Patriotic fervour gripped the country on Friday as it celebrated its 68th Independence Day with unfurling of tricolour and tributes to martyrs while Chief Ministers announced a number of schemes to accelerate development and appealed to extremists to shun violence.
The celebrations marked by colourful parades and other events in the state capitals passed off peacefully with authorities making elaborate security arrangements in view of boycott calls given by Maoists and some insurgent outfits.
From the issues of development, tacking insurgency to security of women and children, the leaders flagged the challenges faced by their states and announced steps to deal with them. In Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah unfurled the tricolour at Bakshi Stadium where he slammed the "boycott politics" of separatists, saying it has not achieved anything and urged the people to make use of their power to vote as it helps in development.
"What has the boycott of elections achieved in the past 25 years? Jammu votes in numbers, Ladakh votes in numbers but not Kashmir," he said, adding that "boycott politics of separatists over 25 years has not achieved anything".
The Chief Minister presented an overview of the major achievements of his government during the last nearly six years, saying main sectors of roads, water supply, power, education and health received focused attention.
In the newly created Telangana, the historic Golconda Fort in Hyderabad was the venue of the Independence Day celebrations where Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao launched the distribution of three acres of land to Dalits after hoisting the national flag.
In Imphal, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh appealed to militants to lay down arms and participate in the development programmes undertaken by the government. Independence Day was observed in Manipur amid heavy security deployment in view of a 'general strike' called by major insurgent organisations.
A similar appeal was made by Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar to insurgents to give up violence. In Shillong, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma called for a coordinated approach from Centre and other NE states to address the root cause.
In Maoist-hit Jharkhand, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said violence cannot bring solution to any problem, emphasising that development alone could fulfil the aspirations of the people. Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi unfurled the tri-colour at Gandhi Maidan in Patna and delivered his maiden Independence Day speech amidst continuous rains.
While Manjhi announced a plethora of schemes, including a bank account for every family, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the state will organise "Krishi Mahotsav" annually beginning this year for the benefit of farmers.