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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Mohali’s ‘pride’? Why Fateh Burj no longer lives up to its stature

Mohali’s ‘pride’ : The memorial inaugurated six years ago lacks in upkeep, has underutilised facilities, lacklustre lawns, no lifts and its inner walls have been defaced by graffiti

punjab Updated: Jan 10, 2018 15:21 IST
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Hindustan Times, Mohali
The approach road to Fateh Burj in Chappar Chiri is dilapidated and with no markings.
The approach road to Fateh Burj in Chappar Chiri is dilapidated and with no markings. (Sikander Singh/HT)

It was meant to be a place of pride, a one of a kind memorial to acknowledge the valour and courage of the Sikhs over the Mughals in a historic battle. But as one approaches the towering ‘Fateh Burj’ housed in the sprawling Baba Banda Singh Bahadur War Memorial in Chappar Chiri , on the outskirts of Mohali, it seems we just don’t have what it takes to look after grand projects such as this. The Memorial, spread over 20 acres of land, was completed at a cost of nearly Rs 36 crore in just 11 months. It opened in 2011.

Six years since it was officially inaugurated by then Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal with much fanfare, the Memorial lies in a state of neglect. At a giddying height of 328 feet, the Fateh Burj or Victory Tower may have set a record as the tallest memorial in the country, crossing even the Qutab Minar, but its present condition doesn’t live up to its tall stature.

Historic relevance

It was here in Chappar Chiri that the Sikhs led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur defeated the tyrant Mughal forces led by Wazir Khan. Situated a few kilometres from Landran and around 20 kms from Sirhind, this area was the site of the Battle of Sirhind that took place on May 12, 1710. According to information available, Wazir Khan deployed his cannons and lined up his elephants, cavalry and skilled warriors at a plain site beyond which lay the rough landscape of Chappar Chiri (Chappar means pond and Chiri means cluster of trees) and surrounding tibbas (mounds).

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur reached the site on the eve of the battle. He climbed the highest tibba to take stock of the situation and drew a strategy for war. The tibbas provided defence from cannon fire and the chiri forced the enemy to engage in close quarter fighting.

Wild growth is covering the transformer.
Wild growth is covering the transformer. ( Sikander Singh/HT )

Under-construction lifts , underutilised facilities

The approach to the Memorial is a bumpy ride and the problems start in the parking itself. Unpaved and with no markings, it’s a dusty arrival in an open ground. The ‘Verka Milk Bar’ signage is more prominent and an eyesore just in front of the entrance.

Only one of the two gates is open for entry and there’s an unmistakable run-down look about the place. Entry to the Memorial is free but visitor arrivals are duly noted and a handout is given. Currently being looked after Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), the green belt surrounding the tower is lacklustre with no winter blooms leading the way to the historic site.

The ‘Fateh Burj’, which showcases three battle victories via three levels in the tower – Victory of Samana at 67 feet, Victory of Sadhaura at 117 feet and Victory of Chappar Chiri at 220 feet – is still awaiting the installation of lifts, an important part of the original plan. Instead you have unfinished wooden boards blocking gaping holes in the inner building. The signs of neglect are obvious with graffiti on the walls and the mindless scribble on one side that reads ‘Upar kamm chal riha hai’ (work is going on upstairs) in Punjabi. “The lifts are going to be installed by GMADA soon,” is all the memorial’s manager Tejinder Singh is willing to inform.

The Memorial which has six mounds with the statues of Banda Singh Bahadur and his five generals – Bhai Fateh Singh, Bhai Aali Singh, Bhai Maali Singh, Bhai Baaj Singh and Bhai Ram Singh – bear a similar washed down look. The grass cover is thin and the rooms below the mounds which were meant to work as museums are lying vacant and closed. Speaking of closed facilities, the cafeteria which ran for two years, is now closed as no new contract has been given for the same, inform sources. Once spotted from afar with its spectacular lights, it’s no longer the case with many lights now non-functional or in need of repairs. The water body surrounding the Memorial, though clean, is not yet full.

Rusted chairs inside the memorial, which is spread over 20 acre. The project was completed at a cost of nearly Rs 36 crore in 11 months and was inaugurated by the then Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal in 2011.
Rusted chairs inside the memorial, which is spread over 20 acre. The project was completed at a cost of nearly Rs 36 crore in 11 months and was inaugurated by the then Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal in 2011. ( Sikander Singh/HT )

Popular with tourists but no special initiatives

According to sources, the Memorial sees a footfall of over 2 lakh visitors a year and while the place has immense historic significance, there have been no initiatives to involve the public or conduct events here. The only show held here was a laser show in 2016 marking the 300th shaheedi of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, informed an official.

“It is a very commanding structure but there is not much to do here. It looks neglected. There should be more events to involve the community,” said Gurpreet Singh, a visitor from Kharar who had brought his NRI relatives to the Memorial for an outing.The Memorial which boasts of a large theatre which can seat over 1,200 people has never been used and even the washrooms are in need of repairs. “It is the job of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Punjab to make this place a cultural hub and help increase tourism,” remarked an official. According to sources, GMADA is keen to handover charge back to the Department of Cultural Affairs for the further development and maintenance of the Memorial.

“Memorials should be relevant to the present generation. There has to be a public connect. Schools and college students should be brought here and informed of their heritage. I haven’t come across any advertisement or programme by the government that helps promote this place,” remarked Harvir Ahluwalia, a Mohali-based architect and consultant.

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 15:21 IST