The Kohima Cemetery Revisited

Kohima is the capital of Nagaland, a state in the North East India.Kohima was the turning point in the history of British India where one of the bloodiest battle between the invading Japanese forces and the allied forces (British + Indian+ commonwealth forces) was fought leaving thousands dead on both sides. The British could defeat 15000 thousand strong Japanese and halted their advance towards the plains of India. Had the Japanese succeeded in capturing the hills of Nagaland, the history of Japan and the South East Asia could have been different. The war which lasted 64 days was the water loo for about 4 Japanese Generals who were demoted and two British Generals who were admonished.The hill where the Japanese advance was halted later became a Kohima Cemetery in honour of the Brave Soldiers who laid down their lives far away from their home and hearth. The Kohima Memorial is remembered for the following historic inscriptions:

When You go home             ap Ghar  jab a jayen
Tell them of us,and say       hame yaad karna and kehna
For their tomorrow             Tumahare Surakshit Kal ke Liye
We gave our today.             Hum Ne aapna AAJ balidan Kiya.

These moving lines are attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958) an English Classicist and perhaps inspired by the lyrics of the Greek Poet Simonides who wrote somewhere in 480 BC

"Go tell the Spartans,thou that passest by,
That faithful to their precepts here we live"

This battle also known as Stalingrad of the East was fought in three stages between 4 April to 22 June June 1944.The British troops and Indian troops of IV Corps counter attacked bravely to dislodge the Japanese forces from the Kohima ridge, a vantage point captured by the invading forces. The Japanese forces comprising the 31st Division forces planned to capture Dimapur the vital railhead in the then Assam which could have given them the important logistic support.

The Japanese Forces were forcefully advancing towards the Assam railhead Dimpur and were on the Garrison Hill Kohima.It was April 1944 when they met stiff resistence from the British and Indian soldiers of IV Corps and who later forced the Japanese to retreat.Above a picture of the grave of a British Soldier who perhaps was killed on April 22,1944. 

The Cemetery has about 1372 graves, while a dome pays tribute to about 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who were cremated according to their religious rites.

The Cemetery is since maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission.It is visited by various dignitaries including the Duke of York who visited the place in Dec.2012.

 I first visited the Cemetery in April 1968 when I was posted here. I remained posted in Nagaland till May 1971.The above picture is  of the recent visit on Dec.20,2013.The picture below is of my wife who first visited  the place  in 1970 after our marriage.

 After reading the epitaphs,( some of which were touching and and spoke of sorrow of the dear ones),took us to that period when this war was fought by the soldiers in an  area which was inhospitable,having turgid water and infested with leeches and mosquitoes.The soldiers died far far away from their families and children, all alone or at the most with  another comrade who too died longing for his land and loved ones.Some of the graves are yearning for attention and perhaps the people of  Nagaland are forgetting them, the very people who gave their today so that tomorrow they would be remembered. But...........

When I visited the place in 1968, it was a green and looked fresh but in 2013 I was upset to see it being neglected and  appeared that it was slowly being reduced to a small unknown place where the bravest of the brave lie forgotten and unsung.


More by :  Suresh Mandan

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