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Why we need a national memorial for fallen soldiers

Last updated on: August 24, 2012 15:53 IST

If the British can make a memorial for Indian soldiers, why don't we have one even after 65 years of India's independence? When we can have statues and parks dedicated to politicians, why not one for our defence personnel? It is astounding, says Varad Varenya.

"Shaheedon Ki Chitaaon Par Lagenge Har Baras Mele, Watan Par Mitnewale Ka Yahi Baaki Nishan Hoga" wrote Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil, revolutionary Indian freedom fighter and poet, long ago before India's independence. It means that the annual fairs at the tombs of the martyrs who die for the nation will be the only testimony of their existence. Does India have a national monument in the memory of the martyrs who fought for the country?

Many lives have been sacrificed for protecting the integrity and sovereignty of the Indian nation. Much blood has flown to defend the idea of India. The country has paid a very heavy price for achieving the independence in 1947 from the British empire marked with partition into two nation states -- India and Pakistan. Since independence, India has fought five major wars with its neighbours, Pakistan and China, in 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999. Further, India is fighting a war against insurgency and terrorism almost every day. 

Thousands of soldiers have achieved martyrdom for the sake of our nation. Be it Kashmir, the north-east or any other part of India, the soldiers have fought with valour for the republic of India. In the memory of the martyred soldiers, one can find memorials at several places in the country. But India doesn't have a national memorial for soldiers; an integrated memorial for all the martyrs till date.

We don't have a place to pay obeisance to the martyred soldier. Where should one go for laying wreath to the fallen soldier? A martyr's memorial characterises remembrance for the dead soldier. It is a salutation to the martyrdom of soldiers. We are sitting in comfort zones only because the men in uniform are wide awake and ensuring our security.

At present, the martyr's memorial of the national status is India Gate. The monument, originally known as All India War Memorial, was built in 1931 to commemorate the martyrdom of more than 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives while fighting for the British Empire in World War I. Under the arch of India Gate, there is the 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' (the flame of immortal soldier) which was unveiled in 1971. After India-Pakistan war of 1971, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, paid homage to the dead soldiers on the eve of 23rd Republic Day and the custom continues till date. 

If the British can make a memorial for Indian soldiers, why don't we have one even after 65 years of India's independence? When we can have statues and parks dedicated to politicians, why not one for our defence personnel? It is astounding.

A national memorial should be a place where one can go and relate with the martyrdom of soldiers. A national memorial will be an honour not only to the soldier but to the families of the martyrs. It connotes the honour and dignity of the nation and its people. The national martyr's memorial will serve as inspiration for the citizens of our country especially for the youth who want to join defence forces. It will showcase the essence of the soldier. The nation should know who the martyred soldiers are. It should be part of our culture. 

The least one can do for martyrs is to remember them. And for remembrance, we should have a symbol; a memorial. The country must have a national memorial for the unsung heroes. A national martyr's memorial will be link between civilians and soldiers. The existence of the martyrs is symbolised through memorials.

The martyrs remind me of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's lines: "They are dead but they live in each Patriot's breast. And their names are engraven on honour's bright crest."

Varad Varenya is a writer/commentator. You can follow him on twitter at @VaradVarenya

Varad Varenya