By Naveen Chandra
Toronto, November 28 (CINEWS): Overall, India supplied a total of 2,581,726 army, navy and air force combatants, winning 30 Victoria Crosses and losing 89000 on the battle field (where as Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined lost 93400), (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Army_during_World_War_II ,2015) and 14 million civilians including children and women. In World War I Indians were equally brave, loyal and steadfast.
Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army from 1942, declared “British couldn’t have come through both wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army”. Even the racist and genocidal Churchill grudgingly admitted, “The unsurpassed bravery of Indian soldiers and officers”. They fought in Africa against the Germans, they fought in the Middle East, they fought in Europe and they fought in Asia against the Japanese.
According to CBC there were 65000 Sikhs nearly 2.6 per cent.It is safe to assume 17.4 per cent were Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The bulk of the army about 80 per cent were Hindus from all walks of life. For too long this significant Hindu contribution was neglected by the world. We watched the whole world celebrate November 11 remaining in the sidelines.
Weapons, ammunition, timber, steel and especially food, were transported—you could argue, siphoned off—in vast quantities to Europe. Even during World War I (1914-18), India’s contribution was massive. The New York Times wrote in 1918: “The world must pay India in whatever India wants, for without Indian products, there would be greater difficulty in winning the war.” Britain’s dependence on India was near total. Bear in mind that in World War II, the quantity of Indian supplies was greater by several orders of magnitude. During the second war , India provided 196.7 million tonnes of coal, 6 million tonnes of iron ore and 1.12 million tonnes of steel. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, Volume 2, says: “35 per cent of India’s annual cotton textile production, amounting to about 5,000,000,000 yards, went into creating war material.”(Simha, Rakesh Krishnan How India bailed out the West in World War II, 2015)
Let me take you to the Greatest Ever Battle of the World won by Indians: The battle of Mahipal-Kohima, voted as the greatest battle winning over D-Day and Waterloo (voting 50-25-22) was fought in Manipur and Nagaland in northeast India is remarkable for two factors. It was the greatest defeat the Japanese suffered in the war and secondly it gave Indian soldiers a confidence in themselves of their martial competence showing they could fight as well or better than anyone else. Trenches, bunkers and airfields remain as they were left 70 years ago — worn by time and monsoons but clearly visible in the jungle. “The Battle of Imphal and Kohima is not forgotten by the Japanese,” said Yasuhisa Kawamura, once deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi. “Military historians refer to it as one of the fiercest battles in world history.” The Japanese 15th Army, 85,000 strong for the invasion of India, was essentially destroyed, with 53,000 dead and missing. Injuries and illnesses took many of the rest. There were 16,500 Indian casualties. (Harris, Gardiner, A largely Indian victory in world war II mostly forgotten in India, 2014)
The idiotic British policies led to such mass scale destruction of Indian forests in both wars; the effects are still felt today. There was no planned reforestation carried out by colonial power. The United Nations’ Food & Agricultural Organisation says: “The first era in deforestation was shortly after absorption into the British Empire. The second major deforestation was in the 1940s with demands of World War II.” Therefore, hundreds of thousands of people of British origin living in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada owe their existence to the ultimate sacrifice of Indians, and particularly Hindus. The contributions of the millions of young men, the labour of the women, children and seniors in wartime factories, the devastation of the very ecosystem of India, the donations of wealthy Indian Nawabs and businessmen all in the name of further bloodshed and war. So when we talk about “remembering the troops” we need to move beyond the forces of the allied, but also think about and remember the efforts of many Indians who stood to gain very little, but paid with the ultimate sacrifice in both World war I and II and asked for nothing in return; the most we can do is to at least write them into the history of dominant war narratives and remember their efforts every Remembrance Day. Ꮠ
(Naveen Chandra: Ph. D. in Physics from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1969. Physicist and Educator. Worked in India, Brazil and Mozambique and Canada. Author of children science books, freelance journalist, researcher, speaker.Telugu writer of stories and poems and essays. Avid Gardener.Reader. )