Thursday, 5 September 2019

Some interesting facts of Bengali War Memorial, Kolkata

Bengali war memorial, Kolkata telegraphindia.com
There are many ''war memorials'' in India and the one in Kolkata known as Bengali War memorial has appeared strange to me. Then I realized that not many of Bengalis in this metropolitan city and the adjacent areas either knew or heard of such a monument.
 
It is a marble monument built  to honor the memory of the soldiers of the 49th Bengali Regiment, the only British Indian Army regiment made entirely of  Bengalis. They served  in the Mesopotamia theater and died there during World War one (WWI- 1914 to 1918). Historians point out that the Mesopotamia theater (Iraq) was the worst managed one by the British. At this juncture, it is quite pertinent to point out that as many as 130000 Indian soldiers  were shipped abroad to fight in different war theaters during the WWI.  The unfortunate fact is with some exceptions,  none of them were commissioned officers and drew a low pay. India had nothing to do with WWI and it origin,  but was compelled to supply soldiers, clothing, rifles, boots, etc by the British.  All of these at the expense of British India government!! The moot question is: Why did the Indian soldiers have to go to different countries and fight on the side of the British Army with people who were not their enemies. Ironically, a large part  Indian money financed British participation in the war.
Bengalee War memorial, Kolkata. NoiseBreak

Though Bengal produced a plethora of freedom fighters and revolutionaries whose hallmarks were their spirit of patriotism, love of freedom and courage  to kill colonial officials who were extremely harsh toward the people fighting for freedom, it has been a general consensus that Bengalis are known more for their intellectual pursuits than wielding rifles or swords in the battle field. They would rather take refuge in books, read pages after pages and improve their knowledge rather than seeking  political solutions through wars. Put in in a simple language, Bengalis do not belong to the martial race that is what the British thought and it took a while for them to recruit Bengalis for the British army.  Upon announcement by Governor of Bengal Lord Carmichael  on the 7th of Aug. 1916 the British Army had begun to recruit Bengalis on 30 July, 2016 at Ft. William, Kolkata  for the military
Bengali war Monument in College Square in Kolkata en.wikipedia.org
services and on the 1st of July 1917, the 49th Bengali Regiment officially came into being.  Ability to fight has anything to do with either race or state. It is a question of consistent, practice, assimilation of fighting qualities, hard work and above all courage Race does not bequeath warriors, rather proper experience and dedication produce warriors.

Bengali war monument.Kolkata /double-dolphin.blogspot.com

Close to to the  College Square, Kolkata  right across, near the eastern gate it is difficult to locate the barricaded memorial as it is surrounded by hoardings, etc. On the east side is an  inscription in the base that reads: “In memory of members of The 49th Bengalee Regiment who died in the Great War, 1914-1918, To the Glory of God, King and Country.” On all three sides contain the names of soldiers killed in WWI and their places in Bengal. Atop the memorial below the pediment  there is an inscription ''49 Bengalis'', here 49 refers to the 49th Bengali Regiment. 


Like countess monuments across India, this one is also in a state of neglect. The state govt. should take steps to  remove the hoardings, etc close to the memorial and make it visible to the people. Without monuments our connectivity with the past becomes a forgotten chapter in history. Such monuments are useful for the posterity.




Some interesting facts of the 49th Bengal army:

01. This regiment consisted of Bengalies misty from the elite families. It was also called Bengali Double Company.

02. In the social gatherings, Bengali soldiers became a subject of joke and carping remarks bordering on derision. The Bengali soldier can 'barely distinguish the butt from the barrel of a rifle'.

03. The 49th Bengalis were trained in Karachi and  shipped off to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in August 1917, reaching there in September.

04. Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bangladesh’s national poet, was  known to have served  in the regiment. 

05. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose wanted to join the British Army, but  is said to have been rejected on grounds of poor eyesight. 

06. Subedar Major Shalindranath Basu,  who is related to the family of former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu and a former secretary of Mohun Bagan club, was a Viceroy’s Commissioned Officer (VCO) in the regiment.

07. In the British Army it was difficult to get selected for the post of Commissioned Officer.

08. Other Bengali  soldiers (bhadralok)  included Kumar Adhikram Mazumdar, a lawyer,  Khaza Habibullah, a nawab of Dhaka, and businessman Ranoda Prosad Saha.

09. These Bengalis and other Indian soldiers were given security guard duty and did not see action in the war front. As many as 30000 Indians died in this theater  not in the battlefields but due to disease.
https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/the-bhadralok-goes-to-war/cid/221119
https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/the-bhadralok-goes-to-war/cid/221119