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Netaji lives on in Naga tales

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OUR CORRESPONDENT Kohima Published 02.12.08, 12:00 AM

Kohima, Dec. 2: The World War II museum at the Naga heritage village of Kisama, where the Hornbill festival is under way, has evoked memories of the “forgotten” heroes of the Indian National Army (INA) in the minds of hundreds thronging the venue.

The museum, with its invaluable artefacts of war, has added not just flavour to the annual winter festival but has provided many a nostalgic Naga an opportunity to recall the selfless sacrifices of the INA led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — a household name here.

There are many here who still remember the tall and handsome INA general assuring better roads, hospitals, better education, water supply and electricity for them.

The Naga community had sided with Netaji to liberate India from British reign along side with the Japanese army. The father of Naga national movement, A.Z. Phizo, had led his people to toe Netaji’s line. Phizo had to reach Rangoon (now Yangon) on foot along with some of his men to be a part of Netaji’s mission.

Netaji had established his camp at Chesezu, 60km from here, from where he monitored the battle of Kohima. Later, the allied forces also bombed the camp from where he had to flee.

In 1944, around 3,000 Japanese and INA soldiers were killed in the Kohima war. “Today when the state government has opened a museum in remembrance of the World War II heroes, the sad part is that we have forgotten our INA heroes and their sacrifices”, says a young Naga scholar Khevito Sumi.

“The Centre must honour the INA soldiers, said an officer, who did not wish to be named. He termed the soldiers as “brave sons of India”.

N. Theyo, a former minister, vividly remembers the tall and handsome Netaji taking on the Japanese army office for harassing the villagers. Today as a mark of respect for the INA leader, a mountain near Chesezu has been named “Mount Netaji”.

Besides, a Netaji Subhas Bose Memorial Development Society was also formed.

But the people thronging the war museum still cannot come to terms with the documentary films showing Netaji dying in an air crash in Formosa in 1944.

The Japanese and INA do not have a cemetery here like many defeated armies. But the souls of Japanese soldiers who died in Kohima find solace at the Catholic cathedral here.

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