Saturday, March 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

A tale of unkept promises
Anirudh Gupta and Kulwinder Sandhu

Ferozepore, March 22
Shahidon ki chitaon par lagenge har baras mele, Vatan par mitne walon ka yahi baaki nishan hoga..... These blood curdling lines that remind us of the tales of bravery of the Independence struggle barely hold significance any more. The martyrs are well remembered by the politicians either on paper or in the political conferences that are organised to gain publicity.

The National Martyr’s Memorial at Hussainiwala near here that depicts an irrepressible revolutionary spirit of the three national martyrs — Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev — is a victim of the government’s apathy. Although every year March 23 is observed as Martyrdom Day and promises are made to beautify the memorial site but these promises are hardly kept.

Sixtyone years ago, on this very day, the three great national heroes were ‘unceremoniously’ cremated by the British on the banks of the river Sutlej at Hussainiwala, 10 km from the district headquarters, after they were hanged to death in Central Jail, Lahore, the previous night. A function is organised every year to mark the solemn occasion in which political personalities from the state as well as the Centre come to pay homage to the martyrs and address the gatherings holding out all promises and utopian dreams.

This ritual is repeated every year but hardly any promises are kept and virtually nothing is implemented. To the utter dismay of the people, especially the residents of the town and freedom fighters in particular, things have been falling in the same rut with neither the state nor the Union Governments keeping their word to make available regular grants for the upkeep and beautification of the martyrs’ memorial.

Not to go far behind, last year only the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, promised a grant of Rs 1 crore for the purpose of the beautification of this historical site. Similarly, Mr Kuldeep Nayyar, MP, announced a grant of Rs 2 crore but these grants are still awaited. The then Prime Minister, late Rajiv Gandhi, during his visit to Hussainiwala in 1985 had promised that a beautiful monument would be raised here that assurance, too, did not go beyond lip service.

The Gateway of India, “Shan-e-Hind”, coming up at the international border, the foundation stone of which was laid last year by Mr Parkash Singh Badal is still far from completion though the stipulated time for its completion was four months. PUDA officials attribute the delay in the project to the complicated design of the structure which was designed by the Chief Architect, Punjab.

Mr Boota Singh, JE, supervising the construction work said a team comprising architect Sumeet Kaur and designer I.C. Syal had come last month to sort out the design-related problem. The gate, which is to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 38.16 lakh, was sanctioned after persistent efforts of the local administration. An amount of Rs 22 lakh has already been spent on this prestigious gate which will be a befitting tribute to the martyrs.

But apart from the construction of this gate, after relentless clamouring by the residents, nothing has been done to beautify the area which is the only place of tourist attraction in and around Ferozepore. Over the years, all those people who visited Hussainiwala to witness the retreat ceremony at the joint check post of the BSF and Pakistani Rangers, despair as there was no gate on the Indian side matching Pakistan’s “Fakhr-e-Pak” built 31 years ago.

It is worth mentioning that the place where martyrs’ memorial is situated and the busts of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev are placed was retrieved from Pakistan in exchange for 12 villages of Fazilka. The Pakistani forces had invaded and captured this area during the Indo-Pak conflict of 1971. But the irony is that the memorial, which assumes great significance from the national point of view, is a victim of the government’s apathy. It is high time now that the government should wake up from its slumber and do something substantial for the renovation and beautification of the memorial so that it continues to invoke a spirit of patriotism and sacrifice for the motherland.Back

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