Pulling down of Martyrs' Column in Tripura sparks controversy

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Agartala, July 7 (PTI) A controversy is raging in Tripura over the pulling down of a 'Martyrs' Column' erected by the Army in memory of Indian soldiers who had lost their lives during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

The memorial was located in Post Office Chowmuhani, a busy area in the Tripura state capital, and every year the state government and the Indian Army used to pay floral tributes to the martyrs at the war memorial on January 26 and August 15.

A joint statement issued by a group of intellectuals, including writers, Bangladesh Mukti Bahinis (freedom fighters), and professors in Bangladesh universities said, 'The 40-feet-tall Martyrs' Memorial at Post Office Chowmuhani in the centre of Agartala, the capital of Tripura, is one of the most important monuments and symbol of friendship of the people of India and Bangladesh......

'We request the Indian authorities to restore the monument in the same place.' The support of the people of India and Tripura in the 1971 liberation war was an integral part of the history of Bangladeshs independence, they said.

A battle tank and an artillery gun placed adjacent to the War Column had already been shifted to Albert Ekka Park in the Lichubagan area in the new capital complex last year.

Sailesh Kumar Yadav, the then district magistrate of the West Tripura district, had said in a press statement on November 5, 'It was a long-standing demand of the Indian Army to make a big war memorial and the issue was raised before Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb when he came to power in 2018.

The project was taken up under Smart City Mission.' The Albert Ekka War memorial is already under construction in the Lichubagan area and a replica of the victory pillar at Post office Chowmuhani has been constructed at Lichubagan Park, Yadav had said.

The tank and the artillery gun have been shifted from Post office Chowmuhani to Alber Ekka War Memorial on a newly constructed granite base.

'This has been done after obtaining written permission from the Sainik Board and holding consultations with the authorities of the Indian Army over the last one year.

'The post office Chowmuhani with an existing diameter of 28 metres is the reason for traffic jams in the area,' he said.

The Post office Chowmuhani will be reconstructed with a reduced diameter of 18 metres on the theme of Tree of Life under the same project of Smart City Mission, Yadav said.

'The only aim is to fulfil the longstanding demand of the Armed Forces to create a befitting war memorial for the 1971 war and Albert Ekka, a demand which remained unfulfilled for decades', Yadav said.

However, opposition political parties Congress and CPI-M, and a group of intellectuals from Bangladesh have demanded reinstallation of the war memorial at its original location.

While Tripura Cultural Coordination Centre, a Left organisation, demanded immediate restoration of the memorial, Tripura Pradesh Congresss Vice President Tapas Dey said, 'It is unbecoming and unjustified to show disgrace to those who laid down their lives.

'If they are doing it for beautification, they could keep the memorial intact. It is unfortunate that they did not even discuss the move with any political party.' Condemning the action, convener of Tripura Left Front committee Bijan Dhar said, 'They are wiping out history'.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty said, 'The Sainik Board wrote so many times to maintain it properly and that is the reason it was shifted to Albert Ekka Memorial Park. Our government is trying to protect such a war memorial.' Veteran journalist Manas Paul, said, 'So far I know, the Army itself demanded the war memorial be set up elsewhere as they need more space for paying homage to the martyrs on January 26 and August 15.' PTI JOY MM MM

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