The Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate was put out and merged with the eternal flame at the National War Memorial (NWM) here on Friday.
The Amar Jawan Jyoti was added to the India Gate in the 70s after India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Since India Gate was built by the British in memory of the British Indian Army soldiers who lost their lives between 1914-1921, the Modi government regards it as a colonial relic.
On Republic Day and Independence Day, the Prime Minister traditionally pays tribute at the Amar Jawan Jyoti. In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi deviated from the practice and did so at the National War Memorial.
The reactions were mixed.
Former Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter and requested him to rescind the decision. "Sir, the eternal flame at India Gate is part of India's psyche. You, I and our generation grew up saluting our brave jawans there," he stated. While the National War Memorial is great, the memories of the Amar Jawan Jyoti are indelible, Bahadur noted.
Former Army Chief General Ved Malik supported the government's decision, stating that it is "a natural thing" to merge the flames now that the National War Memorial has been established. Also, all ceremonies related to remembrance and honouring of soldiers killed in action are being held there.
The names inscribed on the India Gate are of only some martyrs who fought for the British in the World War-I and the Anglo Afghan War and thus it is a symbol of the country's colonial past, the government sources said.
These sources further reasoned that the names of all Indian martyrs from all the wars are now inscribed at the National War Memorial. Hence, it is a true homage to the martyrs.
Government sources also pointed out that there was considerable misinformation on the matter and explained that the flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti was not being extinguished but only being merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.
The Congress party accused the BJP government of erasing history by extinguishing the ‘jyoti’. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi stretched the analogy further by saying some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice, and added that the Congress will light the Amar Jawan Jyoti once again.
"It is a matter of great sadness that the immortal flame for our brave soldiers will be extinguished today. Some people cannot understand patriotism and sacrifice - never mind...We will once again light the 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' for our soldiers," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.