Itanagar: The Arunachal Pradesh tableau on the theme ‘Anglo-Abor (Adi) Wars’, conceptualised and designed by the Art and Exhibition Cell of the state’s directorate of information and public relations, has been selected to participate in the Republic Day Parade 2022 at Rajpath on January 26.

The tableau will showcase the resistance of the Adis to protect their land from the British in the 19th century and early part of the 20th century.

A team of 17 delegates from the state, led by nodal officer Onyok Pertin, are camping in New Delhi. The team’s group leader, artiste Sangey Tsewang, had earlier received the performing artistes from East Siang who were escorted by H K Roy from Pasighat and led them to the Rashtriya Rangshala camp on January 12.

The artistes who will perform on the tableau are troupe leader David Darang, Tagom Taga, Tabom Tali, Dilip Panyang, Tasek Taboh, Nalo Saroh, Tamar Takoh, Tajing Yosung, Taram Riyang, Tayem Tali, Tayi Takoh, Tanyo Panyang,  Oky Jerang and Taham Taga.

During the time when the freedom movement was mounting in other parts of the country, the indigenous Adis of the Siang region (formerly called Abors by the British) bravely fought against the imperial policy of colonial expansion of the erstwhile British rulers in India. It was totally unacceptable to the freedom-loving indigenous tribes when their territory was attempted to be infiltrated and plundered by the British rulers.

The land of Adis remained literally independent without being annexed or controlled by the British until the last part of the 19th century. The Adis were considered to be difficult to control and were always resistant to the centralised authority of outsiders.

Towards the beginning of the 20th century, the British government started to take the situation seriously. They were aware of the strategic importance of the Adi land because it is not very far from Tibet and China. As the territory was largely unknown earlier, the British wanted to penetrate and establish their control over it.

In those days, the Adi land consisted of two main axes of power; one along the right bank and the other along the left bank of the mighty Siang River. The first visit of the British to the Adi land is reported to be in 1826 by Captain Bedford which had to be cut short to a very brief period as compelled by the indomitable and independent character of the Adis who fought tooth and nail to keep their land independent.

This led to a series of four military expeditions, the first and second of which were carried out along the right bank in 1858 and 1859 leading to the first Anglo-Abor War known as ‘Bitbor Mimak’ in 1858 and the second Anglo-Abor War known as ‘Bongal Mimak’ in 1859. The British forces had to pull back in the consecutive expeditions or wars because of the unprecedented strong retaliation offered by the Adi warriors. As such, the attempts of the British to conquer the first axis of Adi power were thwarted.

The third punitive military expedition to the second axis of Adi power on the left bank of Siang, led by J F Needham, assistant political officer, Sadiya, Captain Maxwell and Lieutenant East in 1894, centred around Damroh village – the nerve or command centre of Bor Abors (a sub-tribe of Adi) that led to the 3rd and very crucial Anglo-Abor War known popularly in oral history as Nijom Mimak.

In fact, during this punitive expedition series of wars was fought in various locations by the brave warriors of Adis starting from Dambuk village, where remains of the ramparts erected by the Adis still exist, on January 20, 1894, to Dagem Liireng at Sijon after crossing Padu village on February 25, 1894, where the British expeditionary force was defeated.

This led to their shameful retreat from the land of Bor Abors without having even to touch the land of Damroh village which the British wanted to capture.

The Bor Abors erected stockades, untied huge stone chutes from stiff rock sides, released booby traps, used poisoned arrows and other possible means as part of their defence mechanism and succeeded in repelling the invading force.

However, both the warring sides suffered heavy casualties. Names of Kengki Megu, Jongkeng Pertin and Koyi Lego are prominent among the martyrs who made supreme sacrifice by laying down their lives while displaying absolute bravery and patriotism in the war.

By the end of the third Anglo-Abor War in 1894 and the beginning of the 20th Century, the British realised seriously the bravery, strategy and strength of Adi freedom fighters.

So, they considered another military expedition to be carried out to penetrate the region via the first axis of Adi power along the right bank that led to the fourth and last Anglo-Abor War in 1911-12, which is one of the most important Anglo-Abor Wars in the history of the freedom movement in Arunachal Pradesh known as the Poju Mimak fought from October 6, 1911, to January 11, 1912.

The Adi warriors used the conventional skills and weapons of tribal warfare such as bows and arrows, spears, swords, booby traps, stone chutes, etc., and succeeded in stopping the invading force for more than three months at the historical battlefield of Kekar Monying. Though the British force got the upper hand in the war with the help of sophisticated weapons, key officers like Noel Williamson and Greigorson and many sepoys were killed in that war by the famous freedom fighter Matmur Jamoh and other heroes such as Tajong Tamuk, Lomlo Darang, Lotiyang Taloh and many more, though unsung in the history of India’s freedom movement.

The forefathers of Arunachal Pradesh had bravely fought against the British rule in India and contributed a lot to the national freedom movement.

The people of Arunachal Pradesh take great pride in these unsung freedom fighters, as their bravery, patriotism and supreme sacrifices. The selection of the tableau for participation in the Republic Day parade is a long and rigorous process involving various elimination rounds screened by an expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Defence. 

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