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India: The world war stories

It was a hot and humid morning in July 1979 in village Bahadurpur of Meerut district. Subedar Major (SM) Hukam Chand was ready to undertake a journey for the one last time writes Commander Arun Jyoti

 

On October 28, 1914, a wounded sergeant of the King's Own Scottish Borderers recuperating in Dublin, Ireland, told the British press about Indian bravery on the Western Front

 

While asking for proper recognition of contribution of Sikhs in the world war, the UK based Sikh organization Sikh Federation (SF) has demanded erecting a monument in central London .

 

It would hardly be unpatriotic to suggest that Europeans do anniversaries and commemorations far better than Indians. The centenary of the start of the Great War — the contemporary description of World War I — was widely observed all over Europe last Sunday and Monday with prime ministers, presidents and the few remaining monarchs participating.

 

Every year before National Maritime Day in April, a little-known memorial in Masjid Bunder dedicated to 2,223 seamen—"who fell in the Great War and whose graves are the sea" —gets spruced up.

 

In the centenary year of the Great War, which saw over a million Indians fighting in battles as diverse as Ypres, Somme and Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Singapore, memories of their bravery has dimmed considerably in India. But far away in New York, UN secretary general Ban ki Moon and the Indian mission at the UN took time off to remember those Indians who fought for the British empire during the First World War. 

 

A poem from Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpiece Gitanjali was recited by Indian Ambassador to the UN Asoke Kumar Mukerji as part of a commemorative ceremony held here marking 100 years of the outbreak of the World War I.

 

The year 2014 marks many centenaries. A brief review of 1914 reveals that many momentous events occurred in that year and, depending on individual preference, there are many ways of either celebrating or commemorating the centenary.

 
 

If you ever wanted an example of how high education - Western education, that highly valued, albeit inflated, commodity in India - does not bring wisdom, one just has to read architect Gautam Bhatia's downright disparaging and insensitive article on the National War Memorial in a leading newspaper early this week, titled: 'Don't battle over new war memorial; settle for old.'

 

Many Indians today argue why we shouldn't remember the Second World War. They say it was not our war, so we shouldn't be bothered. They say that the 2.5 million Indians who fought in it were "slaves" of the British Empire who got what they deserved — oblivion. Yet what did this war mean to us?

 


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History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
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