AMRITSAR: In the 1965 India-Pakistan war, when Pakistani troops invaded Punjab and captured the border town of Khemkaran, India’s badly outnumbered artillery fought back and repulsed the invaders near Asal Uttar and scored a spectacular victory.
Pakistan thrust 100 of its tanks into the battle and lost 99, including 70 US-made Pattons. Back then, the Pakistani forces considered the Patton far superior to India’s Centurion tanks. Asal Uttar remains the largest tank battle between the two countries.
The valour of soldiers from Punjab, not only in the battle of Asal Uttar but dating back 2,000 years, is all set to be commemorated not far from the India-Pakistan border here.
Encompassing the 2,000-year military history of Punjab, a world class, state-of-the-art Punjab State War Heroes’ Memorial-cum-Museum is all set to be thrown open to the public on October 23.
Several dozen workers are sweating it out day and night to complete the work at the site, which is to be inaugurated by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the presence of several top-ranking Army officials and about 25,000 ex-servicemen and war widows.
A walk through the memorial presents one with a kaleidoscope of the bravery and sacrifices made by Punjab’s soldiers in the line of duty.
The major attractions of the memorial are three tanks: one is a Pakistani Sherman tank destroyed by India’s Seventh Light Cavalry; the other is a Pakistani Patton destroyed by the Indian forces in 1971; and the third is a Centurion tank used by India in the 1965 and 1971 wars, which destroyed both those Pakistani tanks.
The centre of attraction is the 45 m high steel sword which stands in the middle of the memorial and can be seen from a few km away. ‘The sword represents the valour and courage of the 3,500 soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation. We also have the names of the martyrs engraved on it,’’ an officer overseeing work at the museum said.
Further, the authorities have also installed a projection mapping at a cost of Rs 10 crore which will bring alive scenes of war through special light and sound effects. The memorial cum museum was built at a cost of Rs 150 crore.
A model MiG fighter jet mounted at the museum is poised in takeoff towards Pakistan and the sword points to the neighbouring country as well.
In addition, an original MiG 23 and a model of the decommissioned INS Vikrant aircraft carrier are being refurbished for public display.
For the SAD-BJP combine ruling Punjab, construction of the memorial was a top priority as the state goes to elections in February next year. Even as the surgical strikes by India across the Line of Control is still a topic of discussion in this border state, the memorial is sure to further boost the patriotic fervor in the state.
The construction of the memorial was done at a lightning speed, considering the time government projects usually take. Construction started in 2014 and the museum is ready today.