out.
But school students might manage to make it to the venue. At a preliminary meeting held with Indian security experts on Thursday evening, a team of visiting Chinese officials is understood to have expressed reservations at allowing people — even school students — and media other than government media too close to the venue.
Indian security officials have, however, not given in so far to the Chinese insistence and would make another attempt to convince the Advance Security Liaison team from Beijing next week. A dry run of the relay would also be carried out subsequently.
Security officials, however, point that though they can create a firewall that would make it impossible for anyone to come anywhere close to the venue, their biggest worries were about protests and demonstrations that could draw international attention in the vicinity. Thousands of policemen would be deployed in the New Delhi district on April 17, said a government official.
But he conceded that it would be virtually impossible to police the entire district. After all, the Tibetans are not terrorists but just protesters. All that they need to do is to get into a high-rise building and unfurl the flag and a banner. Connaught Place is expected to be a focus area for the protesters as well as the police, the official said.