An interfaith commemoration for Indian soldiers who died in the First World War was held at the Indian memorial in France on Sunday. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Neuve Chapelle (March 10-13, 1915) which was the Indian Corps first major action in the war as a single unit.
Organised by the Indian Interfaith association and the local French administration at the Neuve Chapelle memorial, the event was attended by more than 1,300 Indians of different religious groups and about 300 French guests, the organisers told HT.
The memorial commemorates over 4,700 soldiers and labourers from British India who lost their lives on the Western Front during the First World War and have no known graves.
“Many come to pay homage to the Indian soldiers here, but we wanted to read their last prayers as this had never been done” said Ramesh Chandar Vohra, President of the Interfaith association.
A local band played the Indian and French national anthems as well as the last post, the final salute to fallen soldiers.
Pradeep Kumar Singh, a business executive said, “Back home, we tend to forget about these thousands of people who travelled thousands of kilometres to fight in unfamiliar territory and unfamiliar climate for a cause and for enemies that were not theirs”
The event took on a nationalist flavor, with Indian flags being waved and slogans of “Jai Hind” and “Indo-France ki Jai” greeting the prayers read by Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh and Buddhist religious leaders.
The Indian ambassador to France, Dr Mohan Kumar, told HT, “We should appreciate the fact that the relationship between India and France goes back not just 40-50 years but a whole century.”