Our Republic Day is celebrated every year with great pride on the 26th of January to honour the Constitution of India as it came into force on the same day in the year 1950. It had replaced the Government of India Act, 1935 into the governing document of India.

This year, the fifth and current President of South Africa, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was the Chief Guest at the 70th Republic Day parade. He was especially chosen for this occasion because India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who had very close links with the people of South Africa.

This day also encompassed the solemn occasion when President Ram Nath Kovind presented the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peace-time gallantry award, to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani posthumously.

The award was received by his wife and mother. Lance Naik Wani, the first Kashmiri to be chosen for the Ashoka Chakra, lost his life while gallantly fighting six heavily armed terrorists. Wani was a militant-turned-soldier who had joined the Army's 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in 2004.

"Lance Naik Wani epitomised qualities of a fine soldier. He always volunteered for challenging missions, displaying great courage under adverse circumstances, exposing himself to grave danger in the line of duty," reads the citation issued by the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The Ashoka Chakra is India's highest peacetime military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield.

It was love at first sight for Mahajabeen, wife of Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani, when the two met at a school in South Kashmir around 15 years back. On 25 November 2018, 38-year-old Wani lost his life in a counter-terror operation against six terrorists in Hirapur village near Batgund, in Shopian. Under intense firing from the terrorists, he eliminated the ‘district commander’ of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and one foreign terrorist in a daring display of raw courage. In the ensuing gunfight, he was hit multiple times including on his head. He also injured another terrorist before succumbing to his grievous wounds. Apart from his wife, he is survived by two sons. Lance Naik Wani was a recipient of the Sena Medal for gallantry twice in 2007 and 2018.

With the spectacular military might on show at the grand parade, ‘Woman Power’ in the armed forces stood out this year. This was on dazzling display as for the first time in history, an all-women Assam Rifles contingent marched past the Rajpath in the lead and a woman officer was part of the Daredevils Motorcycle Team performing bike stunts. Contingents of the Navy, Army Services Corps and a unit of Corps of Signals were led by women officers. Women are a force to reckon with.

The 2019 celebration is indeed special as this year marks the 150th birth anniversary of ‘Father of the Nation’. Tableaux from various States/Union Territories and from various ministries were displayed in the parade based on the theme ‘Gandhi’. A tableau also showcased ‘Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth’ which is a historical educational institution situated in Varanasi. The Indian Railways' tableau displayed the transformation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Mahatma Gandhi. It depicted the incident when he was thrown out of a 'European only' compartment of a train at Pietermaritzburg railway station.

This year, the Indian Air Force flew an aircraft which is run by blended bio-fuel on the Republic Day fly-past with 10 percent of bio-fuel in it. The aircraft flew over Rajpath with a ‘V’ shape formation resembling the ‘Victory’ sign. This leads the way towards a greener future. We also witnessed the inclusion of M777 Howitzer and K9 Vajra, the self-propelled gun which are the latest artilleries inducted in the Indian Army. T-90 tanks, SU-30, Mig 29, Jaguar aircrafts were also the major attraction of the parade.

This was also the first time in history that 4 veteran soldiers of the ‘Azad Hind Fauz’ aged above 90 years took part in the parade at Rajpath. The CISF displayed its tableau in the parade after 11 years. 26 children, which included six girls and twenty boys were honoured with the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puruskar 2019.

While the parade instils a sense of pride and belonging, many feel that the whole show is a colossal waste of money. The Republic Day celebration comes at a cost – a huge cost and so is it really worth the time and resources that are spent on this one day? The patriotic fervour should be all year long and not just on a particular day. One should not forget the sacrifices of the fallen soldier which has been made not only for the country but for each one of us as well. So tell me, when will we learn to respect the fallen soldier not just on Republic day but the whole year through? That itself is food for thought.

Let us also not forget that this day is celebrated to restate the fact that no person, law, rule or government is bigger than the constitution, as the latter is the sole governing manual of our country. May we always have freedom to choose, freedom to live and freedom to dream… Let us salute the sacrifices made by freedom fighters and soldiers who made us realise the dream of an independent and unified India.

Long live: Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.

Happy 70th Republic Day!