Burning for five decades, Amar Jawan Jyoti to be merged with torch at National War Memorial; all you need to know

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After 50 long years, at 3.54 pm this afternoon, Air Marshal Balabadra Radha Krishna, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff will merge the flames of Amar Jawan Jyoti with the eternal flame at the National War Memorial in a ceremonial function.

The moment will mark a transition in the history of the iconic India Gate memorial, where the eternal Amar Jawan Jyoti flame has been burning since 1971.

Here's a look at why this is being done, how people have reacted and the history of the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

History of Amar Jawan Jyoti

File image of Narendra Modi at Amar Jawan Jyoti during Republic Day in 2019. Image Courtesy: Press Information Bureau

The Amar Jawan Jyoti was constructed as a memorial for Indian soldiers who were killed in action in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which India won, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.

It was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 26 January 1972.

It is a memorial symbolised by an inverted bayonet and soldier's helmet over it with an eternal flame burning beside it.

The flame that burns at the Amar Jawan Jyoti is kept alive all year. There are four flames on each side of the cenotaph. Only one flame burns throughout the year. However, on Independence Day and Republic Day, all flames are lit. Though liquified petroleum gas was used to keep the flame alive till 2006, it is now lit using piped natural gas.

Moving the flames to War Memorial

A look at the National War Memorial, which was inaugurated in 2019. AFP

This afternoon, the flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial, which is just 400 metres away on the other side of India Gate.

The National War Memorial, built across 40-acres close to India Gate at the cost of Rs 176 crore, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 February 2019.

At the War Memorial, the eternal flame is positioned below the central 15.5 m obelisk. There are four concentric circles — the "Amar Chakra", "Veerta Chakra", "Tyag Chakra" and the "Rakshak Chakra", where the names of 25,942 soldiers are inscribed on granite tablets in golden letters.

According to the government, the National War Memorial is dedicated to soldiers killed during the Indo-China War in 1962, Indo-Pak wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971, Indian Peace Keeping Force Operations in Sri Lanka and in the Kargil Conflict in 1999, and also those in the UN peacekeeping missions.

The names of troops who lost lives in the counter-terrorist operations are also included on the walls of the memorial.

When the National War Memorial was inaugurated, questions emerged on having the two memorials. Chief of Integrated Defence Staff Lt Gen P S Rajeshwar, was quoted at time as saying, "The eternal flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti will stay. We have inherited that flame.”

Moreover, Lt Gen PJS Pannu had said, "Amar Jawan Jyoti is an inseparable part of our history. Amar Jawan Jyoti was built to commemorate India's victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. So, both flames will have their own importance."

Why the merger

An NDTV report citing sources said that the decision for the merger of the flames was taken after officials complained of the difficulty in the upkeep of both the flames.

Additionally, some officials have argued about the presence of two flames, asking that since the National War Memorial has already been built for the martyrs of the country, why a separate flame should be lit at the India Gate.

Reactions

The announcement made by the government on the Amar Jawan Jyoti quickly went viral on Twitter and it became one of the most trending topics on the social messaging site.

Congress’ Rahul Gandhi said it was a matter of great sadness that the immortal flame that used to ‘burn for our brave soldiers will be extinguished today’.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also questioned the move, asking if this ‘government had no respect for democratic tradition’.

Congress leader Manish Tewari was also sceptical of the move, saying it ‘tantamounts to extinguishing history’.

Journalists Maya Mirchandani and Shiv Aroor also expressed their dismay at the Centre’s decision.

Sources within the government, however, rebutted these allegations, saying the flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti was not being extinguished and was simply being merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.

Sources also said that the names of all Indian martyrs from all the wars, including 1971 and wars before and after it are housed at the National War Memorial. Hence, it is a true 'shraddhanjali' to have the flame paying tribute to martyrs there.

Attacking the Opposition, the sources were cited as saying, "It is ironic that people who did not make a National War Memorial for seven decades are now making a hue and cry when a permanent and fitting tribute is being made to our martyrs."

There were also others who welcomed the move. News agency ANI’s Ajit Kumar Dubey said it was a ‘very good decision’.

A few netizens also said it was a good move, saying that the "Amar Jawan Jyoti shouldn't be under the shadow of the remnants of colonial crap, a symbol of British oppression."

With inputs from agencies

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Burning for five decades, Amar Jawan Jyoti to be merged with torch at National War Memorial; all you need to know
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