‘Homage to 993 Indian soldiers who died defending France during World War-I & commemorated in the Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, France’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

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An extract from the Foreword to the book written by Prof. Chetan Singh, Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Niwas, Shimla:

“… …In calculating the cost of war and victory, nations take for granted the death of soldiers and others directly connected with its conduct. Those expected to pay the price for the larger cause cannot, of course, appear in such calculations as persons with names and personal affiliations. That happens only after they have paid with their lives. Even thereafter, they often remain numerical figures in half-forgotten places.

Then someone, like Dr. K. J. S. Chatrath, makes a deliberate effort to hold up before us the names and tiny pieces of biographic information that lie attached to each of these numbers: a reassertion of their humanness. This book represents a commendable and painstaking effort to pay homage to the Indian soldiers who died during World War I and are commemorated in the Mazargues War Cemetary in Marseilles. Indian troops, recruited for all across the Indian subcontinent, were transported in ships and landed in Marseilles not much after the war in Europe had begun.

Dr. Chatrath, the author, who holds a doctorate from the University of Paris, has devoted enormous effort to undertake this task. This book is a labor of love and of his affection for the simple souls who lie in distant lands almost forgotten by their own people. As one goes through the names and particulars recorded in the book a picture of the Indian subcontinent begins to form in one’s imagination. It is that of a subcontinent still relatively free from the sectarian divisions and violent conflicts that wreck it today.

The book reveals a historic phase and talks of an alien place where men of all regions and religions of India met their deaths: a sad but touching reminder of their common subservience to colonialism. For the perceptive reader, who dares to explore the ‘ifs’ of history, this is also a book that hides within its covers an India that could have been.”

 

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