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Japanese team digs Assam’s WW II cemetery for remains of 11 soldiers

The Japanese officials,however,collected some remains,but refused to comment.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati |
January 19, 2012 2:51:33 am

A three-member delegation of the Japanese government on Wednesday started digging a special site in the Guwahati War Cemetery to exhume the remains of 11 of its soldiers who perished in World War II in order to take them home for a formal official burial before a reunification with their respective families.

“We have got some data from the Commonwealth War Grave Commission that the Guwahati War Cemetery has graves of 11 Japanese soldiers who died in Northeast India during the Second World War. We propose to take whatever remains we find here for an official burial in our country,” said Ken Miyashita,Deputy Director in the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry in Tokyo,who is leading the team.

Half-a-dozen labourers provided by the local administration here dug the whole row of 11 graves up to four feet depth,but no significant remains could be located till sunset on Wednesday. The Japanese officials,however,collected some remains,but refused to comment.

J N Pathak,a local magistrate supervising the digging said nothing can be ascertained unless confirmed by the forensic laboratory. Officials from the archaeology department and forensic science laboratory were also present during the digging which will continue on Thursday too.

The Guwahati War Cemetery,established in 1952 by shifting graves,mostly of soldiers who had died in different hospitals during the War,has 521 graves,11 of which belong to Japanese soldiers. Others buried or cremated here include 324 British,143 Indian,24 Chinese,four Canadian,four South African and one from New Zealand and two unidentified soldiers. This is also the first time that a CWGC cemetery in India is being dug up for relocating a grave.

“We do not have any details about the Japanese soldiers except their names and dates when they died. But,most importantly,the Guwahati War Cemetery is the only Commonwealth War Cemetery in India that has graves of Japanese soldiers,” said Salew Pfotte,regional manager of Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There are altogether nine war cemeteries in India maintained by the CWGC,five of which are in Northeastern India.

The Japanese government had started the process of taking back the graves in November 2010. It was then that a three-member delegation of the Japanese Embassy in India came to Guwahati to inspect the cemetery.

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