Battles always turn the tide of the war itself and then there are even greater battles that change the way people look at war. Some get lost in the shuffle of armies clashing, while some battles are forgotten over the years and others are simply too far removed from today’s history books.
On India’s 75th Independence Day, let’s take you back to the tides of change and look at the forgotten battles of Northeast India, and other obscurely remembered incidents, and pay homage to the freedom fighters involved in them.
Battle of Patharughat
Years before the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, more than a hundred peasants fell to the bullets of the British colonials on January 28, 1894, in Patharughat, a small village in Assam’s Darrang district, 60km northeast of Guwahati. Yet, the gallantry of the Patharughat martyrs is often ignored in the mainstream historical discourse of India’s freedom struggle.
After the British annexation of Assam in 1826, the British authorities began to impose land taxes much to the resentment of the farmers. The British colonials opened fire indiscriminately killing and injuring many unarmed peasants who had assembled peacefully at Patharughat to protest against the increase in land revenue.
According to a Guwahati-based author Arup Kumar Dutta who wrote a book on the incident of Pothorughat, “Official records, as mentioned in the Darrang District Gazette, 1905, edited by BC Allen, placed the casualties in the Patharughat incident as 15 killed and 37 wounded.”
As per unofficial sources, 140 unarmed peasants died in unprovoked firing by the British military police.
The Battle of Kohima
One of the fiercest battles that has been fought in the eastern front in the Second World War, the Battle of Kohima is mostly forgotten by the Indian people. This battle was voted as Britain’s largest battle by the National Army Museum in London, edging out Waterloo and D-Day.
The battle was fought in three stages.
During the height of World War II, the Japanese army marched into Manipur on March 15, 1944. To hinder reinforcement, the Japanese army included a simultaneous attack on Kohima, a small village located on the Imphal-Dimapur Road.
Between 18 April and 13 May, British and Indian reinforcements counterattacked to compel the Japanese army from the positions that they captured. However, the Japanese abandoned the ridge at this point but continued to block the Kohima-Imphal road.
Finally, the battle marked the end on 22 June when British and Indian troops from Kohima and Imphal met at Milestone 109.
Many authors like Martin Dougherty and Jonathan Ritter referred this battle as the ‘Stalingrad of the East’.
The Anglo-Khasi war has been long forgotten by our people. This war was a part of the independence struggle between the Khasi people and the British Empire between the years 1829-1833. It took place in 1833 in the regions between the Khasi hills and Jaintia Hills.
On April 4, 1829, the rebellion started with Tirot Sing Syiem’s attack on a British Garrison that disregarded the Khasi King’s orders to halt a road construction project through the Khasi Hills.
Tirot Sing syiem was a Khasi chief who drew his lineage from the Syiemlieh clan and declared war against the Britishers for attempts to take over control of the Khasi hills.
He was undoubtedly the hero of the Anglo-Khasi war that raged in the North East between 1829-33.
The Khasi chief along with his band of faithful followers used guerrilla tactics to evade and strike the colonial forces- a battle between the guns on one side and swords, shields, bows, and arrows on the other side. After four years of intense struggle, and a breach of trust among his camp, he was eventually captured by the British colonials. He was then sent to a Dhaka prison where died in 1835
Later, the Khasis were defeated in this war, and the British gained supremacy over these hills.
Battle of Walong
The battle of Walong is known to be one of the deadliest battles in Northeast India.
This battle is a tragic watershed in the military history of India.
Walong in Arunachal Pradesh is the easternmost town of India which shares proximity with the Tibet region.
The battle took place on 21 October 1962, when the Chinese launched an attack on the Dhola sector in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kameng Division at a post at Kibithu which is 40 km away from Walong.
The intense war started with Chinese machine guns and mortars fire from south of Sama, followed by infantry attacks on two platoons with over 3000 soldiers.
This bloodiest war for lasted over a month where Indian soldiers gave their Chinese counterparts a hard time despite being ill-equipped themselves.
The battle ended on November 22 with a unilateral ceasefire declared by China.
As per sources, Indian forces lost 1,383 soldiers, 1,047 wounded, 1,700 missing and 3,968 captured against 1,300 Chinese soldiers killed.
Tai Khamti War
Not Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Tai Khamti can be considered to be India’s first war of Independence that took place in 1839 between the Tai Khamti people and the British.
Tai Khamti people follow Theravada Buddhism, a population of 1,00,000 today, and live in areas straddling Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
As per sources, it is to be noted that the Tai Khamtis fought valiantly against Britishers and their colonial rule. There were a series of Anglo-Abor wars fought by the Adis from 1858 to 1911 and the Wancho-British war, also known as ‘Ninu Massacre’ in Tirap district’s Ninu in 1875
Recently, the voluminous historical texts, archives, and other related documents have been collected by Nephsa Wang, who was been working for the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh.
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