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Mizoram to get back Waterloo cannons

Aizawl, 30 April 2012: Mizoram capital Aizawl will be getting back two Waterloo cannons that were shifted by a battalion of the paramilitary Assam Rifles in 2003. Union home minister P Chidambaram has given this assurance to state chief minister Lal Thanhawla.

The two guns used by the Duke of Wellington's troops against French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's in the Battle of Waterloo had adorned the porch of the Assam Rifles Quarter Guard from 1892 to 2003.

For 55 years, they had ironically pointed at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi across the road. "We had taken up the issue with Chidambaram, and he has promised that the Waterloo cannons would be returned by the Assam Rifles before May 15," Thanhawla said from Aizawl.

He added that the Mizoram assembly had in July last year adopted a resolution for bringing the cannons back. Mizoram belatedly woke up to the missing cannons that the 1st Assam Rifles battalion uprooted and taken it along to Kohima in Nagaland after being shifted out.

Local NGOs and Mizoram chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage later pressured the government for the return of the cannons.

Lt Colonel J Shakespear, superintendent of the erstwhile Lushai Hills district, had installed the cannons in 1892. In his 1939 book The Making of Aijal, Shakespear wrote that the British cannons of Waterloo vintage were loaded on a Burma-bound warship that docked at Chittagong (Bangladesh) port in 1857 around the time Sepoy Mutiny broke out.

The captain of the ship had the cannons thrown overboard in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the mutineers. After the mutiny was quelled, the cannons were fished out and transported to Aizawl.

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