Red Fort turns into citadel for I Day celebrations

By Sahil Makkar, IANS

New Delhi : With the country’s top leadership expected to be in full attendance at the Red Fort on Independence Day, security forces have turned the historic monument into a citadel.

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The threats by Al Qaeda to strike in India as well as the failed terror attacks in Britain have raised the alarm levels in the Indian security establishment.

“We will have in place an unparalleled ground-to-air security apparatus for the Independence Day celebrations. Security will be tighter and flawless in view of certain threats,” said S.B. Deol, the special commissioner of Delhi Police who is in charge of security.

In the run-up to Aug 15, intelligence inputs indicate that certain terror networks may be planning suicide car bomb attacks to target prominent political leaders and symbols of national importance.

For starters, the entire Red Fort complex has been sanitized. Various areas have been sealed off for the general public.

“We are constantly reviewing and updating security arrangements. In all likelihood there will be four levels of security when the prime minister addresses the country from the Red Fort,” said Deol.

A day earlier, vehicular movement will be limited in the area and the Metro rail services will be restricted. Patrolling will be intensive in the walled city and snipers will be deployed at all vantage buildings around the 17th century fort.

This time around, Delhi Police personnel will lay special stress on anti-sabotage and anti-explosive checks, tight access control and vigil on VIP routes.

Quick reaction teams are also in place. According to police officials, over 5,000 security personnel would be part of the security arrangements.

“Anti-sabotage checks are being carried out by the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), NSG (National Security Guards) and CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) along with Delhi Police in the area around the venue. All VIP routes will be checked and sealed,” said an official. “Closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) will be put up at all vantage points.”

Security agencies have already shut down the Meena Bazar – an ethnic market for Indian dresses – opposite the fort.

Security has also been tightened at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, parliament, the inter-state bus terminals, railway stations, crowded markets and leading cinema houses besides the Metro rail network.

The security agencies have decided to deploy snipers, metal detectors, X-ray machines, sniffer dogs, radio frequency jammers and CCTVs at all public places. Specialised units drawn from several wings of Delhi Police will be on the alert to thwart any terror attacks.

Contingency plans are in place should a terrorist strike happen. Designated safe houses for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other VIPs have been earmarked.

Besides, suitable air defence measures have also been taken to counter possible threats.

“The capital will be declared a no-fly zone for the morning of Aug 15 and air defence guns would placed at strategic locations to ward off possible aerial attacks by unmanned or micro light aircraft,” said an intelligence official.

Close coordination is being maintained with the police of neighbouring states to avert any plans by militants to sneak into the capital. Checking at all points leading to the city is being beefed up.

Delhi Police have made a specific request to its counterparts in neighbouring states – keep a close eye on all cyber cafes.

Delhi Police have also asked the neighbouring states to verify credentials of those who may have rented out houses in the past six months and comb all hotels and guesthouses.

Delhi Police are set to unveil an elaborate list of do’s and don’ts for commuters and citizens for Aug 15.