Dr. S.L. Marbaniang
When the mighty British power came to these beautiful hills to subdue the indigenous tribes, they were met with fierce resistance. Armed only with simple bows and arrows, the native tribes, who cherished independence more than any other thing, did not easily yield to the superior and more advanced White Men who had powerful arms and weapons.
At that time, the Khasi Jaintias would hardly have been more than a lakh in population. The British were perhaps less than 200 lakhs or two crores. Over and above, they were aided by the Indian sepoys whose territories were already conquered by them. Nonetheless, the Khasi warriors who never knew the words “fear” or “slaves” and who preferred death to dishonour, gave a very tough fight until they were defeated by acts of treachery and betrayal by their own people who were tempted by bribes and easy money.
Moreover, the people of these hills were disunited. The region was composed of different principalities known by different names like Hima or Elaka and ruled by Syiems, Lyngdohs, Sirdars, etc., aided by the Myntris. Whatever form of administration each Elaka might have followed, yet on the whole the general principle was a democratic form of government. There were no organized armies. But in time of need, each able-bodied male was ready to bear arms to fight against the aggressors or to wage war against others. So in the fight against the British supremacy, all these Khasi tiny principalities had their won interest and so did not unitedly join forces under one single command. Thus, in the end, each was swallowed lake a pawn on the cheese board.
Because lack of written language, the exploits of many heroes and heroines who gave their lives to preserve their independence and identity were lost to the people. In their guerilla activities against the world’s rulers, the spirit of our forefathers who waged constantly for many years against the odds remained unknown in the hearts and minds of the later generations. Very soon, even the names and incidents were forgotten.
The oral traditions that was handed down from generation to generation slowly faded away due to the invasion of modern technology. Instead of gathering together every evening round the hearth of fire-place at home and listening to the stories of the older members of society, everything has changed totally. Children and youths, including elders and even aged people, are glued to the glaring light of the colourful televisions which air varied and attractive programmes. There is, therefore, a fear that such habits may destroy the many legends and myths of our people.
After independence, there was an awakening among the educated people of these hills that the lives sacrificed by our heroes and heroines of ages gone-by could not be simply erased from the pages of history. Thus began the dawn of a new era in the history of our people. Story-tellers and poets started to put down many of the informations in writing, while at the same encouraging others to follow suit
These pioneers were motivated by the spirit of patriotism and love of their people. Without any help, whatsoever, from any sources, they dipped into their own pockets to take out whatever they could in order to put down in writing whatever they have heard from their parents and grandparents or from the old and aged within their circle of life. Notwithstanding their own hardship and, perhaps, meagre earning, they were driven by a passion that the rich cultural heritage shall not be thrown down the drain.
It was because of the age of renaissance that was ushered in by these courageous men and women that the Khasi pride was once again aroused. Thus, the lives of our stalwarts like U Tirot Sing Syiem, U Mon Bhut, U Lorshon Jarain, Ka Phan Noinglait, U Kiang Nongbah and others kindled our memories. Their spirit of resistance against the paramount forces of the whole world so that the future would be bright did not go in vain. The historical and prophetic words uttered by U Tirot Sing Syiem and U Kiang Nongbah echo and re-echo at every occasion.
The pertinent question that each and every son and daughter of U Hynniew Trep Hynniew Basa should ask is: Are these the only heroes and patriots of our community? Why is the community so bankrupt? Beyond these, are there no more? There are many other similar questions that may arise. The answer to all these lies within our hearts and minds.
However, for the sake of posterity, it is very much essential that people with versatile mind and prolific writing ought not to remain idle. It is a challenge to accept and thereby to start translating it into action. It is undeniably true that people who spend their time in writing, especially in a community with over a little more than a million, always end up in poverty in terms of money. On the other hand, their writings and contributions will greatly enrich the Khasi history and literature.
At this juncture, let us seriously pause and ponder awhile. It is right and proper then that such geniuses who inspire our people through writing will remain in abject penury? Surely not! Therefore, the Government is expected to came forward with certain projects and schemes to encourage them with all possible assistance, in cash and in kind, before more such information is lost forever.
For example, the ODYSSEY, is a great book about the exploits and adventures of a Greek hero, Odyseus. It is a collection of 24 books and is said to be an epic poem, composed by Homer. The poem tells of the adventures of Odyseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, who took part in the famous Trogan War. He spent 10 years of his life at war in Troy and another 10 years in a treacherous sea-journey back home.
The ODYSSEY Is a great work which took years to compose by its famous Greek composer, Homer. It has enormously influenced world literature. Besides the story about Odyseus, it also wrote about Telemachus, a worthy son of a worthy father, who left Ithaca in search of his father. Meanwhile, his wife Penelope waited patiently for 20 years until his safe return.
When the Roman civilization replaced that of the Greeks, Emperor Agustus requested Vergil, whose real name was Publius Vergilius Maro, to write a biography of Aencs, a Trogan hero who his father, Anchises, his hero, who escaped with son Ascanius and some followers to the southern tip of Italy, and started a new Empire, called the Roman Empire. Vergil took 10 years to write a famous epic in line with Odyssey. Starting in 29 B.C he finished it in 19 B.C. He desired to spend another three years to complete it satisfactorily, but he died that year itself. The epic, AENID, tells the story of Aenas, the legendary ancestor of Emperor Augustus. It has 12 parts, called books.
There were quite a number of men and women who fought against the White Men who tried to subdue and subjugate people’s freedom in these beautiful hills of Meghalaya about 200 years back. Government can request some qualified professional or, if they can, entrust the task to relevant departments, in this way, we can really accord honour and rightful place to our heroes and heroines of the past. To pay tribute to them is, indeed, an act of gratitude and for which modern generations shall not forget that it is they who reap the fruits planted by them.