The Labang Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang is a name given to the inhabitants living in the area commonly known today as Block I. It is located at 25 degree East and 26 degree North latitude and 90 degree East 93 degree North longitude of West Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya. There are twelve chieftains or 12 Dolois in Jaintia Hills Kingdom who administered the entire 12 chieftains and Labang Nongphyllut Doloiship is one of the twelve chieftains or Doloi of the Elaka known as Nongphyllut Doloiship.
The Labang Nongphyllut area constitute one administrative under the jurisdiction and administrative unit known as Nongphyllut Elaka, under the U Doloi Nongphyllut who was answerable to the administration at Jowai (Jwai) and the Jaintia Dorbar, while the Pangam – Raliang area fall under the control of U Doloi Raliang, Raliang Elaka. These areas were ruled by Jaintia Rajas or Ki Syiem Sutnga until the advent of the British government. Even after Rajas or Ki Syiem Sutnga of Jaintia Kingdom, the Labang Nongphyllut Doloiship and Pangam – Raliang, Raliang Doloiship were still in control of Jaintia Hills of the Jowai Sub-division of the then United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District.
The people who live in the area belong to various clans or ‘Kur’ specially of the Lyngdoh, Lamare, Thaiang (Sariang), Saphai, Sten, Marten, Sutong, Pala, Shadap, Sutnga Samaiang, Tamaha, Suchiang and others. Like the majority of the people of the Khasi – Jaintia Hills the matrilineal form of society is followed by the people. Some of the people follow Christianity, while the others belong to the traditional Niam Khasi Niam-Tre.
From the ethnic point of view, the Labang Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang people are Jaintias of the same people who speak the same language, follow the same custom, dress, dances, music, food habit, culture , tradition, read and write the same language and rituals. In respect of inheritance, marriage, birth, and death ceremony rites and rituals and moral customs, social life is exactly that of the Khasi- Pnar people throughout the Khasi – Jaintia Hills. The people of Labang Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang have no affinity in the racial, social, cultural and linguistic spheres with the Mikirs, who are now known as Karbis.
The Labang – Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang areas, which is now popularly known as ‘Block-I’ forming a “Retransfer Area” between Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya and the Karbi-Anglong District of Assam, was part and parcel of Ri Khadar Doloi, the land of the twelve chieftains in Jaintia Hills. The local dialect derived from the Khasi – Pnar language and has nothing to do with Assamese and the language of the Karbis (the then Mikirs). More importantly the Labang – Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang people have been living in this area, Jaintia Hills since time immemorial and even the British who were supposed to have been notorious for their policy of divide and rule did not seek to separate them from the rest of their brothers and sisters in Jaintia Hills.
The Labang Nongphyllut and Pangam – Raliang people are Pnars. They are the kith and kins of the Pnars of Jaintia Hills, who were also the inhabitants of the Labang – Nongphyllut Elaka, Nongphyllut Doloiship (which is now popularly known as Block-I) of Jaintia Hills from time immemorial and after the attainment of independence in August 1947 from the foreigners’ yoke (British rulers). They have been living in peace and harmony with their kinsfolk the Pnars or better known Jaintias. They have common language, customs, traditions, common laws of inheritance and all the other practices prevailing among the Pnars (Jaintias). This can be fully proved as exhibited in their dress, dances, music, religious sacrifices, belief and other social habits and especially in respect of culture with complete identity with that of the culture of the Khasi – Pnar. Their matrilineal society exists till date.
The names of villages, streams, hills, rivers, forests are of local dialect derived from the Khasi – Pnar language. It will be noticed that all villages streams, rivers, hills, etc begin their names with words like Moo, Um, Dein (Dieng), Nong, Myn (like Myn-I, Mynriang, Myntang, Mynstain, Mynriah, Jri, Kya etc which are common names used by the Khasis – Pnars throughout the length and breadth of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. These are some historical evidences showing that the Labang Nongphyllut, Pangam – Raliang area belong to the Khasi – Pnars tribe and part and parcel of Jaintia Hills.
It may be mentioned that during the pre-British times, the Jaintia kings (Jaintia Rajas) ruled over this area (Elaka u Dolloi Nongphyllut) and even after the annexation of the Jaintia Kingdom in 1835, to the East India Company, the area (Labang – Nongphyllut, Pangam – Raliang area) remained under the boundary of Jaintia Hills and U Doloi to administer over them, known as U Doloi Nongphyllut.
When the British government annexed the Jaintia Empire in 1835, it did not attempt to detach the Labang – Nongphyllut Elaka or Doloiship from Jaintia Hills as it did with Jaintiapur and other areas now in Bangladesh and Kutsajar (Umrongsoh sector) now in North Cachar Hills Assam. When India won its Independence, it was the cherished dream of the people of the Labang – Nongphyllut that they will further develop themselves according to their genius, which means through their social customs, language and other practices.
As ill-luck would have it, in the year 1951, a policy of the Government of Assam to create a numerical strong Mikir Hills and North Cachar Hills District was made by forcibly slicing of the Labang – Nongphyllut area out of Jaintia Hills (the then Jowai Sub-Division). It was an imposition in spite of vehement protest from the local heads of the area and a “Note of Dissent” from the local MLA Larsingh Khyriem and the Jaintia people. The creation of the Mikir Hills District was motivated by political consideration to divide and rule over the tribals for its administrative convenience.
(To be continued)