• Fri. May 24th, 2024

Great Freedom fighters and martyrs from the North-Eastern states of India U Tirot Singh

Seating with my father one rainy afternoon in our Shillong home, sharing an idle moment together, I suddenly blurted out “Baba, Bengal and the rest of India has so many freedom fighters and nationalistic heroes with incredible stories. What about us? Didn’t the people of Assam fight against the Britishers too? Please tell me about them!” Assam was composed of seven sister states of undivided Northeast India those days, with Shillong as the capital.
My father replied, ” Of course we have our own heroes too! And I will tell you their stories! Let’s begin with the bravest of them all, Syiem U Tirot Singh of Nongkhlaw from the Khasi Hills”.

You see Manu, U Tirot Singh was the Syiem or constitutional head of the durbars sharing corporate authority with his Council, generally representatives of leading clans within his territory. In 1826, the British had gained control of both the Brahmaputra valley and Sylhet, and between them lay the still independent Khasi Hills. They wanted permission to construct a road between the two places in lieu of granting U Tirot Singh the possession of duars or passes into Assam. The council agreed and work on the road began”.

” But the King of Ranee also laid claim to the duars, and was confronted by sepoys who blocked his way! Meanwhile, U Tirot Singh learned that the British were reinforcing themselves and amassing an army in Assam. He immediately asked them to leave Nongkhlaw which the British refused. The Khasis then launched an attack on the British Garrison in 1929 which was the begining of the Anglo Khasi war”.

” Two British Officers were killed and the Khasis now had to fight a massive battle with the enraged invaders who attacked them with all their might! The brave Khasis were armed with bows, arrows, swords and shields while the Britsh had modern firearms. So they fought with guerrilla tactics and the war dragged on for four years. U Tirot Singh was wounded, and took refuge in a cave. His hiding place was disclosed to the British by a fellow chieftain in return of a few gold coins and the mighty warrior was captured and deported to Dacca in 1833″.

” Father, how can his own chieftain turn traitor? And that too in return for a few gold coins”, I exclaimed, unable to come to terms with this sad tale of betrayal! My father smiled ruefully before continuing with his story! ” Greed is the ultimate undoing of the human race, my dear”.

” He was broken hearted and died in captivity on 17 July 1835. He is one of the greatest warriors from India who dared to fight the well armed, mighty British forces with bows, arrows and swords and tried to prevent Khasi Hills from falling into colonial hands”, said my father, ending his story!

“Thank you for this beautiful story father”, I replied. I was one happy girl that day as I discovered my own local hero and started adoring the brave Syiem U Tirot Singh of Nongkhlaw that moment onward.

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