THE EXPONENT OF MODERN NICOBAR
3rd June, 2008 was the 30th Death Anniversary of Late Bishop John Richardson. He left peacefully for the heavenly abode at his residence at the Mus village, Car Nicobar, on 3rd June, 1978 leaving behind his dear beloved people of Nicobar.
JOHN RICHARDSON HACHEVKO was born on 6th June, 1888 at Mus, Car Nicobar, the capital of the Nicobar District, which is the home of the most civilized tribal community in the southern Andaman & Nicobar Islands – The Nicobarese.
When he was a child, his father was mercilessly killed at Chowra Island along with other sailors, to appease the Devil. He was among the first 128 Christians in Car Nicobar Baptized by Rev. Heely in 1901.
On 15th January, 1950 Rev. John Richardson was consecrated at the St. Paul Cathedral, Calcutta to be a Bishop of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In 1952, he was nominated as the Member of Parliament (M.P.) at New Delhi for the territory of A & N Islands for a term up to 1957. In 1966, the “Doctor of Divinity” was conferred on him by the Colleges of Serampore University (West Bengal) and in the same year, the Government of India conferred on him the prestigious award of “PADMA SHREE” and once again the even more prestigious and dignified “PADMA BHUSHAN” was awarded to him in 1973. He is the only Islander from the Union Territory of A & N Islands who was the recipient of Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan awards.
When he came back after completing his higher studies from Mandalay, Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) with a new tongue of English in his mouth, the tribal natives welcomed him with an eye of skepticism – a Foreigner who would snatch their land from them; not to be trusted but to be watched. Patiently, he set an example to them. He moved with them, talked with them, played and ate with them, and gradually the hearts that had hardened for years began to melt for him. Slowly, they began to believe him as their natural leader.
CAPTAINSHIP & TRIBAL CODE OF LAW:
John Richardson was not only a religious head, but was a natural leader, indeed, par excellence. He began to introduce the unwritten Tribal Code of Law amongst the Nicobarese. Thomas Halainypa was appointed as the first Chief Captain of Car Nicobar assisted by seven Headmen. The Court was set up at Big Lapathy (Tokirong Seti). The cases of dispute were settled peacefully without bloodshed. Few more villages were officially formed and named. John Richardson introduced the captainship in every village in Car Nicobar, only to make it united and peaceful, prosperous and beautiful.
COOPERATION – A WAY OF LIFE:
The Nicobarese live as a community; they exist for each other in a commune called “TUHET” headed by a chosen head of the family. And quite logically, John Richardson chose “Co-operation” as a way of life – a potent means for democratic, social and economic development. He started the Co-operative Movement in the Nicobar Islands.
The Christian civilization in the Nicobars is the epic of Bishop John Richardson. Befittingly, he was honoured with the prestigious awards by the Government of India and other institutions of high repute in recognition of his services for his people and for the country, at large. He is, without qualms, the Founder-Father of the Modern day Nicobars.
On this day of condolence, prayer meetings are held in all the Churches in the Nicobar group of Islands. On this day, the entire Nicobarese community together with the rest of the non tribal communities in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands commemorates the invaluable services and contributions of Bishop John Richardson towards the development and unification of the entire social makeup of the archipelago.
Courtesy: Lucas Robert, a member of the Nicobarese Tribal community, who is the Head of the Department of Education in the A & N Administration.