Sunday, June 21, 2009

War memorial: Let's bring our heroes home

By: Anshuman G Dutta Date: 2009-06-19 Place: Delhi

Defence forces resume their demand to build a national war memorial for Indian soldiers

Have you ever scanned the walls of India Gate? If you have, you must have rolled your eyes over the names of the 90,000 soldiers, in whose memory the monument was built. These soldiers gave their lives during the two World Wars. Brave souls, we agree; but what about the thousands others who died fighting Pakistan and China after India's Independence? Even though India has fought five wars in the last seven decades (including the military conflict with Pakistan in 1948), there is hardly anything to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Curiously, the proposal to construct a National War Memorial in Delhi for these bravehearts was mooted in the 60s. The file, however, has been lost in transit between various ministries.

"The proposal was drawn up in the 60s and is now being revived. The plan is to construct a war memorial near India Gate, which was built in the honour of British Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I and II. We managed to receive sanctions from several parties who have stakes in India Gate but now the proposal is stuck with the Environment Ministry," said an official from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), wishing anonymity.

He hinted at a strong undercurrent of dissent in the defence forces against India Gate representing the country's martyrs.

"India Gate was constructed by the British for the Indian soldiers who served in the Royal British Army. Celebrating Republic Day at India Gate feels like as if we are still under the British rule. It's unfortunate we could not construct a war memorial for our soldiers even after 60 years of Independence," said an officer of the Indian Army, wishing anonymity.

Sources said the design of the proposed memorial has been accepted by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Urban Art Commission and the Central Vista Committee.

"But the Environment Ministry is not giving the green signal. It says the proposed structure can spoil the ambience of the present structures at India Gate. But the new memorial won't disturb anything," said the official.

But now the Ministry of Defence is has made up its mind to give a final push to the plan to construct the memorial and has also decided to bear the entire cost. "The new memorial's architecture will blend with other heritage monuments on Rajpath. We hope we will be able to honour our martyrs finally," the official added.

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