New Delhi: In an afterthought move, the BSF camel contingent has been finally called in to march down the Rajpath, keeping alive the 66-year-old tradition of the Republic Day ceremonial parade and its celebrations.
With less than a week to go for the national event, the iconic contingent today took part in dress rehearsals for the first time after it was made to skip the same exercise on January 17 and 18.
The four-footed contingent, colourfully bedecked are a major attraction at the parade every year.
Officials said the Border Security Force authorities were informed yesterday evening by the Ministry of Defence to mobilise their squad and participate in the drill at the Rajpath today morning.
"The camel contingent today participated in the dress rehearsals for the first time. The squad has been here for the last about three months but no intimation for participating in the rehearsals for January 26 parade were made earlier. It skipped the scheduled and notified rehearsals held on January 17 and 18," the officials said.
The 90-camels contingent, 54 with troops and the rest with band personnel, first became part of this national festival celebration in 1976 after it replaced a similar squad of the army which had been participating in the Republic Day parade since it first took place in 1950.
The BSF is the only force in the country to have these majestic and elegantly dressed four-legged animals for both operational and ceremonial duties.
They are used by BSF personnel for patrolling along the Thar desert running along the Indo-Pak International Border in Rajasthan.
The contingent had been the intrinsic part of the parade at the Rajpath on every January 26.
"The contingent has been practising at other facilities till now and it can surely give its best by putting its best foot forward in the last few days before January 26," they said.
According to tradition, the lead camel contingent on Republic Day showcases smartly dressed and large-moustached and armed BSF border guards, the second follows with bandsmen in beautiful multi-colour dresses on the back of the camels playing martial music.