The much-anticipated National War Memorial has assumed renewed importance for some and sparked new debates for others; especially because the Centre unveiled it on Monday, at the height of cross-border tension over the Pulwama attack.
The monument near India Gate in Delhi was on the cards since 2015, when the
Spread over 40 acres, it comprises four concentric circles, namely the Amar Chakra, Veerta Chakra, Tyag Chakra, and Rakshak Chakra; it also has names of 25,942 Indian soldiers, martyred post-Independence, inscribed in golden letters on granite tablets. Besides this, the complex comprises six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by the Indian Army, Air Force
The grand inauguration was replete with IAF helicopters showering rose petals and flying past in ‘Missing Man’ formation; amid that Prime Minister Narendra Modi lit the eternal flame below an obelisk, unveiling the memorial.
Modi launches political attack
The PM’s pointed attack against Congress’s dynastic politics, however, marred the solemnity of the occasion, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing air strikes and escalating tension in Kashmir; he also raised the Rafale controversy in his keynote address, irking many, including army veterans.
Giving himself a pat on the back for helming the speedy construction of the memorial and implementing the One Rank, One Pension scheme for army veterans, Modi unflinchingly accused the Congress of compromising national security by not purchasing essential equipment for the armed forces.
“From Bofors to AgustaWestland chopper deal, all the investigations are pointing to one family and it says a lot.
He accused the Congress of pushing the Gandhi family’s personal agenda instead of thinking of “India first”. “They had made the army and national security means of earning for themselves. They wanted to forget the martyrs,” Modi added.
Army veterans irked
His criticism of the Congress soon backfired. Several former and serving members of the armed forces called the
Many veterans even considered it to be a violation of military protocol and ethos that it was the PM and not the President (the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces) who inaugurated the memorial. Some took to Twitter asking the PM whether he considered the event an election rally.
The Opposition, in response, also attacked the PM for using the occasion for political gains and optics. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor questioned the absence of the President, Vice President, Speaker, or the Leader of Opposition.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “The National War Memorial is a symbol of the sacrifices made by our country’s jawans. Do not make it a political battlefield with your shameful
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who has been severely critical of the attacks on Kashmiris across India following the Pulwama attack, called Modi’s speech “blatantly political”.
“Credit to the PM Modi for building a national war memorial after 70 years. Disappointed with politician Modi for
Milking the fabled cow
Modi has never shied away from taking credit. He has been hailed on numerous occasions in the past for taking the initiative to build the National War Memorial and a National War Museum.
But it is ironical that most of them were martyrs to the Partition-era animosity with Pakistan over Kashmir, which has led to three wars so far, bringing us on the brink of another right now.
By saying that the war memorial is proof that his government converts vision into reality, what Modi has really proved is the Centre’s egregious weaponisation of the army for votes.
If the timing itself wasn’t curious enough—just months before the Lok Sabha polls and hours before Pakistan bombed two Indian fighter planes in retaliation—Modi’s controversial speech certainly proves that war or not, the election campaign must go on.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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