Politics over the Merger of "Amar Jawan Jyoti - Eternal Flames"

NewsBharati    22-Jan-2022 12:47:04 PM   
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On scripted lines, controversy has broken out over the merger of the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ under the India Gate with the eternal flame at the National War Memorial (NWM).
It has become a fashion nowadays for everyone with the least knowledge to jump into verbal slanging bouts over every single issue, particularly over visual media channels. Of course, the politicization of the issue - making a mountain of a molehill - is quite common to gain brownie points.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has gone on record highlighting "some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice …It is a matter of great sadness that the immortal flame for our brave soldiers will be extinguished today. Some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice - never mind...We will once again light the 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' for our soldiers."
Add to it, even former armed forces professionals have expressed diametrically opposite views.
So, let me make an attempt to present my views on the issue. Indira Gandhi inaugurated the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ memorial for Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during the 1971 war on January 26, 1972.
My first reaction was simple. "Truly Slavish Mentality" - Installing a reversed rifle with a helmet on top of it and with a flame titled "Amar Jawan Jyoti", placed on a marble pedestal with a cenotaph on its top. The structure is surrounded by permanently burning flames fueled by CNG on all four sides. Placing it under the canopy of India Gate - a British World War I War Memorial - clearly reflected the least concern to recognize the gallantry, and sacrifice of the departed souls.
Next, it is also an "INSULT to the departed Souls" who sacrificed their lives from 1947- 48 India-Pakistan War, 1962 India-China War, 1965 India-Pakistan War, and also 1971 India- Pakistan War including Liberation of Bangladesh.
Many Param Vir Chakras (posthumously awarded) left out of recognition to inspire future generations to join armed forces to ensure the security of the nation.
Surely, the ruling regimes should have taken a cue out of the then British Rulers construction of India Gate (formerly known as the All India War Memorial) as a memorial to 90,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who died in between 1914 and 1921 in the First World War, in France, Flanders, Mesopotamia, Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the Near and the Far East, and the Third Anglo-Afghan War.
My first visit to India Gate was in July 1970 when I was attached to Army Headquarters prior to going on deputation to attend Command and Staff College Course in CANADA. My daily journey on foot from Kota House to Army Headquarters passed through India Gate. I used to read the names of all those soldiers inscribed on India Gate. Most of them were either the British or the Muslim soldiers belonging to Pakistan.
Even then I used to wonder as a young officer as to why the names of all those who laid down their lives in 1947-1948, 1962, and 1965 wars were not inscribed on the India Gate.
On my return from the Staff College Course, I participated in the Liberation of Bangladesh. And, all over again, the names of all those who sacrificed their lives in the 1971 war did not feature on Indian Gate except for the insipid "Amar Jyoti" - an insult to martyrs.
Be that as it may, the inscription on India Gate is reproduced to reflect the appreciation of British Rulers to Indian soldiers:
Ten years after the foundation stone laying ceremony, on 12 February 1931, the memorial was inaugurated by Lord Irwin, who on the occasion said "those who after us shall look upon this monument may learn in pondering its purpose something of that sacrifice and service which the names upon its walls record."
My question to those politicians and even former armed forces professionals is simple. Why due recognition was not given to the armed forces for over 72 years to construct and inaugurate the "National War Memorial"? Whilst in service, why did the senior professionals not take a stand against the ruling regimes?
Having inaugurated the National War Memorial on February 25, 2019, with all the names inscribed since the 1947-1948 war (25,942 martyrs in golden letters on granite tablets), it is but natural that there should be only one War Memorial. So, the merger of "Amar Jyothi" is quite logical and justified.
Param Vir Chakra gallantry award winners have been installed in special enclosures to inspire future generations.
There is yet another issue that needs reconsideration. What about those real Heroes who fought and laid down their lives under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Indian National Army. Should not their names also find a place of honor?
Yet another issue that needs to be appreciated is the pride of place to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose under the canopy that was built in 1936 as a tribute to Emperor of India, King George V.
Let me also briefly outline the fate of statues. After independence, Jawaharlal Nehru believed that colonial statues were an inherent part of the country’s history. During the centenary of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1957, Statues predating independence were attacked across several areas in north India and 50 major pieces of British statuary disappeared from public spaces. Many others were shifted from public spaces to museums.
Meanwhile, Madras reacted by removing only Wellington's statue. Madras had once again reacted against statues in 2009 when the statues of King George V and his father King Edward VII were shifted to the backyard of the museum with claims that they obstructed traffic.
To sum up, it is never too late in the history of a nation to give pride of place for its own people rather than allowing the "Colonial Slave legacy" to continue. Let me also highlight that many statues of the British Era have been removed in places like Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. If one is a proud Indian, we must obliterate vestiges of colonialism.

Brig. G B Reddy (Retd)

G B Reddy, former Brigadier has seen frontline battles in India-China War in 1962, India-Pakistan War in 1965, and India-Pakistan War in 1971 (Liberation of Bangladesh). He has served in various insurgency areas to include Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and West Bengal at the height of Naxal problem; Punjab, J & K and IPKF in Sri Lanka.

Author of seven books and numerous articles covering national security strategy, international, national and local political and social developments, he participated in international and national seminars whilst serving as Consultant/Senior Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad. He also served in Corporate Assignments of Vice-President, Kitply Industries and C.E.O, Hilton Tobacco Ltd.

He is a Graduate of National Defense College, New Delhi, Command and Staff College in Canada, Long and Senior Defense Management Programs at College of Defense Management in Hyderabad. He has served on the faculties of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Combat, and Infantry School, Mhow.

He was awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal for Distinguished Service of an Exceptional Order in Nagaland 1986. Menitoned-in-Despatches for gallantry in 1971 war. Chief of Army Staff Commendation Medal in 1977 for exceptional contribution for faculty development.

Seven books published: 1) Rising Dragon – China’s Holistic Security Strategic Perspective; 2) Nation in Crisis – Dimensions of National Security and Terrorism; 3) In Search of National Values - Withering Democracy, Secularism and Socialism; 4) India’s Nuclear Dilemmas; 5) Fight Against Corruption and Leadership Decay; 6) Democracy in Peril; and, 7) Cost Effective Rural Housing Technologies.