The Amar Jawan Jyoti was put out at India Gate in Delhi on Friday, 50 years after it was first lit, and was merged with the torch at the National War Memorial (NWM) in the capital in a military ceremony.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti will be put out and people can now pay their respects at the eternal flame at the NWM, military officials said.
After India defeated Pakistan in the 1971 War, the Amar Jawan Jyoti or “eternal flame” for soldiers was constructed as a memorial for Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice. It was inaugurated by then prime minister Indira Gandhi on January 26, 1972.
In a short ceremony on Friday afternoon, a part of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was taken and merged with the flame at the NWM 400 metres away. Chief of Integrated Defence Staff Air Marshal BR Krishna presided over the ceremony, the military officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on February 25, 2019, inaugurated the NWM, where names of 25,942 soldiers have been inscribed in golden letters on granite tablets.
Former servicemen expressed mixed reactions on the Centre’s decision to merge the flames. Former Army Chief General Ved Malik supported the government’s decision, stating that it is “a natural thing” to merge flames now as the NWM has been established and all ceremonials related to remembrance and honouring soldiers killed in action are being held there.
Former Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur, however, tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter and requested him to rescind the decision.
“Sir, the eternal flame at India Gate is part of India’s psyche. You, I and our generation grew up saluting our brave jawans there,” he stated. While the NWM is great, the memories of the Amar Jawan Jyoti are indelible, Bahadur noted.
The Congress on Friday morning accused the BJP government of “removing history” by extinguishing the Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate here and merging it with the eternal flame at the NWM.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit out, saying some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice, and added that the Congress will light the Amar Jawan Jyoti once again.
“It is a matter of great sadness that the immortal flame for our brave soldiers will be extinguished today. Some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice – never mind… We will once again light the Amar Jawan Jyoti for our soldiers,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
Government sources maintained there is a lot of misinformation on the matter, and said the flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti is not being extinguished but is being merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.
BJP leader Sambit Patra also echoed the government view in a tweet.
The government sources said it was an odd thing to see that the flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti paid homage to the martyrs of the 1971 and other wars but none of their names are present there at the India Gate.
The names inscribed on the India Gate are of only some martyrs who fought for the British in World War-I and the Anglo Afghan War and thus is a symbol of the country’s colonial past, the government sources said.
They said the names of all Indian martyrs from all the wars are housed at the National War Memorial. Hence, it is a true homage to have the flame paying tribute to martyrs there, they added.
(With inputs from PTI)