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A Memorable Memorial !!

Of late, there have been a few voices raised for the building of a
National War Memorial to honour those of our comrades who have
made the supreme sacrifice for the Nation. There is indeed no nobler
profession than that of the arms in which a uniformed soldier will, if
necessary, willingly lay down his life for a National cause.
I was recently fortunate to be part of a United Nations peace keeping
Mission in Sudan. It was on one of my exploratory weekend outings
around Khartoum, the capital city along the Nile river that I chanced
upon a rather well maintained Commonwealth War Memorial, with
grave stones bearing Regimental insignia and a wall bearing some
names. On curious inspection, I was pleasantly surprised when I
discovered that the wall had upon it, row upon row of names of those
Indian soldiers (including the redoubtable “Sappers and Miners”) who
had died in action in battles in Eritrea and Sudan in the Second World
War and whose bodies were never recovered. Interestingly, while all
other nationalities were on one side, it was the memorial to the Indian
soldiers that occupied a central place of honour. In addition to being
magnificently maintained, complete with a lush green lawn in Sub-
Saharan climate, I learnt that the memorial was visited by a
Commonwealth delegation for a wreath laying ceremony every year.
It was poignant to note that these were not merely names, but a
roll call of heroes who had lived up to the best traditions of their
Regiment and Army; men who had laid down their lives fighting for a
colonial ruler on a foreign battlefield. Most touching was the fact that,
after so many years, it was the same former colonial power that
continued to unhesitatingly, and regularly honour even those foreign
soldiers who fought, and died, under its flag at its bidding. Obviously, I
spent the rest of the evening giving a gist of the Indian Army’s history
to two fellow “Blue Berets”- German army officers who had
accompanied me to the War Memorial and who could not figure what
on earth a War Memorial to dead Indian Army soldiers was doing in
Africa !!
Later, I could not help, but compare with the story back home,
where no National Memorial exists for those men in uniform who died
defending not a foreign interest, but the very sovereignty and honour
of an independent India. Maybe we all have a tendency to forget and
move on, but there definitely was a lesson in martial pride and
remembrance to be learnt in that modest little graveyard tucked away
in the corner of a dusty African city. While it certainly made me feel
prouder of the uniform I wear, perhaps it is a message that the powers-
to-be may wish to keep in mind. Who know, someday, we may have
our very own National Memorial too??