(Left) Rapolo with her son Ndonsi Lotha (Right) A part of Lance Naik Yimtongsao Lotha’s WW1 gallantry award which is now in the custody of his grandson
Husband fought in the Battle of Kohima but found no mention in veterans list
Dimapur | May 21
As Nagaland observes a commemorative 2019 marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima, a veteran’s wife remains bedridden, voiceless and unknown to the community at large.
Now, in her 90s, Rapolo, has spent most of her life as an unemployed widow with hardly any governmental support after the untimely demise of her husband almost 50 years ago. Her late husband Yimtongsao Lotha was a soldier of the celebrated Assam Regiment that was part of the Allied defence of Kohima in the Second World War against an invading Japanese Imperial Army.
Age taking a toll on her health, today, she struggles to communicate and move, while totally dependent on her son at their residence in Rilan village, Dimapur.
Despite being a war veteran’s wife, her son, Ndonsi Lotha (56 years) does not remember his mother receiving pension benefits on account of his father’s service as a conscripted soldier in the Assam Regiment.
Ndonsi told The Morung Express that monetary benefits received by her mother have been limited to half yearly dole-outs of Rs. 1800 amounting to Rs. 300 a month from the Indian Ex-Services League (IESL) and a one-time ex-gratia grant of Rs. 30,000 from the Defence Minister’s Discretionary Fund in November 2008.
The honorarium from the IESL however stopped coming since June 2014. According to him, the last cheque from the IESL was received in May 2014.
The letter, which accompanied the cheque stated that the amount of Rs. 1800 was “on account of RCEL (Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League) grant for the period from 01-01-2014 to 30-06-2014.”
He though added, “I recently received a call (from a military official) informing me to visit the Zila Sainik Welfare office in Dimapur.”
He said that he only has vague memories of his father. “My father passed away in our native Okotso village, Wokha in 1971 leaving my mother to look after three children.”
The death hit the family hard forcing his mother to send him to stay with a relative in Wokha town, where he had his elementary education. According to him, his parents likely married sometime in the 1950s after his father left the army in 1947 and returned to Okotso. Two older siblings died before he was born, he added.
Yimtongsao’s ‘Service Certificate’, spelt Imtongsao in the document, which survives today, states that, he was a Lance Naik (Number 643) in the Assam Regiment. He was in his 20s when he enrolled in April 1941 before going on to fight in the Battle of Kohima. The date of his discharge as entered was January 25, 1947.
His participation in the defence of Kohima could be found recorded in the book ‘Springboard to Victory: Battle for Kohima,’ authored by British war historian Brigadier CE Lucas Philips, who was also a WW1 veteran. In the book, his name has been spelt as Ymtongsau Lotha.
Ndonsi recalled that his father left behind a war medal, which he took with him when he first moved to Wokha town. He described its features as a “medal and two separate stars” but could not attribute a name.
“Unfortunately, my juvenile mind did not realise its worth,” he said, adding that he gave it away to a friend.
He realized its value only years later as an adult and was able to retrieve a part of it—The 1939 – 1945 Star. On the reverse were engraved the awardee’s name, rank, service number and unit.
He said that the ‘star’ is in his son’s custody today.
Asked if any of Yimtongsao’s immediate family members has ever attended the yearly Battle of Kohima memorial service, including the 75th anniversary programme, he responded in the negative.