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India's I-Day observed peacefully

The celebrations take place amid tight security after threat of terror attack.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 08:57 IST

With the nation wrapped in an unprecedented security cover amid threats of terror strikes, Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday passed off peacefully as leaders unveiled welfare schemes for people and rededicated themselves to national ideals.

In the restive North-East, where insurgents gave calls for boycott and road blockades, and strife-torn Jammu and calm prevailed as gun-wielding troops guarded vital installations.

Elite commandos guarded nuclear facilities such as the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu as leaders of different hues vowed to protect the country's unity and integrity.

Unfurling the tricolour at various functions across the country, they asked youth to work towards building a new India.

In the national capital, which was turned into an impregnable fortress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation from ramparts of the Red Fort as choppers patrolled the skies.

In his third Independence Day speech, he asked political parties to shun politics of divisiveness and work together to build a consensus on national issues.

With Mumbai blasts and terror acts in Jammu and Kashmir weighing heavily on his mind, Singh, sporting his trademark sky blue turban, said Government would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that terrorist elements were neutralised and smashed.

Nearly 3,500 school children converged at the Red Fort, the 17th century sandstone structure, lustily cheering the Prime Minister and lending a colourful touch to the event.

Security forces shut all roads leading to the Red Fort as sharpshooters took positions on rooftops of high-rise buildings and commandos deployed at strategic positions to ward off any terror strike.

The area was declared a no-fly zone during the function attended by Cabinet Ministers, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Leader of the Opposition LK Advani and other dignitaries.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, fulfilling a major poll promise on the occasion of Independence Day, announced free gas connections and free gas stoves for poor families.

Hoisting the national flag at the historic St. George Fort in Chennai, he said this benefit would be available to the poor from the ensuing Pongal festival.

Addressing the I-Day function in Guwahati in Assam where normal life was hit in response to a call for shutdown by insurgents, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi asked outlawed ULFA to respond positively to government's decision to cease army operations against them.

In his hour-long speech, he said "our government is committed to peace which has been proved time and again, and keeping this in mind I urge ULFA to immediately come to the negotiating table."

First Published: Aug 15, 2006 07:47 IST