Manipur-War tourism : Translating into reality
- An inclusive approach -

Kh Premananda Singh *

Introduction : There are shrines/sites for pilgrimage. These places were one time associated with conflicts and hence places of sacrifice for victory of good over evils. Religious pilgrimage apart, a place where battles were fought resulting loss of lives is a place kith and kin/descendents of those who fought at the place would love to visit to pay homage or for curiosity.

Manipur is a place where some of the most horrendous battles of WW - II were fought. Thus the idea of extending war tourism in Manipur is conceived. This dimension of economic development of the State is yet to be explored. Better late than never. With the lifting of the PAP by the Govt, it is now high time to start developing the industry of tourism without further delay.

How important is Manipur in the War history of WW - II : As is read from discourse on second world war, battles are ranked by a combination of
(i) importance in the outcome of WW - II
(ii) amount of men and material committed to the battle
(iii) intensity of fighting
(iv) casualties and losses incurred in men and material.

Thus, of the thirty greatest battles of WW - II like Battle of Kursk (the largest tank battle ever fought), Battle of Prussia (the greatest disaster to befall on Germany), Battle of Stalingrad (the greatest urban battle ever fought), Battle of Vistula, Battle of Berlin, Battle of Normandy without exhaustive listing, Battle of Imphal (March 6, 1944 to June 22, 1944) has been ranked fourteenth where Japanís endeavour to invade India ended in its greatest land defeat. The Battle of Imphal where 120,000 Japanese soldiers fought with British and Indian troops has been rated at par with Stalingrad and Berlin.

Sponsorship of volunteers to work in the area of war tourism may be done with the following objectives :-
(i) To identify the important battle sites in Manipur.
(ii) To look for tell-tale signs for the battle fought at sites and also eye witness accounts from the surviving locals.
(iii) To acquire the sites of the battle.
(iv) To work out modalities for erecting war memorials.
(v) To collect names and particulars of soldiers involved in specified battles.
(vi) To invite and host visitors from countries of allied forces, Japanese and Indian enthusiasts and send them back as ambassador for canvassing for War tourism in Manipur.
(vii) To host webpage/portal on War tourism in Manipur with illustrated maps, historical background and narration.
(viii) To bring awareness amongst the local masses the benefit of promoting tourism in the State to help sustain the economic growth of the population
(ix) To plan a wholesome tourism package for groups of tourists intending to visit the sites of Manipur.

Some of the sites whose mentions are found in WW - II history are :
Litan (Ukhrul road), Mapao Spur which divides lril valley from Imphal-Kohima road, Tengnoupal, Pallel, Shenam sadIe, Sugnu, South of Bishnupur Milestones 30 and 35 on Tiddim, Ningthoukhong where seven medium tanks of British were lost, Potshangbam where heavy fighting by 32 & 63 Brigade of British took place and they lost 12 tanks, Supply dump at Kangpokpi, Nungshigum Hill which overlooked Imphalís main airfield at Koirengei.

A database of soldiers fought in Manipur during WW - II may be developed. It is likely that the number of soldiers killed in Manipur during WW - II might outnumber the then population of Manipur. It is told by the olden folks that the hill top behind the Nepali Basti of Pangei in Imphal East was covered with dead bodies to the extent that there was no room to tread on the soil.

Later, some two - three decades back from now, Japanese came to collect some of the bones of their slain soldiers. I remember the visit of a Japanese delegation at Bishnupur in the year 1976. It was told one of the members of the team was a WW - II veteran who was fortunate enough to visit the place where he himself fought in WW - II. The war cemetery maintained by the Common wealth in Imphal attracts some tourists. The slim cottage at Kangla itself will attracts war tourists. Field Marshal William Slim who took part in the WW - II campaign in the region) has got a cottage in his name at the very heart of Imphal.

It will be a worthwhile exercise to make an attempt to publish the names of the soldiers who faded away in Manipur during WW - II in a tourism booklet. In collaboration with the concerned embassies the task can be taken up. Japanese soldiers led by Lt Gen Motoso Yanagida, Lt Gen Masafumi Sato, Lt Gen Kotoku Sato Maj Gen Tsunoru Yamamoto etc were said to have fought in Manipur.

It is said that Indian IV corps under Lt Gen Geoffrey Scoones were defending Imphal. It will be a fruitful endeavour to include the names of the Indian fighters of the Gandhi Brigade of the Indian National Army. INA succeeded in hoisting the Indian Tricolour at Moirang during WW - II. Of course, the INA memorial at Moirang has been a centre of attraction to those who intend to cherish the ideals of the freedom struggle which happens to be a fundamental duty enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Feasibility studies

(i) Motivational feasibility : It will be understood after this humble piece on Manipur tourism is read by those who are at the helms of affairs.

(ii) Technical feasibility : After the lifting of the PAP act, the technical hurdle is almost removed for those who intend to visit Manipur. At times we come across certain news items where some countries advising their citizens to desist from visiting the northeast of India.

The remedial steps towards this vexing problem that has been ailing the scope of tourism in Manipur may be briefed as under :-

(a) Let Manipur be the first in the World to have a dedicated battalion christened tourism battalion/Hospitality battalion drawn from amongst the existing battalions of MR and IRB. Of course, one day many countries may have such battalions in view of the increasing subversive activities. Let the entire battalion be trained in all aspects of hospitality apart from them being oriented as tourist guide cum security guards.

(b) Let the battalion be equipped with necessary assets for hosting foreign tourists in terms of providing the catering needed, the luxury transport required, the cottages the tourists can put up, etc.

(c) Then comes the condition and security in National Highways as constraints. Let a commercial airliner be a partner in Manipur tourism. A package for war tourism in Manipur may be made available to the tourists at the metropolis.

(d) Infrastructure in terms of luxury accommodation will certainly be added from the existing ones, once the demand for it arises. Initially, should there be requirement of luxury accommodation the tourist may airdash in the morning and fly out from Imphal in the evening with the night service being a reality now.

Wars do not determine what is right but what is left. Let us win the war of War Tourism in Manipur with what is left of the WW - II in Manipur. It is hoped that this piece of mine will be an impetus to those who are already or on the verge of taking up this aspect of tourism.

Proposing Reveille or wake up call to all the inhabitants of Sanaleibak Manipur with regards.

* Kh Premananda Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 25, 2011.

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