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Indians struggle in foreign lands in World War I


New Delhi: As the centenary of World War 1 is being observed, a new book traces the journey of Indian soldiers deployed in Europe, their struggles, and disillusionment with a foreign land, fighting without even adequate warm clothes and sufficient ammunition.

The book, ‘For King and Another Country’ (Bloomsbury, Rs 419), by London-based journalist and writer Shrabani Basu, traces the accounts of the soldiers from France from letters written to their families, and also carries the tales of those who were left behind.

“Our only knowledge about the First World War is through the British accounts. It was the time the story was told from an Indian perspective,” well-known author and politician Shashi Tharoor said at a function to release the book late Thursday evening.

Among the many stories retold by the author is that of Gabbar Singh Negi, a Victoria Cross winner from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, who died in the Neuve Chapelle battle in France

“He was 21 years-old when he was martyred. back home, his wife Saturi Devi was just 14. Saturi Devi did not marry again, she wore the Victoria Cross pinned to her sari all her life,” Basu said, adding: “She would go to collect woods with the Victoria Cross pinned to her sari, and every one would salute her.”

Another touching account is that of Sukha, a lower-caste cleaner who joined the troops and fell ill after reaching France.

“He was ill so he was sent to a hospital in England, where he died of pneumonia. When he died, the Hindus refused to cremate him in their cremation place, and the Muslims refused to bury him in their cemetery. The Vicar of the local Church decided to bury him, and his grave had the biggest gravestone,” said the author.

The author also spoke of how poorly equipped Indian soldiers were on their arrival in France, even though they received a warm welcome with loud cries of ‘Vivent Les Hindous’ at Marseilles in the south of France.

“Indians did not have warm clothes, they wrapped themselves in table cloths, arriving in France in October. Their coats came only in December. They were also low on ammunition,” Basu said.

Another interesting account by the author was how the British were uncomfortable in allowing women to come in contact with Indian soldiers.

“The British would not let the British nurses treat Indian soldiers. They were scared that lonely women, with their husbands gone to war, may get involved in affairs with the Indian soldiers,” said Basu.

It was, however, different with the French.

“Indians noticed that the French treated them better… One of the Indian soldiers married a French woman. He must have been worried how to break the news to his family, so he wrote to his father that the king forced him to marry the woman,” Basu said.

Other accounts from the book tell how one soldier felt it was not a war but a “Mahabharata”, another one wrote home asking his kin not to sign up for the war.

A Gurkha soldier committed suicide, an Afghan Pathan, sick in a hospital, longed for a flute to play.

The Indian Army during World War I contributed a large number of divisions and independent brigades to the European, Mediterranean, and the Middle East theaters. Over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total, at least, 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war, as per estimates.

In 1914, the Indian Army was one of the two largest volunteer armies in the world with a total strength of 240,000 men.


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Remembering Indian Soldiers who Fought in World War I

Armistice Day or Remembrance Day is a day to honor the service of military personnel during the First World War

Military men in Oxford Armistice Day Parade 1918. Wikimedia

November 11, 2016: On November 11, 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Allies and Germany formally signed an Armistice agreement ending their fight.

Nearly a century later, several nations continue to observe Armistice Day every November 11 in remembrance of more than 17 million lives that were lost in the Great War — that later came to be known as World War I.

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At the Indian War Memorial, in the little town of Ypres, a few among the millions of Belgians who still remain thankful to India’s support pay tribute to the Indian martyrs in a memorial concert along with Indian soldiers from some of the regiments which fought in the Great War.

Hans Vermeersch, a Belgian music composer, does an extraordinary thing at the Indian war memorial by holding a concert as his personal tribute to the martyrs of India.

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Vermeersch, married to an Indian Finla Noronha, has promoted Indian music worldwide, particularly of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and the Carnatic tradition.

He has also unearthed from the British Museum copies of Rabindranath Tagore’s original notations and claims now to play Rabindrasangeet in the way Rabindranath and his companions actually composed them during their journeys to Europe. (IANS)

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Is the World Secretly Getting Ready for World War III?

After the World War II , all the nations have evidently tried their best to avoid a similar scenario from being reiterated. Although, it’s occurrence after the First World War which was also known as the “war to end all wars” clearly tells us that there is no guarantee

Representational image. Pixabay

November 1, 2016: With the ongoing political conflicts giving rise to turmoil in certain territories between countries and organizations with contrasting interests and ideologies, we are facing a major question to which no one has a concrete answer. Are we facing the threat of another world war?

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While on the surface, all of us have taken precautions to curb the possibility of one, everyone tries to implement their own propaganda. The establishment of the UN is considered a giant leap towards global truce but is it truly effective with all its policies? The UN which is not democratic allows certain powerful nations to protect their interests. None of the nations would be willing to start such a catastrophic event to disrupt the economic, political and social conditions of their populations. However, none of them would be willing to kneel or shy away if provoked. Therefore, one wrong decision would result in an implosion of conflicts between multiple parties with the potential of spreading to a global level.

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“Survival of the fittest” is apt for all spheres of life and every nation is in a constant attempt to trample its competition and rise above the other nations to improve the lifestyle of its own population. Constant political and economic conflicts today often result in armed resolutions. And these conflicts may proceed to involve more than just the parent parties.

After the World War II , all the nations have evidently tried their best to avoid a similar scenario from being reiterated. Although, it’s occurrence after the First World War which was also known as the “war to end all wars” clearly tells us that there is no guarantee that another globally spread conflict is completely evitable and depends entirely on the forthcoming unpredictable situations.

There are numerous instances of current conflicts which may erupt into massive warfare with different nations taking sides to protect their political or economic interests. The possession of nuclear arsenal by volatile and disturbed countries and nations trying to restore peace and order on foreign land by intervention and with alleged ulterior motives have been some of the major ongoing disputes. Some countries invading neighboring nations to acquire valuable region and claiming it their domain may also lead to major nations taking sides to protect more backward countries and also to strengthen their own relationships.

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There are countries who allegedly provide refuge to individuals or organizations deemed as criminals or bodies spreading terror in other parts of the world. There are many factors that can be taken into account to prove the possibility towards another global catastrophe but hopefully, our world leaders will rise above their differences and work together in preventing such a mishap from occurring when the time comes.

-Prepared by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram

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India should have no Connection with Pakistan until Cross-Border Terrorism ends, says Gautam Gambhir

India and Pakistan have stopped playing the Test cricket together since December 2007

Gautam Gambhir, Wikimedia

October 18, 2016: The Indo-Pak disparity including the ban on Pakistani actors has been a topic of discussion in the entire nation and not only the Politicians but by Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap from Bollywood as well.

Apart from that, players like Gautam Gambhir, who recently made a comeback in the Indian test team; Virendra Sehwag the former opener, Virat Kohli, India’s test team captain and Indian hockey team captain PR Sreejesh have also expressed their opinions and sorrow on the death of Indian soldiers in recent attacks, mentioned a TOI report.

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Gautam Gambhir has particularly opposed the bonds of India and Pakistan on all the levels saying that India should have no connection with its neighbouring state until all the cross-border issues of Terrorism are solved.

Gambhir told TOI, “I absolutely endorse that we should have no ties with Pakistan until the time this cross-border terrorism finishes because I feel that people absolutely need to put themselves in the shoes of those who’ve lost their kids, someone who’s lost their father, son or husband.”

He also put this statement that it is easy to say “don’t compare cricket with politics” but it hard to accept. He has further urged people to think of the miseries of the families, wives and kids of the martyred soldiers who die while serving for their country and protecting its honour.

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After the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the cricketing relations between India and Pakistan have dropped down which led to Pakistan being the only major Test nation with no representation in the present defunct Champions League Twenty-Twenty and also the IPL, which came as a shock and huge disappointment for Pakistan.

India cancelled its due tour to Pakistan in January 2009 after the 26/11 attacks. Another planned series of March-April 2012 was also dismissed and in its place, the Asia Cup was then held in Bangladesh.

In ODIs, both the nations last met in the 2015 ICC World Cup and in T20s during the Asian Cup in Dhaka and the ICC World Twenty-Twenty in Kolkata and have stopped playing the Test cricket together since December 2007.

– prepared by Chesta Ahuja, NewsGram.  Twitter: @ahuja_chesta