When you arrive at Imphal, you are surprised. You see a sea [you think it is a sea] when you look down from the tiny window of your aeroplane. You know that Imphal is not located on the Bay of Bengal, but you begin to doubt your understanding of geography. I mean you say to yourself ‘well, just in case…’.
The mystery was solved when we visited Sendra Island and discovered that it was a huge lake, Loktak lake. There are phumdis in the lake which look like jalebis in the frying pan, except that a chef would put too many jalebis in his frying pan, and the phumdis were spaced out.
We then went to Moirang – the place where the tricolour was first unfurled. Not by Nehru or Gandhi. It was done by Netaji’s Indian National Army.
[Exactly here the tricolour was first unfurled! (1944)]
Nehru and Gandhi, they say, were against Netaji’s way of winning freedom. Well, it happens everywhere. Everybody thinks that his is the right way and others’ is the wrong way. The net result was that there were Indian soldiers on both the sides of war – they were in INA and they were in the army deployed by the British. A few Japs and a few British men lost their lives, and so did more than a thousand Indian soldiers.
Japs have built a memorial in the memory of their men who died in the battle. British did not build any memorial. Why should they? Indians died there for them!
At Moirang we visited the Museum. It houses many articles from the battle. The statue of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose was erected recently. Why recently? Because the insurgents destroyed the one which was erected earlier. Sad!
Destruction of statue is nothing new then to the Northeast. They pulled down Lenin’s statue recently and in other parts of the country more were targeted. Actually statue destruction is nothing new to India. Some of us love our leader and make statues. Others hate the leader and destroy them!
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We were on our way to Kohima. The road was dusty. No buildings with glass and steel on the way – you can see poverty everywhere. This region is neglected, no doubt, and I am not making a political statement.
It is dangerous to enter Kohima after sunset, our guide told us. At the dawn, I had a good look at the Kohima from the hill where our hotel was situated. The neon sign over the Church at a distance was still glowing. Half-finished and crowded buildings told the story of unregulated growth.
When it comes to evoking deep feelings of gratitude and sacrifice of the soldiers, there is no match to what I saw at the war memorial in Sydney, Australia. See this photograph and you will agree with me.
War memorial at Kohima is actually a small hill. Three hundred British men and over a thousand Indian men died here! The names are written on the wall. Our countrymen died for the British and that evokes anger and sadness. Commonwealth is maintaining the cemetery….
It is not without reason that Indians bring down statues. What say you?
Vivek S Patwardhan