Fitting tributes paid to Labour Corps martyrs
R LESTER MAKANG
UKHRUL, 6th Nov: A two-day long Centenary celebration of the World War-I Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps (1917-18) & Other Labour Corps of the Manipur Labour Corps Company got off to a colourful start Tuesday at TNL Ground here with a delegation of French Embassy, British Embassy and British Army officers joining the state government and the denizens of the district in honouring and remembering the 1200 Tangkhul men who took part as Labour Corps in WW-I, one hundred years ago.
Held under the theme 'For Honour & Dignity', the centennial observance is being organised by WWI Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps Association (WWI-TNLCA) in collaboration with TNL, TNWL and TKS.
Led by state’s PHE minister Losii Dikho, Deputy British High Commissioner (India) Bruce Bucknell, Representative of French Embassy (New Delhi) Colonel Ludovic Dumont, Colonel James Robinson and Colonel Tom Marsden of British Army, and IGP Manipur IK Muivah offered floral wreaths with military salutation in honour of the labour corps at the memorial located inside TNL Ground along with TNL president i/c Peimi, TNWL president AS Vaomi, Ukhrul DC Pahuja, SP Worngam Ningshen and Hungpung and Hunphun headmen AS Wungayung Peter and HA Sarimaya in the presence of WWI-TNLCA president Victor W Kaping, executives and descendants of the labour corps and public.
A two-minute silence was also observed as a mark of respect and honour to the labour corps.
Speaking on the occasion as chief guest, minister Dikho expressed that celebration of the centenary is an eye opener for the present-day generation to learn of the simplicity, commitment and dignity of labour embraced by their ancestors.
Stating that the corps members of WW-l accepted the call for them to serve as labours on foreign shores which they had never dreamt of, he said that it took courage and commitment for them to walk hundreds of kilometres till Dimapur to travel to foreign countries and thus, they took part in the war with a commitment.
"Such is the commitment that our forefathers have shown for us to live in dignity," the minister said, adding that commemoration of the day is a new opportunity for us to renew the commitment to live a dignified life as their ancestors did.
On behalf of the state government, the minister also conveyed gratitude to all the delegates from Britain and France for being a part of the event to share their love and concern for the people here. “This is a great moment for us,” he added. Responding to a request for construction of a museum and a cave in honour of the Tangkhul Labour Corps, Dikho also assured WWI-TNLCA that he would duly present the matter to the chief minister so as to help materialise their plan.
Attending the commemoration as guests of honour, Bruce Bucknell and Colonel Ludovic Dumont brought the messages of gratitude and remembrance from their respective countries.
“Today, I and my colleagues are here to celebrate and to remember the service and sacrifice given one hundred years ago. It is true memory that we give honour and dignity to our ancestors because we are bound together by this event, the event that we know as the First World War,” said Bucknell, while addressing a gathering of hundreds at the ground.
He went on to say: “We celebrate and remember the bad memory (of the war) but the bad memory, by keeping it alive, we give honour and dignity to our ancestors, to the ancestors of Japanese force, to the ancestors of Indians who helped us and even the ancestors of Indians who forced against us. If we don't remember we may commit the same mistake we made in the past".
Calling the support that Britain received from India was 'fantastic', Bucknell informed that Britain had almost 15 lakh (1.5 billion) Indians to support it in the war. "And now we are realising that we have to give them honour and dignity".
He further informed that there was a total of 21,000 labour corps from India who supported the Britain's war efforts and within that number, 1200 labours came from Ukhrul district alone.
"But the sad fact is that out of those 1200, not all came back, 117 almost exactly, sacrificed their lives," he said describing it a 'high rate'.
In his speech, Colonel Ludovic Dumont said that he felt honoured to be a part of the commemoration, adding that France would never forget the heroism of the labour corps from Ukhrul district.
Minister Dikho also officially released the souvenir of the Centenary celebration.
As part of the commemoration, cultural songs and dances were performed by different cultural troupes.