The history of World War-I can be traced back to as far as 1914. It was 28 June 1914 that the Austrian-Hungarian prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his pregnant wife Sophie, were shot dead. The assassin was identified to have been a member of ‘The Black Hand’, an extremist Serbian group. In the aftermath of the assassination Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The conflicts between two countries lead to the bloodiest war in the history of mankind which killed approximately 16 million people.
Britain had large colonial colonies and relied heavily on them for manpower. By an estimate, every sixth soldier sent into the War by the British Empire was from the Indian subcontinent. Indian troops fought on several fronts which included France, Mesopotamia, Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the far East.
The Indian leaders had divided opinions about India’s participation in the war. Some of them supported the participation as it would allow her to demand greater freedom from Britain. Some were against as it would unnecessarily include India in the war. According to some Indians, service in the War was seen as a way to establish racial equality and proved that Indians didn’t lack in courage and loyalty. It was simply ‘Izzat’ and a sense of duty towards their regiment.
It gave Indian soldiers exposure to new lands and enemies. They learned new warfare tactics and the most important aspect of it was they saw freer ways of living. Almost 7 lakh Indian troops were deployed to fight the war. 70,000 laid their lives on the battlefield. A combination of Eurocentrism and unease about the imperial past has meant that this aspect of the War received very little attention.
A century later Pramod Kapoor exhibits his work at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. It’s about time that we remember their valour and sacrifice.
Picture Credits : Neel Kamal Pandey, One World News