India will be celebrating its 72nd Republic Day next week. On January 10, one day after the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, reports claiming Suriname’s Indian-origin president, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, will be the chief guest at the upcoming Republic Day Parade began to emerge. A large number of outlets claimed that he would be attending the festivities on January 26. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was earlier invited as the chief guest. This was later postponed when COVID-19 numbers began spiking again in the United Kingdom.

Times Now, Oneindia, and ABP News citing News18 claimed that the leader of the South American country would be the new chief guest at the annual parade. News18 attributed this update to unnamed ‘sources’.

Several other publications also carried the story writing “according to media reports”. Among these were Amar Ujala, The Free Press Journal, Jagran Josh, Zee News, Punjab Kesari, and The Economic Times.

Following the reports, people began sharing a picture of President Santokhi on Facebook and other social media platforms with the caption, “On the occasion of Republic Day 2021, the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, will be the chief guest.”

No foreign head of state to be chief guest at 2021 Republic Day

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs clarified on January 14 that no foreign leader would be invited as the chief guest this Republic Day. “There will be no foreign leader as Republic Day chief guest. The decision comes due to the global situation arising out of Covid-19”, it announced.

This is the first time in 55 years that no foreign guest will be attending India’s Republic Day parade. This year’s events have been planned a little differently due to COVID-19 safety protocol. According to The Financial Express, “While 1,15,000 people attended the Republic Day Parade every year, this number will be limited to 25,000 this year. Precautions like social distancing and masks will also be seen in the celebrations and the route of the parade will be shorter. The parade route, from Vijay Chowk to the Red Fort, was normally 8.2 km. However, this time, it will be only 3.3 km long, moving from Vijay Chowk to the National Stadium.” In addition, children below 15 years of age will not be given entry. In a first, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kant, a female fighter pilot, will be participating in the parade as well.

On January 9, India virtually celebrated its 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. President Santokhi attended the event as the chief guest. He addressed the attendees via video conferencing.

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