Post Mortem

Remembering the soldiers of the Burma Campaign, 1944

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/21/2020 1:27:54 PM IST

 Second World War ended in 1945 and the end of the world war led to a new beginning globally. Narrowing down the second world war theatre to the Burma Campaign; Burma, Imphal and Kohima have also been impacted by the world war fought in these respective regions. When we look into the history of the Burma Campaign, the Japanese Imperial Army advanced into Burma with the intention to cut off the supply line with China. Confident about their abilities, the Japanese Imperial army were on the winning side till the Imphal region. The fate of the Japanese soldiers in the battle of Kohima unexpectedly turnaround from victory into defeat. The Japanese soldiers who survived and went back home barely recovered from the horrors of the Burma campaign. They chose to remain silent and not talk about this event. Instead, they bear the feelings of loss, grief and guilt within themselves. The battle of Kohima and simultaneous battle of Imphal saw troops from both sides suffer deplorable inhumane horrid conditions. This is what the course of war does to the people who stands on behalf of their nation. This implies not only to the second world war but other decisive wars as well. The victory of the British allied force was indeed a celebrated moment. However, the survivors also had their own share of grief over the loss of their comrades and the cruelty of war.

The people of Burma, Imphal and Kohima were free from their temporary invaders after the war was over. The people of these regions begin to live a new normal life with least news of their former invaders. This war has also impacted the Naga society in certain areas. Most prominently, we see how it has impacted the minds of the people in understanding nation building and independence. Similarly, we understand that there has been a transition in the Naga society through this event. The Naga war veterans recalls their experiences with mixed emotions; laughter, fascination, pain, grief and most importantly their survival. To have survived is the biggest relief for any survivor.The idea or concept of nation building was much learned through this event by the Naga political leaders. The Nagas participated in the first world war as labour corps and the second world war was witnessed in their own land. This exposure imbibed sense of community togetherness and identity consciousness.Though it was a war not invited by the Nagas, the two super power nations of the 1940’s created a historic event for the Nagas. The transition from conservative tribal livelihood to western civilization is because of such unexpected event which none could ever imagine in their wildest imaginations. The British as well as the Japanese were temporary invaders whose chase for power and supreme authority influenced the Naga people that they were also no less than their invaders and it prompt them to consider themselves as an abled community. 

However, herein lies a problem that despite all these tributes and the recognition that the battle of Kohima and Imphal as the fiercest battles in British war history, the importance of the battle of Kohima does not loom large in the histories of World War II. For the Nagas, who hoped that they will be free from superior authority, this dream was terribly shattered when the British empire left India for good and giving way to India which the latter attained her Independence on 15th August, 1947. Is it not relevant to mention this that during the need hour, the Naga population adhered to complete loyalty towards the British in defeating their opponent. Then, why is it that we were left unattained and uncared? These voices have been lingering on in the hearts of the people and the atrocities and sufferings in the name of freedom still remains conflicted. 

Is war a good or bad thing? Practically, war is evil yet, it is inevitable because sometimes the call for war seems to be the only solution for a nation. The evolution of Just War theory by Middle Ages Roman and Greek philosophers and later supported by Christian theologians specifies condition for judging if it is just to go to war, and conditions for how the war should be fought.Coming from the experiences of former Japan’s Imperial soldier, war is nothing else other than killing. Any soldier with utmost allegiance and patriotic fervor desires to serve his nation. However, when one is met with such horrible crises where you are either killed or kill someone else, it jeopardizes the concept of humanity. War crime is also another impact of war. During the Second World War the murder of several million people mainly Jews by Nazi Germany, and the mistreatment of both civilians and prisoners of war prosecuted by the belligerent powers for a range of legitimate and illegitimate reasons. Robert Gilpin offers the most comprehensive definition of hegemonic war. It involves “a direct contest between the dominant power or powers in an international system and the rising challenger or challengers,” and the “participation of all the major states and most of the minor states in the system.” The fundamental issue at stake is the nature and governance of the system”; hence hegemonic wars are unlimited in their ends and in their political economic and ideological consequences. Hegemonic wars are unlimited in their means as well as their ends and expand to encompass the entire international system. The second world war is identified as general war or hegemonic war.

The problems of the post-war never can be resolved without the sense of peace and reconciliation. Post-war conciliatory gestures by the Japan government is commendable. The Japan government initiated the search for the remains of former Japanese servicemen. The team known as Japan Association for Recovery and Repatriation of War Casualties (JARRWC). This team have been covering the Burma, Manipur and Nagaland regions as part of the search operation. Also, initiative undertaken by Japan government, people to people contact between Japan and the people of Nagaland and Manipur since 2017 has been an impactful policy. The Kohima Educational Trust/Kohima Educational Society which was founded by the British Kohima war veterans have been consistently offering monetary help towards the education of Naga students besides other commendable activities. The Burma Campaign Society is committed to restore friendly relations between Japan and United Kingdom through sharing of information’s, imparting education and mutual sympathy. Over the years, many war veterans and their descendants of the Burma Campaign have visited Kohima and Imphal and to honor the sacrifice of the forgotten soldiers and also express sincere gratitude to the local inhabitants for their service during the war. Akiko Macdonald, Chairperson of the Burma Campaign Society wanted to stand where her father stood at the Kohima battle in 1944. She practically traced her father’s footsteps and walked through the battle site where his father fought which was a highly emotional and heart pinching remembrance. The definition of war weighs high and it is difficult to predict the cost of war, it could be more if we do not learn lessons from the past. Reconciliation is a hope for peace and no war.

This article was published in YeningHunba, a journal for peace and reconciliation studies by 2nd World War Imphal Campaign Foundation.

Khyulano Ezung, Research Scholar, History & Archaeology, Nagaland University, Kohima Campus.


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