December 08, 2018 08:10 PM
Noted Media perosnlity Barkha Dutt moderating the session on 'Contribution of India towards the First World War' during the second day of ongoing MLF 2018 in Chandigarh on Saturday.

Chandigarh (Face2News)

War veterans on Saturday came together on the Military Literature Festival (MLF) platform to demand for a dedicated war memorial to commemorate the sacrifices of all the World War I heros. 

The hitherto unrecognised contribution of valiant Indians, particularly Punjabis, needed to be aggressively propagated, they said at a panel discussion on 'Contribution of India Towards the First World War’, moderated by noted media personality Barkha Dutt.

 The panelists consisted of Squadron Leader Rana Chhina, Prof. David Omissi, Prof. Anju Suri, besides Dr. Santanu Das and Lt. Gen. N S Brar, who engaged in a stimulating discussion that underlined the social and emotional turbulence suffered by soldiers and families during the 1914-1918 War. 

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, himself a distinguished military historian, could not attend the session as he was indisposed. 

Taking part in the discussion, Squadron Leader Rana Chhina suggested declaration of the orange marigold as a remembrance flower for honouring the memory of all the fallen heroes, on the lines of the Red Poppy chosen for by the British Government for the same cause. The view was supported in one voice by all panelists, and it was resolved to formally forward this proposal to the Central Government. 

Highlighting the oral literature pertaining to Punjabis, who on the orders of the Empire joined the War, noted historian of Oxford University shared that Punjab had produced a powerful and diverse range of literature between 1914-18. "This land of five rivers throbbed and hummed with stories, poems, kissas, dastaans, prayers, sometimes seething and somnolent. It was never silent but full of sounds and whispers". 

With literacy rate of 6.4% amongst men and less than one percent amongst women, the natives were non literate but were intensely literary, he said, adding that the the lack of acknowledgment for the stupendous role played by Indians, particularly Punjabis, in World War I was due to deliberate amnesia and not on account of absence of literature about it. 

Highlighting the events leading up to the start of the Great War and the induction of Punjabis into it, Prof David Ommissi, who has extensively studied the censored letters (mostly free postcards) written by soldiers and families, stated that this muted and cautioned description vividly portrayed the sufferings and hardships endured by the soldiers. 

Underlining the motivation for fighting a war which was not theirs, LT. General Brar said that it could be best described as mixture of Izzat, pride, family tradition, regimental honour, and loyalty to the salt. Discarding the notion that they were not soldiers but mercenaries, he further said that a soldier always follows orders and should not be connected with any political or colonial regime. 

Prof. Anju Suri from Panjab University suggested concerted efforts to synchronize Indian political narrative with military history to ensure dissemination of effective message among youth. 


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