On 75th anniversary of Battle of Imphal, Peace Museum opens its doors
Former adversaries Britain and Japan came together at the inauguration of the Imphal Peace Museum on Saturday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal that saw some of the fiercest fighting of World War II at Maibam Lokpa Ching popularly known as Red Hill.
The Imphal Peace Museum (IPM), 20 km Southwest of Imphal, has been developed on 10 acres of land at the foothill of Red Hill with the support of the Nippon Foundation (TNF), a non-profit grant-making organization in collaboration with Manipur Tourism Forum and Manipur Government.
The inauguration was attended by Manipur Revenue minister Karam Shyam, Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu, High Commissioner of UK Dominic Asquith and TNF Chairman Yohei Sasakawa among others.
Red Hill was among the places where the tide began to turn against the Japanese after their invasion of India.
Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of Nippon Foundation said, ”I myself have experienced the suffering of war as I miraculously survived the Tokyo air raid amid raging flames. Since then I have lived with a strong desire to realize a world where everyone lives in peace and security.”
He said Imphal peace museum is a living memory of this tragic war and will be a bridge to pass a peaceful world to the next generation.
British envoy Dominic Asquith addressing the function said, “As our nation, today works together in close partnership to protect the global freedom, we say together we’ll remember them.”
“This thematic museum will give you a glimpse into the past right from the World War II (March-July 1944) to the present Manipur,” says researcher (on war)Rajeshwar Yumnam, President of 2nd world War Imphal campaign foundation. “This is a kind of unique museum and it could the first of its kind in the country as we divided the museum into three sections.”
The first section of the museum exhibits a timeline of the Battle of Imphal, along with names of casualties in the war. It also features names of the local people of Manipur who joined the Indian National Army.
Artifacts’ of the war such as artillery shells and other items collected by locals, valuable personal notes photographs, donated by those who have fought and survived the war besides a map of the battle of Imphal, etc, forms an important part of the display. There is also a complete set of uniform of a Japanese soldier which was brought especially all the way from Japan.
The second section depicts the post-war scenarios in Manipur highlighting the impact of war and the recovery process. Displays such as antique television sets, photographs, cameras, etc are part of this section highlighting the entry of the modern era into Manipur as a consequence of the Second World War.
Another section displays the arts and cultural life of Manipur through photographs, audio-visual features, and still models. The middle part of the building is kept as a large hall to accommodate possible program and special museum displays to be curated in the future. Along the wall of this large hall are pictures of people from different communities in the state in their native dress.
A framed calligraphy by the Prime Minister Abe Shinzo of Japan with the word ‘Peace’ or ‘Heiwa’ in Japanese which is an unfaltering hope for a peaceful future was also the main attraction of the museum.
“It’s good to have a museum of such kind here as the region (Manipur) is now connected with us after my father passed away (in the war) when I was just two and half year old,” says Nobuo Abe (77),a resident of Tochigi city in Japan who visited Manipur for the third time on Saturday in search of the remains of his father who was an infantry soldier.
According to Nobou who is a member of Japan bereaved association which conducts field survey in India for recovery and repatriation of war casualty, his father Soichi Abe died in the battle of Imphal on April 16, 1944 at the age of 30. Like Nobou, five more Japanese families including a housewife Sonoka sawai who is yet to trace whereabouts of her grand-uncle Touru Kamii,a Japanese soldier, participated in the museum opening programme