Woman power was on dazzling display at the celebrations for the country's 70th Republic Day, with women officers leading contingents of the Navy, Army Services Corps and Corps of Signals at Delhi's Rajpath. Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi created history to become the first woman to lead an all-men contingent.
The all-women Assam Rifles contingent participated for the first time in a Republic Day parade. Major Khushboo Kanwar, a 30-year-old mother, lead the contingent of the Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in the country.
"Leading an all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles is a matter of great honour and pride for me. We have practiced very hard," she was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. "I am the daughter of a bus conductor from Rajasthan and if I can accomplish this, any girl can fulfil her dream," she said after the dress rehearsals on January 23.
The daredevil acts by bike-borne jawans -- a major attraction every Republic Day -- also saw the presence of a woman.
Captain Shikha Surabhi, from the Corps of Signals was seen taking part in a heart-in-the-mouth stunt, standing atop the seat of a moving motorcycle and saluting the President of India.
"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 Captain Shikha Surabhi, a 28-year-old officer from Jharkhand's Hazaribagh.
Captain Bhavna Syal, a third-generation officer in the armed forces, fronted the transportable satellite terminal's contingent. Lieutenant Ambika Sudhakaran led a marching naval contingent of 144 sailors.
"Men and women are marching shoulder-to-shoulder to serve the nation," Lieutenant Sudhakaran said.
Major General Rajpal Punia said this year has the largest participation of women in the annual parade that showcases India's military might as well as soft power.
Today's 90-minute programme saw the participation of the armed forces, more than 20 tableaux of states and Central government and colourful dances by school children, capped by the majestic flypast by fighter jets of the Indian Air Force.
(with inputs from PTI)
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