The Inter-Faith Shaheedi Commemoration Association (IFSC) has plans for several statues across France.
By Little India Desk | November 12, 2018
Two statues have been unveiled in France to commemorate Indian soldiers, who fought in the First World War. To mark the Armistice Day on Nov.11, a bronze statue was unveiled in the city of Laventie in France. Another statue was inaugurated on Nov.10 by Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu at Villers Guislain in France.
Armistice Day is commemorated every year on Nov.11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of First World War and Germany in 1918 for the cessation of hostilities. This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.
According to a PTI report, the statue is seven feet high and made of bronze. The Inter-Faith Shaheedi Commemoration Association (IFSC) has planned to unveil similar statues across France. The recently unveiled statue in Laventie is the first among the many planned.
The IFSC said on its website, “This marks the commencement of our project to establish 57 such statues near all cemeteries where our Indian soldiers lie buried in France.”
This site for the statue was chosen after the remains of two soldiers were identified as members of the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles. These remains were reburied last year, the news agency reported.
IFSC said that India’s role in the First World War has always been downplayed and under-documented for various reasons. It further said, “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.”
Another statue, which is made to honor Indian soldiers of the First World War, is at Villers Guislain in France. It was unveiled by Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Nov.10.
According to a press release by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), it is the first world war memorial constructed by the Indian government in France.
Many representatives of Indian and French armed forces and locals were present at the ceremony.
Addressing the gathering at the local mayor’s office, Naidu said, “The Indian memorial in Villers-Guislain would stand tall as a towering manifestation of our continuous efforts to express solidarity with France in remembering the martyrs of the First World War.”
Terming the war memorial as a testimony to the bravery and sacrifices of Indian soldiers, Naidu said, “The valor of the Indian soldiers and the duty they stood for, leaving behind their kith and kin, is a memory that can never be erased. They fought for human liberty and freedom, even though it was not a war that India was involved with directly.”
According to the PIB release, “Nearly 1, 40,000 Indian Soldiers took part in World War 1 in France and Belgium. 9300 of them made supreme sacrifice and are buried in 168 cemeteries in France and Belgium.”
The land for this memorial was given by the French government to the Indian government for building a memorial to recognize the sacrifices of Indian soldiers during the Battle of Cambrai, which was fought in 1917. Over 40,000 soldiers, including Indians, had died in that battle.
On Nov.4, UK also unveiled its first statue dedicated to Indian soldiers of the First World War.
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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