History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] The forgotten million: on Indian soldiers in World War I


Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Quit India Movement

Mains level: World war 1, 2 & India’s contribution in it


Role of Indian soldiers in WW-I

  1. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the immense sacrifice and contributions of well over a million soldiers of undivided India are being incrementally recognised and memorialised the world over
  2. In France, the centenary celebrations of Armistice Day on November 11 will include the unveiling of the second overseas national war memorial for Indian soldiers
  3. The first such memorial abroad, formalised in 2002, is the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, which is a recognition that more than 130,000 Indian soldiers fought in WWI in Belgium, at least 10,000 of whom lost their lives on the battlefield
  4. Last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to wear a khadi poppy in honour of more than 74,000 soldiers from pre-Partition India who fought on the side of the allies and died in battle

Not received proper respect from the British

  1. In the early days of the War, troops of the Indian Army, backed by the political bourgeoisie, were enthusiastic in responding to the British government’s call for military support from India
  2. This was because, although the swadeshi movement was underway, the freedom movement was in a fledgeling stage
  3. Even Mahatma Gandhi was open to Indians enlisting and learning to defend themselves using arms, as were leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  4. Despite this, the Indian troops were given inhumane treatment, including floggings, denial of home leave, and brazenly racial-discriminatory treatment

Influence of World Wars on India’s freedom movement and future

  1. The pressure for the enlistment of Indians in the World War II effort produced an entirely different outcome — the Quit India movement and the escalation of the freedom movement
  2. WWI also influenced the collective psyche of the government of independent India, starting with the tenets of non-alignment that came to embody a core mantra of the country’s foreign policy ethos

Way forward

  1. While India remains wary of ‘treaty alliances’ and steers clear of combat involvement in third-party conflicts, it is the third-largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping missions
  2. Though the conditions faced by Indian peacekeepers must be difficult, they must be thankful that their country would never put them in the sort of situation that their predecessors faced from 1914 to 1918
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