July 12, 2021
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Memory’s worth

To: either/view subscribers

Good morning. An 11-year-old boy, Laurent Simons, became the second youngest graduate in the world recently. A graduate in physics, it took him just a year to complete his degree. He said that he aimed to make humans immortal.

Sigh. All I wanted to do when I was 11 was to make sandcastles and play with them!


Tripura: The Relocation of Martyr’s Column

Under the Agartala Smart City Project, the Martyr’s Column commemorating the brave fighters of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which led to the liberation of Bangladesh, was pulled down. The column would be relocated to Albert Ekka Park, located in the outskirts of the city. This sparked off criticism from the people of Tripura and Bangladesh. Opposition parties claimed that the act was unjustified and designed to defame martyrs. However, the government emphasized that the move was an effort to better the Indo-Bangla history and not to tarnish it.


Tripura played a vital role in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The state gave logistical support and training aid to the liberation warriors. Additionally, when its own population was only 16 lakhs, Tripura sheltered around 15 lakh refugees who were trying to escape from the clutches of Pakistan forces. Post the war, the Army erected a memorial column commemorating the lost Indian soldiers. This was famously called the ‘Martyrs’ Column’. Located in the heart of the city, it was a historic relic of the war and a living memory of the bloodshed.  

Every year on January 26 and August 15, the state government and the Indian army visited the memorial and paid respect and floral tributes to the fallen soldiers. The citizens of Bangladesh and Tripura always considered the column as a standing symbol of their friendship. However, the memorial was pulled down from its original location in the Post Office Chowmuhani area. 

This would now be relocated to Albert Ekka Park in the outskirts of Agartala. Albert Ekka Park was inaugurated in 2018, marking the sacrifice of the late Lance Naik Albert Ekka. Ekka was one among the Indian Army’s 14 Guard’s Regiment who fought the war against Pakistani forces at the Gangasagar railway station. 

Last November, the government had shifted an artillery gun and a battle tank which was placed next to the memorial to Albert Ekka Park. These were done as a part of the Smart City Project. The relocation of the Martyrs’ Column led to protests from the societies of Tripura and Bangladesh.

The Memorial should be re-established in its original location: Critics

Critics emphasized that the memorial was a historical sentiment. They argued that removing the memorial was a malign act and an insult to the martyrs and the memories people carried. 

According to a report in the Times of India, the activists also alleged that an amount of ₹700 crores was invested in the renovation project which was destroying the city’s socio-cultural heritage in the name of making the city ‘smart’. Bijan Dhar, convener of the Tripura Left Front committee, condemned the move and asserted that by pulling down the memorial, the government was wiping out history. 

The Tripura Cultural Coordination Centre said that it hoped the government would act positively by restoring the memorial and make amends for the destruction of history. Its secretary Bibhu Bhattacharya stressed that discussions and talks could have been initiated with the people of the city before uprooting the memorial.

Tapas Dey, the Tripura Pradesh Congress committee’s vice president objected to the move and called it a ‘heinous job’. He mentioned that the pulling down of the column was sudden and was not even discussed with any other political party. He further argued that if it was done for beautification purposes, the beauty of the place could have been enhanced even without having to relocate the memorial. Additionally, he claimed that the BJP-led government made no contribution to the liberation movement and so they were against it.

In a joint statement issued by a group of intellectuals in Bangladesh, they mentioned that the memorial was a symbol of friendship between the people of Bangladesh and India. Talking to The Indian Express, Professor Mihir Deb, who was a part of the movement for setting up the column, opined that on no grounds of excuse could a proud memorial be pulled down. Citing the Albert Ekka Park, he noted that while it was also a commendable work, a second column could have been erected at the war memorial as the martyr’s column in Post Office Chowmuhani carried a rich history.

The only aim is to create a befitting War Memorial: Government

Last November, after moving the artillery gun and the tank, the then District Magistrate of West Tripura District, Sailesh Kumar Yadav had said that constructing a big war memorial was a long-standing demand of the Indian Army. He added that it was also proposed before CM Biplab Kumar Dem came to power in 2018. Following that, the project was taken up as an open tender at a cost of ₹4.83 Crores. 

A circular island on which the Martyrs Column and other war relics were kept at Post Office Chowmuhani was 28 meters in diameter. It was cited as an important reason for traffic jams in the area. So, the government decided to reduce it to a diameter of 18 meters. It would be re-built based on the theme ‘Tree of Life’.

The state government said that the works were carried out only after obtaining written permission from the Sainik Board and after proper consultation with the authorities of the Indian army. Talking with The Wire, BJP spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty said that the government and Sainik Board were only trying to protect the war memorials.

Supporting the move, Veteran Journalist Manas Paul told The Wire that there was not enough space in the current location for people to enter inside and see the war memorials or read the history.  He also noted that the Sainik Board had demanded to shift the memorial to a designated area because they needed more space for paying homage to martyrs. 

Nabendu Bhattacharjee, BJP spokesman claimed that the Albert Memorial Park had a large space and war memorials could be protected properly. He stated that the effort to relocate the column was only to honour and better respect the long-standing historical friendship between India and Bangladesh.


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