As the country celebrates 65th Independence Day on Wednesday, it still does not have a National War Memorial to honour the sacrifices of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives to preserve freedom.
The stalemate between the government and the armed forces over the venue and design of the memorial continues and the project conceptualised in 1960’s is still far from being materialised.
According to sources, the three services chiefs - Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and General Bikram Singh - met Defence Minister A K Antony last week to apprise about the forces’ decision to have the memorial at the India Gate, the structure constructed by the British as tribute to the soldiers who gave their life while fighting in the World War-I.
“After much deliberation, the armed forces have found that the canopy at the India Gate is the best suited place to get a National War Memorial - it is central and easily accessible,” a senior armed forces official said.
The latest design, by architect Charles Correa, supported by the three services includes a landscape memorial around the canopy near the India Gate on the Central Vista, with names of about 50,000 martyrs inscribed on it. Most portions of the marble slabs on which the names would be etched would actually be below ground level. They would be in a circle around the canopy next to the India Gate. People can walk along the slabs, pay their respects and move to the India Gate.
The memorial will be dedicated to the Indian soldiers, sailors and airmen who sacrificed their lives post-independence. So far India has faced six major wars or conflicts and in 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir Operation it lost over 1,100 soldiers, in 1962 nearly 3,250 soldiers died, in 1965 the number was 3,264, in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka the number was 1,157 and in 1999 Kargil Conflict 522 soldiers were martyred.
The unexplained delay has been a cause of much discontent amongst the armed forces. A young officer whom the Express spoke to said: “It is very demoralising to know that the soldier had to fight not only for pay and parity but also a memorial for its valiant martyrs. The delay is sadder considering that an imperial power paid tribute to Indian soldiers in the form of the India Gate, but what have we as a country done to remember their sacrifices?”
The lack of a National War Memorial means that on every Republic Day or Independence Day the Indian dignitaries pay homage at the “Tomb of Unknown Soldier” resurrected in the memory of soldier who died in World War-I.
The proposal has been in limbo for the last few decades even as the armed forces continue to hold presentations and meetings with various regulatory bodies like Delhi Urban Arts Commission, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Central Vista Commission, Heritage Conservation Committee and the like.