KOLKATA: Breaking an age-old tradition, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee unfurled the tricolour at the Indira Gandhi Sarani instead of the usual state secretariat Writers' Buildings on Independence Day.
The shifting of the venue to Red Road, where the Republic Day celebrations take place, allowed people to line the road and watch the parade - like they do on January 26.
She also inspected a guard of honour and witnessed a march-past in which personnel of Kolkata Police, West Bengal Police and Rapid Action Force and school students participated.
For the first time in 64 years, Kolkata witnessed a full-fledged Independence Day pageant, with a police parade and tableaux, instead of the simple flag-hoisting ceremony in front of Writers Buildings before a restricted set of invitees. City and state police, members of civil society, social organisations and school children, participated in the march past.
Banerjee's attempt to make Independence Day celebrations completely accessible to the public comes as she's being attacked for her alleged intolerance of criticism.
Mamata Banerjee also promised an attractive rehabilitation package to Maoists who lay down weapons and return to mainstream.
Banerjee promised that law and order situation in the state was under control and warned people against indulging in violence.
"Riots cause unnecessary loss of life and property. It disturbs peace and retards growth and development," she said.
"On this auspicious day let us all pledge that we will sternly deal with murder, rape and other atrocities especially on women."
"I appeal to the Maoists to lay down arms. We will ensure that those who surrender will be adequately rehabilitated and provided jobs," Banerjee said in her Independence Day speech here.
"Earlier, people's participation was almost nil during Independence Day celebrations. Now people will be able to take part as on Republic Day," according to Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee.
"The previous government failed to give due honour to Independence Day celebrations, but we want a change from this year," Mukherjee added. (Agencies)
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