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PM pays homage at war memorial for Indians in France

Paris

11-April-2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday paid homage at the Indian Memorial at the Neuve Chapelle in France that commemorates Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War I.

The memorial on the outskirts of Neuve Chapelle in the department of Pas de Calais in northern France commemorates over 4,700 Indian soldiers and labourers who lost their lives on the Western Front during World War I and have no known graves.

The Indian national anthem was played as the prime minister stood in silence in memory of all those who are commemorated in the memorial.

He then went around the memorial looking at the names of the martyrs engraved on the walls.

“Remembering the services of the brave. PM @narendramodi at the Neuve Chappelle Memorial for Indian soldiers,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of the external affairs ministry tweeted.

The prime minister also gifted a replica of the Garhwal World War I memorial and a publication by Indian Diplomacy on India and the Great War at the memorial.

“PM @ Narendra Modi's giftd replica of Garhwal WWI Memorial during visit to Neuve Chapelle Memorial for Indian soldiers,” Akbaruddin said in another tweet.

The memorial was designed by the celebrated British architect, Sir Herbert Baker, and unveiled by the Earl of Birkenhead on October 7, 1927.

Lord Birkenhead, then secretary of state for India, had served as a staff officer with the Indian Corps during the war. The unveiling ceremony was also attended by the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Rudyard Kipling and a large contingent of Indian veterans.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the location of the memorial was specially chosen as it was at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 that the Indian Corps fought its first major action as a single unit.

The memorial takes the form of a sanctuary enclosed within a circular wall after the manner of the enclosing railings of early Indian shrines, according to the CWGC website.

The column in the foreground of the enclosure stands almost 15 feet high and was inspired by the famous inscribed columns erected by Emperor Ashoka throughout India in the 3rd century BC.

The column is surmounted with a lotus capital, the Imperial British Crown and the Star of India. Two tigers are carved on either side of the column guarding the temple of the dead.

On the lower part of the column the words ‘God is One, He is the Victory’ are inscribed in English, with similar texts in Arabic, Hindi and Gurmukhi.

After arriving in the northern French city of Lille from Toulouse on Saturday afternoon, Modi drove down to the memorial on what was a rainy and overcast day.

As he arrived at Neuve Chapelle, a group of young Indians cheered him chanting “Bharat Mata ki jai”.

Earlier on Saturday, Modi visited the Airbus facility and the French space agency CNES in Toulouse.

He will meet representatives of the Indian community and former French president Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris later on the concluding day of his two-day visit to France. - IANS