Rally to support a martyrs memorial

Nava Thakuria is a Northeast India journalist, based in Guwahati, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world. Nava is also secretary of the Journalists' Forum Assam.

The virtual capital of northeast India is expecting a splendid war martyrs memorial very soon. Bringing great relief to patriotic people of the alienated region, the Gauhati High Court recently dismissed a public interest  litigation [PIL] for permanently halting the construction of a war memorial on the northern bank of historic Dighalipukhuri [literary meaning long pond] arguing that the construction activities would  affect the ecology of the Guwahati pond and also destroy its link between the present and past history.

However, the higher court in its order pronounced on 30 March described that the proposed memorial would inspire the children and youth of Assam to join the armed forces. It would also inculcate in them respect for the members of the armed forces who have sacrificed their lives for the country, the verdict added.

The division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Manojit Bhuyan observed that the respondents including the State government assured that there would be no construction activity in the water body of Dighalipukhuri and the pond would be preserved and protected from encroachment.

Opposition to Martyrs Memorial

It may be mentioned that noted Assamese academic Dr Hiren Gohain led a group of Guwahatians to knock the door of the court through a PIL two months back challenging the construction, following which the court directed to maintain the status quo on any construction activities around Dighalipukhuri.

The War Memorial
The War Memorial

The group of opposing citizens initially claimed that they represented the entire population of Guwahati and no one was in favour of the memorial. They organized demonstrations, a press meet and media columns in local newspapers and tried to create massive public opinion against the project. However many civil society groups including the families of ‘men in uniform’s came out strongly in support of the memorial.

Amazingly the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) took a stand against the memorial and threatened that they would not allow any war memorial in Assam, as it would ‘only glorify the Indian armed forces.’ The insurgent outfit claimed that New Delhi had been ‘forcefully invading Assam’ and hence it would continue opposing the project.

Support For The Memorial

It may be noted that the war (martyrs) memorial project was initiated by Sainik Welfare Board of Assam with financial support from the State government at Dispur. Its foundation stone was laid on 18 May last year by none other than Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Acclaimed Assamese sculptor Biren Singha designed the statues and other artifacts for the 100 million budget project.

The memorial is designed to comprise the statues of Ahom General Lachit Barphukan with many other soldiers – who fought the 1671 Battle of Saraighat (over the mighty river Brahmaputra), an Amar Jawan Jyoti reverse rifle with a helmet on top, a uniformed soldier with his rifle reverse arm salute and also relief panels depicting iconic battle scenes from pre and post independent India.

Sainik Welfare Board of Assam director commodore (retired) Kamalesh Chandra Choudhury earlier said in an affidavit to the court that construction of the war memorial started on government land outside the area of Dighalipukhuri. He also committed that no construction activity would be carried out in the water body of the 4.5-hectare tank.

Rally to support a martyrs memorial

Regarding the location, Choudhury highlighted that Dighalipukhuri played an immense role in the famous naval battle of Saraighat and hence it would be the most appropriate place for a war memorial in the whole of Assam.  Moreover, a war memorial in the city was a long standing demand from the patriotic people of the alienated region, added Choudhury.

Meanwhile, the Patriotic People’s Front Assam [PPFA] welcomed the verdict clearing all hurdles to complete the proposed memorial in the heart of the city. Many civil society groups including the PPFA supported the move to erect a war memorial and the court directive had finally vindicated their stand.

“We are happy that the honourable court has paved the way for the completion of war martyr’s memorial,” said a statement issued by Rupam Barua, Pramod Kalita, Anup Sharma, Girindra Karji, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Pankaj Duarah, Tarali Chakrabarty etc of PPFA. It added that the initiative would suerly inspire the present and future generations to remember the heroism and sacrifice of our great martyrs.

many people at the public rally to support a memorial
Many people came to the public rally to support a martyrs memorial.