While unveiling a hologram statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at India Gate on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country was correcting “mistakes” made since Independence when, he said without naming governments, efforts were made to erase the contribution of “several great personalities” along with the nation’s heritage and culture.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah echoed the prime minister’s sentiments when he spoke at the event about “an attempt to push into oblivion” several personalities from the freedom struggle.
The prime minister said:
यह दुर्भाग्य रहा कि आज़ादी के बाद देश की संस्कृति और संस्कारों के साथ ही अनेक महान व्यक्तियों के योगदान को मिटाने का काम किया गया। स्वाधीनता संग्राम में लाखों-लाख देशवासियों की तपस्या शामिल थी लेकिन उनके इतिहास को भी सीमित करने की कोशिश हुई। लेकिन आज आज़ादी के दशकों बाद देश उन ग़लतियों को डंके की चोट पर सुधार रहा है, ठीक कर रहा है।
(“It was unfortunate that after independence, efforts were made to erase the contribution of several great personalities, along with the culture and heritage of the country. The freedom struggle involved the penance of lakhs of people, but there was an attempt to limit their history. But today, after decades of independence, the country is correcting those mistakes with élan.”)
The prime minister said: “Today, the country is developing five pilgrimage sites (पञ्च तीर्थ) associated with Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. The Statue of Unity has become a pilgrimage in the glory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. We have named the island of Andaman after Netaji. A memorial there has been dedicated to his name too. It is a tribute not only to Netaji but also to the jawans of the Indian National Army (INA).”
The prime minister referred to Janjatiya Gaurav Divas in honour of tribal icon Birsa Munda, and the construction of tribal museums across the country to mark the contribution of the community. He said it was the grand resolve of Azadi Ke Amrit Mahotsav — the 75th year of independence celebrations — that India would revive its identity and inspirations.
Hailing Netaji’s role in the freedom struggle, the prime minister described him as the person who established the first independent government on Indian soil — a reference to the Azad Hind government that was formed in October 1943 in Singapore, and which subsequently held jurisdiction in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
“Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose gave India the confidence to achieve an independent and prosperous country. With great pride, self-confidence and courage, he told the British he would not take independence as alms; ‘I will achieve it’. He was the person who established the first independent government on Indian soil. A splendid digital statue of our Nataji is being installed near India Gate. Very soon, in place of this digital statue, there will be a huge granite statue,” Modi said.
Hailing Netaji’s “can do, will do” spirit, Modi said: “Netaji said, ‘Never lose faith in the dream of an independent India, there is no power in the world that can shake India.’ Today, we have a goal to fulfil the dreams of independent India. We have the goal of building a new India before the 100th year of independence, which falls in 2047.”
The event marked the culmination of year-long celebrations of the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji, as also the official start of the 75th Republic Day celebrations. At 6:35 PM, the prime minister pressed a remote button and Netaji’s hologram statue came alive over the next few seconds, along with the signature tune associated with his INA, “kadam kadam badhaye ja”.
Elaborating on his government’s efforts to honour Netaji, the prime minister said: “I had the great fortune of visiting Netaji’s paternal house in Kolkata last year. And the experience I had cannot be expressed in words.”
The prime minister said he also cannot forget the day of 21 October 2018, which marked 75 years since the Azad Hind government was formed. “In 2018, I wore an INA cap and unfurled the national flag at Red Fort. We are also working on an INA memorial at Red Fort. It is also the good fortune of our government that we got the opportunity to make public the files related to Netaji,” he said.
On 21 January, the prime minister had announced that a “grand statue” of Netaji would be installed beneath the canopy at India Gate, which had remained empty since 1968 when the statue of King George V was moved from there to ythe Coronation Park near Burari. The announcement was made amid a political row surrounding the government move to extinguish the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the flame burning since Indira Gandhi’s era at India Gate to honour soldiers killed in action since the First World War, besides those who had died for British India, after merging it with the flame at the National War Memorial nearby and thus avoiding duplication.
Officials in the Ministry of Culture said Netaji’s hologram will be powered by a 30,000 lumens 4K projector until the granite statue is completed. They said that a “90% transparent” holographic screen had been put in place in such a way so that it was not visible to visitors.
“The size of the hologram statue is 28×6 feet, same as the actual granite statue, and it will continue to be beamed from sunset to sunrise everyday till the actual statue comes in,” an official said. The graphic model of the statue has been designed by a team from the National Gallery of Modern Art, under its Director-General Adwaita Gadanayak, while the sculptor is being shortlisted.
Several steps have been taken by the government to honour Netaji’s legacy, including celebrating his birth anniversary as Parakram Diwas every year, and starting the Republic Day celebrations a day early from this year — from 23 January.
Speaking at the event, Home Minister Shah said, “This will not be just a granite statue but an expression of the feelings that the nation has for Netaji. There has been an attempt to push into oblivion many such personalities who struggled for India’s freedom. But today, with the decision to install the Netaji statue here, the nation is feeling satisfied and enthusiastic.”
The prime minister also gave away this year’s disaster management awards to Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management and Professor Vinod Sharma, vice chairman of Sikkim Disaster Management Authority. He gave away the awards for previous years, going back to 2019. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 51 lakh and a certificate in case of an institution, and Rs 5 lakh and a certificate in case of an individual.
Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Meenakshi Lekhi, trustees of the INA, and officials from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Coast Guard attended the event.
The prime minister said that the attitude towards disaster management was previously that of digging a well when one got thirsty. “But in 2001, after the earthquake in Gujarat, the country was forced to think anew. It changed the meaning of disaster management. At the time, the Gujarat State Disaster Management Act was enacted. Gujarat was the first state to enact such a law. Later, the union government, after being inspired by the Gujarat law, enacted a disaster management act for the whole country in 2005… It was this law which helped the country during the Covid pandemic,” he said.