Shifting of Amar Jawan Jyoti, new Netaji statue trigger political protest in Bengal

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Shifting of Amar Jawan Jyoti, new Netaji statue trigger political protest in Bengal
© Provided by Hindustan Times Merging of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame at India Gate with the flame at the National War Memorial in New Delhi on Friday. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO.)

The West Bengal Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Friday opposed the shifting of the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi and criticised the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for announcing a new statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the India Gate.

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Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a statue of Netaji would be set up at India Gate in the heart of the national capital and till it is made there will be a three-dimensional holographic statue which he will inaugurate on Bose’s 125th birth anniversary on January 23.

“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate. This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him,” tweeted the Prime Minister and posted images of the holograph and the proposed statue.

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“Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary,” said a second tweet from the Prime Minister.

During the day, the Centre also moved the torches at Amar Jawan Jyoti – a memorial set up in Delhi in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as homage to Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War – to the newly constructed National War Memorial nearby.

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The TMC criticised both the decisions.

“Indira Gandhi had lit the Amar Jawan Jyoti after the 1971 Bangladesh War. L K Advani compared her to Goddess Durga for that victory against Pakistan. Modi, on the other hand, set up the National War Memorial in 2019. Both flames could have been allowed. The BJP and the RSS had no contribution in India’s freedom struggle. The BJP wants to wipe out our history and present a distorted narrative,” said TMC Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy.

Though he welcomed the decision to set up a new statue of Netaji, Roy said it was an effort to divert people’s attention from the protest against denial to the tableau on Netaji that the Bengal government planned for the Republic Day parade in Delhi.

“The Centre could have allowed the tableau. They rejected it because of their narrow-minded politics. The Centre wants to install the statue because the BJP has been exposed. It has no respect for our national heroes,” said Roy.

Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also targeted the BJP, saying it had insulted soldiers of the Indian army.

“The BJP wants to distort every episode in history. The shifting of the flame is an insult to soldiers who laid down their lives. Similarly, the announcement on a new statue of Netaji is a hasty afterthought to divert public attention from the denial to the tableau. The BJP is doing politics with Netaji with an eye on elections,” Chowdhury said.

Netaji’s daughter, Anita Bose-Pfaff, who lives in Germany, told news agency PTI on January 17 that Bose’s legacy has often been exploited for political reasons.

“…..the opening of the anniversary year was celebrated in a bigger way, of all places in Kolkata, had something to do with election and election prospects in Bengal. The fact that nothing happened this year…..certainly the issue is not as important as last year,” she had told PTI in an interview.

In January last year, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a high-level committee headed by him for holding year-long programmes to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Bose.

The 85-member committee included union ministers, parliamentarians from Bengal, chief ministers, historians and members of the Bose family. Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, former prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda and Congress leaders, Ghulam Nazi Azad and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were made members of the committee.

“This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom. Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son,” Shah tweeted on Friday.

Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose, a BJP leader from Bengal, is also a member of the committee.

Bose, who had criticised the BJP on several occasions in the past, said during the controversy over the tableau that the committee was defunct.

“Tug of War with #Netaji Tableau- no one thought about the content being displayed on the Tableau depicting #NetajiINA! People questioning the expertise of the #Expert Committee to judge the history being projected! What was the necessity of the #High-Level Committee when it is defunct,” Bose tweeted on Wednesday.

Defending the Centre, Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “The Congress and the Leftists, who made all efforts to downplay Netaji’s role in the freedom struggle, are raising their voice when the BJP is celebrating Netaji’s birthday as Parakram Diwas (day of valour). This is nothing but an effort to create an unnecessary controversy.”

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