Vol. 5 Num 591 Thu. January 26, 2006  

Republic Day Today
India on alert ahead of celebrations

Anti-aircraft guns were mounted on high-rise buildings in the Indian capital yesterday and hundreds of soldiers and police patrolled its ceremonial heart as the country prepared to mark Republic Day.

Indians celebrate in style every Jan. 26, with lavish parades in all major cities showcasing the country's military might and cultural diversity, marking the founding of the republic in 1950.

The main event though is held in the heart of the capital, New Delhi, where the president takes the salute from military chiefs amid much pomp and ceremony.

Adding to the jitters this year are "certain intelligence inputs" about threats to the security of the ceremony's chief guest, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, police said.

"The main threat is from a car bomb or a suicide attack," said senior police officer B.K. Gupta. "But we have made foolproof arrangements."

In recent years, celebrations around the country have been targeted by militants opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir, Maoists rebels fighting a class war in some poorer states, and separatist insurgents from the troubled northeast.

They have blown up railway lines, attacked key economic infrastructure and raised tensions across the country.

Security will be especially tight in New Delhi with one of the worst terror strikes the capital still fresh in the memory. In October 66 people were killed in three bombings, two at popular markets. The attacks were blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.

Armed commandos guarded the city's VIP areas through the night and special announcements were made in markets asking people not to touch unidentified objects.