Prime Minister Narendra Modi lit the "Swarnim Vijay Mashaal" (Victory Flame) in New Delhi last year, marking the beginning of the 50th anniversary celebrations of India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. It was welcomed at a colourful ceremony in Kolkata on Friday.
Enthralling presentations by young boys and girls, a military band display and a film, '1971 War of Liberation', were part of the function at Eco Park. Several officers of the three services - the Army, Navy and Air Force - were present at the function, apart from retired officers including former Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.
"The Victory Flame will be stationed at Kolkata till December 4," a Defence official said. Air Marshal (retd) Raha said the flame is an eternal sign of sacrifice. "We must remember the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers and the Bangladesh Mukti Joddhas (liberation warriors)," he said, adding that the modern generation needs to be made aware of their valour in the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the birth of a new nation - Bangladesh.
The Victory Flame will be taken to the residences of the heroes of the 1971 war who were awarded medals for their gallantry, the Defence official said. Colonel (retd) Sheel Kumar Puri, who was awarded 'Vir Chakra' for his valour in the war, said he is thrilled to be part of the golden jubilee celebrations of a war in which he fought.
Born in 1939, Puri was a Major and a company commander in the Army when he fought the Pakistani forces on the western front. "When you go out in the war, you don't know whether you will come out alive or not, but I came out alive," he told PTI. "But in my wildest of dreams, I never thought that I will be alive in the 50th anniversary. There cannot be a better moment than that," Puri, who is settled in Kolkata, said, standing proudly in front of the Victory Flame.
Four Victory Flames lit from the eternal flame at the National War Memorial in New Delhi are being carried throughout the cities and villages across the nation. The victory flames have been sent to four cardinal directions of the country and they will converge back at New Delhi in December 2021.
-With PTI Inputs