Exhibition to pay tribute to Indian heroes of World War I

New Delhi: Compelling photographs and rare objects used by Indian soldiers which shed light on their bravery and sacrifice during World War I will be on display at an exhibition here to honour them in the centenary year of the Great War.
The exhibition “India And the First World War” from January 13 to February 10 will also have a separate section showcasing the actual uniform, turban and other memorabilia used by the Indian soldiers 100 years ago.  
The images for the exhibition have been sourced from all over the world primarily from Imperial War Museum, British Library, London, French Military Archives, Flanders Museum, Belgium and many other private collections internationally.  
Besides, there will also be a section featuring sound recordings and silent movies of the Indian soldiers made between 1914 and 1918.
The exhibition has been organised jointly by Roli Books, Embassy of France in India, and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
When the Great War came to a head, Britain needed all the support it could get.
It fell to the lot of the Empire’s colonies across the world to fill in for the gaps left by the weakened British regiments.
And thus, close to seven lakh Indian soldiers encouraged to enlist by their national leaders crossed the oceans for the first time to fight an indecipherable war against an unknown enemy.  
They were ill-prepared for the European winters and the dusty Mesopotamian summers.
The warfare tactics, which used extensive bunkers and weapons that were hitherto unheard of, proved to be a challenge.
Issues of racism and language followed the Indian soldiers wherever they were deployed. And yet, they fought bravely for the prestige of their regiments and for their own.
They proved to the world that they were brave, loyal, and capable soldiers, and till date, the Indian troops are spoken of reverently in the villages across the Western Front.  
And yet, people know little about this aspect of the War.  
According to British Council, almost 1.5 million Muslim, Sikh and Hindu men from regions like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Bihar volunteered in the Indian Expeditionary Force, which saw fighting on the Western Front, in East Africa, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Gallipoli.  
However, of these men, around 50,000 died, 65,000 were wounded, and 10,000 were reported missing, while 98 Indian army nurses were killed.
India also supplied 170,000 animals, 3.7 million tonnes of supplies, jute for sandbags, and a large loan (the equivalent of about 2 billion pounds today) to the British government.
Last year, the United Nations commemorated the centenary of World War I, lauding the courage and sacrifice of soldiers including over a million from India.
During the event, a short film showing images of the War was also screened. It had particularly moving images of the Indian soldiers fighting in the battlefield across the world.
Excerpts from letters and diaries of soldiers and nurses as they lived through the war were also read by UN interns and staff.
Among the three letters that were read was one by Indian soldier Gholam Rasul Khan, who was one of over a million volunteer soldiers serving as part of the Indian Expeditionary Forces.
On May 24, 1916, Khan had written the letter from France to his father Mahmood Navas Khan expressing hope to soon return to his homeland. Amid the gloom and loss of war, Khan spoke with hope that one day the war would end and the pain of grief will turn into joy.


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