Friday, November 28, 2014

Indian soldiers from Malabar in world war I.

Indian soldiers in Action in  World War I. 

 Hundred years have passed since World War I. The world is observing World War I centenary ( WWI period was 1914-1918). But there is no sound and fury in India unlike in other European countries. Main reason is India was a British Colony then. But today’s generation will be surprised to know that an amazing number Indians participated in the war. Some records show that more than 14 Lakh ( 1.4 Million) Indians participated. This count far outnumbered the count of soldiers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, the other British ruled nations, put together.

Lord Macaulay’s words “How can a man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, and the Temple of his Gods” would have inspired a lot in India then as it is today. But Indians then fought for a British King and a distant nation which they never saw.

Britain definitely used the Indian “coolie soldiers” in hordes. Most were called Sepoys. It was their duty to protect king   ;)   and for whom .. and for what the war was.. ?  
Although Colonial issues ( who -  controls what? ) of powerful European powers  were responsible Wikipedia history puts the  beginning cause as  assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie by Gravilo princip an ethnic Serb from Bosnia. What a thing to start a world war!
And Where were they going ? Against whom were they fighting? It seems they were just pawns.

India contributed immensely to the war effort in terms of both men and material. Her
soldiers served with credit and honour in numerous battlefields around the globe: in France and Belgium,
in Aden, Arabia, East Africa, Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Persia, Salonica, Russia, and
even in China. By the end of the war it was recorded that 1,100,000 Indians had served overseas at the cost of 60,000 dead.
We do not know much about Indian Participation except some memorials here and there in small towns.  Most WW1 memorials are not kept well. In Tiruchi town you can see tower clock and a plank showing “349 from that place left for war and 41 did not return”.
We do not teach our children about the Indian soldiers participation at all.  A few names on the India gate is deceiving.  There were regiments from all the regions administered by Britain. There was a Regiment from Malabar too..    Nair Regiment.!

Some data I got from the book ‘Kozhikodinte paithrukam’ ( by Adv.T.B.Seluraj  - Mathrubhumi books) will be of interest to you.

Records show a total of 99,680 was recruited from Malabar. People from Malabar actively participated.  Documents show 1,500 people dead from Malabar alone.  We do not see any memorial here.

People were asked to donate money generously for the war and a sum of Rs.9,32,500 was collected. Ships traveled from Kozhikode to Mombaza – 5 times, To Basra 25 times, To Suez 13 times,  To Alexandria 7 times, To Arabia 13 times.  The British authorities in Malabar encouraged recruiting agents by giving attractive awards – Mainly watches and Revolvers!  - A Wrist watch was a highly sophisticated technology product - a coveted prize then!.  Records show that one Yusuf from Malabar got a watch for supplying largest number of soldiers. The watch was sponsored by Vengayil Kunhikrishnan Nair - on behalf of Govt.. A Revolver was awarded to Pootheri Kuttikrishnan Nair from Feroke for supplying large number of coal workers. Poor hapless Malabaris -  they were toiling in distant lands in Gallipoli, Flanders, Macedonia,Sinai. But when the war ended the Government took care of the dependents and the injured considerably well. We must appreciate that. There was an order to give a minimum 5 acre land to dependents and injured. The documents show 43 people got 94 acre land like this.  The Gov. jobs fetching upto Rs.15/- p.m. was reserved for war victims family members. Free education upto secondary. Free notebooks too. ;)
I only wish if at least one literate guy among those soldiers had attempted to write his experience, today we would have relished it !