15 August, 2022 | 03:44 AM
Most sacred day
The fifteenth of August is undoubtedly the most sacred day for all Indians, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and language. It was on this day exactly seventy-five years ago that India attained freedom by breaking the shackles of the colonial powers who had ruled this subcontinent for close to two centuries. The way in which India attained freedom is in itself a very long amazing story. It is a story of patriotism of the highest order, as also a story of unbelievable determination, unity, perseverance, and above all sacrifice made by hundreds and thousands of people from across the length and breadth of the country. Yet, India's freedom struggle is not just one single story. It is a combination of numerous stories of struggle and sacrifice which were enacted in different regions and places, depending upon the local context and the attitude of the colonial powers. One does not have to go too far to unearth those stories. The North-eastern region of India in itself is full of such stories of anti-colonial resistance, which began within less than two years of the British beginning to occupy and annex this region, piece by piece, district after district from 1826 onwards. While Gomdhar Konwar led the first movement to oust the British in 1828 and was sent to jail (he died in Rangpur Jail in Bengal to become the first martyr of the entire region), Piyoli Phukan and Jiuram Duliya Barua were the first two to be hanged by the new rulers on September 24, 1830. Since then a few hundred people have laid down their lives fighting against the British, peacefully or with arms, across the region. But, unfortunately, while the stories of resistance and freedom of Assam, Manipur and present-day Meghalaya have been by and large documented, the battles the different communities of the Naga Hills, the Lushai or Mizo Hills, and present-day Arunachal Pradesh have not yet been properly documented even after 75 years of the country attaining independence. The result is that the present generation of people of the region, not to speak of the rest of India, have been deprived of the unbelievable patriotism that hundreds of their predecessors had displayed in protecting the sacred land from the colonial powers. Take for instance the heroism of Ranuwa Gohain, who had led 500 Khamtis of present-day Arunachal Pradesh and virtually wiped out the Sadiya station of the British by killing 80 soldiers along with Colonel White on January 29, 1839. There are very few such incidents across the subcontinent. Or how or take, for instance, the way Pa Togan Sangma had a contingent of young Garos "into the jaws of death" on the night of December 12, 1872, to attain martyrdom on the banks of the Simsang, as the battle-cry "Ka chalang, ka sangma, ka marak, hai hai re`tokbo" filled the air and echoed through the hills of present-day Meghalaya. The present generation of young people has not been told about the manner in which hundreds of Angamis had fought to defend Khonoma from the British in November 1879. Or how hundreds of families across the Naga Hills were rendered homeless and their granaries looted as British troops set village after village on fire with the sole intention of "subjugating" and "punishing" the Nagas for trying to defend their sacred land and independence. Or, the stories of how Lushai chiefs Lalsuthlaha, Ngura, Suakpuilala, Kaimura, Zakapa, Hnawncheuva, the woman chief Ropuiliani and the great Pasaltha Khuangchera had fought the British in order to protect the present-day Mizo hills from the clutches of the colonial powers. Or that how different communities of present-day Arunachal Pradesh, like the Singphos had fought against the British during 1825-1834, the Khamtis from 1839 to 1843, the Adis from 1848 to 1911, the Mishmis from 1827 to 1920, and the Wanchoos in 1875. Or, how the Manipuris, under the leadership of Bir Tikendrajit, had fought a massive war against the British in 1891. The absence of proper documentation of the presentation of these various stories has led to two situations. One, the younger generations of people of the North-eastern region have been deprived of the opportunity to take pride in the sacrifices of their predecessors. And two, a general impression has developed over the decades across the rest of India that the people of the North-eastern region had made no contribution to the freedom of India. Not to speak of the other states of the region, when one looks at Assam alone, one finds with disgust that no single book is available even in Assamese in which one can find the stories of all the struggles and movements which had taken place in the state from 1826 to 1947. Despite that, however, the tricolour flutters across the region on this most sacred day.