Last R-Day salute at Amar Jawan Jyoti this year?
This year may mark the last time the traditional Republic Day salute to fallen Indian soldiers is given at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, which stands underneath India Gate, according to a senior defence ministry official who did not want to be named.
From next year, this ceremony which precedes the parade is likely to move to the National War Memorial, this person added.
Remembering fallen soldiers at the Amar Jawan Jyoti started in January 1972, days after Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan in December 1971. It honours the 3,843 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War and was started by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
India Gate, a monument of the British Raj, honours over a million Indian soldiers who fought in World War 1 and the Anglo-Afghan wars.
The National War Memorial, a key poll promise of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, is almost ready, a second senior defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity. It is a monument that will pay homage to over 26,000 Indian soldiers who have fallen during various wars since Independence. The National War Memorial is built at the India Gate’s C-hexagon and is spread over 40 acres, with four landscaped concentric circles named Amar, Veer, Tyag and Raksha (immortality, bravery, sacrifice and protection). It will also feature the busts of 21 Param Vir Chakra awardees.
Although there was a plan to open the National War Memorial before Republic Day, the government eventually decided otherwise. One reason for this could be that the memorial is just getting ready. The other, according to the second officer, was “perhaps because the government wanted to avoid another uncalled-for political controversy when general elections are around the corner”.
All national-level functions will shift to the National War Memorial once it is opened to the public, the second defence ministry official said. “The eternal flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti will continue to burn and be used for functions and ceremonies other than those that are national level,” he added.
“It is a very welcome move, but the opening of the National War Memorial should have all representatives from all three services, gallantry awardees, veterans and even representatives of political parties,” noted military historian Mandeep Singh Bajwa said.