NEW DELHI, Jan 21: The Congress on Friday accused the BJP government of “removing history” by extinguishing the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate here and merging it with the immortal flame at National War Memorial.
It also condemned the “artificial debate” on the choice between having a statue of Netaji Subaschandra Bose and Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate and said both could have existed together.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice, adding that the Congress will light the Amar Jawan Jyoti once again.
“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,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Government sources maintained there is a lot of misinformation on the matter, and said the flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti is not being extinguished, but is being merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.
BJP leader Sambit Patra also echoed the government view in a series of tweets.
Senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge said, “One cannot even imagine India Gate without the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame.”
“BJP leaders are proving that they carry forward the legacy of cowards who did not participate in the independence movement or nation building. They have no valour, sense of sacrifice and respect for our soldiers,” he said.
Congress leader Manish Tewari alleged that extinguishing the flame tantamounts to removing history.
“Extinguishing Amar Jawan Jyoti tantamounts to extinguishing history. For it commentates sacrifice of those 3,483 brave soldiers who cleaved Pakistan into two parts and redrew map of South Asia post partition,” he said on Twitter.
Tewari said it is ironical that in the 50th year of liberation of Bangladesh, the government seems to be working overtime to erase India’s finest hour in post independent history.
“Amar Jawan Jyoti is imbued in the national consciousness. A billion people have grown up venerating it. Why cannot India have two eternal flames? Amar Jawan Jyoti and National War Memorial.
“Redeveloping the Central Vista was hubris enough, but extinguishing the eternal flame at India Gate is nothing short of a crime. I am surprised that the nation is silent as a national icon would be snuffed out in the project to re-write history,” the former Union minister said.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “There can be no dispute or competition between those fighting in the battlefields of freedom struggle and lakhs of bravehearts who were martyred in the security of the country. It is pointless and unfortunate to generate this debate because everyone’s contribution is priceless and indelible for ‘Maa Bharati’.”
“We condemn this sponsored and artificial debate,” he said, while noting that any debate on this issue by comparing the Jyoti and Netaji’s statue is pointless.
Government sources said it was an odd thing to see that the flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti paid homage to the martyrs of the 1971 war and other wars, but none of their names are present there.
The names inscribed on the India Gate are of only some martyrs who fought for the British in World War 1 and the Anglo Afghan War, and thus is a symbol of our colonial past, the government sources said.
They said the names of all Indian martyrs from all the wars, including 1971 and wars before and after it, are housed at the National War Memorial.
Hence, it is a true homage to have the flame paying tribute to martyrs there, they added.
Patra said, “It is ironic that people who did not make a National War Memorial for seven decades are now making a hue and cry when a permanent and fitting tribute is being made to our martyrs”.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate was merged with the eternal flame at the National War Memorial (NWM) here on Friday.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti will be put out and people can now pay their respects at the eternal flame at the NWM, military officials said.
After India defeated Pakistan in the 1971 war, the Amar Jawan Jyoti was constructed as a memorial for Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice. It was inaugurated by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, on January 26, 1972.
In a short ceremony on Friday afternoon, a part of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was taken and merged with the flame at NWM 400 metres away. (PTI)