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Meghalaya pays tribute to martyr

Shillong, Dec. 30: One of the most frequently asked questions in public gatherings in the Khasi-Jaintia hills is why society can no longer produce leaders like U Kiang Nangbah and U Tirot Sing Syiem — the two valiant heroes who fought British imperialism in the 19th century.

As an answer to the question, Toki Blah, president of Seiñ Jaintia said, “The sad truth is that we no longer have leaders with principles. We have replaced them with leaders of opportunity,” to a gathering here today, organised by the Seiñ Raij Niamtre, Shillong, to commemorate the 151st death anniversary of U Kiang Nangbah.

Blah, a retired civil servant, said a plethora of laws was being practised today, which are aimed at upholding the rights of the individual.

In the process, he added, traditional governance and value systems, which focussed instead on duties of responsible citizenship, have been discarded. He, however, said tradition and modernity need not confront each other. In fact, they can converge, complement and supplement each other.

“Convergence of rights and duties of a citizen are the fundamentals of good governance. The sooner we realise this, our martyrs like U Kiang Nangbah would not have died in vain,” Blah added.

One of the aspects of the culture and tradition of the people here, which has survived the ravages of time, is the system of governance, he said. “It is a system of governance that not only supported local domestic administration, but more importantly, our interaction with other communities,” Blah said.

In her speech, home minister Roshan Warjri stressed on the theme of today’s commemorative gathering, which was love, peace, justice and unity. She said these four words were the four pillars of the society’s progress.

While indirectly pointing to the violent incidents which engulfed most parts of Meghalaya this year, Warjri said it was time for people to realise the importance of the four pillars. She also said, while the country had achieved “freedom” in 1947, it was time now to fight for “freedom” from social evils.

“We have to earn freedom from whatever has been happening this year. As we step into the New Year, let us remember the four pillars so that there would be dialogue and understanding for the betterment of all,” Warjri said.

The Seiñ Raij Niamtre, Shillong has been commemorating the death of U Kiang Nangbah since 1964.

Today, Shillong MP Vincent Pala and others paid homage to the martyr at Syntu Ksiar in Jowai, West Jaintia Hills.

U Kiang Nangbah, a freedom fighter from Jaintia Hills, was known for his deft organisational skills. Unlike U Tirot Sing, a freedom fighter from the Khasi hills who was a “chief”, U Kiang Nangbah was a “commoner”.

An uprising against the British led by Nangbah began in the Jaintia hills on December 28, 1861. The cause behind the rebellion was that the imperialist powers had defiled an indigenous religious ceremony.

Besides, in 1860, the imposition of taxes by the British created turmoil among the Jaintias, who rose in rebellion.

In the unequal fight that ensued, hundreds of Jaintias were killed and Nangbah was betrayed, captured and hanged in public on December 30, 1862, to strike terror in the hearts of the Jaintias.

When he was taken to the gallows, he had said in a clear voice: “If my face turns eastward when I die on the rope, we shall be free again within a 100 years. If it turns westwards, we shall be enslaved forever.” His prophecy came true, as India became free within a 100 year.

These words have made several scholars and even commoners consider the freedom fighter a prophet.

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