Against the idea of erecting a new memorial near India Gate as it would “alter the character of the place”

Eager not to let Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony have his say in the matter of erecting a National War Memorial near India Gate as that would “substantially alter the character of the place” and was “neither advisable nor desirable”, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday sought intervention of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the matter.

Ms. Dikshit, who had earlier written a letter on the issue to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 12, has urged Ms. Gandhi to stop the plans for locating the war memorial at the ‘C’ Hexagon of the Central Vista. Talking to The Hindu, she said, “I am not only speaking for my sentiments, but am speaking on behalf of the lakhs of people who come there.”

“A delegation of ex-Servicemen met me this morning and noted that there was a plot of land near Dhaula Kuan which was suitable for such a memorial. India Gate is as it is a war memorial and there is no need for another memorial in its vicinity. I have therefore apprised Ms. Gandhi about the issue,” the Chief Minister said.

In her letter to Dr. Singh, Ms. Dikshit had noted that a draft Cabinet note had been received by the Delhi Government from the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking its comments on the proposal to locate the National War Memorial at ‘C’ Hexagon. She had stated: “ …‘C’ Hexagon and India Gate premises were located on the Central Vista and attract a large number of visitors throughout the year. It is truly a public place and considering the location, urban form and character of the area, it offers a unique opportunity for people to relax and enjoy their leisure.”

Great urban legacy

The Chief Minister had also pointed out that “Delhi has no other place of this size and attraction where citizens can gather to celebrate amidst such beautiful open surroundings.”

Ms. Dikshit had also observed, “The spine of the Central Visa which includes the ‘C’ Hexagon, India Gate, Rajpath, North Block, South Block and Rashtrapati Bhawan are important architectural expressions with a great history, urban legacy and character.”

“Constructing a new memorial at this place,” she said, “would substantially alter the character of the place and any step in that direction is neither advisable nor desirable.”

Ms. Dikshit has also conveyed to Ms. Gandhi that “if the area is handed over to Defence authorities, access to common man and public will be seriously restricted”.

Stating that the move was likely to be criticised, the Chief Minister has suggested that a suitable location other than ‘C’ Hexagon can easily be identified for erecting a National War Memorial.

Incidentally, it has been revealed that even till November 2011 various options were under consideration for the National War Memorial. In the second meeting of the Group of Ministers held on November 28, 2011, it was stated that the “possible optional” sites that were visited by the officials included Princess Park, Sangli Mess and Syass Mess, close to India Gate/ ‘C’ Hexagon; Dhaula Kuan, Vijay Ghat and India Gate.

The Delhi Government had earlier also raised the query with Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh in November this year if “any national monuments can come up within 100 metres of the existing monument, India Gate”.

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