TODAY -

World War II, INA and Manipuri Literature: A Synoptic Survey
- Part 3 -

Kakchingtabam Ruhinikumar Sharma *



(This article is incorporated as chapter in the forthcoming book on Second World War and Manipur)

In their further plans, the seize of Imphal-Tarau and Tiddim Roads were their objective so as to cut off the said roads from British vehicles thereby facilitating only Japanese supply on these roads. In this way, the 33 division with the INA were pressing hard towards Imphal plain from the southern side. It was a grim period of the time, when rains of monsoon season were heavily pouring all day and night, and in the unwelcome circumstances, they had to suffer a lot, not only from the British bullets but also from want of food, medical aids, adequate arms and ammunitions, and above all these, there were also the sicks and the wounded ones.

Another force, under general Yamauchi, was also proceeding down from Tamu to Moreh and then to places near Pallel, a place of only 30 miles from Imphal proper. It was with these Japanese forces that the British had to face a grim, severe fightings at Maibam Lokpaching, known as the red hills to the Japanese; and the Britishers. In this fighting with the marauding Japanese the British had innumerable sacrifice at the cost of their lives and thus the further advance of the Japanese was successfully obstructed and repulsed their move.

The man who planned all these for the Japanese army was General Mutaguchi . Energetic, skilled as he was, he had a strong ambition of this Imphal campaign with his firm belief that Imphal would soon be fallen into his hands before the monsoon. He even went upto the extent of making a peculiar example of Imphal as a big lake where a big fish was hiding; and the big fish (the British) would soon be caught and surrounded by his Japanese force". (Ibid., p. 150).

However, "The Japanese were utterly disappointed when the chaos came on their way. The wearied armies had to run helter-skelter in the unknown jungles of Manipur when no food and arms could reach them from their far away camps. Their ammunitions were running short, besides, the number of the sick and the wounded were also increasing. They had none to care for them but to think of their own lives. To add to these, the heavy showers of the monsoon too was a grave menace to them. To imagine the plight of those helpless soldiers, one will surely feel the miserable fate they had been subjected to.

Above all these, news of the Atom bombing by the Americans on Japanese capital cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could no more be endured in their hearts. It was the greatest of all the blows they had ever suffered, and now they had nothing but to give up all hopes of their existence." (ibid.).

Since the author had seen the activities of the British led Allied forces from close quarters it is quite natural that Nimaicharan does not have much experience to tell the tale of other side of the struggle and endurance experienced by the Japanese and INA soldiers. Despite these limitations the writer is quite successful in portraying how Manipur experienced the War.

This survey will remain incomplete if we leave out the contribution of Kshetri Bira Singh (b. 1948), one of the most accomplished novelists of all the contemporarywriters of Manipur. Apart from novel, the writer also dabbles in other genres. His two recently published works are worthy of mention. Ningthigi Ningthem (1996) is the most voluminous and detailed work of historical fiction relating to 2nd World War and Manipur.

It gives daredevilish account of a Meitei youth called Ningthem who was assigned various duties by the British government. What is of interest in the novel is the craftsmanship of the writer in recreating the actions of the Allied forces in successfully carrying out a number of overt and covert operations against the Japanese forces against the backdrop in which the Japanese are gaining success after success in Southeast Asia against the former.

Places like Nambol, Bishenpur, Moirang, Kakching, Pallel, Kanglatongbi, Senam where actual encounters had taken place in Manipur are well covered in this book. Though the focus of the book is more on Manipur, Naga Hills and Burma, the author connects it well with Delhi, Kolkata, London and Formosa as centres of war management and diplomacy are given due importance.

However, a drawback of the work is its almost near absence on the heroic exploits and sufferings endured by INA soldiers and volunteers in Manipur. Had the author given a little more space on Subhash Chandra Bose and INA the quality of the book would have enhanced considerably?

In Kakchinggi Warida (15181945), a treatise on historical and cultural accounts of Kakching published in 2020 the author contributed two precious chapters on Kakching entitled '2nd World War at Kakching and INA (Azad Hind Fauz) at Kakching'. The first Japanese air raid at Kakching took place in the early November 1943 causing large scale displacement of local populace.

Residential areas were under occupation of the Allied forces thereby affecting normal economic activities which could not be resumed in the immediate future. An interesting account provided by the writer is confrontation between the locals and some soldiers of the 11 African Divisions. According to this account some soldiers belonging to the Division frequented villages and made attempts to tarnish the modesty of local womenfolk.

Enraged by the shameful and condemnable excesses committed by the soldiers and as a retaliatory action 11 soldiers were made to pay their lives. As a consequence movement of locals were severely inconvenienced, however withdrawal of the said force eased the situation to a great extent. (Bira, 2020, p. 165).For their involvement in murdering the Allied soldiers many locals continue to face ordeals. Nongmaithem Shakngou and Kshetrimayum Kundra Singh faced litigation for three years in connection with the incident. (ibid. p. 174).

In the other chapter of the book the author tried to reconstruct efforts made by INA soldiers to win over British Indian soldiers in and around Shenam and surrounding areas albeit unsuccessfully. A large number of INA personnel lost lives because of the offensive carried out by the Gurkha soldiers of the Allies.

As a last resort, a joint offensive carried out by the Japanese and INA forces with majority of the later made a serious assault on the Pallel Airfield of the Allied forces stationed at Kakching inflicted heavy damage by using magnetic mine-bomb thereby destroying a large number of aeroplanes. The devastating offensive was carried out on the midnight of 3-4 July, 1944 and afterwards the INA and Japanese soldiers made a complete withdrawal towards Burma from Kakching. (Ibid. p. 178).

The author express his desire to establish a memorial in honour of the gallant INA soldiers who laid down their lives for the sacred cause they believed unto the last.

In Lieu of a Conclusion

For an individual, as well as for a nation, cultural memory is a complex and stratified entity strictly connected not only to the history and the experience of either the individual or the nation, but also to the way in which that very history and experience are read in time, individually and collectively.

Each time, the past acquires new meanings and the same fact, even though it stays the same, is nevertheless shaped through remembrance; inevitably, it is juxtaposed to new backgrounds, to new biographies and to new recollections. We must therefore acknowledge that it is impossible to offer a final and absolute vision of the past, especially if the event to be recalled affects at once both the private and the public sphere of a heterogeneous community, as in the case of the memories of the two World Wars. (Memories andRepresentations of War, Elena Lamberti and Vita Fortunati (ed. 2009, p. 1).

There are many authors who documented the War in Manipur included E. Sonamani Singh's serialised autobiography in Sahityaand Kh. Nimaicharan Singh's memoir of war scenes greatly enriched our understanding of trials and tribulations of the people of those harrowing days. Kshetri Bira's Ningthigi Ningthem portrays beautifully a poignant tale of human suffering and endurances.

Thus the Second World War stories continue to remain inseparable from the minds of people across the region. An apology at the end is offered; owing to the constraint of time, the writer of this piece is not in a position to include literary works translated into Manipuri like Yaruingam by Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya and The Wind Cannot Read by Richard Mason.

Bibliography:

Elena Lamberti and Vita Fortunati (Eds),Memories andRepresentations of War, (2009), Amsterdam - New York.
Hijam Guno Singh, Khudol, (1964), Imphal.
Bir Tikendrajit Road, (1983),Imphal.
, Aroiba Paodam, (1966), Imphal.
Hugh Toye, The Springing Tiger, (1978)Jaico, Delhi.
Khuraijam Nimaicharan Singh, Manipurda Prithibigi Anisuba Lanjao amasung Eina Angang Oiringei, (1997), Imphal.
Khuraijam Nimaicharan Singh, The 2nd World War in Manipur and My Childhood, (2017), Imphal.
Kshetri Bira Singh, Ningthigi Ningthem (1996),Kakching.
Kshetri Bira Singh, Kakchinggi Warida (1518 1945),Kakching, 2020.
Rajkumar Sanahal Singh, History of Manipur, (1947), Imphal.
Rajkumar Shitaljit Singh,Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose amasung Azad Hind Fauz, (1946), Imphal.
Sanasam Gourhari Singh, Manipur and World War II: With a Glimpse of the World in two volumes (1980, 1981) Imphal.
Thiyam Indrakumar Singh, Awonba Samaj, (1995),Imphal.
Thokchom Prafullo Singh, Kavi Khwairakpam Chaoba Singh amasung Mahakki Sahitya, (1996), Imphal.
Yumnam Yaima, Nungshinana Hingminnaba (2004), Imphal.
Yumnam Yaima, Punshigi Khongchatta, (2005),Imphal.


(Concluded....)


* Kakchingtabam Ruhinikumar Sharma wrote this article which was published at Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on March 17 2021.



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