A memorial dedicated to those who fell to terrorist's bullets in Punjab did not seem reality all these years until the Durgiana Mandir Committee came forward about two months back despite being aware that such a move could invite the ire of militants and become a security threat to the temple.
As voices for a memorial to terrorist victims grew louder after the inauguration of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) built 'Operation Bluestar' memorial in April, the Durgiana committee in its general house meeting in July unanimously passed a resolution to endorse the majority viewpoint. The executive of the committee endorsed the decision to set the move into motion.
Militants issue threat
As members of the temple committee went about selecting the site of the memorial inside the Durgiana temple complex, the militants lying dormant all these years shot off a letter in Punjabi, with a warning that the project be shelved or else the members would be responsible for any harm to the temple. The unsigned threat on the letter head of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) stated that the committee would be held responsible if any harm comes to any of them.
"The threatening letter was received around a month ago and was forwarded to the police commissioner. It did not mention any individual names," stated Durgiana Committee secretary and spokesman Harish Taneja.
However Taneja, who belongs to the BJP, said they would go ahead with the memorial.
Need and shape of memorial
Denying that the memorial was a form of retaliation to the 'Bluestar' memorial, Taneja said, "As no one was coming forward to construct a memorial to terrorist victims in Punjab, we thought it a noble task that must be undertaken. It is a tribute to those who fell to terrorist bullets and bombs, including security force personnel, for upholding the unity and integrity of the nation."
Taneja told HT here on Wednesday, "The proposed memorial will not be for any particular religion, it will be for all faiths. It will remind our present and future generations of the sacrifices that our Punjabi sons and daughters and security personnel made so that peace and normalcy could return."
The committee has shortlisted two spots inside the Durgiana temple complex. The first is to the left of the main entrance and the other is along the 'parikrama' around the 'sarovar'. A third site is also being looked into.
A sub-committee likely to be constituted during the next meeting of the committee next month, will finalise the memorial spot and oversee its construction.
According to Taneja, the memorial will be a dome-shaped concrete structure, the design of which will be finalised by the sub-committee. A professional designer or architect will be hired.
Ramesh Chander Sharma, general secretary of the committee, said photographs of terrorist victims will be installed on its walls. The committee will make use of the media to appeal to families of the victims to send the photographs. The committee will also try to procure the photographs. Below each photo, a brief history of the victim will be given.
Asked whether the memorial will include those security personnel who were killed during 'Operation Bluestar' inside the Golden Temple Complex, Taneja said, "We will include all such victims who fell while combating terrorism."
The memorial will be funded by the committee. However, funds will be accepted from those who wish to donate.
Deputy commissioner of police Kaustabh Sharma said, "We received the threatening letter and have posted additional security personnel inside (not in uniform) and outside the shrine and devotees are being frisked."
BJP leader says threat challenge to govt
Senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon termed the threat "as a serious challenge for the Punjab government".
Tandon has already had a talk with the office-bearers of the committee. He strongly favours the building of such a structure to those who stood firm for the country's well-being and kept the Hindu-Sikh unity intact.
In a statement, Tandon pointed out that the terrorists targeted leaders of all political parties, including the Akali Dal. He cited the names of BJP leaders Hit Abhilashi, Harbans Lal Khanna and Tarsem Singh Bahar, former chief minister Beant Singh, Congress leaders Brij Bhushan Mehra and Tarlochan Singh Riasti, Akali Dal leaders Sant Longowal and Balwant Singh and communist leaders Darshan Singh Canadian, Sarwan Singh Cheema and Chanan Singh Dhoot.
Tandon has requested the chief minister to take a serious note of the threat letter, and take all remedial steps.