Today, on July 26, India celebrated the 19th anniversary of Kargil Divas marking India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1999 Kargil war. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, everyone paid homage to 527 martyrs of the war that was fought in the harsh weather conditions of the Kashmir valley.
While the ministers across states acknowledged the efforts and gallantry of our Armed Forces in the Kargil war, the family members of both retired and martyred defence personnels in Bengaluru demanded the government to unveil the long-pending National Military Memorial by August 15 this year.
In 2010, then Karnataka government commissioned the National Military Memorial(NMM), country’s first war memorial recognising the sacrifices of armed forces. Eight years after, the memorial is awaiting its inauguration as a 75-foot obelisk called Veeragallu or the Hero Stone is yet to be installed. For eight years the state has been shirking its responsibilities with vague promises and flimsy excuses. As a result, the memorial that was to recognise and honor the valor of the defence personnels is currently lying incomplete and poorly-maintained.
Spearheaded by Priya Chetty Rajagopal, daughter of Col DGK Chetty, the group of ‘fauji kids’- as they preferred to be called- has started a campaign #CompleteNMM its #vijaykargildiwas. From writing letters to the CM and Bangalore Development Authority(BDA) commissioner to taking to social media to gather support of the people, the group has vowed not to stop until the state fulfills its promise of formally inaugurating the memorial by erecting the monolith, Veeragallu.
“The Army does its job without excuses. They have done their bit. The least government can do is fulfil their promise. We didn’t ask them for this. They promised but then forgot. This is disrespect to the people who stand on borders and fight for the freedom we all live with. How hard it is to move an obelisk 45 kms? They say it’s not easy. Do army men carry that attitude?,” Priya Chetty told Youth Ki Awaaz.
Reiterating Rajagopal’s points, Ms Padmini, wife of a Kargil veteran, said, “We shouldn’t have to a point where we have to push the government so hard to fulfil their promise of honoring the defence personnel who fought for the country and never let anyone down. I and my husband once went to Australia and he was so moved to see their war memorial that celebrated the fallen soldiers. He wondered if India would ever have something like this that honors the soldiers.”
Pointing out the inconsistency in the state’s efforts towards National Military Memorial, Rajagopal argued that the state government covers it’s lack of will with several excuses. She rejects to subscribe to the claims that the state is facing logistic challenges to bring the Veeragallu to its rightful place in NMM, while it has all the capacities to obstruct the traffic and destroy the road to carry and install a 62-foot-tall and 750-tonne heavy Hanuman statue.
“They either give promises or excuses. The Army never does that even when the governments dumb them to services that ideally should be handled by civic bodies,” she argued.
After Rajagopal’s effort to raise the issue of eight years delay in unveiling the NMM, former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other officials to admit their inaction. In a TV debate on June 2017, the state government not only acknowledged the issue, but also assured that they would expedite the process and unveil NMM by August 15 last year. However, the promises never translated to reality.
“Many promised deadlines have passed but nothing has happened on ground. But we aren’t giving up our resolve. We have approached the current CM and deputy CM and will keep out efforts on until NMM is unveiled. It’s for those who fight for us and the least we can do is honor them and show that we haven’t forgotten their services to the country,” said Surabhi Tomar, daughter of wing commander SS Tomar.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekar — who was also the chairman of the National Military Memorial Committee — has written to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy regarding the condition of the memorial.