Sunday marked Armistice Day in France, when the war ended in 1918, and also marked the unveiling of two new memorials honouring the role of Indian soldiers during that time, in World War I. The statue was unveiled in the French town of Laventie.
A report in TOI says that the seven-foot bronze statue is the first of 57 similar commemorative sculptures planned by the Inter-Faith Shaheedi Commemoration Association (IFSC) to be unveiled near cemeteries around France where soldiers who fought for the British Indian Army were buried. The site in Laventie was chosen after the remains of two soldiers were found dating back to the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles, and reburied last year with full military honours.
Col (retd.) Deepak Dahiya who served the Indian army for 23 years, and is now based in Paris to facilitate the IFSC project as vice president, said that the unveiling marks the commencement of the project, which plans to establish 57 statues near all cemeteries where Indian soldiers are buried in France. It is also the first of many events planned by the IFSC, to honour thousands of undocumented late Indian soldiers.
“The First World War is a relatively unnoticed event in an otherwise historic timeline of Indian events. This colossal effort in the most difficult circumstance is not entirely forgotten nor actively remembered and needs to be portrayed in the correct perspective globally and in India,” said IFSC president Ramesh Chander Vohra.
Also in the works id a 12-tonne brass statue adjacent Indian war memorial, to commemorate 4,700 soldiers and labourers from British India, who lost their lives during World War I, and have no marked resting places. This large sculpture is expected to be unveiled by 2019.
India’s role in the First War has always been downplayed and under-documented for a number of reasons. India did not gain freedom till the Second Great War making the First a distant memory. Since there was no Indian nation yet, any forces sent from the subcontinent tended to be Empire soldiers or soldiers of princely states – both notions making them somewhat less than Indian for later commentators.
The First World War is a relatively unnoticed event in an otherwise historic timeline of Indian events. This colossal effort in the most difficult circumstance is not entirely forgotten nor actively remembered and needs to be portrayed in the correct perspective globally and in India.
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