Unfulfilled vision and dream of Rani Gaidinliu
- Part 1 -

Dr. Gairiangmei Maringmei *

Rani Gaidinliu
Rani Gaidinliu :: Pix Courtesy- Dr. Heera Marangmei

On the occasion of Rani Gaidinliu's birth centenary anniversary on 26th January, 2015, many people across the country offer homage to the great freedom fighter, Rani Gaidinliu. In 1937, the Indian National Congress President Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru offered the title of "Rani of the Nagas" to Gaidinliu and compared her with Joan-de-Arch of France, Rani Luxmibai of Jhansi and also called her "Daughter of the Hills".

Nehru lamented that Rani Gaidinliu was a forgotten patriot who had dare fighting against the British rulers. He accepted the role of Rani Gaidinliu contributory to India's freedom struggle movement and that of Asians who all fought against the British colonialism. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee described Rani Gaidinliu as a freedom fighter of India.

Rani Gaidinliu was a spiritual leader, guerrilla warrior, political prisoner, freedom fighter and reformer. She was born on 26th January, 1915 at Luangkao village in the present Tousem Sub-division, Tamenglong district of Manipur. When she attained the age of 16, she became the trusted lieutenant of Jadonang. Haipou Jadonang and Gaidinliu launched the "Nagaraj Movement (1927 to 1932)" to liberate the Zeliangrong Nagas from the yoke of British colonial rule.

After the unfortunate execution of Haipou Jadonang on 29.08.1931 by the British government, the movement mantle fell on her shoulder. The main objectives of the movement were:

(i) to drive away the British rulers and to restore the past glory;
(ii) to protect her people, land and resources;
(iii) to preserve the traditional religions, culture, and custom; and
(iv) to unite the Zeliangrong Naga tribes to remove inter-village and inter-tribal feuds in order to survive at the hostile surrounding to them.

Gaidinliu mobilized, directed, organized, collected funds from her people to launch the movement. She explained about the independent kingdom and exhorted to her people to fight against the British rulers' suppressions and exploitations.

Gaidinliu declared: "We, the Nagas were and are free people, the white, the British has no right to rule over us, so we should not recognize their sovereignty over us and will not pay house tax to the British Government and unjust laws like forced labour and compulsory porter subscription". She preached to her people to disobey the British oppressive laws, not to pay house tax, and to refuse to carry the luggage of the touring British officials without remuneration.

Subsequently, she received cooperation, moral and financial support from the people to carry out her guerilla movement. Her activities of political and religious cult were wide-spread across the Northeast region. Gradually, her movement became successful and gained momentum. It became a grave challenge to the British rulers.

The British ruler reported on 2.3.1932 as follows: "The cult which Gaidinliu has revived has clearly spread over a large area of Naga Hills, Manipur, and the North Cachar Hills, and unless Gaidinliu and her party are captured, there is a grave danger of serious outbreak".

J. P. Mills, the then Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills ordered and sent a group of large soldier to arrest her. Knowing the grave situation, Gaidinliu and her forces prepared to face any eventuality. Gaidinliu attacked the Assam Rifles patrols in North Cachar Hills in February, 1932 and in the following month, she once again attacked Assam Rifles outpost at the Zemi village of Hungrum, in which some of her forces were shot down by the Assam Rifles.

The British rulers were so angry over the attack and retaliated by burning down many villages including Bopungwemi village of Naga Hills. Mr. Harvey, the then President of Manipur State Darbar had offered attractive reward of Rs 200/-, later raised to Rs 500/-, and exemption of house tax for 10 years for anybody or any village for giving information leading to her arrest. Nobody came forward to inform about her.

In October 1932, Captain Mcdonand of Assam Rifles, and Mr. Hari Blah, EAC, North Cachar Hills along with large forces made a surprise attacked at Polumi village, there Gaidinliu and her forces were captured at pre-dawn. Most of her forces were either executed or imprisoned. She was brought with her younger brother Chingkhuisinnang to Kohima via Khonoma on foot and put into the jail of Kohima.

Mr. J. P Mills sent her to Imphal for criminal trials. She spent more than 10 months in Kohima and Imphal jails during the investigations and trials period. Later, she was sentenced to her life imprisonment in 1933. She was kept in different jails of British India: Gauhati jail, Shillong jail, Aizawl jail and Tura jail. She was the lone freedom fighter who spent the longest years (1933 to 1947) in the prisons in the history of India's freedom struggle movement.

In 1937, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru undertook a tour in many parts of Assam. During his tour to Assam, he came to know about Jadonang's "Nagaraj Movement" and his execution by the British ruler and also came to learn about Gaidinliu's imprisonment in Shillong jail. Nehru personally went to meet Gaidinliu in Shillong jail. He was moved and felt shock on seeing her bravery spirit.

He highly praised Gaidinliu's dare fighting against the mighty British rulers. Nehru wrote an article in The Hindustan Times on 18th December, 1937 stated that: "News of Gandhi and the Congress reached her and her hills abode… She dreamed of freedom for her people…and she raised the banner of independence and called her people to rally round it…India does not even know of this brave child of her hills…"

He further wrote that a day would come when she would be released from her prison cell, and free India would remember and cherish her. Soon after India got her freedom from British rule in 1947, Nehru interfered to secure her release from the prison against the advice of the Assam Government. Finally, Rani Gaidinliu was released from Tura Jail after spending many years in different British India jails and she had chosen to live with her younger brother, Marang in Vimrap village of Tuensang for 6 years.

However, many restrictions were imposed on her free movements when she was in the Vimrap village of Tuensang. She was granted a section of soldiers, a tin roofed house as well as Freedom Fighter's Pension of Nagaland and Manipur states. Thereafter, the Government of India officially recognized Rani Gaidinliu as the legendary freedom fighter of India.

The restrictions imposed on her free movements were lifted later and she was allowed to visit her people in Imphal, and her birth place, Luangkao village in 1952. In 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Premier of India came to visit Imphal where she met him. Rani Gaidinliu also went to meet Nehru in New Delhi and talked about the development and welfare of her people.

In 1960, Rani Gaidinliu once again organized a private army of about 1000 men equipped with 400/500 rifles and started her movement. She was working to protect and revive her forefathers' traditional religion of animism i.e., Heraka. In 1964, the Zeliangrong leaders in consultation with the Zeliangrong people led by Rani Gaidinliu demanded a separate of "Zeliangrong Administrative Unit" within the Union of India.

Rani Gaidinliu and the NNC leaders had a misunderstanding and the latter criticized the former activities. NNC leaders considered the demand for a separate "Zeliangrong Administrative Unit" was a big obstacle to the Naga's sovereignty movement. Rani Gaidinliu's revival movement of Heraka was severely criticized by the Church leaders and terms it as anti-Christianity. She was seriously warned by the NNC leaders as well as the Church leaders of Nagas.

The Government of India came to know about Rani Gaidinliu's activities. In 1966, after great persuasion, a settlement to lay down arms & ammunition was arrived at the meeting between Rani Gaidinliu and Mr. Subodh Chandra Dev, the Deputy Commissioner of Kohima, on behalf of Government of India. In January, 1966 after many years of rigorous underground jungle life in an old age, she came out from the jungle hideout to work for betterment of her people through democratic, non-violent and peaceful means and many of her followers were absorbed in the Nagaland Armed Forces.

Rani Gaidinliu along with Zeliangrong leaders went to meet Indira Gandhi in New Delhi on 22nd February, 1966 and submitted a memorandum demanding a separate "Zeliangrong Administrative Unit" for Zeliangrong people under the Union of India. Pursuing her cause ceaselessly, Rani Gaidinliu led Zeliangrong delegation went to meet Indira Gandhi in New Delhi on 1st February, 1973 and demanded to integrate the Zeliangrong people into one administrative unit.

She also met Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister of India at his office in New Delhi on 3rd September, 1977 to press her long demand. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India promised economic development for Zeliangrong inhabited areas. But Rani Gaidinliu remained committed to the original demand of a separate homeland for the Zeliangrong people.

To be continued...

* Dr. Gairiangmei Maringmei wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on February 09, 2015.

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