Any memory of freedom fighters, India's struggle for Independence and Partition hardly comes without vested political interests or interpretations. The latest announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose being installed at India Gate, set the social media down the political memory lane of controversy over Gandhi's statue.

Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose (1891-1945) with people around him. Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Meanwhile, the statue will be installed to honour Bose's contribution to the independence movement, ahead of his 125th birth anniversary. Until the installation is completed, a hologram of Netaji will be projected at the site of the statue and it will be unveiled on 23rd January, Netaji's birth anniversary.

"At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate," tweeted the PM on Friday, calling the statue a symbol of India's indebtedness to the freedom fighter.

Amar Jyoti Jawan
A soldier stands guard next to Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate war memorial on a smoggy winter morning in New DelhiReuters

More on the statue

The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi (the eternal flame) flickers in remembrance of India's martyrs. Meanwhile, the eternal flame which has been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday and merged with the flame at National War Memorial. The canopy, under which the statue will be installed, was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. It was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.

Gandhi's statue in the past

Around three decades ago, in 1992, a Cabinet decision was passed to build a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and have it installed at the India Gate lawns. In 1995, a Group of Ministers, arrived at the decision, on directions of the Union Cabinet, and recommended that the statue be installed at the site of the canopy.

However, several successive governments have sat on the decision, with controversy erupting every time, as a result of which, nothing has come of it. An RTI filed in 2008 revealed that not only has the statue not been installed but even its exact location hadn't been zeroed in yet.

In 2009, while answering a question in Parliament, then Minister of State for Urban Development Saugata Roy said that there was a plan in the ministry to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the India Gate, but it was put on hold following a writ petition in the matter. In response to the writ petition, the Delhi High Court passed an interim order, "restraining the government from altering/removing/demolishing the canopy at India Gate complex."

The High Court finally disposed of the matter in March 2005, post which, Roy said, it had not been taken up, as there was no, "immediate demand or proposal to install a Gandhi statue at the India Gate."