Tuesday, 24 February 2015

India's Unsung Heroes.................U Kiang Nangbah.

*       U Kiang Nangbah was born at Tpeppale in Jowai, Meghalaya. He was a child when the British had annexed the Jaintia Kingdom in 1835. He was a common farmer. Though young, he was greatly disturbed by the atrocities committed by the British. The story of his uncle, U Ksan Sajar Nangbah, who fought against the British, greatly inspired him. 

*      The British had left the Jaintia people to themselves for more than two decades. The anti-British feelings in him started when the British attempted to impose taxes and interfered with the custom and religious activities of the people. These acts were viewed by the folks as an attempt by the British to impose their authority.

*      In the darbar, Daloi Tyngkaen had informed the people that the British had imposed a House Tax. U Kiang Nangbah gave a befitting reply there, “Natives do not pay taxes to the foreigners”. When the British officials attempted to collect tax from a Jaintia, he refused to pay the tax. Anger by refusal, the British officials entered and ransacked the house. U Kiang Nangbah arrived there and fought against the armed officials. 

*       A police station was established at Jowai in 1855, to establish the government authority over the hills. The setting of police station near the cremation ground was resented by the people. The British administration took additional measures to control the Jaintias. Deputy Commissioner asked the people not to burn the dead near the military outpost. The clans were prevented to cremate in their traditional cremation sites. 

*      The resistance was triggered by the incident that took place at Yalong. On the occasion of traditional dance, ‘Pastieh Kaiksoo’ the police confiscated the weapons meant for the festival and burned them before a large number of people gathered to witness the dance. This forced the Jaintia to rise in arms and protect their land, customs and religion. 

*     In 1860 when a police constable shot dead a monkey in the sacred forest, the government official and missionaries made people to believe that sanctity of the sacred grooves was a superstition. This political and religious interference of the British ignited the fire of mass movement which started with the calling of the Darbar of twelve Dalois to apprise people about the need to resist the alien rule. The Darbar was held at Madiah Kmai Blai on the bank of river Syntu Ksiar where U Kiang Nangbah  was unanimously elected as the leader. 

*     U Kiang Nangbah and his men built barricades, stockades, stored grains and manufactured weapons and firearms. They attacked the Police station at Jowai and destroyed it completely, and burned down Christian settlement and besieged the military post. The attack spread to other part of the Jaintia Hills. The British launched a full scale military operation against U Kiang Nangbah and his men. 

*       Meanwhile U Kiang Nangbah fell ill and retreated to Umkara. On 27th December 1862, Lt. Sadlier led by Long Sutnga captured U Kiang Nangbah in the early hours. He was brought to trial and on 30th December 1862 and hanged at 5.00 P.M. at Yawmusing in the present of troops and villagers.

*     U Kiang Nangbah faced gallows with courage and made his prophetic massage. He told his people, “Brothers and sisters please look carefully on my face when I die. If my face turn towards the east, my country will be free from the foreign yoke within 100 years; if it turns towards the west my country will remain in bondage for good.”  And in less than 100 years, on 15th August 1947 the British had to leave the country making U Kiang Nangbah's prophecy come true. 

*    I chanced upon this tale while researching my novel.  It was one story that filled my heart with sadness and anguish. Like so many, this tale about one of India's greatest patriots goes unsung. What a tragedy?

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