Tirot Singh: An Unsung Hero of the Khasi Tribe who destroyed British with his skill at Guerrilla Warfare

Team Udayavani, Jul 14, 2020, 12:02 PM IST

Tirot Sing is North East India’s legendary freedom fighter. Tirot and his band of warriors fought the British, and was on par with developing guerrilla warfare tactics, like Chattrapati Shivaji to near perfection in the hilly terrains

Tirot Singh was a constitutional head of Nongkhlow. He was the king of the Khadsawphra Syiemship. Tirot Sing, also known as U Tirot Sing Syiem was the chief of the Khasi people in the early 19th century. He drew his lineage from the Syiemlieh clan. He was Syiem (chief) of Nongkhlaw, part of the Khasi Hills.

During his battles with the British, he organised the Khasi warriors. This ability to inspire the leaders and cadre came in for high praise, even from the enemy. He had also mastered the art of guerrilla warfare

Tirot selected special bands of warriors and deployed them in caves to produce ammunition for warfare. Tirot Sing knew the importance of being informed and gathered intelligence to facilitate his decisions and actions.

Anglo-Khasi War

The British had gained control over the Brahmaputra valley after concluding the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. They wanted to link two regions for easier transport and strategic purposes and now they had to construct a road through the Khasi Hills.

David Scott, political agent of the British,requested Tirot Sing for permission to construct a road cutting through the hills which belonged to the Khasis.

British said in exchange Tirot Sing would be given control of the duars (passes into Assam) and also assured of free trade in the region.

After the construction of the road started, the Raja of Ranee Balaram Singh disputed Tirot Sing’s possession of the duars and claimed them for himself.

Now, Tirot Sing expected the British to support him but instead they blocked his entry and he also heard that the British were bringing in reinforcements from Guwahati and Sylhet. Tirot Singh asked British to leave Nongkhlaw. But Britishers continued to remain in their post.

On 4 April 1829, Khasi forces under Tirot Sing attacked the British garrison. Two officers were killed in the attack.

The British retaliated and even though, the Khasis were brave and fearless, they could not match up to the modern firearms of their enemies. Despite this, Tirot Sing and his troops carried on guerrilla warfare with the British for four years.

Tirot Sing sustained bullet injuries and  hid in a cave in the hills. However, he was betrayed and captured by the British in January 1833. After a trial, he was deported to Dhaka, Bangladesh and died in captivity on 17th July 1835.

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