Re­mem­ber­ing In­dian heroes of the Great War

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Poulomi Ban­er­jee

NEWDELHI: Few vis­i­tors to Delhi’s In­dia Gate would have paused to read the names of the In­dian sol­diers, who fought in the First World War (1914 – 1918), etched on it. To­day might be a good day to do so; it is the centenary of the end of the Great War.

The dec­la­ra­tion of war, and es­pe­cially Bri­tain’s join­ing in, was mo­men­tous news in prein­de­pen­dence In­dia. “The whole coun­try ral­lied to the King-em­peror,” records a pub­li­ca­tion by the Govern­ment of In­dia in 1923, ti­tled ‘In­dia’s Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Great War’.

As Cap­tain Amarinder Singh, chief min­is­ter of Pun­jab and au­thor of the book, Hon­our and Fi­delity - In­dia’s Mil­i­tary Con­tri­bu­tion to the Great War 1914-18, writes in to­day’s edi­tion, over the war years, “The grand to­tal of the Bri­tish and In­dian of­fi­cers, other ranks and non-com­bat­ants sent on ser­vice over­seas from In­dia was 1.38 mil­lion.”

In­dia “ral­lied to the Bri­tish cause” writes Shashi Tharoor, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and au­thor of ‘An Era of Dark­ness: The Bri­tish Empire in In­dia,’ in his ar­ti­cle for HT to­day. There was hope that the coun­try would get Do­min­ion sta­tus af­ter the war – a priv­i­lege hith­erto re­served for the ‘White Com­mon­wealth’. “Ma­hatma Gandhi, who re­turned to his home­land from South Africa in Jan­uary 1915, sup­ported the war,” writes Tharoor, adding that while there were protests against spe­cific in­equities, as in Cham­paran and Kheda, there were no mass move­ments against the Empire dur­ing this time.

Yet, af­ter the war, the Bri­tish re­warded In­dian loy­alty with even more re­pres­sive laws. Peace­ful pro­tes­tors were killed in Jal­lian­wala Bagh.


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