Indian peacekeepers serving far from home with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan took time out from their duties to celebrate the 69th Republic Day at colourful cultural ceremonies across the country.
The 26th of January holds a special place in the hearts of all Indians because, on this day in 1950, the Indian constitution was adopted and the country became a “sovereign democratic republic” with the terms “secular” and “socialist” later added by amendment. This event happened after India achieved independence on 15 August 1947.
On this special day in Juba, all roads led to the Indian Embassy, seen as the “home away from home” for the troops, where celebrations were attended by the entire Indian diaspora in the capital. The Embassy was dressed for the occasion with the ubiquitous saffron, white and green colours of the Indian flag. The event began with the hoisting of the flag by the Indian Ambassador to South Sudan, Sri Kumar Menon, supported by an honour guard of members of the Indian battalion (INDBATT 2). The Ambassador read the message of the President of India to all those present and expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the Indian community in South Sudan, particularly the peacekeepers, for serving their country with honour and contributing to the protection of civilians and building of durable peace in the young nation.
Indian peacekeepers serving in remote parts of the country at Malakal and Bor also marked the occasion with celebrations. In Malakal, INDBATT 1 listened to a history of the path to India’s Republic Day followed by the unfurling of the flag to the tune of the national anthem played by a pipe band. The event was attended by the Deputy Governor of Central Upper Nile State, John Adhong, and the Head of the UNMISS Field Office, Hazel Dewet, as well as local dignitaries, colleagues from the Mission, humanitarian workers and Indian members of the wider community.
In her speech, Hazel Dewet paid tribute to the Indian troops for their “selfless” service to the United Nations and for their conduct and professionalism in the challenging environment of South Sudan, which has suffered civil war for almost five years.
The celebrations included a performance by the military band and a traditional cultural program that included folk music, dance and ancient martial arts from across India, particularly southern India where most of the peacekeepers are from.