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All set to celebrate spirit of 1857

People from across the country gather near Yamuna Pushta to participate in the celebration marking 150 years of India's First War of Independence, reports Vibha Sharma.

india Updated: May 07, 2007 02:56 IST

An elaborate marquee erected behind Salimgarh Fort near Yamuna Pushta is bustling with activity. Nearly 4,000 young people from across the country have gathered here to participate in the celebration marking 150 years of India's First War of Independence in 1857.

On May 10, they will be joined by many more patriots who will march to the Capital from Meerut — the site where it all began in 1857 when sepoys of the 3rd Cavalry regiment refused to use greased cartridges said to be laced with cow and pig fat, as it hurt their religious sentiments.

Enraged British authorities disbanded the regiment after the mutiny. Eighty-five sepoys were court-martialled and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. On May 10, the sepoys broke out in open rebellion, shot their officers, released their fellowmen and headed for Delhi.

The rebels seized Delhi on May 12, 1857. Some Europeans were shot dead. The palace and the city were occupied and the fall of Delhi was a serious loss of prestige for the English Empire.

Very soon, the rebellion spread throughout northern and central India at Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Bareilly, Benaras, Bihar, Jhansi and other places. Although the rebellion was completely suppressed by July 1857, the momentum continued to serve as the main source of inspiration for the people who vigorously fought the British to gain independence.

The May 7 march, dubbed a national youth rally, will be flagged off from Meerut. Over 30,000 enthusiasts will walk a distance of 80 kilometres from Meerut to Delhi, a symbolic depiction of the 1857 march by the sepoys. This is in addition to about 20,000 youngsters who will join the rally in Delhi.

Various programmes will be held along the way in places like Modi Nagar, Muradanagar, Ghaziabad. A large-scale celebration has been organised for May 11, when the marchers reach Red Fort.

“The Delhi government has erected tents along Pushta and is taking care of the boarding, lodging and food requirements of the volunteers who have already arrived in the city. MCD has constructed 1,200 toilets and has deputed staff to ensure round-the-clock cleanliness at the tents. A waste-water slump has also been constructed so that the Yamuna is not polluted,” said a senior MCD official.

The Delhi Health Services (DHS) and the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) have also deployed their staff and equipment to handle emergencies. Preparations to mark 150 years of the rising started in 2006 with the formation of a National Committee. It involves a yearlong campaign, ‘Sanjhi Virasat Sanjhi Shahadat’, during which young people will participate in nation-building activities.