Imphal: They call it the Forgotten War, one of the most brutal campaigns in military history, fought at India's door step during World War II. Thousands of Commonwealth soldiers fought to defend India from a Japanese invasion. The 70th anniversary of the battle of Imphal and Kohima was marked today with a ceremony in Manipur's capital.
The ceremony took place at two war cemeteries in Imphal, and was attended by Manipur Governor V K Duggal, deputy Chief Minister and a host of foreign dignitaries.
Hemant Katoch shifted from Delhi to Imphal two years ago and is now actively involved in popularising this battle through tours and treks in Manipur. He says, "I think it's very important from an Indian point of view. When you talk about the British Army you forget that it was the British Indian Army. Also, you had Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army (INA) fighting alongside the Japanese."
The battle began on April 3, 1944, when 15,000 Japanese men attacked a British garrison that had just 1,500 men. Though outnumbered, the men stood their ground for nearly two weeks, until reinforcements arrived.
Through this period, the role, both political and military, of the INA came into sharp focus. Thousands of British Prisoners of War, crossed over to Mr Bose driven by visions of an independent India and fought for Japan.
Manipur and Nagaland also fought alongside the British in the Battles. Somehow their role has never been highlighted but today everyone was remembered. Lhumkhudou Singhajit, 90, at that time was just 20 years old and had enlisted in the army and was caught in the war. He recounted his role in the battle, "I used to teach the soldiers how to fire, how to fire LMG's, how to load rifles, how to go into trenches."
The organisers have bigger plans for the 75th anniversary of the battle, an event that may put a bigger spotlight on a chapter in history that has been largely forgotten.