National war memorial should be near India Gate: Army chief

July 11th, 2008 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) In limbo for the last five decades, the proposal to build a national war memorial near India Gate got welcome support from Indian Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor who Friday said the memorial’s proximity to the national landmark would attract civilians. The memorial, designed by noted architect Charles Correa, would be the first to commemorate the sacrifice of thousands of Indian soldiers in World War II and the wars that India has fought since independence. However, the proposal to build a memorial close to India Gate has been gathering dust since the urban development ministry objected to it.

“If the war memorial is at India Gate, it will become a rallying point for the civil society by attracting young people and an expression of their national spirit,” said Kapoor.

The army chief was speaking on “Motivating the Youth to Join Armed Forces” at the Col. Ajay Mushran Memorial Lecture organised by the Madhya Pradesh Foundation. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was also present at the function and unveiled plans to build a war memorial in his state.

The urban development ministry and the Delhi Urban Art Commission have been objecting to the memorial, saying it would spoil the ambience at the India Gate. However, the defence ministry says the monument would only be a little higher than the ground.

Most portions of the marble slabs on which the 50,000 names would be etched would actually be below ground level. They would be in a circular fashion around the canopy next to the India Gate. People can walk along the slabs, pay their respects and move to India Gate.

Kapoor also said: “Let the names of the civilians sacrificing their life for the nation be there on the war memorial.”

The India Gate was built by the British in memory of the Indians who laid down their lives during World War I and the Afghan wars.

The proposal to build a national war memorial was first mooted in the early 1960s but was shelved following India’s humiliating defeat against China in 1962. The proposal gained momentum following the Kargil conflict in 1999.

The lack of a national war memorial has been a sore point among army personnel.

“It’s insulting as well as embarrassing that India is virtually the only country without a dedicated national war memorial. It is as if the 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir operation, the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars and the 1999 Kargil conflict do not matter at all,” said an army officer.

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