Kohima: The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima, considered one of the fiercest yet almost forgotten battles of the country, was commemorated on Thursday with dignitaries from the UK, Japan, Myanmar and the US taking part in the special function held in the capital town of Nagaland.
With the theme, ‘Remembrance, Reconciliation and Rebirth’, the ceremony started with traditional blessings from Medo Keretsü, head ‘gaon burha’ (GB) of the Kohima Village Council. The programme was marked by speeches and choral performances in the first session which was later followed by cultural performances, bike rally and band display.
Addressing the gathering, Temjen Toy, chief secretary, in his opening remark recalled how 75 years ago, Kohima, a “little town”, became a battle ground for the world’s “two imperialist powers — Britain and Japan” which turned to be a “nightmare for the Naga people” as Nagas “suffered silently through a war that was not theirs”.
Toy said that while each nation had their share of sufferings from the war, both nations regained their lost glory and has emerged to be among “the most advanced economies in the world” ever since.
He further said that these two nations has “in recent years” began to turn towards the Nagas, “over whose lands they once fought” acknowledging their efforts and urged the need to build friendships as Nagas are “in the middle of one of the most complex and difficult ethnic regions of Asia” and “are still languishing in many fronts”.
Kenji Hiramatsu, Japanese Ambassador to India, in his message mentioned “The Battle of Kohima is etched in our hearts as one of the fiercest and toughest battles during the Second World War” and the past sacrifices has created a peaceful society today. Hiramatsu added: “Squarely facing the history of the past, Japan renews its commitment to never repeat the devastation of the war. We look back, in order to look towards the future.”
With the growing relationship between Japan and northern region of India, Hiramatsu said, “I, as the Ambassador of Japan, wanted to do something to contribute to this region. Two years ago, I established the Act East Forum, together with the foreign secretary of India, to help accelerate the development of the Northeast region and expand our people-to-people exchanges”. He also extended supoprt in student exchange through the IRIS program that Japan had been implementing for two years by inviting young Nagas and other youths from the region.
Sir Dominic Anthony Gerard Asquith, British High Commissioner, acknowledged the soldiers whose “sacrifices helped to change the course of history”. Considering the advancements and developments since the war in 1944, Dominic said that the three nations- India, Japan and UK “stands together as three big democracies”.
Meanwhile, chief minister Neiphiu Rio, in his address, mentioned that the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Kohima will be a “yearlong commemoration” as he remembers the “prisoners of war (PoW)” who laid their lives in Kohima. Stating that Kohima was the “threatre of war in 1944”, Rio urged the need to “reconcile with history” and look to the “future in peace and brotherhood”.
Rio asserted “the relationship with UK and Japan over the last 75 years stands a model of the power of reconciliation”. He exemplified as how “former adversaries have now become steadfast allies” working towards “common interest and universal values in Asia and globally”
In concern with the Naga political issue, Rio stated “Your (Anglo-Japanese) war ended here in our land whilst ours began. After many years of hardship and suffering, we are now in the process of ceasefire and political dialogue” and further hoped for support as Nagas march ahead in realising “genuine peace” for a “harmonious future”.
Greetings were delivered by Lt. General Rajiv Sirohi, General Officer Commanding, 3 corps; Sylvia May, CEO, Kohima Educational Trust (KET) and Akiko MacDonald, Chairperson Burma Campaign Society.
The Battle of Kohima was fought in three stages from 4 April to 22 June 1944 during the second world war.