A group of Indian artists in the UK to mark the centenary of the World War I claimed they have uncovered documents that reveal bias against the Indian subcontinent soldiers fighting alongside the British Army in the 20th-century war.
The Delhi-based artists from the Raqs Media Collective told the 'Observer' that papers from the British Library revealed that the British armed forces systematically neglected to treat psychological problems among Indian soldiers and adopted unequal measures in the care of soldiers traumatised by their experiences from the battleground.
"The condition of shell shock was first diagnosed in 1915 by the English doctor Charles Meyers.
But documents we found in the British Library show Meyers quickly dropped the term because it was feared ordinary soldiers would find it easy to understand and so would ask to be seen by medics," said Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Raqs.
"Instead Meyers suggested a more opaque diagnosis of NYD, or Not Yet Diagnosed – Nervous, which ordinary soldiers would find harder to use," he said.
The Sengupta team is working on a new art project at Colchester in Essex, commissioned to commemorate the end of the World War I – being marked in the UK since 2014 and set to end in November this year.
The term "trench back", which features in their new installation 'Not Yet At Ease', was often adopted to describe symptoms that were actually psychological.
"The idea of trench back' derived from the earlier condition of 'railway back', which was used for people who were thought to have been upset, or jolted, by the speed of rail travel," said Sengupta.
"It was a way of talking about wounds or damage to the spine, instead of mental health. Trench back was supposedly caused by being knocked by falling debris in the trenches," he said.
The artist believes the Raqs Media Collective's art installation will be the first public admission of these dubious wartime diagnoses outside scholarly circles.
As part of the project, they have created a twisting complex of padded cells to represent the treatment cells in the World War I hospitals.
"But they also follow the form of the trenches themselves, which were labyrinthine. We are also creating a palimpsest [manuscript] of sounds, including readings from these official reports and fragments of a novel, with film footage and photos," he said.
According to the historic records, more than 1.3 million soldiers from undivided India served in the WW I as part of the British Indian Army during the Raj era 100 years ago.
World War I was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 1914 to 1918. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.