The blueprint by Chennai-based WeBe Design Lab, keeping India Gate's Mughal architecture and central vista features in mind, was selected after
In 2016, the Centre announced an open global competition for the project. Apart from the broad guidelines described above, two “design components” were spelt out:
The memorial would need to solemnly showcase number, rank, name and unit of approximately twenty five thousand martyrs on a commemorative wall with scope for future requirements.
For making an absorbing and unforgettable experience installations such as art murals, statues, fascias celebrating battle victories and sacrifices may be incorporated.
Another crucial feature of the memorial would be a tunnel that will connect it to the proposed National War Museum that will come up at Princess Park, since that is the only way to ensure unhindered access from one to the other.
The tunnel work will not be completed ahead of the memorial launch as the work on the Museum, which is due to be completed by July 31, 2020 has got stalled as the DUAC has not approved of its design.
Artists, conservationists have mixed reaction
Meanwhile, reacting to the ongoing work for the memorial, contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram, who is known for his politically conscious painting, sculpture, photography, installation and video art, said “Without seeing anything, I will say I object. Period.”
He said he would not even like to have a look at the images as what was being celebrated was militarism. “I think it is just a travesty.”
Noted photographer Ram Rahman described the move to create the National War Memorial in between the chhatri at India Gate and the National Stadium as “a part of the jingoist thrust of the Modi government which thinks by making memorials like this it will be able to garner votes”.
Going into the history of the conservation movement in Delhi, Rahman said, “The Delhi Urban Arts Commission was set up in 1974 and my father, architect Habib Rahman, was is its first secretary. It was set up by an act of parliament to specifically preserve the character of the Lutyens’ zone in Delhi, in which a lot of new buildings had started coming up and there was a fear that new development will destroy the character of that part of the city which was part of a historic heritage.”
As for the memorial, he said, “The one rank, one pension issue of the armed forces has still not been resolved and it seems to me issues like that are more important for our armed forces at this point of time. There is already a memorial under the India Gate with the eternal flame that was set up many years ago.”
He also accused the Modi government of using the Heritage Conservation Committee and the DUAC to justify its demolition of the iconic Hall of Nations designed by Raj Rewal inside Pragati Maidan. “Sadly, this government is making tragic and harmful alterations to the physical character of Delhi and hopefully that will end when they are voted out of power in 2019. But huge damage has already been done.”