Tirot Singh was popularly known as U Tirot Singh Syiem. He was the legendary freedom fighter from the state of Meghalaya. He was one of the leaders of the Khasi people. He fought against British rules to take possession of the Khasi Hills in the early eighteen century. He was the Syiem or chief of Nongkhlaw, a part of Khasi Hills. His last name was Syiem. He was a statutory head sharing corporate authority with his Council. He was the representatives of leading tribes within his territory.
May be he is unknown to the rest of the country and one of the unsung heroes of the country, but he was the first freedom fighter who opposed against the colonial rules from North- East India. He was abrave and courageous leader and he struggled and fought for his people. He tried to save Khasi Hills from British rules. He was determined not to give his land in the hand of British. He started the battle against British in 1829 and continued till the last day of his life. He was the first Khasi leader who raised sword against the British. He was the head of the administrative power of the Khasi Hills. In his Durbar or court he was the leader and there were other leaders of the several tribes. They discussed about every issue in the court or durbar and then they took the decision of war.
When the Treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1826 the British already had extended control over the Brahmaputra valley or Sylhet. Khasi Hills was situated in between Sylhet and the newly acquired Lower Assam. The British were interested in the Khasi Hills to hold the total control on the region. British made a plan and they wanted to build a road through this area to connect Guwahati with Sylhet to save the time of travel and to establish better control on the region.Their intensions were simple they were spreading their colonial rules slowly. U Tirot Singh was interested in recapturing Duarsin return of the issuing permission of the road project. His intention was understood by the agent to the British Governor-General of the Nothern Territory David Scott. Then British were interested to negotiate with Tirot Singh. After two days of court session the assembly members agreed to the proposal of the British. At last the work of the road was started. ButBalaram Singh, Raja of Ranee was disagreed the claim of U Tirot Singh about Duarsand challenged him. He claimed that Duars was in his territory. Then Tirot Singh went with his armed troop to establish his claim in December 1828. Tirot Singh was confident that he would get the support from British rulers. Unfortunately British had their own plan. A group of British sepoy blocked his route. Tirot Singh received the news that the British strengthening their forces in Assam. U TirotSinghagain organized the meeting at the court. They passed the orderthat they want the British to evacuate Nongkhlaw immediately. But British ignored his order and continued their work of making road. That was thereason why on 4th April 1829, Khasis attacked on the British base camp in Nongkhlaw. They killed two British officers and after that British were furious. They were planning for the revenge. British arranged immediate military operations against U Tirot Singh and other leaders of the Khasi. They gathered forces with powerful arms.
In the Anglo-Khasi war, the khasis were weaker than the British. Khasisused primary weapons like swords, shields, sharp knife, bows and arrows. They didn’t have any fire arms like guns or bombs. Soon Khasi forces realised that they can’t continue this war openly against this powerful armed forces of British. British were firing from distance and killed Khasi men easily.Then Khasi troop started guerrilla war. They understood that native weapons can’t stand in front of these potential firing arms. This war continued for four years. U Tirot Singh and his team continued this war with their native weapons like sword and shields. But he was injured by the gun shot of British army and had hid himself in a cave. At last he was captured by the British army in 1833. He was deported in Dhaka. His hiding information was disclosed by a chief of Khasi. He was bribed with gold coins for disclosing the location of U Tirot Singh. At last U Tirot Singh was died on 17 July in 1835. Meghalaya remembered his death anniversary every year as a state holiday.
He was one of the pioneers of the North-East India who started war against the British. He opposed British rules in the Khasi Hills. But unfortunately his name is not mentioned in any history book. In fact, 90 percent of Indian people don’t know his name as the great freedom fighter. He was one of the unsung North-Eastern heroes of India. But he opposed colonial rules at the time when people were not aware of the consequences of the British rules. He understood British rulers motto and started war against them which was named as Anglo- Khasi war. He was a brave and courageous leader of the Khasi people who fought against the powerful armed forces with some native weapons like swords, shields, Sharp knife and bows and arrows.
Meghalaya got its first animated movie on the life and struggle of legendary Khasi leader and the freedom fighter U Tirot Singh Syiem. Its name is “U Syiem”. Few young film fans made this effort. The film is one hour long and it made under the banner of the Cosmic Clusters at the price of thirty two lakhs. The director and the writer of the movie is Ban Casper Mawlong. He once said that this is the first animated film of Meghalaya and for the North –East. It is based on stories of the legendary freedom fighter U Tirot Singh’s life. It is to give the tribute to the great leader.