Living monuments of Japanese war (WW II) in Manipur

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By: Rajkumar KishorI have visited the Japanese War Memorial Complex at Maibam Lokpa Ching quite a few times but every time I returned disheartened since it could not strike me with much of the memories of the wartime. I expected to see some remains of the war which could vividly show at least a little bit of the great battlefield.  The only information I have is the narration of my Abok (grandma) of her own experience during the bombing at Thangmeiband on her way back from Koirengei after delivering the milk which she collected from Lamshang. After that she fled to Sagoltongba with her siblings.
Since I joined the Centre for Orchid Gene Conservation of Eastern Himalayan Region, Hengbung (Under DST, Govt. of India) in September 2010, I have travelling in remote places of Manipur for survey of wild orchids for conservation purpose. Recently, April 18-21, 2011, I along with my staffs in association with members of MMTA happened to visit the Laimaton Range for collection of orchids. Luckily the ace mountaineer Mr. Puyamcha Mohon was with us to guide in the trekking. It was he who told me of the existence of a Japanese Samurai engraved on a rock surface in the base of the Laimaton Peak. It intrigued me to have a glimpse of the monument and learn more about it. So, on 19th we headed for Laimaton range. We surveyed orchids from the forest along the route to Laimaton Range and when we reached the highest point of the Old Cachar Road it was already 4:00 pm and I thought it would be night when we reached the spot. There was vast open grassland at around 1500 msl and it was used by the Japanese for airdropping of their cargo including food, medicine, arms and ammunition. There were thick forests in between from where we collected good number of orchids and it was a pleasure to find undisturbed orchid habitat there. Above we reached a spot and Mr. Mohon pointed to a spot and told it to be the stable of the horses used by the Japanese soldiers.  It is said to have a long and winding tunnel like stable for protection of the horses and camouflaging the stable. Since it was getting late I did not have the opportunity to enter the place. We went further till we reached the spot where the Samurai was engraved. I had to climb a small fence made of branches and twigs to reach the spot. To my surprise I could see a huge rock surface measuring approximately 2.5-3 metre with a big Samurai engraved in the middle of a circle (representing Hinomaru, the Sun disc which we see in a Japanese flag). There were also numerous bullet marks on the rock surface. The aged monument remained undisturbed for so long as indicated by the growth of the lithophytic lichens (a group of lower plant) and there were no graffiti put by the previous visitors. It was dusk and I had to use the flash of my camera for getting a good photograph of the monument. I clicked but it was not very satisfying and wanted to come back again and discover more. We returned to MMI Complex Lamdan, but I kept on thinking of the Samurai and the bullet marks. I wondered what could be the story behind the great monument.
Later on after reaching MMTA office at Minuthong I got the answer from MR Chandrakumar, Secy, MMTA. He had the story from the locals of Chiru tribes. I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the story but wish to narrate it here for further criticism and comments. During the WW II (popularly known as Japanese war in Manipur) the Japanese troops had their base in the Ngarian Hills and they had their medical headquarter at the site where the Samurai was engraved. After the incident of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese force had to retreat abandoning their base in the Ngarian. It was a nurse in the medical headquarter who engraved the Samurai on the rock with a bayonet before their departure. Just then the allied force happened to enter the area and caught the Japanese troops and their associates. They shot the nurse in front of the engraved Samurai and died on the spot.
On the 20th we planned our visit to the Leimatak for orchid survey and we trekked upward along the Leimatak River and stopped at the Pakhangba Heedel, where we found a marvelous suspension metal bridge constructed by the Japanese force. I could hardly believe but I was told that the bridge was constructed in a day. The materials used for the bridge were excellent and they were still as good as new. The only problem was that an iron load bearing cable was missing and one side of the deck slipped from about halfway towards the right. First it was caused by a fallen tree and then by loggers who wanted the iron cable for logging. I would say that the structure is perhaps the only man made wonder in Manipur and it is worth seeing and preserving. The bridge is abandoned both by the government as well as the locals.
On 21st morning we again decided to visit the Laimaton Range for collection of orchids since we left some thick areas which had good orchid population and diversity. I with a few others decided to climb the Laimaton Peak while some stayed at the base for survey. It was a great climb along the steep slopes and it took us about one hour to reach the top. To my surprise I again saw the bunkers used by the Japanese at the Peak. They were some pits walled by boulders and they were still as good as they were newly constructed except for the overgrowths. They still have not been filled up. It was difficult to navigate the place due to thick growth and from there we collected a rare orchid ‘Pleione sp.’ growing on the trees just above the bunkers. The Japanese soldiers might have also seen the beautiful orchid flowering.
It was a very memorable expedition not only for the numerous orchids we came across but also for the rare sight of the living monuments of the Japanese war. Why I am writing this piece of article is because of the lack of attempts to preserve such living monuments. They have been neglected till now. This place is beautiful and the monuments very memorable and a glimpse of them reflected an untold (hi)story of the great WW II in Manipur, the final battlefront of the Japanese and the allied forces. Let us preserve them.

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