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U Tirot Sing

- Khlur Singh Lyngdoh

U Tirot Sing Syiem” is the most famous son of the soil, king of the Hima (syiemship) Nongkhlaw during the British rule. The Nongkhklaw Syiemship is also known as the Khadsawphra in which the ministry or Dorbar of the Syiem (king) includes 14 Myntri’s and 8 Basans. It is on his reign that the British tried to dominate his kingdom. But with courage and all efforts, Tirot Sing along with his Myntri’s-U Monbhut, Larshon Jarain and Khein Kongor and ka Phan Nonglait fought against the British soldiers.    
After concluding the treaty of Yandabu in 1826, the British had control over the Brahmaputra Valley. They had already occupied the Surma valley by becoming “Diwan” of Bengal in 1765. Now the British wanted a strategic road to link up these two valleys under their occupation. The construction of this strategic road was possible only through the Khasi Hills. The Khasi Hills were also considered suitable for setting up sanatoria cantonment. The political agent of the British, David Scott approached U Tirot Sing, the king of Khadsawphra Syiemship for construction of the road project through his kingdom. David Scott promised U Tirot Sing that if the project was agreed upon, U Tirot Sing would be allowed complete control over Bordwar and that free trade would flourish along the proposed road.
U Tirot Sing convened a session of his Durbar in which, after debating for two days and two nights consented to the proposal. Soon a British garrison with labourers to construct the road was posted at Nongkhlaw. Later, he came to know that the British army at Guwahati and Sylhet had been reinforced. U Tirot Sing sensed the ulterior motive of the British to ultimately grab the entire hill territory. Alarmed by the eventuality, U Tirot Sing served a notice to the British to quit Nongkhlaw, but the British did not pay any heed.
The resistance fight began to grow weak. But Tirot Singh didn’t lose hope. He continued his fight with unrelenting valour. At the height of battles, Scott had fallen ill and died. T.C. Robertson, his successor was willing to put an end to the ‘wretched’ war. The East India Company authorised him to adopt conciliatory measures by declaring amnesty to those who submitted. Some small States surrendered through negotiation recognizing British paramountcy through subsidiary alliance. Robertson was eager to start a round of talks with Tirot Sing. Tirot Sing agreed to meet them at Singmanik’s residence. The British negotiators had to go there unarmed. The British officers assured restoration of Syiemship of Nongkhlaw, provided he agreed to the terms. Tirot Sing demanded restoration of Borduar and abandonment of the construction of the proposed road through Khasi land. His demands were unacceptable. There followed several rounds but nothing was achieved. At one point, the Government even agreed to restore plains land formerly occupied by Tirot Sing and other Khasi syiem’s. But Tirot Sing would not budge from demands fulfillment of which would only mean complete independence of the Khasi country. Tirot Sing’s audacious terms, even though the resistance fight had reached a not-so-inspiring state, surprised the Englishmen. The audacity was uncommon even among his native brethren. The political agent then recommended adoption of strict measures. Along with other methods of coercion was now added an economic blockade. Markets were closed to the Khasis. All kinds of transactions were closed too. Agriculture nearly came to a standstill. Some chiefs began considering surrender. It was at this point that Maniram Dewan and Peoli Phukan endeavored to supply rice to the warring Khasis through Kamrup border.  However, Tirot Sing was being exhausted. His health was failing too.
During one of the encounters, a British bullet hit Bormanik. His warriors carried him to a cave below Mawreng near the Umium river. On hearing the news, Tirot Sing and Shan Manik rushed to see him. Bormanik sent for Sing Manik and some other leaders. When all the great leaders assembled by his bedside, Bormanik asked Tirot Sing and others that time had come for reaching a settlement with the British on honourable terms. The British were also tired of the protracted war. They must be willing to end the war. People of the motherland had been suffering. They needed some respite. Bormanik, it is said, died a day later and the death of the most trusted and dependable ally was a deadly blow to Tirot Sing who began negotiations with the British from that very cave. Tirot Sing was finally captured by the British and deported to Dhaka where he finally died on the 17th of July 1835.It is said Tirot Sing was offered the siyemship of Nangkhlaw to which the free spirit had retorted, “Better die an independent King than reign as a vassal.”