"India has fought five wars since independence, and we don't have a memorial for a single one, Mohan Guruswamy, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, was recently quoted by the New York Times as saying."
By Sujit Chakraborty

Kohima/Imphal, June 26 - When you go home, tell them of us and say that for their tomorrow, we gave our today..... reads the epitaph at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Kohima.

The cemetery has been beautifully laid out with lush green grass and is meticulously maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The picturesque Kohima War Cemetery, a symbolic memorial commemorating the memories of the men who sacrificed their lives during World War II, attracts people visiting the northeast Indian state.

There is a similar terraced cemetery in Imphal, with little stone markers indicating the final resting place of 1,602 soldiers - 138 of them unidentified - from India, Britain, Canada and Australia, among other countries, with the names of 917 Indian soldiers inscribed on a plaque. This too is maintained by the CWGC.

Seventy years ago, the battles of Imphal and Kohima halted the Japanese advance into India at the height of World War-II, claiming tens of thousands of lives on both sides. A three-month-long commemoration of the event, to remember the almost forgotten sacrifice of the fallen, will conclude Saturday in Imphal in the presence of envoys from the US, Australia and Japan, among others.

The battles of Kohima and Imphal (March 8, 1944-July 3, 1944), which marked the climax of the Japanese forces' advance into India, claimed the lives of 30,000 Japanese, left 23,000 injured and 600 were captured, writer and editor Rajkumar Kalyanjit Singh told IANS, adding: The Allies suffered 17,500 casualties.

The fierce gunfights were considered amongst the bloodiest during Second World War, said Singh, who edits Manipuri newspaper Marup (Friend).

In Moirang, 45 km northeast of Imphal, there is an INA (Indian National Army) museum displaying letters, photographs, badges of rank and other articles associated with the force. The INA flag was first hoisted on Indian soil on April 14, 1944.

Noted historian and writer Sekhar Datta said : Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a timely and appreciable announcement to build a suitable war memorial in Delhi to commemorate the sacrifices made by umpteen number of Indian soldiers and officers since Independence.

Modi's scheme should also include the obscure corners of Manipur and other places of the region which bear witness to the glorious and bloody armed struggle for freedom launched with indomitable courage by the immortal revolutionary leader, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Datta told IANS.

While launching the armed offensive under the banner of INA with Japanese backing Netaji's sole aim had been to free his country and drive away the imperialist British government. In April 1944, solders of INA had captured Moirang besides laying a siege around Imphal and within days the soldiers of INA had captured the Kohima fort and some cantonments between Kohima and Dimapur.

It is a tragic part of the freedom movement's history that INA could not sustain the offensive owing to lack of Japanese support, heavy monsoon rain and reinforcement obtained by British, but this epic self-sacrificing struggle of INA under Netaji constitutes a glorious part of Indian history which deserves to be recognised and appreciated, Datta added.

It is true that there is a war memorial with a library and some exhibits related to INA at Moirang, but the hallowed site where INA soldiers and patriots fell by the droves needs to have a full-fledged war memorial to honour one of India's greatest freedom fighters and his followers. Similarly another war memorial can also be built in Kohima also in holy memory of Netaji and INA.

Hope the Modi government will honour its commitment and raise grand war memorials in Manipur and Nagaland, Datta added.

India has fought five wars since independence, and we don't have a memorial for a single one, Mohan Guruswamy, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, was recently quoted by the New York Times as saying.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])


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