Martyrs’ pillar to commemorate Mishmi warriors who fought British Empire

[ Karyir Riba ]
ROING, Jan 29: The foundation stone for the ‘Metaro’ or Martyrs Pillar, honouring the martyrs and warriors who fought against the British in three Bebejiya Mishmi expeditions (1900, 1914 & 1919), under the leadership of Ponge Dele and Taji Dele, was laid today on the occasion of the Pre Reh celebration here at Elope village in Lower Dibang valley district on Tuesday.
Speaking on the occasion, Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society (IMCLS) president Ginko Lingi who laid the foundation with SDO Hunli S Mimin informed that the three Bebejiya Mishmi military expeditions to the Mishmi Hills in Dibang region were the result of the longest and constant struggle in Arunachal Pradesh against the British Government by the Mishmis of Ithun valley.
“This historical episode is also testimony of inhuman colonial suppression of the tribal people from frontier region. Moreover, the constant fight back by a small group of tribal manifest the struggle against the colonial exploitation which resulted in blocking the colonial expansion to the vast frontier region, the land of tribal people,” he said.
Further, he called upon the entire tribe to venerate and remember the martyrs who fought the mighty British Empire and kept the outsiders out of the Mishmi Hills. However, he felt that the historical phenomenon which had impacted and plagued British government for nearly a quarter of century is today only in the domain of dusty archival files and have become subject of few lines in the books written by historians.
Therefore, Lingi urged the government to recognize and pay them their rightful dues.
GS IMCLS Rao Dele remembered the martyrs and narrated how the 20 years struggle against the British Raj received less attention until the research scholars from the community began to investigate the archives and brought light to the struggle and martyrdom of the forefathers. He also lamented how the martyrs are still unsung heroes despite scholarly articles and mentions in prominent publications.
Dele also informed the people that the IMCLS has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh on 8th January 2017 on this regard and the same appeal was made to Kiren Rijiju, the then MOS Home on 22nd July 2017.
As per information shared by Dr Razzeko Dele, assistant professor of the government college here, the first Bebejiya Mishmi Military punitive expedition was undertaken in 1900 under JF Needham, wherein the British forces destroyed Hunli, Apani, Pika, Chani, Denge, Abrago, Elope and Anaya. While many Mishmis lost their lives, the British forces lost 34 of their people.
Ponge Dele and Taji Dele took revenge by killing three British subjects and burnt down the Govt. Godown Dikrang Block House in July 1905 at Sadiya. On their way back, they also attacked and burnt down British military stockades at Kherempani and Bomjir, Dr Dele informed.
To arrest Ponge Dele and Taji Dele, the British troop under Captain Dundas and Captain Nevil undertook a military expedition to Elope in March 1914. The Expedition turned out futile as no one could be arrested. Forces destroyed the village and came back. In December 1917 Taji Dele was arrested and hanged at Tezpur Jail on 29th January, 1918.
The three Mishmis of Elope: Ekhrome Dele, Rosha Dele and Bapo Dele, in order to avenge the martyrdom of Taji Dele, attacked the Nizamghat Military outpost on 24th November 1918. One sepoy was killed and several others injured in the attack, said Dr Dele.
In the third expedition against people of Elope, which was carried out in 1919 under O’Callaghan as Political Officer, the Mishmis confronted the British forces, but were defeated and Ponge Dele died fighting.
The historical episode gets mentioned in many books and even The Union Public Service Commission Civil Service Exam Main paper 2009 had a question on Taji Dele.