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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

9. Inception of the 'Indo-Japanese Peace Cenotaph':

Significantly enough, after the completion in Moirang (Kangla) of the I.N.A. Martyrs' Memorial Complex in the late 1960's, another W. W. II-related monument has seen light on the 21st March 1994 in the shape of the INDIA PEACE MEMORIAL at Maibam Lotpa Ching, an outstanding hillock on Imphal-Moirang Road (now forming a part of Kohima-Aijawl National Highway No. 150), some 16 kms southwest of Imphal in the Bishnupur district of Manipur. Sponsored by the Japanese Government, this Memorial was dedicated to the lasting memory of the fallen heroes of Indo-Japanese forces, who laid down their lives during the direct confrontation between IV Corps of the Allied Forces and 15 Japanese Army in the jungles of Manipur and Imphal Valley for the control of Imphal (March 1944) on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary.

The hillock is what the Japanese war strategists must have euphemistically called "The Red Hill" for the last major battle was fought on this hillock, which proved unfortunately decisive for the advancing Indo-Japanese forces, because by that time the Allied forces at Imphal valley were quite precariously surrounded on all the directions and were about to retreat. Here thus a Peace Memorial has come up through the vigorous and hectic effort of a surviving war hero, Lt. General Iwaichi Fujiwara. The hillock and the surrounding (Photoplate 10: 4) with its reddish soil represents the farthest the invading Japanese Army could approach Imphal in May 1944, as is well known with a detachment of the INA.

Lt. General Iwaichi Fujiwara, then in his early thirties as a Major, and Head of 'F' Kikan was the first Japanese officer who (through the help of Giyani Pritam Singh of India Independence League) met Captain Mohan Singh of 1/14 Punjab Regt. (later G.O.C., INA) in the jungles of Jitra (Malaya) sometime in December 1942 and urged him to join the League and raise an Indian National Army for the cause of India's independence from the British yoke. Earlier in Malaya on 16 Feb. 1942 after the fall of Singapore Lt. Col. Hunt, a staff officer of British Military Hqs handed over some 20,000 Indian soldiers and officers as Prisoners of War (POW) to the Japanese military authority represented by Major Fujiwara, who on his turn handed over these POW to GOC Mohan Singh. Based on such a genesis of the INA, Fujiwara is rightly regarded as the 'God-father' of INA. Eventually General Fujiwara led a delegation of surviving war-heroes visiting Manipur in Febry. 1974 for the manifestation of his dream project. Again he visited Manipur as the Deputy Leader of the Japanese Government-sponsored Bone-Recovery Mission in March 1975. After completion of their mission during which they collected remains of Japanese war-dead, they visited the Imphal War Cemetery, and the Kohima War Cemetery in Nagaland, both constructed by the British Government for Allied forces.

Then they became very much impressed by the serenity of what the British Government constructed for the fallen heroes of the Allied forces, and thus became deeply touched but strongly determined to themselves leave behind a similar memorial. Besides Fujiwara, Major U Honda and all the other members of the delegation shared their deep sentiment and attachment but unanimously felt that they missed a similar memorial enshrining the Japanese in Imphal, where they encountered a total rout and their worst disaster in the five-month long war-campaign against Imphal and Kohima (March-July 1944). Even otherwise Japanese War Memorials had by this time been constructed in most of the capitals of East Asia where they fought, including Burma. Their aspirations were made known to the Indian Government in the form of repeated petitions and memoranda. But somehow the Ministry of Home Affairs did not arrive at a decision. But by December 1982 the Indo-Burma War Area Veterans Association of Japan (IBAWAVAJ), the apex body of the Second World War Veterans of Japan with a nationwide strength of 75,000 Japanese took up the cause jointly and made another representation to the Government of India requesting for allocation of a plot of land measuring 5,000 sq. km within the urban zone of Imphal city alongside the city road leading to the Airport for the proposed construction of a Memorial.

This time the matter was referred to the Government of Manipur (15 March 1984). Although willing, the Government of Manipur sought some clarifications from the Government of India in whose name the land should be allotted. Unfortunately Fujiwara could not live to see his dream memorial enshrined in his fondly enchanting horizon of Imphal valley. For he expired before the Indo-Japan Peace Memorial could have been completed. Likewise, many other Japanese war heroes like Major U. Honda, as also Takashi Suzuki, onetime Japanese Ambassador to India, who initiated the project, could not make it to its inception day. Meanwhile vigorous attempt continued to be made under the leadership of Mr. Susumu Nishida, President of the Veterans' Association, by forming a pressure-group, Imphal Committee under the chairmanship of Shutaro Kotani, Vice-President of IBAWAVAJ, himself another veteran (while still 22 years old) of the Imphal Campaign. This compact group was determined to 'take the bull by the horns' and pursued the matter, in June 1992 when Prime Minister Narasimha Rao visited Japan and gave the green signal in return for a handsome economic package of Rs 380 crore worth from the Japanese Government. Subsequent liaising with the then Governor of Manipur Chintamani Panigrahi, Chief Minister R. K. Dorendra Singh and former Chief Minister M.Koireng Singh have then made the land allotment possible. Out of 3 possible sites Maibam Lotpa Ching (Red Hill-R.K.-2926) was selected by rejecting Lamphel and Porompat.


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