Adjacent to the famous Red Fort, towards the old bridge over the Yamuna river, is the Indian National Army (INA) memorial that is dying an inglorious death.
Apparently, a large sum of money is spent annually on its upkeep. Frankly, there is nothing to be taken care of. It is a 15-acre barren patch of some broken barracks, dense foliage and haunting dungeons.
At the entrance are the words Swatantrata Sainani Smarak, embossed on a plaque, revealing the identity of the place and building up the interest for explorations inside.
Brij Mohan, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), says that former culture minister Jagmohan took some interest in the monument and ordered its maintenance but to no avail.
Today, durries and carpets worth hundreds of thousands of rupees rot in some of the barracks! There's no provision for potable water. Inside it are plaques related to various exhibitions about the excavated material belonging to ancient times, Gandhi Kutir and of the struggle of the INA against the British.
Disappointment and emptiness are what greets visitors to the memorial. The so-called Gandhi Ashram in the Gandhi Kutir barrack has become home to ASI labourers. The fans do not rotate and the bulbs never glow, simply because there is no electricity at the memorial. The other barracks where the INA soldiers were kept are also in unhygienic condition.
Reportedly, many things have been found in the excavation since 1992 after the premises came under the supervision of ASI. There's a well that contains a cell where condemned INA soldiers and freedom fighters were kept before being hanged. The gallows are on a mound that also served the purpose of shell batteries.
Retired General Virendra Singh, a freedom fighter says,"Soldiers of INA captured from Malaya, Burma, Singapore and other places were hanged in the same gallows. Before being hanged, they were imprisoned in the barracks for a short trial."
It was Sher Shah Suri's son and successor Islam Shah, better known as Salim Shah (AD 1545-54), who erected the Salimgarh Fort, where the memorial is located.
During the era of Akbar, the fort's charge was given to Farid Khan, better known as Murtaza Khan, who built a couple of edifices that were razed to the ground by the British. After that Jahangir built a five-arched bridge across the Yamuna. When Aurangzeb came to the throne, he turned Salimgarh into a prison.
Shahjahan got a subway built between the Red Fort and Salimgarh and also named it Noorgarh but people called it Salimgarh. Bahadurshah Zafar got a chor darwaza (secret door) built that opened in the Yamuna via a tunnel.
It is also believed that there is a barrack where no one, not even ASI officers, have entered because it is believed the cries of INA soldiers who were hanged are often heard there.