India Independence Day 2017: Colourful displays of national pride on 70th birthday

The colours of the Indian flag were projected onto buildings and painted on the faces of children across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

India marked the 70th anniversary of independence from British rule with colourful displays of national pride. The colours of the Indian flag – saffron, white and green – were everywhere: projected onto buildings, lining city streets and painted on the faces of children across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

A girl gets her face painted in the colours of India's national flag, as she takes part in Independence Day celebrations at a college in ChennaiP Ravikumar/Reuters
The Indian national flag is painted on a student's hands during Independence Day celebrations in ChennaiArun Sankar/AFP
The Chattrapathi Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai is illuminated in the colours of India's flag ahead of the country's Independence DayPunit Paranjpe/AFP
A worker fixes a lamp post along a road decorated with huge national flags in front of the India Gate in New DelhiAdnan Abidi/Reuters
A man sits in an auto rickshaw decorated with national flags to celebrate India's Independence Day in AhmedabadAmit Dave/Reuters
Girls look at a mobile phone prior to taking part during Independence Day celebrations in SecunderabadNoah Seelam/AFP
Youngsters fly kites on the roofs of their houses in the old quarters of Delhi as national flags also fly to celebrate India's Independence DayAFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed thousands of people from the historic ramparts of 17th-century Red Fort. This was where the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation after India's independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in DelhiAdnan Abidi/Reuters

In his speech, Modi condemned the use of violence in the name of faith. A series of attacks against minorities have sparked debate about whether a surge of Hindu nationalism is undermining the country's secular ideals. Since Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, fringe Hindu groups have carried out deadly attacks on Muslims accused of eating beef.

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Modi also spoke at length about delivering a "new India" by 2022, underlining his confidence of winning the next general election, due by 2019. Strong growth and economic reforms have bolstered Modi's popularity and helped his party sweep state elections in recent years, leaving the opposition severely weakened.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is surrounded by schoolchildren at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on the 70th anniversary of the end of British colonial ruleMoney Sharma/AFP
Special Protection Group agents keep watch as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a ceremony for Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in New DelhiMoney Sharma/AFP

Modi was conciliatory towards the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, which has been divided between Pakistan and India, and a source of conflict between them, since their creation upon the partition of British-ruled India in 1947. Violent protests against Indian rule have erupted over the past year, but Modi said neither "name-calling nor bullets" would be enough to pacify the region. What was needed, he said, were "hugs".

Sweets, not hugs, were exchanged between Indian and Pakistani soldiers in what has become a tradition at the Wagah-Attari border. India's Border Security Force (BSF) offered sweets to Pakistani Rangers to mark India's Independence Day. The day before this, Pakistani Rangers had sent sweets to the Indian BSF soldiers to mark Pakistan's Independence Day.

Indian Border Security Force Commandant Sudeep presents sweets to Pakistani Wing Commander Bilal during a ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post to celebrate India's Independence DayNarinder Nanu/AFP
Pakistani Ranger sector Commander Shaukat Ali presents sweets to Indian Border Security Force Commandant Sudeep during a ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post to celebrate Pakistan's Independence Day on 14 August 2017Narinder Nanu/AFP

Kashmir was, understandably, the one region in India where the crowds didn't go wild for Independence Day. The stadium in Srinagar was packed with marching bands and motorbike stunts – but not people. About 3,000 people attended the function in the Bakshi stadium, which has a capacity of over 18,000. Online new site Firstpost reported that most of the people in the general stands remained seated when the National Anthem was played soon after Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti unfurled the tricolour.

The almost empty stadium came as a shock to the Uttar Pradesh Police contingent which was invited to the festivities in Kashmir. Deputy Superintendent Sheodan Singh told reporters it was disappointing to see such a small gathering. "In our state, Independence Day is celebrated like a festival."

A policeman rides a motorbike through a ring of fire during India's Independence Day celebrations in SrinagarDanish Ismail/Reuters
Jammu and Kashmir Police motorcyclist performers ride during celebrations marking India's Independence Day at Bakshi Stadium in SrinagarTauseef Mustafa/AFP
An Indian Border Security Force soldier looks on during celebrations marking India's Independence Day at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar, KashmirTauseef Mustafa/AFP
A soldier from the Uttar Pradesh contingent takes part in celebrations marking India's Independence Day at Bakshi Stadium in SrinagarTauseef Mustafa/AFP

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