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Legal SOS Sounded To Save CWGC Land

IMPHAL, May 16: Taking serious note of the alleged encroachment on the land earmarked for World War II memorial site at Dewlaland, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) United Kingdom has sent a lawyer to fight the encroachers in the law Court.

Manipur witnessed fierce fights from March till July 1944 between the allied forces and the Japanese troops in and around Imphal and parts of Manipur, during WW II leaving thousands of soldiers of both forces dead and many maimed.

The CWGC maintains the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Dewlaland and Indian Army War Cemetery at Hatta.

Supreme Court lawyer Vijay M Phadke who visited Imphal to study the encroachment case under the Commission’s supervision a few days back, told this reporter that he was all prepared to fight the case to restore the land belonging to the cemetery at Dewlaland.

Officials of the Commission said around 2 to 3 acres of land have been encroached on the southern side of the cemetery.

Stating that many people trespass the cemetery’s land, the officials said that their UK head office had given its approval to construct an office within the complex to ensure the staff stay vigil and check trespassers.

The construction of the office as well as compound wall fencing would be done once the land is demarcated officially, one of them said.

Besides the CWGC, the State Government has also taken serious note of the encroachment during its Cabinet meeting convened on May 4 and even resolved to evict the encroachers from surrounding areas of the Cemetery.

On the other hand the 17 bronze plaques which were stolen from the Indian Army War Cemetery at Hatta in 2009 will be replaced by new ones within the end of the current year.

While 13 plaques were stolen in January, four more were pilfered   six months later and currently temporary plaques made of plastic are kept there.

Altogether 868 Indian soldiers belonging to different units – 127 General Transport Corps, West African Artillery, 167 GP Transport Corps and 14 Animal Transport Corps- were cremated and buried at the Hatta cemetery.

CWGC had already lodged a complaint on the matter with the State police, but neither the stolen plaques are yet to be recovered nor the miscreants booked.

Regional Manager of CWGC (North East India), Salew Pfotte said the new bronze plaques would be brought from Australia. Salew, who is looking after five World War II cemeteries in the North East including two in Imphal, one each in Kohima , Digboi and Guwahati, said after the theft cases, strict vigil has been enforced by the staff.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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