Symbolism, respect is not imposed, it evolves over time; the new will never replace the old
War memorials are by definition military in design and purpose. This new memorial will also grow in size over time. But this cannot be done by decree. Although a former army chief has publicly stated that this is a purely military matter and should be treated as such without “politicizing” the issue. Obviously, such a decision is not taken lightly, is announced only 24 hours before the implementation, that too without the presence of the Chiefs of the three Services at the ceremony of the “merger” of the flames.
It should also be added here that at the inauguration of the National War Memorial in 2019, a few weeks before the legislative elections of that year, senior officers publicly declared that Amar Jawan Jyoti “will continue to be there “.
“A new flame will rise at the National War Memorial, but the eternal flame of Amar Jawan Jyoti will remain. We inherited this flame,” the then Chief of Integrated Defense Staff said, Lieutenant General PS Rajeshwar.
Deputy Chief of Indian Army Lt Gen PJS Pannu stressed that “the Amar Jawan Jyoti is an integral part of our history. So many emotions are attached to it. And, it is located under India Gate which itself is a war memorial.”
Apart from this apparent U-turn, it is the way in which the decision was taken that is at the origin of the current outcry. Such an important decision is not taken overnight and is only announced 24 hours before its implementation. It is therefore questionable whether this decision was indeed taken after due diligence after consultation with all parties concerned.
So one might well ask, why was this decision made, at this point, to “extinguish” one and “merge” it with the other? Let’s be honest, the use of the phrase “merge” – is just semantics!
There was a symbolism and meaning that cannot be dictated or forced, but must evolve over time and through due process. Not only have the public come to love the ceremonial associated with the changing of the guards and the laying of wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyothi – the surroundings around India Gate have also lent themselves to a variety of public expressions of tribute, expression of grief (Nirbhaya and other such events) and show solidarity by lighting candles in the beautiful and accessible open spaces around India Gate.
I personally laid a wreath and paid my respects to the Amar Jawan Jyoti before assuming my duties as Chief of Naval Staff in November 1990. For my colleagues in the army, it was a place where many regiments were honored on special days.
This is how our Republic slowly assimilated this culture of respect for all those who gave their lives – not for a religion, a colonial power or a monarch – but for the land of their ancestors and their mothers over the centuries.
These are the lessons we must teach and learn. Traditions have been built over hundreds of years – whether Hindu, Islamic, Sikh, Mughal, British or Indian. We have also seen that while it takes thousands of years to build a tradition, it often only takes a few minutes to destroy it. Whether it is a mosque, a church or a temple, or the extinguishing of a sacred flame for all that it has symbolized during the fifty years of its existence. Despite all the pomp and glory of the torch-lighting ceremony and its march to the new circle of light or flame, the new will never replace the old – nor can it match the sanctity of love. , emotion, meaning. of loss, victory, sacrifice and patriotism that had been invested in the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate….