Imphal, Oct.28 (ANI): After almost a century, graves of eighty seven people from Manipur, who took part in World War I (WWI) as members of the Labour Corps, have been found in war cemeteries across Europe and Egypt and Yemen.
This was stated at a press meet held at the complex of at the Directorate of Information and Public Relations on handing over the pictures to the kin of late Putanleng Shinglai.
Putanleng, one of the troops who serve in the World War I, nephew and family became the first family to get the WWI casualty grave picture and the where about of Putanleng.
Sonereng Shinglai, son of Late Putanleng who is 82 years old received the pictures of his late father from Rajeshwar Yumnam at the Directorate of Information and Public Relations complex.
In April 1917, the Manipur Labour Corps, with strength of 2,000 people, belonging to Meiteis and tribal communities from the state, were sent to Europe by sea from Bombay, said eminent World War researcher Yumnam Rajeshwar.
They were sent after an agreement was signed between the then Manipuri king, Churachand Singh, and British Political Agent Lt Col HWG Cole, he said.
Satisfied with Singh’s assistance, the British government honoured him with the title of Knight Commander Star of India. Being non-combatants, they were engaged in transportation of arms and ammunition, digging trenches, cleaning military camps, running errands and construction of temporary camps, Rajeshwar said. The men had stayed for one-and-a-half years in France.
“Many of the bravehearts died in various battles in Europe and records of the deaths were not maintained properly because of the insignificance of the Labour Corps,” said Rajeshwar.
“But I have found 87 graves of Manipuris who were buried in France, Italy, Egypt and Yemen. I have their grave reference, name of the cemetery and the country where they were located,” he said.
Among others, Rajeshwar named four Manipur labour corps members from the hill districts. They were Akhil Pukhini (Mao), Salkhukam Kuki, Sangai, and Makhal Tangkhul.
“It is almost a century now. No Manipuri has ever laid a flower on their graves. I am trying my best to collect photos of the graves. As of now, I have collected three grave pictures from France,” Rajeshwar said.
He added that it was time the government took serious note of the matter and collect all the data of the 2,000 bravehearts, he said. “At least, we need to remember them. These brave Manipuris and their gallant efforts should be included in education and history books,” Rajeshwar said.
He said some of their descendents had been requesting him to gather more details in this regard.
Speaking to the media persons, Yumnam Rajeshwor, co-founder WW2 Imphal Campaign Foundation siad that Manipuris who were sent to help the British troops during the world war remain unknown.
But in the last 2/3 year he manage to find 2 grave and 87 graves of Manipuris who fought in the WWI were also found in October 2015 while going through the war graves report through online research. These troops were sent during the reign of Churachand Maharaj, 1917, he added.
“These graves are in the four foreign soils namely France, Italy, Egypt and Yemen. Graves’s numbers, when these troops died all the data are available to him and he even manage to give out the information to some of the person who have call up providing information of their family member who have fought in the WWI,” he added.
Grave pictures of the British troops have been sent to the family members who have been contacting him in the last few months. This time he was able to receive information and pictures of graves of Manipuri’s, which is the first in the history of Manipur, he added.
Yumnam Rajeshwor further said that this is just the beginning of finding the graves and will continue the research to find the rest of graves of the Manipuris.
“Expecting information from the family members who have serve in the IWW,” he added. (ANI)