Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday dedicated to the country the National War Memorial (NWM) at the India Gate complex in New Delhi.
The PM inaugurated the NWM in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the three service chiefs and other senior government officials.
“It is because of you that India is one of the world’s strongest armies. The tradition you have established with your valour is incomparable,” PM Modi said while addressing a massive gathering which also had in attendance many ex-servicemen from all three services.
“From this place, I pay my tribute to all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives at Pulwama,” he said referring to the 44 CRPF soldiers who died in a terrorist attack on 14 February.
“India’s soldiers pick up the weapon to bring peace. The highest number of martyrs in peacekeeping forces are from India,” the PM said.
The PM reminded the gathering that the nation had to wait for over 70 years since Independence for the NWM.
“The NWM was proposed many years ago. Some attempts were made in the last decade but could not succeed,” he said referring to the long wait for the war memorial.
Without taking names, the PM took jibes at the Gandhi family and the previous government led by the Congress.
“From Bofors to helicopter, all investigations are pointing to one family. That says a lot. Now these people are trying to prevent the Rafale from coming to India. To some people, the family is bigger than the country. Is India first or family first?” the PM said.
“Khud ko Bharat ka bhagyavidhata samjhne waale logon ne rashtra ke suraksha se khilwad karne mein koi kasar nahi chodi (Those who thought of themselves as the makers of India’s destiny did not leave any stone unturned while playing with the security of the country),” he said amid slogans of ‘Modi-Modi’.
The PM pointed out that while a demand for 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets was placed in 2009, nothing was done to meet the urgent requirement.
“It was only in the last four years that over 2.30 lakh bulletproof jackets have been purchased for the personnel of the armed forces,” the PM said, adding that India has also placed an order of 72000 modern assault rifles.
At the inauguration ceremony, the PM highlighted the plans and policies taken by his government for the welfare of the personnel of the armed forces such as OROP besides the various programmes and initiatives to recognise their sacrifice.
PM Modi said that his government has taken initiatives to help women assume frontline roles in the armed forces.
“Because of this ideology, for the first time women are getting the opportunity to become fighter pilots. Decisions are being taken to strengthen the participation of daughters in the forces,” he said.
He said that his government has taken steps to bring in FDI in defence and changed the defence purchase procedure.
Speaking at the ceremony, Defence Minister Sitharaman said that there was always an “inexorable requirement of our own war memorial to pay tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives for the country”.
“We waited for several decades for this great day. This NWM will keep reminding us and the generations to come of the valour, the pride and the selfless service of our soldiers. It will inspire them to pay their respect to the soldiers and be a soldier themselves,” she added.
PM takes tour of National War Memorial
Following the inauguration, the PM took a tour of the memorial. The PM enquired about the details of the construction and was seen taking a keen interest in the panels and the murals depicting the valour of the soldiers.
He also greeted the three living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra – Subedar Sanjay Kumar, Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav and Captain (Hony) Bana Singh.
He also paid tribute to the fallen soldiers at the obelisk at the centre of the memorial.
Built by the Military Engineering Services (MES) in record time, the NWM is the first memorial dedicated to soldiers of all three services of the Indian armed forces who laid down their lives in defence of the motherland during the wars.
The memorial has 16 walls bearing the names of the 25,942 Indian soldiers who attained martyrdom in the wars since 1947, the United Nations peace-keeping missions, counter-insurgency operations, Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, and Low-Intensity Conflict Operations (LICO).
Commemorating the sacrifice of the soldiers and the concept of values of armed forces, the structure has been built in the form of four chakras with an eternal flame and obelisk located in the inner-most chakra.
The memorial is designed in the shape of four concentric circles – the ‘Amar Chakra’ or Circle of Immortality, ‘Virta Chakra’ or Circle of Bravery, ‘Tyag Chakra’ or Circle of Sacrifice and ‘Rakshak Chakra’ or Circle of Protection.
A tribute to the 21 winners of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) is also a part of the memorial. A bust of each of the PVC winner along with information about them graces an area adjacent to the main memorial.
The NWM, which was first proposed in 1960, was almost forgotten till the current government approved its construction in 2015. The demand for the NWM was significant because India was till now the only major military power without a memorial to all its soldiers.
While the India Gate bears the names of the soldiers who died in the First World War, the Amar Jawan commemorates the sacrifice of the soldiers in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
The NWM has been reportedly built at a cost of around Rs 170 crore and will be connected via a subway to the War Museum, which is coming up in the Princess Park area.