Modi says in Independence Day speech India has 'diversity and demography' to flourish

It is the last time Prime Minister will mark the occasion before elections next year

Indian PM Narendra Modi hoists flag on Independence Day

Indian PM Narendra Modi hoists flag on Independence Day
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the country had the “demography, democracy and diversity” to realise its dreams of development, as he delivered a speech on the country’s 77th Independence Day celebrations.

India celebrates its independence from colonial rule on August 15.

Mr Modi, 72, addressed the nation from the ramparts of the 17th-century Red Fort in the capital Delhi.

He congratulated the citizens of the country after more than seven decades of independence and unfurled the Indian national flag to a 21-gun salute.

It is the 10th time he has addressed the country on its Independence Day – and the final time before elections are held next year.

“My dear 140 crore [1.4 billion] family members of the largest democracy of the world, now also the leading country in terms of population, are celebrating Independence Day today … I congratulate everyone, those in and outside the country who love and respect India,” Mr Modi said.

“Today, we have demography, democracy and diversity – these three together have the ability to realise the dreams of the nation."

More than 1,800 special guests and hundreds of members of the public attended the event. More than 40,000 armed personnel stood guard, providing several layers of security at the fort during Mr Modi's speech.

Anti-drone radars, anti-aircraft weapons and CCTV cameras with facial-recognition software were among the security arrangements at the city. A strict no-fly zone was imposed.

Even kites, traditionally used to celebrate Independence Day, were banned.

Mr Modi spoke for more than 90 minutes and discussed subjects including India’s growing economy, women's empowerment, the rise of space technology, holistic health care and the modernisation of the railways and the agriculture sector.

"Reform, perform, transform – this is our motto. In 2047, when India celebrates 100 years of independence, we should aim at being a developed India,” he said.

He also spoke about corruption, dynastic politics and appeasement, calling them the “biggest evil and hurdles” to the country’s development.

Mr Modi also briefly touched on the violence in the north-eastern state of Manipur that has led to at least 180 deaths and the displacement of more than 60,000 people.

“The north-east, especially Manipur, and some other parts of the country have seen violence," he said.

"The nation is with the people of Manipur. But now reports of peace are coming in. I pray for peace. I believe that the solution will come from this peace."

He met the guests, including foreign dignitaries and school pupils.

People were permitted to fly kites above the fort in the Old Delhi neighbourhood after the event ended.

For decades, those living in that part of the city have flown kites to celebrate Independence Day.

Kites played an important role in India’s freedom movement, particularly in 1929, when anti-colonial groups used them to protest against British rule.

The government also organised Har Ghar Tiranga, a campaign that encouraged citizens to fly the colours of the national flag at their homes for three days from August 13.

Updated: August 15, 2023, 9:00 AM