Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait missing at Attari border complex even year after inauguration

Man Aman Singh Chhina
Wagah border, Attari Wagah border, Mahatma Gandhi portrait at Wagah border, Mahatma Gandhi portrait at Attari Wagah border, Attari border India, Wagah border Pakistan, India news, Indian Express

Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait atop the ‘Swarn Jayanti Dwar’; (right) The visitor’s gallery after it was renovated sans the portrait. (File)

A portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, which for many years adorned the ‘Swarn Jayanti Dwar’ (Golden Jubilee Gate) at the Joint Check Post (JCP) on the India-Pakistan border at Attari, in Punjab, has not been put up at the revamped visitors’ gallery even a year it was inaugurated by then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in January 2019.

The BSF said a bigger portrait of the Mahatma will be put up in the visitors’ gallery, and a photo will also be displayed in the upcoming museum along with other national heroes.

Earlier, Gandhi’s portrait was prominently displayed on the Indian side of the border facing Pakistan, while the Pakistani side has the photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah on display.

In the new visitors’ gallery, which has enhanced seating arrangements, the Swarn Jayanti Dwar no longer has the Father of the Nation’s image. The Pakistani side continues to display Jinnah’s photograph.

Shubhendu Bhardwaj, Public Relations Officer, BSF Headquarters, New Delhi, told The Indian Express, “A bigger photo in proportion will be put up (at visitors’ gallery). A museum is planned where photographs of all national heroes will be placed, including (that of) Mahatma Gandhi.”

There was no word on why the portrait had not been put up yet.

Construction of the gallery was completed in August 2018, and it was inaugurated in January 2019.


Bigger, better gallery built in 3 yrs

Work on the new visitors’ complex started in 2015 and was completed by the middle of 2018 at a cost of Rs 37 crore. Then Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is now the Defence Minister, inaugurated it on January 22, 2019. The seating capacity of more than 20,000 people is substantially more than the previous gallery. In another addition, gates of the zero line have been changed by both India and Pakistan to afford a better view of visitors on both sides of the border.

Under the new design, “India” is inscribed on top of the gallery facing Pakistan, and “First Line of Defence” on the lower gallery. Earlier, the Mahatma’s portrait used to be in the middle of Swarn Jayanti Dwar facing Pakistan, with the Tricolour on top.

The JCP at Attari, on the Indian side, and Wagah, on Pakistani side, is famous for the retreat ceremony that takes place every evening, when the national flags are lowered following an elaborately choreographed parade and display of patriotic sentiment by personnel of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers. Over the years, the parade has become a major tourist attraction, with thousands watching it every evening through the year.

The project of the new gallery was undertaken by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).

Asked about the missing Mahatma Gandhi portrait, Executive Engineer, CPWD, Amritsar, Pushpinder Singh, said he was not authorised to speak with the media. He said CPWD was only concerned with the construction aspect of the new gallery, not the decorations.

BSF PRO at Punjab Frontier Headquarters at Jalandhar, an officer of DIG rank, also said he was not authorised to speak with the media on the issue.

Sources in BSF told The Indian Express that Gandhi’s portrait will be put up in a museum, which will be built at Attari border in a year’s time.

“I do not know why the portrait was taken down because the officers who were in charge then have been posted out,” a BSF source said.

“May be the decision was taken because the museum will come up, where all national heroes will have their portraits displayed. It could also have been taken down to prevent any damage occurring to it due to storm, rain, etc.”