IPKF memorial in Jaffna gets second face lift

Renovated IPKF memorial in JaffnaThe memorial for the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Jaffna has got a second face lift in two years in keeping with the increasing awareness of the sacrifices made by the Indian armed forces in maintaining the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka in the face militant separatism between July 1987 and March 1990, the New Indian Express reported.

At a solemn ceremony held at the site just outside Jaffna’s Palaly airport, the Consul General for India in Jaffna, A.Natarajan; the Defense Advisor to the Indian High Commission in Cololmbo, Capt. Prakash Gopalan; and Brig.S.K.Thirunavukkarasu, Commander of  51 Division of the Sri Lankan Army based in Jaffna, formally opened the impressive memorial built in blue black granite.

The names of all the 33 officers and men of the 10 th. Para Regiment, including Lt.Col.Arun Kumar Chhabra, who had perished in the  battle for Jaffna against the LTTE on Oct 12, 1987, are inscribed on a plaque mounted on a granite platform with pillars at the four corners bearing the majestic Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka.

The memorial was originally a set of stones bearing the names of the men who had laid down their lives.  In a country where the dead are revered, the  Sri Lankan army and air force had kept the place clean. Even the LTTE had not desecrated the tomb stones, though it had fought the men commemorated there.

When Ashok Kantha was High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka, he decided to build a proper memorial with a fence around it. On February 23, 2013, a modest white washed brick and mortar memorial was inaugurated by him in the presence of the Sri Lankan Army’s Jaffna Commander, Maj.Gen.Mahinda Hathurusinghe.

This is the third IPKF memorial in Lanka. The most imposing one is in Colombo located near parliament house. The black granite structure placed on a raised platform, has the names of all the 1500 odd dead Indian soldiers inscribed on it. An older and very modest memorial is in Batticaloa in the Eastern province, within the compound of “Manresa” a Catholic institution two kilometers out of the town. The plaque was erected by Maj.Gen.Ashok Mehta who had used Manresa as his headquarters when he commanded the IPKF in Batticaloa and Amparai districts.