SHILLONG, Nov 30: The first even film on the famed Khasi Labour Corps, aptly entitled ‘Because We Did Not Choose’ is set to be screened in Shillong on December 8 and Jowai on December 16.
The 92 minute film – which was named after a poetry written by a member of the Corps is directed by renowned documentary film-maker Wanphrang K Diengdoh and produced by the Red Dur Production.
The screening of the film to be held at the Khasi National Durbar Hall, Mawkhar will also mark the start of the “signature campaign” demanding the inclusion of the 26th Khasi Labour Corps in the school and university curriculum.
Diengdoh informed on Thursday that a memorandum will be submitted to Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma for his intervention to ensure that the state government considers this demand.
“It is thus vital that the documentation and history of our people and our rich cultural and historical diversity be remembered in the coming years. I therefore request that this crucial piece of history of our people be included in the school and university curriculum of Meghalaya,” he said in the draft letter to the CM.
He said that the film documents the journey of the people of the state to the theatres of war in France and Mesopotamia 100 years ago during the First World War.
According to him, this is a significant part of our history as a community as it marks the largest movement of people from the state at any given point of time.
World War I that broke out in Europe between Germany and the Allied powers lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.
To remember their sacrifice, two memorial stones, known as Mot Phran (memorial stones from France), were set up in Shillong and Jowai in Jaintia hills bearing names of those who died inscribed on the stones.
While the memorial stone at Iewduh, the main market in the heart of Shillong, was built by the British and inaugurated in 1924, the one at Jowai was built by the traditional chiefs (Doloi) in Jaintia region.
While the Garo Labour Corps who also went to France are remembered every year in Garo hills, no such day is organised to remember the Khasi Labour Corps either in Shillong or Jowai.
Diengdoh however said that it is unfortunate that many do not know why these memorial stones are standing in these places.
“We have only read about the World War I in school but we are completely unaware of the role of our own people during the war. Therefore I feel it is our responsibility for including the history of our people in the curriculum,” he said.
Earlier, the film was also screened in London, Wales, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Giving an insight about the film, Diengdoh said that the film includes the 7-page letter written by a Corps leader, who hails from Sohkha village in Jaintia Hills, to the British’s Assistant Commissioner expressing his concern over the tax imposed on the people that time besides songs sung in Khasi and Pnar language by the labour corps.
Diengdoh said that it took four years of meticulous documentation and research to arrive at this 92 minute film.