Politics over merger of  the Eternal Flames

A needless political controversy has ensued over the merger of Amar Jawan Jyoti with the Eternal Flame at the National War Memorial. Of course the eternal flame at India Gate had become a part of our psyche and generations had grown up saluting the valiant but the flame had not been extinguished. It found a new befitting abode in the National War Memorial at a ceremony presided over by the Integrated Defence Staff chief Air Marshal Balabadhra Radha Krishna.

Till recently, we lacked a National War Memorial and the Memorial near India Gate in New Delhi, is a tribute to our soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation and made the supreme sacrifice in Peace Keeping Missions, and Counter Insurgency Operations.  It represents the culmination of the collective aspiration of a grateful nation to the martyrs. It is nation’s icon for paying tributes to our braves and it bears the name of every single soldier who has died in the service of the nation and the flame represents each of those men.

At the India Gate, a British-era monument which was built in 1921 in memory of soldiers who died in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War, the Amar Jawan Jyoti has been burning since January 26, 1972 when the flame was lit by the Indira Gandhi government to honour the soldiers who fell in the 1971 war with Pakistan, which ended with the liberation of Bangladesh. However, only names of 13,218 soldiers, including British men and officers, are inscribed on the India Gate memorial.  Of course these soldiers made supreme sacrifice but the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country in the line of duty subsequently remained unnamed.

The decision to install Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s statue under the canopy in the India Gate area must be applauded because with this, the legacy of Netaji and the Indian National Army has got its rightful place.  When the PM Narendra Modi unveiled a hologram of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at India Gate, putting the legendary hero of the freedom struggle on the same pedestal as Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar, it was a moment of pride.  The hologram of Netaji is soon to be replaced by a one cast in stone and it would mark a homage to the hero of freedom by the grateful nation and will keep reminding our institutions and coming generations the lesson of national duty.  The PM made a valid observation that the recognition that Netaji deserved was denied to him along with contributions of many great personalities that were sought to be erased but these mistakes are being corrected.

The decision to shift the eternal flame has triggered a political slugfest with the opposition accusing the government of erasing history and the Centre, in its counter offensive, blaming the Opposition for not building a national war memorial despite being in power for decades.  Rather than doing politics over such an inclusive issue, we should salute our armed forces and let the eternal flame burn for eternity!