UKL to honour its unsung labour forces of WW-I

UKHRUL, 12th Dec:

For decades, the 'sweat and toil' and 'honour' of 1200 Tangkhul men who served, and many of whom sacrificed their lives, as workforce in France along with 800 others from different parts of Manipur during the outbreak of the first world War back in 1918, continued to be burrowed deep into oblivion.

On May 24 this year, the First World War Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps Association (WW-I TNLCA), a brainchild of a team of the district's concerned citizens, was instituted to salvage the significance and relevancy of the supreme sacrifices made by those brave labour forces in the contemporary Tangkhul society.

On the threshold of 100th year of their deployment as workforce in the first world war, WW-I TNLCA is gearing up to observe a centennial commemoration in their honour on April 18 and 19 in 2018.

Highlighting about the forthcoming centenary, WW-I TNLCA general secretary Zanyo Varam said, "it is not going to be a grand observance as such, but to make it enough to bring out the significance of their sacrifices and acknowledge their roles by risking their own lives."

He further highlighted that the association is also planning to set up a heritage tourism in the form of Memorial Park in honour of the WWI Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps at a site allocated at Hatha village in the district very shortly.

Conveying that the commemoration is not about celebrating jubilation, Zanyo said that it is about recounting the pains that the brave forefathers went through in the war times. "All the families and relatives of the Corps members will be invited and mementos will be handed over in memory of the labour members. Memorial plays depicting the tough journey they undertook will also be staged during the commemoration," he said.

"It was a historic moment when Tangkhul men accounted for as many as 1200 out of 2,000 men who were recruited from all over Manipur in May 1917 to be deployed in France," Victor W Kaping chairman of WW-I TNLCA said during the announcement of the upcoming centenary at its Viewland office here Tuesday.

"The Tangkhul labours were recruited as part of the Manipur Labour Corps to provide essential logistical work in the war zones. They started their journey in May 1917 and made it to France and other countries like Italy, Egypt and when they set off for home in July the following year, at least 80 of them lost their lives on the way and their bodies were never recovered", Kaping said referring to historical accounts.

The labourers were made to perform tasks ranging from digging trenches to preparing food, supplying arms and ammunition and many other works, he said.

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