India spent Rs 130 crore to celebrate its First War of Independence, 1857 revolt, without constructing a memorial for the martyrs or their directory.
A day after the government officially ended the year-long celebrations, a member of the National Implementation Committee (NIC) on 1857 revolt has termed most of the expenditure as “waste” on a “national tamasha”.
The Union government had allocated Rs 150 crore for celebrating India’s first rebellion against British in 1857, more than 100 years of Vande Matram, India’s freedom struggle war cry and birth centenary of young revolutionary Bhagat Singh. After a year, the government found that a whooping Rs 26 crore was spent on organizing a lackadaisical cultural extravaganza, including a march from Meerut to Red Fort, Delhi, in May 2007. Money was also given to state governments to organise similar events at the district level.
The NIC also decided to set up a chair in the name of Bhagat Singh at Jawaharlal Nehru University, another in the name of Bahadur Shah Zafar at Indira Gandhi Open National University and one at Jamia Millia Islamia. NIC is, however, yet to approve a Rs 50 crore Bollywood production on 1857 martyr Tantya Tope.
"In this whole drama families of thousands of martyrs have found no place," said Sashi Bhushan, a NIC member and former Rajya Sabha MP.
“We wanted a national memorial for the martyrs but still no place in the national capital has been identified for them,” he said, in a strong rejoinder to HRD minister Arjun Singh’s announcement that the memorial will come at Kashmere Gate. “There is not enough space there (at Kashmere Gate) and even the Archeological Survey of India is adverse to the idea,” he said. Singh was also blamed for the celebrations being hijacked by Rajas, who helped British against Indian revolutionaries.
On Saturday son of a freedom fighter Jagdish Chand Sharma had sought public apology from Singh for his ancestors allegedly getting land from the British in return for helping them to curb revolt by farmers. Singh refused to comment on these claims.
Bhushan further vent his anger for the failure of the government to give due respect to the architect of 1857 revolt Bahadur Shah Zafar. “We wanted his last remains to be brought back from Rangoon but Arjun Singh (who heads NIC) was not interested. There was no effort to restore his abode in Delhi, Zafar Mahal, which is now a home for stray dogs and is a public urinal,” he said.
Nothing was done to tell people about heroics deeds of other martyrs like Kunwar Singh of Central India, he said. Bhushan was also critical of NIC for giving money to Akalis to celebrate birth centenary of Bhagat Singh. "He (Bhagat Singh) was an atheist and giving money to Akalis was like showing disrespect to him," he said. As far as Vande Matram was concerned, celebrations never took off.
The celebrations were dogged more in controversies than euphoria. First a movie on 1857 got caught in a copyright war between Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangthan, a government body and Sahmat, a social organization. Then, then NIC chairperson Arjun Singh refused to award the Red Fort function to another NIC member Rajiv Sethi terming it 'conflict of interest'.