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India@75: Tirot Sing, the tribal chief who fought against the British

Tirot Sing declared war and fought against British for attempts to take over control of the Khasi Hills.

Jul 4, 2022, 1:05 PM IST

At the beginning of the 19th century, after conquering Burma, which today is known as Myanmar, the British entered the Brahmaputra valley and attempted to capture the Khasi Hills in the present day Meghalaya. But the British met stiff resistance from the Khasi tribal people who inhabited the hills. The Khasi chief who led this resistance was Tirot Singh.  

The British's usual strategy was to exploit the differences between the local rulers and implement their own agenda. But these attempts by the British Agent David Scott were exposed by Tirot Singh, who led a Khasi attack on the British garrison on 4 April 1829. Two British officials were killed, which led to a fierce retaliatory attack by the British. This led to the Anglo-Khasi war. 

The British were armed with rifles and other modern armaments against the Khasis, who had only swords, bows, and arrows. But their fierce willpower, guerilla tactics and deep knowledge of the difficult terrain of the jungles and hills helped the Khasis launch surprise attacks on the British. This enabled them wage a resistance for four years.

Finally, Tirot was betrayed by one of his men, who informed the British about his hideout in return for gold coins. A large army surrounded Tirot and shot him down immediately. The grievously injured Tirot was exiled to Dhaka. The 33 year old died on July 17, 1935. Meghalaya's people observe every July 17 as Tirot's Day.

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