THE Assassination of Captain Noel Williamson and Medical Officer Dr Gregorson (31st March 1911) and Abor Expedition and its Consequences

THE Assassination of Captain Noel Williamson and Medical Officer  Dr Gregorson (31st March 1911)

and Abor Expedition and its Consequences

A political agent of the British Raj. Captain Noel Williamson and his doctor companion were carrying the message of the death of King Edward VII to the tribal chiefs. After some ten minutes you will come to Captain Noel Williamson’s grave just up above the houses. It still has its original stone inscription and a more recent brass plaque “On this spot was murdered Noel Williamson, Assistant Political Officer Sadiya, 31st March 1911”.

Captain Noel Williamson's grave
Captain Noel Williamson’s grave in Komsing village Pasighat

“Noel Williamson was the Assistant Political officer of Sardia (sic) who toured the Siang Valley in 1909 up to Kebang. He had a friendly approach and gained the confidence of the people. Greatly encouraged by this gesture of goodwill, he decided to visit Komsing from where an invitation was extended to him. A plan was made, and even though the Government at first was reluctant, they subsequently approved the limited tour (beyond the inner line) up to Komsing on the left bank of the Siang river.

Accompanied by Dr Gregorson (sic), Medical Officer of European and Native Staff of tea gardens in Upper Assam, a company of 47 porters and armed escort, Williamson left Pasighat on 20 March 1911. At ferry point of Komlighat a friendly courier of one of the headmen of Kebang village Takut tried to dissuade him, as there was a conspiracy to stall the move. But Williamson brushed him aside and crossed the river and arrived at Sissan village. At Sissan a number of porters fell sick forcing Dr Gregorson to stay back while Williamson marched ahead to Komsing.

 On 29th March accompanied by an interpreter, three sick porters left for Rotung en route to Pasighat. The interpreter was carrying three official envelopes for delivery to post at Pasighat. He flourished these envelopes to the curious villagers in a show of great importance. The envelopes were bordered with black stripes as a mark of mourning for the death of King Edward VII of the British Empire. But the foolish interpreter boastfully explained that white indicates two sahibs, the black borderline countless sepoys and the red seal was of great anger. He further told the frightened villagers that his move to Pasighat was to deliver the letters to call the army to level the hills by bombardment. Greatly alarmed, the leaders decided to stop the delivery of the letters. Fast runners moved to Kebang, the leading village and relayed the ominous message. Next morning when the interpreter and his companions moved out in great self-assurance they were waylaid and brutally murdered. The people then mobilised for an offensive attack. Stockades were built up, needle-sharp panjies laid on the route of march, stone chutes with immense piles of boulders concealed on the path, strung arrows held in tension of string to fly at all directions, patrols moved out to watch towers, an elaborate signal system operated, food packets cached for emergency.

On 31st March, a patrol of sturdy youths secretly crossed the river to the other bank and descended on Sissan to surprise the small party. Dr Gregorson, along with the escort and porters fell to the attack. Only three could escape death by jumping into the river. At Komsing village Williamson was received with traditional hospitality. Assured of friendship and peace, all were in a relaxed mood. The second patrol from Kebang already took up position. It was midday when Williamson went for a bath in the enclosure when all of a sudden a heavy sword blow fell on him and he died soon after. Simultaneously followers and others including the sentries were taken completely unaware and fell to the attack.

It was a tragedy of the worst magnitude. The escaped sepoys managed to reach Pasighat to convey the news of the disaster; an immediate alarm was raised. Soon after a massive operation was planned under the command of Major General H Bower, the Officer Commanding of Assam Brigade. The Brigade comprised the crack units of Gurkhas, sappers and miners, medical team, cartographers, naturalists and scores of army officers. The extensive preparation for the punitive expedition continued till mid October. Troops were brought from far away Kolkata by river steamers and ferried across to Koboghat by dozens of country crafts. The party then moved up river and took punitive action. An ambush was planned by the people from Kebang village and their few allies (villages north of Kebang refused to become involved) but this was spotted and instead, the villagers themselves were caught in the crossfire from two machine guns and massacred.”

 

Abor Expedition and its Consequences

 

Noel Williamson along with Dr. Gregorson went across the ‘inner line’ in the Abor hills in March 1911 and with the exception of six coolies, who managed to escape, Kebang Abors murdered the members of the expedition at village Komsing. The Government of India took it as an affront to the imperial prestige. An impressive expedition under Major General Bower was sent to teach a lesson to the offending Abors. Three survey missions were also sent along with the pacification expedition to map out the entire region up to the Himalayan water shade. The survey missions were to explore and survey the country and recommend a suitable frontier line between India and Tibet. The Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur, A H W Bentick, in his ‘Political Report on the Expedition’, furnished the proposals as to the future of this frontier tract on April 23, 1912. Accordingly, the North East Frontier Tract was divided in to three sections: the central and eastern sections to control the Ponpong Nagas, Singphos, Mijus, Chulikata and Babejia Mishmis and the various tribes of Abors as far as the Siang –Subansiri divide, and the western section (which came to be known as the Balipara Frontier Tract) to deal with the tribes from this divide westwards to Bhutan. The two eastern sections were placed in the charge of one Political Officer with head quarters at Sadiya, which came to be known as ‘Sadiya Frontier Tract’.

Under this dispensation, two Assistant Political Officers, one, for Abor subdivision at Pasighat and another, at Wallong for the Lohit Valley subdivision, were proposed. The Government of India Act, 1919 vested with the Governor of Assam with the administration of the three Frontier tracts and declared them as “Backward Tracts”. Similarly, the Government of India Act, 1935 termed these tracts as the “ Excluded Areas” in 1936, by which it was meant that the State Assembly of Assam was not empowered to frame rules for these ‘Excluded Frontier Tracts’ and the Governor of the State was to govern them directly. Between 1943 to 1948, these frontier tracts were re-organized in to five Agencies: Sela, Subansiri, Abor, Mishmi, and Tirap.

 

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4 Responses

  1. Our gr8 fighter Matmur Jamoh

  2. our gr8 Freedom fighters Late,Matmur Jamoh & his frnds…I proud of u..

  3. I want to know the full biodata of captain neol williamson,did any siblings came back to see his grave again ever??

  4. Wait for me, at Later I will produce the Film “Assassination of Noel Williamson”
    but it will takes 15 years from now.

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