The BJP government at the Centre is planning to build a memorial in each district headquarters to honour ‘loktantra senanis’ — the people who were jailed during the 1975-77 Emergency.
‘Vijay stambh’ or victory pillar would be constructed in each district headquarters across India to honour such ‘senanis’. The states, which maintain a list of those jailed during the Emergency, have been asked to furnish the district-wise list to the Centre. According to sources, ‘vijay stambh’ is likely to have the district-specific names etched on the pillar to honour those who fought against the Emergency.
The move comes in the wake of Congress-ruled state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh stopping decades-old pension schemes and honoraria started by BJP governments. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath had stopped the pension scheme in January, within two months of assuming power in the state. Nath was a close friend of the late Sanjay Gandhi, who has been accused of excesses during the Emergency years. Following this, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had also stopped this pension.
So far, successive governments at the Centre have stayed away from any formal move to honour ‘loktantra senanis’. However, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government has used the Emergency to blunt Congress’ attack on the Centre for “curbing personal freedoms”.
Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the government chief construction agency, has been entrusted with the job of constructing ‘vijay stambh’. According to sources, the directives have come from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and surveys have begun on the location of these memorials. CPWD has been asked to formulate a common design for ‘vijay stambh’ and then supervise or undertake the construction.
In his first address to Parliament after being voted to power again in June, Modi had reminded the nation about the excesses of the Emergency and said those “dark days” could not be forgotten. “On the fateful night of June 25, the soul of the country was crushed, the voice of nation’s media was stifled, leaders were put behind bars just to save someone’s seat of power…,” Modi had said.