In April 2013, the Battle of Imphal-Kohima was voted as Britain’s greatest battle by the United Kingdom National Army Museum.
In India, the significance of that war is not remembered. Many wouldn’t even be aware that one of the most significant battles of World War II was fought on the soil of Manipur and Nagaland.
But Arambam Angabam Singh refuses this history to be forgotten in any way. Since the best way to remember history is to commemorate it, he has been collecting relics for the Battle in the Manipuri countryside for an upcoming war memorial.
What was the battle?
The Battle of Imphal-Kohima is often called “Japanese War”. It was fought in small pockets in 1944 between the Japanese and the British forces.
It was a turning point for the Indian subcontinent since the war would have decided whose dominance will prevail in the subcontinent. The Japanese forces and the Indian National Army (led by Subhash Chandra Bose) fought against the British.
Naturally the British, because of the vast access to resources in terms of manpower and artillery. Another reason why the British won is because a large number of Manipuri and Nagamese population decided to side with the British forces in India.
The war was a huge defeat for the Japanese, with almost 30,000 casualties.
However, it is still unclear as to how many Manipuris died in the battle.
What will that museum commemorate?
The museum is a civilian initiative with funds from both the central government and Japan’s Nippon Foundation, and is dedicated to the fallen Japanese.
This would come as a surprise that Manipuris have decided to commemorate Japanese lives lost in the war. But if you look at the history of the Battle of Imphal-Kohima, you will understand why it is not a big deal.
The villagers in Ukhrul, where the Japanese museum will be coming up, did bury and cremate the Japanese because they believed these soldiers were far away from home and had no one to perform their last rites.
The memorial should be a responsibility of the government. One understands that it has nothing to do with the country, and the war was fought under the British but it should not really be forgotten that there were Manipuri and Nagamese people who lost their lives trying to defend the land.
It is still unclear as to when the museum will reach its completion because relics from the war are still being discovered, often in remote Manipuri villages, where there is no proper knowledge of historical war equipment.
Till date, there are many Japanese individuals who visit the areas around Kohima and Manipur to connect with their roots, and they are the people who pay villagers and interested historians in maintaining the history.
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