On 14 October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Shaurya Smarak, a war memorial in Bhopal for India’s soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation. According to Congress Rajya Sabha MP and eminent lawyer Vivek Tankha, the idea of Shaurya Smarak evolved during the second Colonel Ajay Mushran Memorial Lecture held at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on July 10, 2008, which Mr Tankha had organised in his capacity as the President MP foundation, which hosts events in memory of deceased former finance minister of the state Ajay Mushran. In that year, the lecture was on ‘Why young men are no longer joining the army’.
Gracing the occasion were the then Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, the FOC-in-C of the Eastern Naval Command Rear Admiral Nirmal Verma (Later retired as CNS) and Lt Gen. Milan Naidu, who was then the VCOAS. Also present was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other political leaders including Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia. While addressing the audience, General Deepak Kapoor pointed out that the army is no longer attractive for young men as “the army does not get respected the way it used to… and if there is no respect for soldiers, no one will join the armed forces.” During the course of discussions, a number of speakers stated that India had not constructed a national war memorial after the memorial constructed by the British Indian Government at India Gate, though four wars had been fought and thousands of soldiers had laid down their lives for the country. Also, many soldiers had died, while protecting our borders and fighting insurgencies. At this point, Chief Minister Chouhan asked Vivek Tankha with simplicity, “Is it possible to construct a war memorial in a state?”. Thus was the idea of the Shaurya Smarak born.
The Chief Minister made four announcements that evening which included constructing a state war memorial in Bhopal and giving land in Bhopal and Jabalpur to veterans for constructing residential colonies. The foundation stone of Shaurya Smarak was laid in February 2009 in the presence of General Deepak Kapoor. The structure was completed in 2013, and it was suggested that President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurate the memorial in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. However, it was felt that merely having a column for martyred soldiers was not enough. It was suggested that a light and sound show should be made a permanent feature of the memorial so that tales of valour could be made known to the people. This took up a couple of years more to get the memorial in the shape it is in today. Spread over an area of 12.67 acres, the total cost of construction of the Shaurya Smarak is Rs 41 crore. It now has a sound and light show, library and war displays, besides the columns in which the name of the Shahids are etched. Indeed it is an auspicious sign that the nation is finally recognising the valour of its soldiers and paying respect to those that gave their life for the nation. The inauguration by the Prime Minister of the Shaurya Smarak is indeed momentous as the Prime Minister had promised to construct a National War Memorial in Delhi and funds for that purpose have been allotted. The Armed Forces and the whole nation await that happy day when the National War Memorial in Delhi will finally be inaugurated.