Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fazilka war memorial for 1971 martyrs still awaiting funds

Raakhi JaggaIndian Express, 16th December 2010
A war memorial built on 5.5 acre of land in village Asafwala, about 7 km from Fazilka, still awaits grants announced by various politicians many years ago. This memorial is an initiative of Fazilka residents to remember the 226 martyrs of 1971 Indo-Pak war who laid down their lives to save this sub-tehsil. The prominent ones are Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who announced a Rs 5 lakh grant way back in 2001 and former Ferozepur MP Balram Jakhar who had announced Rs 1 lakh. Both the grants never came.

On Thursday, the trust managing the memorial will be remembering the martyrs to observe Vijay Diwas in which apart from Army officials and the DC, college students will also be participating in large numbers. The trust is organising a marathon to spread awareness about the environment in which bicycles will be gifted to students. Patriotic dramas will also be staged by college students.

After the war, mass cremation of the martyrs was carried out on about 1 kanal of land by the villagers and Army officials. Later the piece of land, owned by one Ram Rakha Thukral, was converted into a memorial.

Gradually a trust — Shaheedon Ki Samadhi Committee was formed. It purchased more land and a beautiful memorial built by the residents themselves was unveiled by then Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh in September 1972.

Sandeep Galhotra, president of this trust, told The Indian Express, "From 1 Kanal, the space is today 5.5 acre where we have set up a war museum as well in which pictures of all the 226 martyrs have been displayed.

The Army authorities helped us to get these pics and we are maintaining this memorial on our own at an annual expenditure of around Rs 1 lakh. But one high school, primary school and dispensary built in the same premises are being maintained by government. From time to time, we have received a few lakh rupees from the government but initially, for raising the memorial and even to purchase the land, the residents themselves took the initiative."

Galhotra agreed that many politicians had announced funds but only a few kept their promise. Still, they are continuing their public initiative and maintaining the memorial from their own funds. Of 226 martyrs, 82 were from the 4 Jat Regiment while the others were from the 3 Assam Rifles and 15 Rajput regiments. The trust organises programmes annually.

Mohan Lal Pruthi, general secretary of the trust, said, "We are spreading awareness among the youth as well about the sacrifices of our martyrs." He added, "Unlike many government-maintained memorials which are in dilapidated condition, we have maintained it in the best way."

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