The Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was put out on Thursday, as confirmed by the officials. It was clarified by the Government that the flame shall not be extinguished but "merged" with the flame at the National War Memorial some 400 metres away.
Several allegations were made by the opposition party accusing the Government of attempting to rewrite history while a charge that the members of the establishment and the ruling party outright rejected.
In order to pay tribute to those soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was inaugurated at India Gate back in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. However, the flame had been burning uninterrupted since then for five decades until it was merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.
To mark India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, which also resulted in the formation of Bangladesh, the Amar Jawan Jyoti was established in 1972.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti also bears a marble pedestal that carries a cenotaph that sits to honour the fallen soldiers along with a rifle and a helmet.
During a ceremony presided over by the Integrated Defence Staff chief, Air Marshal Balabadhra Radha Krishna, a part of the flame was reportedly carried to the National War Memorial and merged with the flame there Amar Jawan Jyoti flame was extinguished.
The sole rationale behind merging the two Flames is that the officials say that the maintenance of two separate flames is complex and that merging would keep it more accessible to maintain. Since the time the National War Memorial was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, political and military leaders of the country have been laying wreaths In remembrance at the new site rather than the 50-year-old Amar Jawan Jyoti.
Soon after the decision of extinguishing the flame at the Amar Jawan Jyoti popped up, it led to public outrage and criticism from leaders of several opposition parties, after which the ruling party attempted to get ahead of the situation by issuing clarifications.
Another big story came in when the Prime Minister of India announced a grand statue of late Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to be installed beneath the very open canopy at the India Gate, which has been vacant since 1968 after the Statue of King George V was removed and replaced to Coronation Park in North West Delhi.
The reason that stands behind the step was explained by the prime minister in one of his tweets stating that at a time when the entire nation marks the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a grand statue made of granite shall be installed at the above-cited place which would prove to be a symbol of India's indebtedness to him.
It was reported that the above-cited sandstone canopy was constructed back in 1936, where now the statue of Netaji shall be inaugurated.
Noting the merging of the two flames, there were comments even from several war veterans, some appreciating the step while it simply wasn't well accepted for a few.
However, merging the flame comes just a few days before the republic day, where the military parade lays its respects at the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame. Now it could possibly raise a question on the republic day event as the situation has no more left as the same.
Since 1950, the parade has marched from the Rashtrapati Bhawan along the Rajpath to India Gate and Red Fort. Before the commencement of the grand parade, a floral wreath is laid by the Prime Minister at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, followed by two minutes of silence in the memory of fallen soldiers.
Since 1972, it was a custom for the President, Prime Minister, Chief of the Air Staff, Chief of the Naval Staff, Chief of the Army Staff and dignitaries to place a wreath at the monument but back in 2020, this custom was renovated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by placing the wreath at the National War Memorial instead of the India Gate. This could be considered an earlier signal that such a step of merging the flame could occur and would not affect the tradition.
The question arises how great of a difference would such renovations make? Many veterans have shown their support for the step and appreciated the merging of the flames.
(Edited by Aritra Banerjee)