Feature: India celebrates 71st Independence Day with fervor

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-15 19:33:56|Editor: Zhou Xin
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NEW DELHI, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- India celebrated its 71st Independence Day on Tuesday, with people across the country unfurling the national flag to mark the occasion.

From the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in northern India to the national capital to Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India, the Independence Day was celebrated with fervor and various programs.

In Delhi, the main function was held at the iconic Red Fort where Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurled the national flag synchronized with a 21-gun salute.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi said India stands for peace, unity and harmony, and claimed that the call for the Quit India Movement pre-independence was "Bharat Chhodo" (leave India), but today, the call is "Bharat Jodo" (unite India).

Calling for an end to the "chalta hai" (complacency) attitude to build a New India, the prime minister said it should be replaced with an attitude of "badal sakta hai" (change can take place) for positive change.

"A New India is one that leaves behind a chalta hai attitude. We have to think of badal sakta hai. This attitude will help us as a nation," he said.

On Indian-controlled Kashmir, Modi said that neither abuses nor bullets can solve the proble, but only embracing people can solve the problems in the territory, which often sees clashes between protesters and Indian security forces.

"You (youths) have every right to make your voices heard in Indian democracy. My government is determined to restore to Kashmir its status of heaven on earth. Bullets or abuses won't solve Kashmir's problem... change can be brought only by embracing Kashmiris," he said.

Modi also urged Indians to stand together with Kashmiris to rediscover "the lost paradise."

Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and its arch-rival Pakistan, with both staking claim to the disputed territory.

The prime minister also pledged support to Muslim women who are fighting a legal battle to abolish the practice of "triple talaq" (instant divorce), where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

Modi also came down heavily on cow vigilantes, saying, "Violence in the name of faith is unacceptable." "India is about peace, unity and amity. Casteism and communalism will not help us," he added.

Cow is considered a scared animal in India and vigilantes often attack people suspected of smuggling the animal on the pretext of protecting cows. Nearly a dozen people, mostly Muslims, have been killed in the past two years in the name of the cow.

On her part, India's main opposition Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi stressed the need for every Indian to unite to fight against separatism and terrorism.

"The need today is that all Indians in one voice should fight separatism, terrorism and all such forces who divide and spread hatred in society, and unite to protect the basic principles of Indianness," she said.

Independence Day was celebrated with much pomp and grandeur in the two northern states of Punjab and Haryana and the central government-controlled territory of Chandigarh. There freedom fighters, who played an important role in India's freedom struggle, were remembered.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, people carried out colourful processions, parades and cultural programs across parts of the state. State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hoisted the national flag on Red Road in capital Kolkata.

Similarly, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan unfurled the national flag and urged people to defeat the attempt to "poison" the idea of nationalism in the country.

India gained independence from Britain on Aug. 15, 1947. It's a national holiday and government offices celebrate the day by distributing sweets.