Republic Day 2019: All-women Assam Rifles contingent, INA veterans, Gorkha brigade, female daredevil; the many firsts at Rajpath

India’s 70th Republic Day parade on Rajpath this Saturday will have many firsts, including display of the army’s newly acquired artillery guns, a march by an all-women paramilitary contingent from the Assam Rifles along with a lone woman officer exhibiting bike stunts on Rajpath as part of the iconic daredevil team.

Republic Day 2019: All-women Assam Rifles contingent, INA veterans, Gorkha brigade, female daredevil; the many firsts at Rajpath

The all-women Assam Rifles contingent practices for the Republic Day parade. Reuters

M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers

The artillery gun system M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers, recently acquired from the US will be new additions this year, said Major General Rajpal Punia, Chief of Staff, HQ Delhi Area on Thursday.

Thirty years after the induction of Bofors guns, the Army for the first time will showcase its new big guns. Major General Punia, the second-in-command of the Republic Day parade, said, “For the first time, the Army will showcase its new artillery guns at the parade. M777 A2 ultra-light howitzers, which were inducted into the Army in 2018 from the US, will be seen at the parade.

Made in India K9 Vajra and surface mine clearing system

A symbol of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India initiative, K9 Vajra self-propelled guns will also be displayed for the first time in the Republic Day parade. K9 Varja is being manufactured by L&T. Besides this, two defence projects of DRDO — Medium Range Surface to Air Missile and Arjun Armoured Recovery and Repair Vehicle — which are still under trial will also be showcased at the parade for the first time.

According to The Times of India's report, another army equipment which will be showcased for the first time is the ‘surface mine clearing system’. Punia said, “During the flypast over Rajpath, An-32 transport aircraft will be flying on biofuel for the first time in a  'vic' formation.

INA veterans for Republic Day

Major General Punia also said that four Indian National Army (INA) veterans, aged over 90 years, will also take part in the parade for the first time. The INA was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Army, which played a crucial role in bequeathing a much-needed impetus to the country's freedom struggle.

"INA soldiers had links with the British Indian Army, so they also have links with our legacy," he said, adding, that they tried to contact those veterans who were alive and there was no criteria for their selection.


All-women contingent of Assam Rifles

"This Republic Day parade will also be an amazing display of nari shakti, as many contingents will be led by women, besides an all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles," Punia said. Contingents of the Navy, India Army Service Corps and a unit of Corps of Signals (transportable satellite terminal) will all be led by women officers.

The all-women Assam Rifles contingent will create history this year by participating for the first time in a Republic Day parade.

Maj Khushboo Kanwar, 30, and mother of a child, who will lead a contingent of the Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in the country, was brimming with pride. "Leading an all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles is a matter of great honour and pride for me. We have practised very hard...I am a daughter of a bus conductor from Rajasthan and if I can accomplish this, then any girl can fulfil her dream," she said. The contingent is special as some of the women in the force are vir mahilas (widows of martyr soldiers) who are continuing the legacy of their husbands.

Woman officer to lead army’s daredevils motorcycle team

In another first, woman officer, Captain Shikha Surabhi, will be part of the army’s daredevils motorcycle team. She will perform the stunt by standing on the moving motorcycle and will ride it in front of a team comprising 33 men riding on nine bikes in a pyramid formation. She will salute R-Day chief guest and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who will be the second president of the African nation after Nelson Mandela to be the chief guest at Republic Day.

The daredevils are a major attraction every Republic Day. "I am the first woman to be part of daredevils segment of the parade. It took a lot of practice to perfect the stunts. But I am proud of this accomplishment. Women can do anything," said the 28-year-old officer who hails from Jharkhand's Hazaribagh. "I will perform a standing salute on a bike," she said.

Last year, an all-woman bikers team of the BSF had created history by performing the act.

Woman naval officer to lead a contingent of sailors

Lt Ambika Sudhakaran, who will lead a marching naval contingent of 144 young sailors said, "Men and women are marching shoulder-to-shoulder to serve the nation."

Lt Bhavana Kasturi will lead a contingent of the India Army Service Corps' (ASC) and Capt Bhavna Syal, a third-generation officer in the armed forces, will front the transportable satellite terminal's contingent comprising 144 men. The ASC, which handles the logistic support function of the Army, is participating in the parade after a gap of 23 years.

Gorkha Brigade joins Republic Day parade

Army sources said this is also the first time ever when the Gorkha Brigade is will participate as a contingent in the parade. "The present Army chief is the president of this brigade. There are seven different Gorkha regiments which make up the Gorkha Brigade. The officer leading the brigade is Captain Abhaysheraz Sandhu, a third-generation soldier in the armed forces," a source said.

Also, part of the Republic Day parade is Sankhnaad — a martial tune created for the Indian armed forces. The tune is composed by an Indian classical music exponent based on a poem penned by a Mahar Regiment veteran. The combination of military bands of the Sikh Light Infantry, Mahar Regiment and the Ladakh Scouts will play the tune, officials said.

Tableaux mark 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi

Punia said that besides nari shakti and various thematic tableaux of the three services and different states and ministries, the theme of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary will also be reflected in the parade.

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2019 13:58:24 IST

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