The little known WW-II at Viswema, Nagaland
At the break of dawn; on an early April 1944, Mr.Puhocho Kennao went to the Phe-eso water source at Kevudzu to fetch water when to his shock he came face to face with some unknown people in uniform and heavily armed. He nor his villagers had seen such people before. He went hurriedly and raised an alarm. Later the people came to know that they were the Japanese Army who had come for war.The Japanese army then stationed at the compound of Pusa Kechu initially and then to surrounding places of Viswema village which is 21km south of Kohima in the Kohima-Imphal road NH-39 (now NH-29). The people became unsafe and many fled to the north and eventually went to Jakhama village for refuge.
By March 1944, the Japanese were getting the heat from the Americans in the Pacific region and feeling the crunch of resources as it was fighting a multi-pronged war. They were desperate for victory. During this time the idea of the Indian National Army under the leadership of the great Subhash Chandra Boss; gave the much needed hope that once the Japanese and the INA could reach Bengal via Dimapur rail and air head in Nagaland; the tide of war could be turned to their favour and ultimate victory over British India. There was famine the previous year in Bengal; and the people were angry with the British Raj and it was expected that the people will join them.
However, things were not to go as smoothly as they thought. The Japanese advance meet an unexpected surprise at Sangshak village, Ukhrul district, Manipur where a terrible battle took place from March 22-26, 1944, and saw men of the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade holding out for several days against wave upon wave of Japanese attacks on their position in the village. The villagers suffered immensely. The battle delayed the advance of the Japanese 31st Division towards Kohima and of the 15th Division towards Imphal by a critical few days in the early stages of the Japanese offensive in 1944.
After the battle of Sangshak, the Japanese army advanced towards Kohima through many routes- One by the National Highway 39 (now NH-29) connecting Imphal and Dimapur through Viswema and Kohima, Here they made their camp at Viswema and proceeded to attack Kohima, which is known as the Great Battle of Kohima, marking the defeat of the Japanese in the 2nd World War. In Kidima Village there was a fierce battle and the trenches still remains a testimony. Today a Cross; symbolising the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ stands to proclaim His Grace and forgiveness at the spot of the battle at Prayer Park, Zero point, Kidima. Subhash Chandra Bose himself advanced till Chozuba and today a memorial had being erected indicating his visit.
(There may be many more skirmishes around Kohima which need to be studied)
Monument albeit of the 2nd battallion of the Royal Norefolk Regiment at Mohonkhola, Kohima where Viswema is mentioned.
When there is a battle, the local populace suffers immensely as they become defenseless and bears the brunt of the soldiers tempers besides the bullets and bombs. Some of the injured were taken to the temporary British military Hospital at Peducha for treatment.Therefore, bringing this war to our village by the joint forces of the Imperial Japanese and The Indian National Army under the leadership of Subhash Chandra Bose fills us with melancholy, because it brought death and destruction. Elders of Viswema village recounts the horrors’ of war and that after every visit by a British “yellow” twin engine plane from Dimapur; which I presume is a reconnaissance survey plane, shelling of the village takes place to pounce the Japanese who had occupied the village. Snipping, gun battles and hand to hand fights followed. Deaths occurred, houses and granaries destroyed and that was why the Viswema people fled to neighboring Jakhama village only to return after the defeat of the Japanese Army in the famous battle of Kohima and retreat towards Imphal/Burma; to a destroyed / flattened village by the end of June 1944 to reconstruct it. Many British and Japanese soldiers died during the battles in Viswema. I am not suggesting that we should demand apology from the parties but that we should all remember that when elephants fight; the grass is trampled and should not be forgotten. Today a monument stands albeit neglected of this account where a Cross had been erected by the 2nd Bn of The Royal Norefolk Regiment and in scripted “April-June 1944, G.P.T. RIDGE, ARADURA SPUR, VISWEMA” besides the NH-29, Mohonkhola, Kohima. During the war, Mr.Charles Pawsey; the then Deputy Commissioner of Kohima who refused to leave Kohima is said to have assisted in rebuilding the village for which the old people admire him greatly.
Rusovil John can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org