Karbis Of Assam

Ethnology on the Karbis also Known as Mikirs

A Tribute to Semsonsing Ingti : Father of Karbi Nationalism

Posted by Administrator on March 13, 2009


Father of Karbi Nationalism

Father of Karbi Nationalism

Dharamsing Teron

Introduction:

Semsonsing Ingti is undoubtedly the most towering and iconic figure of Karbi nationalism whose intense commitment towards his own people helped shape its destiny at a turbulent time when everything only seemed a distant dream—a dream that was shaped by a fierce imagination of a people who were only faint outlines in the periphery of the emerging India. But the man, to the majority of lesser mortals, has continued to remain an enigma whose life and contributions have never been evaluated in the truest sense. The general amnesia of the Karbi intelligentsia, both of the past and the present, has almost rendered him into a shadowy figure, coming ‘alive’ only during ritual official commemorations. The mass amnesia has manifested through the confusing and often contradictory information about even this man’s birth and death. To confound the confusion further, a tombstone at his grave at the Nowgaon Baptist Church cemetery ‘recorded’ his date of birth as 8 February 1904! This ‘record’ has contradicted and in a way invalidated all the existing literature, though rather sparse, on the man. There even exists the controversy around the date of his death and as regards the place where he was born. Did he breathe his last on 29 February, 1948? Was he born at Tika or Golaghat? These and many more such confusing questions on the life and works of the man have only helped to build an increasingly dense aura of myths around him. Sadly, this reflects upon our own criminal indifference to our history.

Imagining a Political Community:

Semson has been hailed variously as the ‘Architect’, ‘Founder’ and ‘Father’ of Karbi Anglong. There is no denying that all these epithets fittingly describe the one man who dared all odds imagining a political community for the Karbis who remained ‘scattered over a wide area, from Golaghat to Kamrup and the Khasi Hills beyond Guwahati, and from the Cachar plains near Silchar to the forests north of Bishanath in Darang’…..speaking a language that is ‘practically one and the same throughout’ (Walker/1925). The Karbis were undoubtedly ‘one of the most numerous and homogeneous of the many Tibeto-Burman races inhabiting the Province of Assam’ (Stack and Lyall/1909). From Sibsagar to Sylhet in the present Bangladesh, the Karbis inhabited this long track (Stack and Lyall/1909). Beside this cultural homogeneity, when Semson traveled through this wide, wild and weird country of the Karbis who were ‘among the more numerous of the Assam frontier races’ (Walker), there possibly existed no imagination of a community within the community itself. It was the fierce sense of imagination that Semson had that guided him to realize that it was possible to unite the Karbis into a single political community. Because Semson, born at the turn of the 20th Century and who very briefly lived through the series of rapid and rather tumultuous upheavals that also gave birth to ‘modern democracies’ across the globe. Our own India, one of the biggest ‘democracies’ today, was just an emerging idea. Semson dared to merge his little idea of a Karbi homeland with the big idea of an India that was itself struggling to free from colonial subjugation. And it was a pledge that Semson, the first modern, educated and fiercely nationalist of the Karbis, along with a handful of his fellow nationalists such as Sarsing Teron Habai (Habe) of Hongkram, Harsing Ingti of Longre, Biren Teron-Mouzadar of Duar-amla, Borgaon and Langtukso Ingti Borgaonbura of Silimkhowa, Moniram Langne of Deithor, Barelong Terang of Diphu, Rev. Hondrovel Milik of Putsari, Dhoniram Rongpi (ex-Assam Minister) of Hongkram, Joysing Doloi (ex-CEM/KAAC of Diphu and Khorsing Terang-ex-MLA, John Kathar of Borthol, Khoiyasing Ronghang-Mouzadar of Borneuria, Bonglong Terang of Dillai, Thengklong Rongpi-Mouzadar of Deithor and Song Be of Golaghat (Song Be/Monjir-1980), committed to himself. From within the narrow confines of a colonial service under the watchful and at times possibly wrathful eyes of the colonial masters, Semson carefully and painstakingly continued in his mission disregarding his own career, future and even health. ‘Karbi Adorbar’ came into being as a weapon to draw the first political, cultural and geographical map of a Karbi homeland at the threshold of the birth of a new independent India. He diplomatically overcame the stiffest and at times the most communal opposition from the then Assamese leaders, prominent or rather most infamous among them —one Motiram Bora who tried everything under his command as the Revenue Minister of the British Provincial government of Assam. Semson never lived to see the fruition of his idea of a Karbi homeland but he saw to it during his brief but intense lifetime that the worst of adversaries cannot prevent a community of people staking its rightful claim.

The Price of Sacrifice:

The most tragic disappointment for all the present and future Karbis is not only the premature death of Semson at the most crucial juncture of the tribe’s history, but also is the fact that the rich legacy of sacrifice and selflessness that the architect, father and founder of Karbi identity did not live to preside over the political destiny of the community. Towards the untimely end of his life when Semson chose to contest the lone assembly seat against Khorsing Terang, he was hailed by the most furious communal hate campaign simply because he was a Christian. And this tragic communal divide did not desert us during the creation of Meghalaya when Karbi Anglong and NC Hills were given the option either to continue remaining with Assam, have an Autonomous State of their own or merge with the new state. This divide continues to haunt and imperil us at the present juncture when the Karbis as a people are facing the most dangerous situation—politically, economically, geographically and demographically. The one man who stood so fiercely for Karbi pride, Karbi unity and Karbi nationalism, his legacy is today condemned to a ritualistic vanity. In fact, Semson’s legacy is more endangered now than ever before if we look around at the prevalent mess in the Karbi political and cultural atmosphere that only embodies decay and defeat. The message therefore should be clear before each one of us that the legacy of Karbi nationalism inherited from Semson must be imbibed in its truest spirit so that his idea of a Karbi homeland does not remain trapped in our imaginations alone. ‘Thurnon…Thurnon’, the theme song of the Karbi awakening that fired the imagination of every Karbi heart when Semson led the identity struggle, is even more relevant today than ever.

(Author’s Note: This small write-up was read out in the Seminar held on 26 Feb 09 at Diphu Club, organized by a People’s Initiative to Commemorate the 61st Death Anniversary of Late Semsonsing Ingti. Mrs. Rani Ingtipi, the eldest daughter of the late leader, inaugurated the Seminar where she clarified many important issues such as the date of birth and death of her late father. The information furnished by her was later corroborated by her brother, Mr Pabansingh Ingti, a retired IAS officer, now based in Kolkata, who also attended as the Chief Guest in the 3-Day Commemoration from 26 Feb to 28 Feb 09 at Diphu. The date of birth of the late Semsonsing Ingti as confirmed by the family members is now 8 February 1910 and the date of his demise is 28 Feb 1948.)

17 Responses to “A Tribute to Semsonsing Ingti : Father of Karbi Nationalism”

  1. Langne said

    Brother, it is good work. Nobody had written anything about this great leader of the Karbis. And you did this with such passion. Congratulations….please do more research…all the best.

  2. Thanks for your great article.But was it necessary to drag into controversy about our two great leaders, Lt.Samson sing ingty and Lt.Khorsing Terang, on communal and religious ground!Since we were kids we were often told that the two leaders were the best of friends.They had a great comradery and respected each other.They are what Gandhiji and Nehru is to all indians.

  3. Rongbin Hanjang Terang said

    Nationalist n a Leaders is totally different justification. The HONOUR of a NATIONALIST among the KARBI as of now can only conferred to a great leader SEMSON SING INGTI. just calling him a leader or father of karbi nationalism is too small. To me he is a GOD like to all KARBIES. Its a crystal clear, Semson sing lone struggle brought all the Karbies together from Golaghat, Nagaon,Jaintia and Khashis Hills and even some from Rengma Hills which from into one administration unit and latter to United Mikir Hills and then now to KARBI ANGLONG. It is his ideas which he Baptise some radical Karbi youth of that time. This I am saying not just because somebody said. But reading books written on Semson sing Ingti has shown so many light on him and the hardship he had endured of that time. Travelling on that time from bangladesh, Tura, Golaghat, Nagaon, Halflong and Diphu is not a joke. It made him possible because he was besotted power by God. Mosses is to Israel and Christian and Semson sing Ingti is to Karbi.

    I was very happy and encourage that he is now ERU SEMSON SING INGTI. Next to our Great Great Grand Father ERU RANGCINA SARPO.
    At the same time I am not trying to dishonor Khorsing Terang. He is the first CEM of Karbi Anglong and his contribution to the karbies is not so encouraging. He at that time is a Mozadar which is a tax collector and at that time mostly huge tax comes from OPIAM, KANI in Karbi language and Mozadar, it is a very high position of that time and a very powerful person.

    I wish more books should have been written on him Khorsing Terang so that youth of today could make a good comparison.

    Semson sing Ingti he is the voice of a silent, backward, illiterate and exploited people and Khorsing Terang he is an agent of British (at one point of time).

  4. Hellion Lijang said

    Great job Mr.Teron. I’m glad dat to know n learn da history of our great leader. A million thanx. KARDOM

  5. Solomon Rongpi said

    Let us arise and fulfil the dream of Semson Sing Ingti. I do agree with you that the rich legacy of sacrifice and selflessness that the architect, father and founder of Karbi identity did not live to preside over the political destiny of the community. We must revive the sense of struggle for identity and see that the dream of a ‘Karbi State’ be realized in our generation.

    Solomon Rongpi

    • Thank you so much Dr Rongpi…..our new generation know but very little about RU Semson….the article is only a sketch, it has to be elaborated through research…..
      Regards and Kardom!!
      DS

  6. DrTikaram Tamang said

    I Borned in karbianglong,in umchiken.i love my motherland, i salute to my father of karbianglong.

  7. DrTikaram Tamang said

    I love karbianglong.karbianglong is my motherland,I’m very proud that i borned here and i will die here and also as much as i can i will serve for my motherland. salute to

  8. DrTikaram Tamang said

    Lets make karbianglong very peace and beautifuland also let’s try to develope it.

  9. I proud 2my people..bt we hav less technology….

  10. Bimal Engti said

    we need to encourage our people towards todays technologies.Only few knows about Google in my village.We need to come out of KA and compare it with the rest of the world.We need to improve on education big time.Most of us dont even know the benefit of being Karbi in terms of education.People need to be educated on this.

  11. Angtong Engti said

    mr.Teron has great contribution…..best of luck………..and thank you so much

  12. Arnee G Ronghang said

    On outset I would like to slute them with highest repect for their outstanding contribution for the people. Kardom….

  13. Arnee G Ronghang said

    On outset I would like to slute them with highest repect for their outstanding contribution for the people.
    Thank you so much brother for your great treasure for the people…. Kardom….

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