1839 struggle by Tai Khamti is India’s first war of independence: Arunachal Deputy CM

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The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 may not be India’s first war of independence.

The first such war, not recognised by Indian history, took place in 1839 between the Tai Khamti people and the British. The theatre of this war was some 2,400 km east of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh where the mutiny began, Arunachal Pradesh’s Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein said. Speaking at an event in Guwahati on December 24, he said the Tai Khamtis resisted colonisation by the British. Some 80 British soldiers, including Col. Adam White, were killed in the resultant conflict.

The Tai Khamti people, who follow Theravada Buddhism, number a little more than 1,00,000 today and live in areas straddling Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

“It is high time we rewrote our history from our own perspective, not that of the British. Who they viewed as traitors and punished were actually our freedom fighters and our war heroes,” Mr. Mein said, urging the Centre to recognise the Tai Khamti-British war as India’s first for independence from the United Kingdom.

The Deputy Chief Minister also batted for recognition of battles between other communities of Arunachal Pradesh and the British. They include a series of Anglo-Abor wars from 1858 to 1911 and the Wancho-British war in Tirap district’s Ninu in 1875. The Abors, now called Adis, inhabit central Arunachal Pradesh, while the Wanchos live in the southern part of the State. Mr. Mein said the country needed to include the histories of the freedom struggles across the northeast in the books published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training.

“Sadly, the battles fought by the tribal people for independence from the colonial rule are nowhere reflected in the books of Indian history,” he said.
 

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