An unsung hero from far-flung Meghalaya, which was miles away from the epicentre of India’s freedom struggle movement. Ka Phan Nonglait was one such person who hailed from the Rymmai village, which falls under Hima Nongkhlaw She is considered to be the first woman freedom fighter from the Khasi Hills. Born in 1799, little is known or even recorded about the life of Ka Phan Nonglait.
Ka Phan Nonglait got involved with India’s freedom struggle during the era of U Tirot Sing, who is regarded as the 'hero' of the Khasi hills. He hailed from the Syimileh (Chief) clan of the Nongkhlaw region of the Khasi hills and was known for his warfare tactics, valour, and uncompromised control over the Khasi region against the British occupation. It was more of a war of guns vs swords and arrows, in which Tirot Sing countered the colonial forces with his guerilla tactics. Ka Phan Nonglait is said to have assisted U Tirot Sing in his fight against the British forces.
According to records, on one occasion, U Tirot Sing’s soldiers heard the news that the British troops had started to move out of Mairang village and were headed for Nongkhlaw. Tirot Sing’s men immediately laid a trap for the British soldiers at Langstiehrim. It was summer, and due to the unbearable heat, the British soldiers rested near the waterfall. The brave Ka Phan Nonglait very shrewdly took the initiative to provide the soldiers with refreshments while U Tirot Sing’s men waited in the shadows. While the tired Britishers were relaxing and getting a breather, Ka Phan Nonglait used the opportunity to take away all their weapons and threw them under the rock hole of the waterfall. The soldiers of U Tirot Sing seized the moment and attacked and captured the British soldiers, who were unprepared and unarmed. Such was Ka Phan’s contribution to the freedom struggle. Interestingly, the weapons are presumed to be still lying in that rock hole to date, and the waterfalls have been named 'The Phan Nonglait Falls.' There are also unconfirmed reports of another incident that talks of her role in the killing of 32 British soldiers.
Ka Phan Nonglait played an instrumental role in restoring and upholding the dignity of the Khasi tribe. She passed away on 06 December 1850 at her Nongrmai village in Eastern West Khasi Hills due to a prolonged illness. As a mark of respect and to pay tribute to her courage, the Lyngdoh Nonglait clan has preserved the basic daily utensils and the house of Phan Nonglait, so that the present generation can see and learn about the incomparable female Khasi freedom fighter Ka Phan Nonglait. Recently, a book on the life of Ka Phan Nonglait titled ‘Ka Phan Nonglait – A Lady Freedom Fighter of India’, written by one of her descendants, Daniel Stone Lyngdoh, was released.