For the forgotten
THE WEEK|August 01, 2021
In a new book, THE WEEK’s R. Prasannan writes about India’s battles in World War II
PRADIP R. SAGAR

THE WEEK has always been at the forefront of every battle—literally. After bringing out special issues commemorating World War I, the 1965 war, the 1971 war, and the Kargil war over the last few years, the magazine has now come out with a book on India’s battles in World War II. Receiving a copy of the book from the Senior Coordinating Editor R. Prasannan, Army Chief Gen. M.M. Naravane said that it was of utmost importance that stories of India’s battles be “told with a human touch to the younger generation in the language that they understand”.

Human touch is what makes this book different from other histories of the war. Anecdotal description of the gallantry shown by Indians in multiple campaigns as well as interesting details of the political developments that were taking place parallelly within India make the book read like a thriller. Did you know, for example, that Viceroy Irwin who signed a pact with Mahatma Gandhi did not have a left hand, Wavell wrote poetry on the battlefield, Stafford Cripps was a vegetarian, and that it was a Jewish officer who managed the war economy of India and ensured that India got a place in shaping the post-war economic order?

The book sent General Naravane on a reverie about his uncle, Lieutenant Anant S. Naravane, who had fought the Italians in North Africa and had been taken, prisoner. He was one of the first Indians to be commissioned in the regiment of artillery. Taken prisoner in the battle of Bir Hakeim, he was sent to Camp PG63 where he had, as fellow prisoners, the future Indian Army chief, General Paramasiva Prabhakar Kumaramangalam, and future Pakistan Army chiefs, General Yahya Khan and General Tikka Khan.

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