Dr. Omarlin Kyndiah
U Kiang Nangbah was born to Ka Rimai Nangbah at Tpeppale in Jwai. The exact date of his birth is not known but it is said that he was a child at the time when the British annexed the Jaintia Kingdom in 1835. Unlike other patriot of the region, U Kiang Nangbah had no royal background. He was a rural folk and a common farmer that belonged to the lineage of the Sookpoh clan. Though very young in age at the time of annexation, he was greatly disturbed by the highhandedness policies of the Britishers. The spirit of patriotism was inspired in U Kiang Nangbah by these developments and by the story of his maternal uncle, U Ksan Sajar Nangbah, who fought against the British at a place called Chanmyrsiang. The reason for this early resistance is attributed to the construction of road from Jaintiapur to Nowgong.
The British adopted a policy of least interference and left the Jaintia people almost entirely to themselves for a period of more than two decades. During these periods U Kiang Nangbah became fully aware about the policies and plan of the British to impose authority on the Jaintias. However, the anti-British feelings started when the British India Government attempted to impose taxes and interfered with the custom and religious activities of the people. These acts are viewed by the people as an attempt of the British to impose authority and make the people “submissive to the authority” and to “acknowledge the supremacy of the British government”.
In 1860, a House Tax was imposed in Jaintia Hills. The public pronouncement of this imposition was made by Manik Pakyntein (nicknamed Daloi Tyngkaen as he was a former Daloi of Jwai and limped when he walked) at a Dorbar held at Mïnkoi Pïrdi (Yaw Yongpiah). The story of U Kiang Nangbah and the Jaintia Resistance of 1860 can be traced from the incidence that had happen in this dorbar. In this dorbar, Daloi Tyngkaen had informed the people that the British government had imposed a House Tax vide an order dated the 28th March, 1859. U Kiang Nangbah gave a befitting reply in the dorbar and said, “Natives do not pay taxes to the foreigners”. In the same year, many more taxes were imposed which includes Income Tax and duties on trade and other commodities despite the people of Jaintia had made it clear that they would not pay any forms of taxes imposed by the foreigner. According to the oral tradition, Daloi Tyngkaen and the British officials had attempted to collect tax from the house of one Lakhi Pïrdiang at Chilliangraij, who refused to pay the tax. Anger by this refusal, the British officials vehemently entered and ransacked her house. It said that U Kiang Nangbah arrived at the scene and fought with stiff resistance against these armed British officials.
Apart from imposition of taxes, there were other activities of the British government that made the Jaintia people determined not to remain mute spectators, but to resist the British authority. A police station was established at Jwai in 1855, as a token of the government authority over the hills. The setting of police station near the cremation ground of the Dkhar clan was resented by the people. The British administration was asserting its power and took additional measures to control the Jaintias. One such step was the order issued by Mr. Rowlatt, Deputy Commissioner asking the people not to burn the dead near the military outpost. On one occasion the Sumer clan was prevented to cremate in their traditional cremation sites. Other clan who were prohibited to burn their dead includes the Paswet clan, the Pakyntein clan and the Langdoh clan. These acts of the British administrators are being look by the people as an attempt to suppress their religious beliefs. In addition, establishment of a school by the missionaries also caused concern for the people.
The immediate cause of the resistance was triggered by the incident that took place at Yalong. On the occasion of the traditional dance called ‘Pastieh Kaiksoo’. The police led by Surki, a Khasi police officer of Jowai confiscate all the weapons that are meant for the festival and burned them before the very eyes of a large number of people that had gathered to witness this traditional dance. The act of religious intolerance carried out by the British officials had made the Jaintia to rose in arms and protect their land, customs and religion. Other activity of the British official that hurt the religious sentiment of the Jaintia people took place in 1860 when a police constable called Solomon Dohling shot a monkey in the sacred forest (Khloo Langdoh) in Nangjngi. The government official and missionaries influenced the people to believe that the sanctity of their sacred grooves known as ‘Khloo Langdoh’ was a superstition belief.
This political and religious interference of the British ignite the fire of mass movement which started with the calling of the Dorbar of the twelve Dalois to appraise the people about the need to resist the alien rule. This Dorbar was held at Madiah Kmai Blai on the bank of the river Syntu Ksiar. Daring old and young men attended the Dorbar and a few of these were Mynlon Daloi of Mynso, Kiri Daloi of Changpung, Sawor Daloi of Sutnga, Mon Daloi of Rymbai, Bakhiar Daloi of Nangkhlieh, Liang Pator of Barato, Bukhiar Pator of of Raliang, Ridon Pator of Nyrtinag, Chai Rangat of Jwai, Kat Chen of Changpung, Manik Syngkon, former Daloi of Jwai, Kma Langdoh of Yalong, Bang Daloi of Raliang, Kat Pator of Raliang, Loi Paswet of Jwai, Iata Kynjiñ of Jwai Sdiah Toi of Jwai and Kiang Nangbah.
Tradition tells us that a resolution was passed in this Dorbar as whoever could bring a plant called Phlang Letang from the bottom of the river would be recognised as the leader of mass movement to fight the British. U Kiang Nangbah was successful and he was garlanded by Daloi of Nartiang with his armour and was unanimously elected a leader.
U Kiang Nangbah and his men start building barricades, stockades, stored grains and manufactured weapons and firearms. U Kiang Nangbah and his people from the villages of Jwai, Yalong, Latober, and Changpung attacked the Police station at Jwai and destroyed it completely. They also burnt down Christian settlement and besieged the military post. The attack spread to other part of Jaintia Hills like Padu, Satpator, Nangbah, Yalong, Mynsoo, Changpung, Nyrtiang, Raliang, Sutnga, Nangkhlieh, Barato, Mookayaw etc. and the British had to reinforce more Regiments which comprised of the 21st Regiment native Infantry, the Eurasian Battery of Artillery and the 44th and 28th Regiments of Native Infantry to conduct a full scale military operation against U Kiang Nangbah and his men. Meanwhile U Kiang Nangbah fell ill and retreated to Umkara. But unfortunately, patriotism had its own enemy and treachery. The Daloi of Nartiang U Mon and his right hand man, U Long Sutnga informed about the place and condition of U Kiang Nangbah. On 27th December 1862, Lt. Sadlier led by Long Sutnga captured Kiang Nangbah in the early hours but with stiff resistance from U Kiang though he was ill. U Kiang Nangbah was brought to trial and on the 30th December 1862. He was hanged at 5.00 P.M. at Yawmusing in the present of troops and all the villagers.
U Kiang Nangbah faced the gallows with courage and one could not forget his prophetic massage which he uttered from the gallows to his people, he said, “Brothers and sisters please look carefully on my face when I die on the gallows. If my face turned 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” True to his words in less than 100 years, on the 15th August 1947 the British had to leave the country making U Kiang Nangbah a patriot and a prophet.
The greatness of U Kiang Nangbah lies as much as in his supreme sacrifices that he laid down his life for the freedom of his motherland. U Kiang Nangbah fought for preservation of the rights of the people in the face of imposition of alien way of life and values. He did succeed in his struggle and within 150 years of his struggle the people of Khasi and Jaintia Hills lost many elements of their traditional way of life and in the process they have got westernised to that extent that they virtually lost most of their cultural identity and even some of their values. It is sad to know that the younger generations virtually do not know most aspects of their culture including even their folklore.
The tradition of Khasi and Jaintia political system was managed on the basis of certain values like righteousness. In social life, one of the most fundamental values was the principle of kamai ya ka hok which is not adhered to anymore. Obviously, one cannot expect the traditional values to continue permanently because the times and situation have changed radically since the time of U Kiang Nangbah. However, if one looks at the background of creation Meghalaya state, one of its purposes was to protect the tribal identities. But have we remained really tribal, while we have given up most of our traditional way of life and traditional values. Today, Meghalaya is facing a lot of crisis in her political, social and economic life. In this situation U Kiang Nangbah is becoming increasingly relevance.