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The Synthesizing Role of The I.N.A. Martyrs' Memorial: Moirang & The Indo-Japanese Peace Cenotaph: Lotpaching (Red Hill)

Manindra Singh Mairembam


8. Emergence of the INA Martyrs' Memorial Complex, Moirang:

Well realizing the significant role of Netaji and his brainchild, the INA, in transcending the process of the India's liberation movement onto the integration effort of post-Independence India, Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru initially suggested that a befitting memorial be constructed as a mark of gratitude to the departed heroes of the INA who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom under the inspiring leadership of Netaji. Taking the cue, the Congress Party decided to erect it at Moirang (45 km south of Imphal), situated at the southwestern bank of Loktak lake, because it was at this sacred spot that the INA hoisted the Tri-colour flag for the first time after its liberation on 14 April 1944. Accordingly, Shri U. N. Dhebar the then Congress President laid the foundation stone of the proposed memorial complex in as early as the 25 November 1955 so that it should go down in history as "the first shrine of India," forever symbolizing the INA motto, 'Unity! Faith! Sacrifice!'.

However only from 1967 onwards its construction could have been started in phases with fund received from Central and State Governments, as also from the general public. The Netaji Library was completed and dedicated on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee celebration of Azad Hind Government on the 21 October 1968 by the then Union Education Minister, Dr. Triguna Sen. Next, the INA War Memorial Museum containing all the war collections was dedicated on 23rd September 1969 by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi.

The since completed works would today stand out quite prominently the replica of the INA War Memorial, which is the exact reconstruction of the original INA War Memorial whose foundation stone was laid by none other than Netaji himself on 8 July 1945 on the Singapore seafront as decided by the then Azad Hind cabinet at the suggestion of Netaji himself dedicating it to the memory of the brave and valiant fighters of the Azad Hind Fauz who laid down their lives while fighting for the cause of freedom in the battles of Imphal and Kohima. The said construction was entrusted to his trusted Colonel C. J. Stracy (an Anglo-Indian) after Netaji himself selected its design from half-a-dozen models submitted by Stracy. Working day and night the proposed replica was constructed within the stipulated time of three weeks, although Netaji himself could not set his eyes on the completed replica. In fact, it was demolished by the Allied forces as soon as they reoccupied Singapore.

At Moirang the foundation stone of the proposed INA Memorial replica reconstruction work was laid on 21 October 1968 by Shri K. K. Shah, the then Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, while the reconstructed granite structure itself was unveiled on 23rd September 1969 by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi who dedicated it as a beacon to the future generation based on the three INA principles of Ittefaq, Itmad & Kurbani: Unity, Faith and Sacrifice (Photoplate 10:1). Alongside stands out the life-size bronze statue of the Netaji in military uniform (Photoplate .10 : 2) in open air donated by the West Bengal Government and inaugurated by the then President of India V. V. Giri on 21 October 1972.

A stone monument has also been erected at the historic Moirang Kangla, where Colonel S. A. Malik, Commander of the Bahadur Group of the Azad Hind Fauz, planted the national Tri-colour flag on 14 April 1944 (Photoplate. 10 : 3). Inside the edifice lies a Gallery of Unsung Heroes of the INA, citing the names of 56 recipients of seven INA-decorations (Shaheed-e-Bharat, Sardar-e-Jung, Sher-e-Hind, Vir-e-Hind, Tamgha-e-Bahaduri, Tamgha-e-Shatru-Nash, and Sanad-e-Bahaduri), specially created by Netaji for gallantry, leadership, courage and loyalty. These soldiers fought valiantly in the Arakans, Haka-Falan, Tiddim, Kalewa-Tamu, Palel, Moreh, Kohima, Bishnupur and Imphal.

Its latest addition is the Sheel Bhadra Yajee Gallery of Freedom-Fighters on the 2nd floor of the Museum depicting the names of 17 important INA freedom-fighters of Manipur, including two women: viz. 1) Mairembam Koireng Singh, Moirang; 2) Hemam Nilamani Singh, Moirang; 3) Kiyam Gopal Singh, Moirang; 4) Laiphrakpam Sanaba Singh, Moirang; 5) Potsangbam Tomal Singh, Imphal; 6) Thokchom Angou Singh, Imphal; 7) Sarungbam Ibohal Singh, Imphal; 8) Mutum Amuba Singh, Imphal; 9) Laishram Irabot Singh, Imphal; 10) Khumbongmayum Jugeshwar Singh, Imphal; 11) Laishram Kanhai Singh, Imphal; 12) L.Bijoy Singh, Imphal; 13) I. Tombi Singh, Imphal; 14) W. Gyaneshwar Singh, Imphal; 15) Moirangthem Jatra Singh, Bishnupur; 16) M. Randhoni Devi, Imphal; and 17) O. Keina Devi, Oinam.

It also exhibits short life-sketches of four prominent INA personnel (viz. Mairembam Koireng Singh, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Janab Naqi Ahmad Choudhury, and Heman Nilamani Singh), who saw actual action in Rangoon. Sheel Bhadra Yajee's singular post-Second World War II effort in liaising with all the then living ex-INA personnel and freedom-fighters from mainland India has perhaps been the sole mainspring of action in raising the INA Memorial complex to its stature. Its management was initially vested to a national-level committee under the style of INA Martyrs' Memorial Committee (Moirang), and upto 1975 it could mobilize by way of contributions from Union and various State Governments including public only a sum of Rs 6.58 lakh for its construction (vide Table 10-2). Under the circumstances, the then Rishang Keishing-led State Government agreed to take over the remaining responsibility.

And by January 1985 the entire management was handed over to State Government, with the instrument of handing-over signed by M. Koireng Singh and H. Nilamani Singh on behalf of the National Committee and by E. Nilakanta Singh, Director Art & Culture on behalf of the State Government. Since the takeover, the State Government initially spent an additional outlay of Rs 16 lakh as per budget allocation under Art & Culture Head for 1985-86. Thereafter, the State Government funnelled towards its continued construction a sum of Rs 2 and 4 crore earmarked by the Ninth Finance Commission (NFC) and the Eleventh Finance Commission (EFC) respectively for the budget years 1991-96 and 2001-06. It may be recalled that out of a total EFC grant of Rs 10 crore for the INA Memorial construction Rs 6 crore was diverted for the construction of the Imphal Cultural Complex at Palace Ground.

The construction work of the INA complex was ultimately completed at the gross total outlay of Rs 6.23 crore from all sources and duly inaugurated on 23rd January 2005 by the Union Information & Broadcasting Minister, Jaipal Reddy. And the INA Museum was dedicated on the occasion of the 108th Birth anniversary of Netaji (23rd January 2005) by the Governor of Manipur Dr. S. S. Sidhu to "all the soldiers of the Indian National Army, "both known and many more unknown," who fought and sacrificed their lives for the cause of India's freedom." The museum in particular is no longer a dull repository of artifacts of man and objects, but serving as a beacon of cultural education, historical research, and educative entertainment. In the field of cultural activities its auditorium has been hosting regular anniversaries of: Netaji's Birthday (23 January); National Tri-colour Flag-Hoisting Day (14 April); and Provisional Government of Free India (Azad Hind) Day (21 October); besides many national seminars on Netaji and the INA.

In addition, it has organized interstate cultural exchange programmes as a flagship of the cultural ethos of Manipur vis--vis mainstream. In the international arena it is drawing a large number of tourists, particularly from Japan, in respectful obeisance to those soldiers who laid down their lives in the Imphal Campaign for the cause of India's liberation. It has also seen international cultural events sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Delhi. And it has figured as one of the twin destinations of Japanese tourists' circuit, since 1994 when the Japanese Government raised a peace memorial at Lotpaching on Imphal-Moirang Road. However, its maintenance in the hands of the State Art and Culture Department would have many shortcomings which would ultimately cast aspersion on the national image and stature of this one and only one INA Memorial in the entire country. It should therefore be taken over by the Central Government to facilitate its befitting status as a National Monument.

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