Kohima | May 1
Britain’s Prince Andrew, Duke of York is presented with a Naga traditional headgear as Nagaland State Chief Minster Neiphiu Rio looks on during his one-day visit to Kohima in the north eastern state of Nagaland on May 1. (Photo by Caisii Mao)
Great Britain’s Duke of York, Prince Andrew today visited Nagaland as part of the British kingdom’s celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee. In honor of the celebrated royal’s visit to Nagaland, a civic reception was organized by the Government of Nagaland at the NBCC convention centre in Kohima where thousands of people gathered and accorded a hearty welcome to one of the most famous royal personalities in the world.
On Prince Andrew’s arrival, Naga citizens, both young and old, lined up along the roads holding flags of Great Britain and greeted the Prince. Aside from high officials of the government, the royal dignitary was accompanied by James Bevan, British High Commissioner and Sanjay Wadvani, British Deputy High Commissioner.
Speaking at the civic reception, Prince Andrew expressed gratefulness for the opportunity to be in Nagaland. He called his coming here important in that the ‘past is recognized and which need to be cherished, that the future is all important.’
The Prince said there were discussions where they should go when they came to India “because there are certain symbols that the Queen wanted the Prince to participate in.” One of important tasks during his visit was to acknowledge the memory of those who served not only the United Kingdom but also the commonwealth around the world.
“The Queen could not think of a better place to ask the Prince to lay the wreath than here in Kohima,” Prince Andrew said, referring to the capital where one of the bloodiest and most decisive battles against the Japanese invasion was fought during the Second World War.
The Prince said – “It is very important for the modern generations particularly across India, for people to remember and recognize the sacrifice that took place in Kohima. Because without that sacrifice and that stand, the freedom that you now have and the rest of India has would not have been possible”.
For that reason, Prince Andrew said, he is delighted to be in Kohima to represent Her Majesty to lay wreath and pay respects to the fallen defenders. “But it is not just about those that had gone before, it is for the future. It is about looking forward to what we can all be and what our potentials really is. We have a whole potential as commonwealth nation in a particularly troubled world.”
Prince Andrew also conveyed the greetings of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth “who knows the great debt the Naga have paid in that fight for freedom over the years and the Queen wanted the Prince to pass on the message for the future of all people of India and of the Commonwealth.”
Extending a warm welcome to the royal, Chief Minister of Nagaland said “Indeed, we are honored by your visit and terming it as a red letter day, and a historic occasion for the people of Nagaland.” He hoped that the visit of Prince Andrew will go a long way in strengthening the relationship between the British and the Nagas especially for the younger generations who were born after India’s Independence.
Rio informed that during the Ist World War, thousands of Naga labor corps served in Europe. Kohima is known because of the historic and decisive Battle of Kohima fought between the British army and the Japanese army. The battle was described by Lord Mountbatten as probably one of the greatest battles in the history. The Chief Minister said that the battle of Kohima changed the course of the 2nd World War, and of the world history. In this, Rio stated that the Battle of Kohima Cemetery will forever remain part of the Nagas’ history. The Commonwealth War Cemetery that lies in the heart of Kohima is a constant reminder of the horrors and pains of war, he said.
The Chief Minister said further that the local Naga people played a crucial role in the victory of the allied forces in the battle, and till today they have pride in the fact that they contributed to the victory of the allied forces and fought for freedom and democracy.
Entire generations grew up hearing the painful stories of war, he said, but the visit of His Royal Highness will usher in a new era for greater partnership and better understating between the Naga s and the British. “Your visit will also re-kindle old friendship, shared history.”
Informing Prince Andrew that the Nagas are still in search of a permanent and lasting peace, Rio said “we have great hope that a peaceful and non-violent approach on the basis of political negotiation will bring about resolution of the Naga issue, and create lasting peace.”
The Chief Minister also congratulated the Queen, on her diamond jubilee, and also conveyed the wishes of the Naga people to her, good health and long life. “I hope that you and your entourage will go back home with fond memories of Nagaland and the Naga people, and that you will become ambassadors of Nagaland wherever you go,” Rio said in wishing the Prince.
Rio presented a Konyak brass gong, a head gear, a spear and a dao and two bamboo baskets to the Prince amidst applause. Naga folk dances and music were presented before the Prince who was accompanied by the British officials including the High Commissioner to India.
Earlier, immediately after his arrival in the town from Dimapur by road, the Duke visited the Kohima War Cemetery and paid homage to those who were killed in the battle of 1944. Later he also visited World War Museum at Kisama Heritage Village, 12 km south of Kohima before his departure. MExN