Friday, October 28, 2005

India remembers its war (WW I) dead in Iran

Iran ceremony for India war dead

By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Teheran

About 3,500 Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British in Iran have been commemorated for the first time in an official ceremony in Tehran.
It has only recently come to light that so many Indians died fighting for the British in Iran in the First and Second World Wars.

Delhi's ambassador said the event was a sign India had buried the ghosts of its colonial past.

Organisers hope to trace relatives in India so they can attend next year.


Buglers were flown in from India to play the Last Post for the thousands of forgotten soldiers who died here.

Wreaths were laid in a Commonwealth war cemetery, although only 10 Indian soldiers have gravestones here.

The rest were buried or cremated where they fell on the battlefield, though their names are recorded on stone plaques.

Honouring the dead has been difficult because many Indian nationalists opposed involvement in the First World War and only wanted to take part in the Second World War if India was promised independence from Britain in return.

Ambassador KC Singh said he was hopeful the families could be traced in India so they could attend a ceremony and give them closure.

For the tiny Indian community in Iran it was a surprise to find so many of their countrymen had died here.

MH Sawhney's father fought for the British in Basra in the First World War and then settled in Iran as a businessman.

"This is something very emotional for us. [For] years and years, we never knew that such a thing is here and it was only this year that we found out that, yes, we have around 3,400 soldiers lying here with Indian names."

Mr Sawhney has offered to sponsor the Indian relatives of soldiers who died in Iran to come to Tehran for next year's commemoration - if they can be traced.


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