The 30th December 2019 marks the 157th death anniversary of a patriot, a commoner with a fearless heart and an invincible courage, a great personality U Kiang Nangbah. On the fateful day of the 30th December 1862, U Kiang Nangbah was executed by the high and mighty British empire by public hanging in the presence of the troops and all the villagers that had left an indelible mark in the pages of national freedom movement and the Jaintia resistance against the British Raj. A man of high principles and a guardian of one’s traditions deserves to be honoured, remembered and values to be emulated.
Referring to Rev. Dr. E.R.Tongper on his article that quoted “U Kiang Nangbah: A Man of Courage’’ published in the Sesquicentennial souvenir of U Woh Kiang Nangbah 1862-2012 published by Seinraij Jowai in which the author stated that the 30th December 1862 was historic because of the demonstration of indomitable courage by U Woh Kiang Nangbah in the fight for freedom of his people against the dominant mighty power of the British empire. Though he was hanged to death, Dr. Tongper remarked that the spirit of courage never dies but however it gives birth to new realities and loyalist beyond the boundaries of the so called impossibility.
In the current trends, when the moral values and ethics seems to be eroded the question arises on the relevance of U Kiang Nangbah and his lofty ideals. The generation today seems to glorify and recalled the greatness of this great personality only on his death anniversary, motivational and inspiring speeches delivered on the occasion by eminent personalities and ideologist, scholars and politicians in honour of his life, his role and deeds, the heroic virtues portrayed by the freedom fighter and the selfless sacrifices he had made pierced one’s heart and impacted one’s mind. But then again, when the observations and celebrations are over all these speeches diminishes like bubbles into thin air which will be recalled in the same venue on the same date after one year when another year had passed. But on the contrary, his ideology is more relevant today and his thoughts more urgently needed in today’s time than ever before. U Kiang Nangbah was only a young, dynamic and a common man who was neither rich nor educated but he stood uprightly to defy and vehemently protest and fight against the suppression of the rites and rituals of the indigenous faith, imposition of house tax on the Pnars on our very own land terming it as a draconian law, he fought and lead bravely to save the honour, the dignity, the tradition, culture, fundamental rights and most importantly to uphold the teachings and ways of the Indigenous faith and belief – Niamtre of which the foreign government dominated and battled hard to end, through all possible means even to bribe the greed of some anti-loyalist as that of Daloi Tyngken, the mouthpiece of the British government.
Of such Incidents that truly boils the blood of U Kiang Nangbah were the act of the foreigner to suppressed the tradition of the Jaintias by interfering and halted the rites and rituals of the Pnar in the burning of the death during cremation that has deeply wounded and hurted the sentiments of the native. The British high handedness when the swords, shields and other sacred instruments were destroyed and confiscated while performing the Pastieh Kaiksoo dance- a traditional warrior dance of the Jaintia. All these villain and heinous act by the British government led the Jaintias into the revolt where Kiang Nangbah was unanimously chosen by his fellow countrymen along a divine approval and blessing at Madiah Kmai Blai, Syntu Ksiar to lead the revolt and fights for freedom.
These were Kiang Nangbah’s qualities of bravery, courage, leadership skill, spirit of patriotism and selfless sacrifice for the cause of humanity and as we march towards the 73rd Independence day of our motherland our society yearns for these qualities of a brave heart, our country was able to set itself free from the clutches of the British rule as was prophesised by U Kiang Nangbah himself before he was hanged in the gallows in the year 1862, with his last words “if my head turned eastside, my country will be free from foreign domination within 100 years, but if it turned west side, my country will forever remained slave”.
Today the blood of our undying hero moans with a deep cry in the land of Jaintia and Khasi hills as a wake up calls to all the souls of our young blood transcending all borders of faith, caste, creed and race but to rebel against corruption, enmity, bribery which terrorise the holy land of u “Niaw-trep u Niaw-skum” and to root out all the dreaded evils plaguing the society today. To top it all, the rising crime and atrocities against women nationwide which has dominated many of the headlines of both national and regional newspapers today and thronged the news channel with heated debates and heavy deliberations on a daily basis, on all these issues the thoughts of U Kiang Nangbah and his ideologies looms large in a society, a man whose thoughts were contemplating and brooding for his country’s plight, his presence today would have cured our society of all its evils with his spirit of patriotism.
He died a heroic death, his valour and bravery was rightly penned down in one of Shri. R. Lamar’s article titled – U Woh Kiang Nangbah: His prophecy, political ideas and strategy, published in the sesquicentennial souvenir of U Woh Kiang Nangbah 1862-2012, quoting late Dr. B. Pakem’s when he narrated an incident as told to him by one U.S. Gatphoh which had taken place before u Kiang was finally led to the gallows before the sentence of execution was passed U Kiang was asked to submit himself with a promise of financial benefits during his life time. His reply was “pyllait yn yadat” (set me free and I will fight).
This reflects Kiang’s ideology of freedom which should not be of comfort or luxury through an act of mercy by anyone else’s. Freedom for him could not be achieved through a begging bowl but through a life of struggle for one’s rights and existence.