Amar Jawan Jyoti merged with National War Memorial flame, Netaji to occupy George V’s canopy at India Gate



The Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flame that burned continuously for 50 years at the India Gate in New Delhi in honor of soldiers who died for the country, was extinguished Friday after being merged with the flame at the National War Memorial set up 400 meters away.

At a solemn ceremony presided over by Air Marshal BR Krishna, chief of the integrated defense staff to the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, a part of the flame was taken and merged with the flame at the War Memorial with full military honors.

The move set off a political firestorm with the opposition accusing the government of trying to rewrite history. The Congress said it is like “extinguishing history” and called it “nothing short of crime”.

The Amar Jawan Jyoti was built to commemorate the soldiers killed in the India-Pakistan war of 1971. The symbolic memorial had an inverted bayonet and a soldier’s helmet over it with the flame beside it. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had inaugurated it on Republic Day 1972.

Congress MP Manish Tewari said extinguishing the flame was like extinguishing history. “It is ironic,” he said, “that in the 50th year of the liberation of Bangladesh, the government seems to be working overtime to erase independent India’s finest hour.”

Amid the furor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose would be installed underneath the empty sandstone canopy at India Gate.

Modi tweeted, “At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate. This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”

The canopy earlier housed a statue of King George V. That statue was removed to Coronation Park in northwest Delhi in 1968 by Indira Gandhi’s government. Since then, the canopy has remained vacant. There was talk over the years of installing a statue of Mahatma Gandhi there, but it was never done.

Modi added, “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary.”

The Indian Express, quoting a source in the culture ministry, reported that a model of the 28×6 feet statue had been prepared by a team from the National Gallery of Modern Art and approved by the prime minister’s office and a sculptor is being signed up to execute it.

The source told the paper that it would take only a few months to get the statue ready and it would be installed this year itself as part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Independence.