Tag Archives: Meghalaya

Returning Home: My Reconversion Story – by Shimtihun Lyngwa

No, it’s not the immediate “Ghar Wapsi” effect; nor has the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have an impact in my life. My decision to leave the Christian faith and return to Niam Khasi didn’t just happen because of a few negative conversations, or a few isolated events — my decision was made because I realized I’ve been staying in the “wrong house” all these years. Two years ago, there would be no way in fiery hell that I could ever conceive of leaving the Christian faith. But here I am today.


I have received a lot of mixed reactions from being honest about my religious beliefs. For over a year, I had been terrified to tell anyone that I wasn’t a Christian anymore, because I was afraid of all the relationships I would lose, and all the people that would distance themselves from me. To me it feels like there’s a tremendous stigma in a lot of Christian circles about people leaving the church, and this assumption that I’m not a good person, or a person Christians can be friends with, because my views are now so different.


A lot of Khasi Christians I had met would refer to other Khasis who still followed the indigenous faith as “non-believers” and talk about them in a sort of vernacular that reflected an “us versus them” attitude, as though these “non-believers” were a part of the community, and that the community was a dirty and unreligious place filled with all sorts of depravity. “We are of the Khasi Community, but not of the Khasi Community,” is a catch-phrase I often heard, and while I appreciate holding onto certain Christian values about one’s conduct in life, I didn’t want people to think of me as “of the Khasi Community” — when they were thinking of the Khasi Community as such a terrible, unreligious place.

I was really scared of telling people. What I started to realize though, is that people had been distancing themselves because of my religious views, and that I didn’t want those kind of people in my life. I would rather be friends with people who would love me, regardless of my religious beliefs. And I am very happy and grateful to say that I do still have friends that are Christians, and our beliefs and views are very different, but that hasn’t had an effect on our friendship. That was very huge and important to me, Other people have, yes, chosen to distance themselves from me, or let our friendship “fade away” or have told me they were disappointed in me, or even worse, call me a hypocrite or tell me I’m going to hell, or try and “re-convert” me.


A lot of Christians I know have used the bible to justify slavery. And I have no idea how to interpret the stories in the Bible where God commands people to commit genocide, or God destroys populations and wipes out cultures, and tears entire cities to the ground, or floods the world sparing only one family and a bunch of animals. But even fast-forwarding to today, it feels like so many Christians I met were content to pick-and-choose the parts of the Bible they would follow.


There is a clear double standard in many Christian denominations in this Christian State, and because of that, churches are actually not a place for fellowship for everyone. One person told me, in a conversation we were having about abortion and human rights, that if a child gets raped, she has to keep the baby. I know that these attitudes are reflective of the extreme and fundamentalist side of religious belief, but regardless, these were people I personally knew and connected with that said this to me, and I never thought I had come from a place and had relationships with people who could demonstrate such intolerance.


Morally and ethically, I cannot follow a religion that would advocate such hate, judgment, and ignorance. I know that a lot of Christians do a tremendous deal of good things in society, and advocate on behalf of many oppressed people, but I still really sorely miss the critical conversations where these double standards exist in the Bible, the interpretation, and how that enacts itself in the world, and wish for more Christian leaders to speak about these issues. So maybe it should be up to me to fix the church, but it got to a point where I started to realize this kind of hate is larger than just a problem that needs to be fixed, but that it is ingrained into a really big part of Christian culture in the so-called “Christian State” of Incredible India.


So many church denominations are content to split up if they disagree; people believe so strongly and fervently in their interpretation of the Bible that they would sooner split up their church denomination than actively dialogue and try to understand one another. And for all of the things I can do, I cannot go up against that kind of strength of belief — to many, it is church doctrine, and not something that simply changes.
But why did I decide to return home to Niam Tynrai? I could recall the time where I “was moved by an overwhelming presence” during a climb to Lum Sohpetbneng, where everything felt very different, and I clearly felt a “sacredness” to everything and everyone gathered there. I could feel that “holy presence” every time I’m at the sacred Lum Sohpetbneng, and I can never seem to forget that feeling. But I believe I’m not the only one. There are a lot of Khasi Christians out there who weren’t given a “choice”.

There seems to be an assumption that because I’m not a Christian anymore, I no longer believe in God, but I do very much, and still wish to be included in the dialogue. There is a very fine and delicate balance between the relationship of people based on their religious beliefs, allowing room for dialogue, and the opportunity to learn from one another. Like the lesson I learned so long ago, it is difficult, but so right to exist in the liminal experience that is being able to be wrong, and being willing to learn from one another, and, like that speaker who spoke at Lum Sohpetbneng, have the courage to hold your true faith and ideas in an open hand, and truly see what it is they are made of.


Mahatma Gandhi once asked Christian missionaries, “If you feel that only conversion to Christianity is the path to salvation, why don’t you start with me or Mahadev Desai? Why do you stress on conversion of the simple, illiterate, poor and forest-dwellers? These people can’t differentiate between Jesus and Mohammad and are not likely to understand your preachings. They are mute and simple, like cows. These simple, poor, Dalit and forest-dwellers, whom you make Christians, do so not for Jesus but for rice and their stomach.”

This quote on religious conversion by the Father of the Nation got the hackles up of the Christian community. If we would have asked a similar question to Christian missionaries who came to the Khasi Hills early in the 19th century, we could have avoided this mass religious conversion altogether. But it’s never too late to return back home. I have; so should you.


(Email: shimtilyngwa@gmail.com)

Source: The Shillong Times (https://theshillongtimes.com/2020/09/01/my-reconversion-story/)

U Kiang Nangbah – A Patriot from Meghalaya

” It seems as if history begins with the British annexation of their territories. A serious attempt was made in this direction under the leadership of the then National Council of Educational Research and Training Director, JS Rajput, during the NDA regime, but hundreds of textbooks prepared during the time were later thrown into the dustbin under the garb of preventing ‘saffronisation’ of education. ”  – KG Suresh of Pioneer

Kiang Nangbah

U Kiang Nangbah was born to Ka Rimai Nangbah at  Tpeppale in Jwai. The exact date of his birth is not known but it is said that he was a child at the time when the British annexed the Jaintia Kingdom in 1835. Unlike other patriot of the region, U Kiang Nangbah had no royal background. He was a rural folk and a common farmer that belonged to the lineage of the Sookpoh clan. Though very young in age at the time of annexation, he was greatly disturbed by the highhandedness policies of the Britishers. The spirit of patriotism was inspired in U Kiang Nangbah by these developments and by the daring life story of his maternal uncle, U Ksan Sajar Nangbah, who fought against the British at a place called Chanmyrsiang.

British & Christian Missionary strategy :

The British initially adopted a policy of least interference and left the Jaintia people almost entirely to themselves for a period of more than two decades. During these periods U Kiang Nangbah became fully aware about the policies and plan of the British to impose authority on the Jaintias. However, the anti-British feelings started when the British India Government attempted to impose taxes and interfered with the custom and religious activities of the people. These acts are viewed by the people as an attempt of the British to impose authority and make the people “submissive to the authority” and to “acknowledge the supremacy of the British government”.

In 1860, a House Tax was imposed in Jaintia Hills. The public pronouncement of this imposition was made by Manik Pakyntein a Dorbar held at Mïnkoi Pïrdi in 1859.. U Kiang Nangbah gave a befitting reply in the dorbar and said, “Natives do not pay taxes to the foreigners”. In the same year, many more taxes were imposed which includes Income Tax and duties on trade and other commodities despite the people of Jaintia had made it clear that they would not pay any forms of taxes imposed by the foreigner.

Apart from imposition of taxes, there were other activities of the British government that made the Jaintia people determined not to remain mute spectators, but to resist the British authority. A police station was established at Jwai in 1855, as a token of the government authority over the hills. The setting of police station near the cremation ground of the Dkhar clan was resented by the people. The British administration was asserting its power and took additional measures to control the Jaintias and to suppress their religious beliefs.  In addition, establishment of a school by the missionaries also caused concern for the people.

The immediate cause of the resistance was triggered by the incident that took place at Yalong. On the occasion of the traditional dance called ‘Pastieh Kaiksoo’. The police led by Surki, a Khasi police officer of Jowai confiscate all the weapons that are meant for the festival and burned them before the very eyes of a large number of people that had gathered to witness this traditional dance. The act of religious intolerance carried out by the British officials had made the Jaintia to rose in arms and protect their land, customs and religion.  The government official and missionaries influenced the people to believe that the sanctity of their sacred grooves known as ‘Khloo Langdoh’ was a superstition belief.

The Resistance Begins :

This political and religious interference of the British ignited the fire of mass movement which started with the calling of the Dorbar of the twelve Dalois to appraise the people about the need to resist the alien rule.  Daring old and young men attended the Dorbar.  U Kiang Nangbah was unanimously elected a leader after fulfilling a test.

U Kiang Nangbah and his men start building barricades, stockades, stored grains and manufactured weapons and firearms. U Kiang Nangbah and his people from the villages of Jwai, Yalong, Latober, and Changpung attacked the Police station at Jwai and destroyed it completely. They also burnt down Christian settlement and besieged the military post. The attack spread to other part of Jaintia Hills like Padu, Satpator, Nangbah, Yalong, Mynsoo, Changpung, Nyrtiang, Raliang, Sutnga, Nangkhlieh, Barato, Mookayaw etc. and the British had to reinforce more Regiments to conduct a full scale military operation against U Kiang Nangbah and his men.

Treachery :

Meanwhile U Kiang Nangbah fell ill and taking this as an opportune moment,  U Long Sutnga a key member of his team,  informed about the place and condition of U Kiang Nangbah to the British. On 27th December 1862, the British captured Kiang Nangbah in the early hours but with stiff resistance from U Kiang though he was ill.

This revolutionary leader was put on mock trial and was sentenced to death within three days of his capture, before the very eyes of the troops and  locals, to send across a tough message that any resistance to the British rule would not be tolerated and would be suppressed with an iron hand.  He was hanged on 30th December 1862.

Kiang Nangbah Monument

A Prophecy :

However, as he was being taken to the gallows on the evening of December 30, 1862, U Kiang said something prophetic, “Brothers and sisters, please look carefully on my face when I die on the gallows. If my face turns towards the east, my country will be free from foreign yoke in the next 100 years and if it turns west, it will remain in bondage for good.”

In less than a century, India became independent. Like the native American Indians, U Kiang fought for the rights of the people in the face of imposition of an alien way of life and values. People of Khasi and Jaintia Hills have since lost much of their traditional culture. In fact, not many in the younger generation even remember U Kiang Nanbah.

Government Education Policy :

The ignorance about U Kiang Nanbah is a reflection on the Government’s education policy, which has totally neglected the history of the North-East. Forget Nanbah, most history textbooks prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education do not have any reference to the history, culture or traditions of the region. It seems as if their history begins with the British annexation of their territories.

A serious attempt was made in this direction under the leadership of the then National Council of Educational Research and Training Director, JS Rajput, during the NDA regime, but hundreds of textbooks prepared during the time were later thrown into the dustbin under the garb of preventing ‘saffronisation’ of education.

Private Initiatives :

Efforts to build bridges of understanding between the North-East and the other parts of the country have been happening by some organizations and initiatives such as Ekal Vidyalaya, Ramakrishna Mission, Vivekananda Kendra, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Sewa Bharati, many initiatives by swayamsevaks of RSS and other well meaning individuals.

Nevertheless, this sensitisation has to begin from the school level itself, and that can be made possible only by incorporating the history, culture and traditions of the North-East in social studies textbooks taught across the country. This can be done with the active involvement of the people of the region and by educating the rest of the country about the contributions made by the freedom-fighters, intellectuals, artists and sportspersons from the North-East towards the building of a modern India.

References & Sources –

a. Meghalaya Times – U Kiang

b. Pioneer April 2013 – Article by KG Suresh

c. Photo Credit – Bharatmata mandir, Indianetzone