By Tennoson Pheiray for The Naga Republic | Ukhrul/31 October
The World War I Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps Association (WWITNLCA), an association formed by the descendents of the World War I Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps in association with Tangkhul Naga Long, Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long and Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong has fixed 6-7 November 2018 to honour and commemorate the centenary of 22nd Manipur Labour Corps Company (1917-1918) at TNL Ground, Ukhrul.
Qr. Victor Kaping, Chairman, WWITNLCA has appealed the people and various organisations of Manipur to kindly refrain from imposing bandh during the centenary celebration. He highlighted the programme that N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur has consented to grace the opening ceremony as Chief Guest and Bruce Bucknell, Deputy, British High Commission of India (Head of Delegation) and Colonel Ludovic Dumont, Air Force, Defence Attaché in India and Nepal, Representative of France Embassy, New Delhi as guests of honour.
The special guest for the opening ceremony will be grace by I. K. Muivah, IGP, Manipur, Colonel James Robinson, Colonel Brigade of Gurkha, British Army and Colonel Tom Marsden, Royal Engineers, British Army.
Victor Kaping added that Khemchand Yumnam, Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly has also consented to grace the closing ceremony as Cheif Guest. Leishiyo Keishing, MLA 43-Phungyar, Alfred Arthur, MLA 44-Ukhrul and Khashim Vashum, MLA 45-Chingai as guests of honour.
The programme will also be attended by K. Dickson, Chairman ADC Ukhrul as functional president and Leishemba Sanajaoba, His Highness, Titular Maharaja of Manipur as special guest besides various special invitees including the grandchildren of labour corps.
Zanyo Varam, General Secretary of WWITNLCA informed that the Commonwealth Grave Welfare Commission has declared 2014-2018 as the year for celebration of labour corps centenary. Accordingly, the descendant of Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps has decided to celebrate the symbolic day with dignity and honour.
The centenary will be celebrated under the theme “For Honour and Dignity” and is purely the initiative by the descendants. Out of 1200 labour corps from Tangkhul community, the Association was able to trace and identified 850 descendants he informed.
In April 1917, a group of 2000 recruits for the Labour Corps (22 Manipur, Indian Labour Corps) assembled in Imphal. After a short period of rigorous intensive physical training and on basic warfare knowledge set off to France.
Out of 2000 labour corps, 1200 were from the Tangkhul Naga. Six Christian workers and students were among the contingent to act as interpreters.
R. S. Ruichumhao led the 1200 strong Tangkhul Naga contingents. Porachao and Angom Porom Singh of Phayeng led the Meitei contingents. Teba Korung led the Kom contingent. Thomsong Ngulhao, an evangelist led the Non-Thadou Kuki recruits.
As per the information collected by the WWITNLCA, there were 335 Christian in 1917 in Ukhrul that includes Angom Pairom Singh and Teba Kurong. It was also recorded that the Thadou Kuki raided Ngahui Village (Awangkasom) killing hundreds of Tangkhuls reacting to the positive response of the Tangkhuls (and non Thadou Kukis) to go to France.
As per the information collected, out of 1200 Tangkhuls, around 90 of them died during journey as well as the war and their grave could be found in Yemen, Egypt, Italy and France. Some of their bodies were thrown into the ocean. The 22nd Battalion, Manipur, Indian Labour Corps comprising of four companies namely 40, 45, 65 and 66, each company comprising 500 labour corps. The 66th Company was constituted of only Tangkhuls (500) and the rest of Tangkhul Labour Corps was inducted in 40, 45 and 65 company.
Today, the Tangkhul community has deeply acknowledged the contribution of Tangkhul Labour Corps for bringing revolution in socio-economic and educational aspects. The Tangkhul Labour Corps founded the Tangkhul Union Education Fund and through their vision the present TNL and TKS came into being. The Tangkhul Labour Corps was also responsible for the formation of Tangkhul Trade Union. The union was in existence till 1952 with its base at Mahadev.
With this celebration, the Tangkhul community especially the descendants of the Labour Corps will be definitely expecting certain level of courtesy from Britain and France for the sacrifice and service the Tangkhul Labour Corps has rendered.