Thousands turn up at Bakshi Stadium for I-Day celebrations

15 August 2009
The Daily Excelsior

SRINAGAR: Thousands of people and school children today took part in the Independence Day celebrations at Bakshi Stadium here where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was the chief guest. Omar Abdullah hoisted the national flag and took salute at the march past by various contingents drawn from security forces, NCC and schools of the city. Bakshi Stadium, which was the venue for the main Independence Day function in the State, was not full like it used to be before the advent of militancy in the State. However, a large number of people, mostly National Conference workers, living in nearby areas made a beeline to see the youngest Chief Minister to preside over his first Independence Day function since assuming charge in January this year. The attendance of people was a marked departure from early 1990s when the function would be held just as a ritual and even from early years of this century when the security forces and their families would form the bulk of the crowd celebrating the function. True to his won't of treading new path, the Chief Minister decided to do away with the bullet-proof cubicle which is placed in front of the chief guest while he delivers the speech at such functions. A senior journalist said this has been for the first time since militancy engulfed the State that a Chief Minister has delivered Independence Day speech without the bullet-proof cubicle. Omar was joined in the front row of the central pavilion at the Stadium by his wife Payal Abdullah, two sons - Zahir and Zamir, his in-laws and some guests from outside the State. Opposition People's Democrafic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti was also present during the hoisting of the National flag but she left the venue as soon as the Chief Minister began his speech. PDP sources said she had some urgent engagement to attend and could not sit through the function. Interestingly, Mehbooba was flanked by Lok Sabha MP from Anantnag Mehboob Beigh and Minister of State for Tourism Nasir Sogami - the two National Conference leaders who have been seen as PDP's nemesis in the recent times. The acrimony between the ruling and opposition leaders, which began at the beginning of the Assembly session last month, was so visible that they did not even exchange customary greetings. Four MLAs from PDP - Zahoor Mir, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Mohammad Khalil Bandh and Sardar Rafiq Khan - SMC Mayor Salman Sagar, top bureaucrats and police officers were among hundreds of top dignitaries who attended the function. Contingents of BSF, CRPF, JK Armed Police, District Police, Home Guards, Fire Services, NCC and schoolchildren took part in the march past. Department of Youth Services and Sports had organized and enthralling performance by students drawn from several Government schools. Colourful cultural performance from all three regions of the State were put on display by young students and artistes.