The Amar Jawan Jyoti or the ‘eternal flame’ at the iconic India Gate will be extinguished after 50 years today and merged with the flame at the adjoining National War Memorial (NWM) in the run-up to this Republic Day. “A part of the flame at the Amar Jawan Jyoti will be carried to the NWM during a solemn ceremony to merge the two flames at 3:30 PM,” a defence ministry official said yesterday.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti was placed in 1971 under the India Gate arch in memory of 3,843 Indian soldiers who were killed in action, liberating Bangladesh. The National War Memorial, built in 2019, honours 26,466 soldiers martyred since 1947.
Opinion on the decision to extinguish the Amar Jawan Jyoti is divided. “It’s sacrilege… The Jyoti holds a special place in the hearts of our citizens,” said a veteran, who did not want to be named. Others like former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) saw nothing wrong with the move. “India Gate was built (by the British) to pay homage to (84,000) soldiers who died in World War-I and earlier. The Amar Jawan Jyoti was later added as an ad hoc arrangement. Now that we have a proper NWM, it is appropriate to shift the eternal flame to the new location,” said former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd).
Former INC chief Rahul Gandhi disagrees. “It is a matter of great sadness that the immortal flame that used to burn for our brave soldiers will be extinguished today,” he said in a tweet.
In a subtle jibe at the Narendra Modi government, the INC MP added, “Some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice – never mind We will once again light the Amar Jawan Jyoti for our soldiers.”
Rajpath and India Gate, both overhauled, are gearing up for Republic Day celebrations. Apart from Rajpath being relaid, 10 canals on its both sides have been refurbished and 16 permanent bridges constructed.
Aerators have been installed in the canals for automatic cleaning of water and layers of grass laid after completion of underground services. For the first time, a bleacher seating system has been set up for Republic Day spectators.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti was built under its arch by the Indira Gandhi government to honour the 3,843 soldiers who died liberating Bangladesh in 1971.
All national-level functions to pay homage to fallen soldiers, including the Republic Day and Independence Day, have been shifted from the Amar Jawan Jyoti to the NWM after it was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi in February 2019.