The World War I can hardly be called a European war, especially because a lot of soldiers from outside Europe were fighting on the frontlines throughout the period, and gave up their lives for a country they did not belong to or have any affinity for. Even more than a 100 years after the war, it is not well-known that millions of Indian soldiers fought in the war because historical archives tend to focus on European and Western accounts, completely silencing the narratives of the Indian soldiers. Furthermore, most war films that have been made since fail to give coverage to Indian soldiers who played a very monumental role in the war.

Around 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in the World War I and around 74,000 lost their lives. Throughout the course of the war, Indian soldiers wrote letters to their families back home informing them of their tragic conditions and expressing discontent over fighting for a war that was not theirs to begin with. Fighting in unfamiliar lands away from their families was a huge sacrifice that they made, and this was reflected in these letters. Some wrote: “The shells are pouring like rain in the monsoon” and “The corpses cover the country like sheaves of harvested corn.” A majority of these heartfelt letters never reached their intended destinations, because they were either destroyed or got lost in the process. The soldiers were silenced once again.

It is not until recently that historians and artists have attempted to revive these silenced voices by re-discovering these letters that reflected the anguish these Indian soldiers found themselves in. Indian historians and politicians have attempted to highlight the massive injustices that Indian soldiers had to face during the war, without any reparations, rewards or even appreciation from the British government. Very recently, a Lahore-based Pakistani artist called Bani Abidi designed an installation at the Edinburgh Film festival called “Memorial to Lost Words” that brings these lost letters into focus. While there have been attempts to give voice to the Indian soldiers, a lot still remains to be done.

“70,000 Indian men died in the

war and didn’t even make it as a footnote in the Imperial War Museum’s World War One exhibit.”

–Bani Abidi