Rani Gaidinliu: Unsung heroes from North-East India
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
L.G.B. GIRLS’ COLLEGE, TEZPUR
When today we are celebrating 75th years of India’s’ Independence as “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” there are many who contribute their efforts to make India as independent but unfortunately they are not known to many, here it’s an effort to introduced these unsung personalities of North-East. The great Indian struggles for Independence are replete with the contributions and sacrificing of multitudinous brave personalities and one amongst from North-East India was Rani Gaidinliu, a famous Naga spiritual and political leader. Gaidinliu Pamei who was popularly known amongst the masses as Rani Gaidinliu was born on 26 January 1915 at Nungkao village in the present-day Tousem sub-division of Tamenglong District of Manipur. Rani Gaidinliu was from the Rongmei Naga tribe and Rani was the fifth of eight children, including six sisters and a younger brother. Rani Gaidinliu family belonged to the ruling clan of the village. She belongs to a very interior backward place of Manipur so; there was no school and other facilities available in her locality. Due to not presence of educational institutions in her village or surrounding area she did not go for a formal education. Rani Gaidinliu was also popularly known as ‘Ranima’ in her locality. Rani Gaidinliu who led an armed uprising against the British in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam and for that she
In 1927, at the age of 13, Rani Gaidinliu, along with her cousin Haipou Jadonang, joined the Heraka movement, it was a socio-religious movement which aimed at revival of the Naga tribal religion , establish self-rule of the Nagas and opposition to the conversion of Nagas to Christianity. Although the ‘Heraka’ Movement was a reformist religious goals but there were also political undertones against the British rule in India, which made the British wary of both the movement and its leaders. Gaidinliu always said that the main objective was to “change out dated religious traditions to enhance the movement intended at eliminating the British from power.” This religious ‘Heraka’ movement turned into a political movement seeking to drive out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas. Rani Gaidinliu at the age of seventeen launched an open rebellion against the British rule. She urged the people of the ‘Zeliangrong’ tribe to unite against the British rulers by refusing to pay taxes or cooperate with the latter, and stand together in the face of the repressive measures imposed by the police and the Assam Rifles. TheHeraka movement received a significant setback with the arrest and hanging of Haipou Jadonang in 1931 by the British ruler. After that Gaidinliu emerged as his political and spiritual heir and she lead the movement in front. At the young age of 16, Gaidinliu emerged as a leader of the guerrilla war forces fighting the British. She waged multiple attacks against the British using guerrilla warfare in the Cachar Hills on 16 February 1932 and in the Hangrum Village on 18 March 1932.Gaidinliu openly rebelled against the British, and had asked the people to not pay any taxes to the British Government. Due to her aggressiveness the British rulers declared monetary award and also declares ten years tax relief if any village exchanged news or information about Rani. She connected her people’s movement with the pan Indian freedom movement, which Gaidinliu referred to as “the Indian freedom struggle.” The Governor of Assam dispatched the 3rd and 4th battalions of the Assam Rifles against her, under the supervision of the Naga Hills Deputy Commissioner JP Mills. Gaidinliu was finally captured on 17 October 1932 from the ‘Pulomi’ village by Assam Rifles under the Captain MacDonald where she and her associates were hiding at that time she was only 16 years old. She was convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by the by the Political Agent’s Court of British after a ten month trial.Gaidinliu’s supporters and the members of the group were either killed or imprisoned during her time in prison.Gaidinliu the Naga freedom fighter was kept at several prisons across the Northeast India like Guwahati, Shillong, Aizwal, and Tura jails from 1933 to 1947.
In 1937, while in Shillong, the Indian National Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru meet Gaidinliu and promised her to help in her release but it was not possible. J.L. Nehru was so impressed with her patriotism and courage that he conferred her with the title of “Rani”, and in an article published by the Hindustan Times; she was described as the “Daughter of the Hills”.When India got its independence Rani Gaidinliu was released from Tura Jail after spending 14 years of prison term in various jails. The struggle of Rani didn’t end after India’s independence and her release from jail. She was against the Naga separatist movement seeking separation from India. Rani Gaidinliu was not allowed to return to her native village and she stayed in ‘Vimrap’ village of ‘Tuensang’ with her younger brother Marang till 1952. She was finally allowed to move back to her native village of Longkao and in 1953, when Prime Minister J.L. Nehru visited Imphal where she met him and conveyed the gratitude and goodwill of her people. After that she met Nehru in New Delhi to discuss the development, progress and welfare of ‘Zeliangrong’ people. She organized a resistance movement against the Naga National Council led insurgents in the year 1966 and had to go underground. Rani Gaidinliu was supported for a separate Zeliangrong territory within the Union of India. She wants to revive the Naga traditional religion Heraka, for which she joined the Heraka movement but she was opposed by both the Naga separatist leaders and Baptist Christian missionaries.The rebel Naga groups are not happy with Gaidinliu’s movement for the integration of Zeliangrong tribes under one administrative unit. After an agreement with the Union governmentin 1966, Rani and her followers came over ground. Gaidinliuwent to Kohima the capital of Nagaland on 20 January 1966, and met then Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri in Delhi on 21 February 1966 and again demanding the creation of a separate Zeliangrong administrative unit.Rani continued her demand for a separate Zeliangrong Administrative Unit for that she also met Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi in New Delhi. Gaidinliu also raised a demand for the recognition of Zeliangrong as tribe in the three states Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
As recognised her works towards the development of her people and the contribution towards the freedom struggle of India she was conferred “Tamrapatra Freedom Fighter Award” in 1972 when she was in Kohima. The ‘Zeliangrong People’s Convention’ (ZPC) was formed in 1980 at Tamenglong, Manipur and Rani Gaidinliu was elected as the president of the organization. The Union government of India awarded with the Padma Bhushan award in 1982 for her contribution. She also awarded with Vivekananda Seva Award in 1983 and the Birsa Munda Award posthumously in 1996.
In 1991, Rani Gaidinliu returned to her birthplace Longkao, Manipur. On 17 February 1993, at the age of 78 she left this world. She was so popular that on her funeral many leaders and general people of North-East India including the then governor of Manipur and Home Secretary of Nagaland were also present at her native village. To give her respect the State Government declared general holiday on that day. The government has developed a park along with a statue to honour the late freedom fighter in Silchar, Assam.Rani Gaidinliu’s role in India’s freedom movement and her works towards the revival and restore of ancient Naga Tribal religion, her steadfastness to remain committed to the Union of India despite secessionists movements, and for her services she was recognized by the central government with different awards and recognition. Her closeness to the Indian government cannot create doubt or questioned of herpatriotism, courage, bravery and sacrifice since she had led the fight for freedom from British rule as a mere thirteen-year-old girl.
The Central Government of Indiaissued a postal stamp in honour of Rani Gaidinliu in 1996.On her birth centenary 26 January 2015, the Central Government of India released commemorative coins in her honour. In honour to Rani Gaidinliu the Indian Coast Guard commissioned a Fast Patrol Vehicle called ‘ICGS Rani Gaidinliu’ in 2016. The Government of India instituted an award called ‘Shree Shakti Puraskar’ in honour of five eminent women in the Indian history and Rani Gaidinliu was one of them. A project of a museum for freedom fighters was going on in her birthplace which was known as Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum.
Rani Gaidinliu the freedom fighter and the religious leader of North East deserves great honour and recognition due to her bravery and commitment to her nation. But it was due to her opposed towards Naga Movement and conversation towards Christianity she was not getting proper recognition because most ‘Nagas’ had accepted Christianity as religion. Gaidinliu’s heroism was undervalued in the Naga community because of the Heraka movement’s anti-Christian bias. Due to her closeness and support towards Indian government the Naga nationalism parties and organization didn’t recognized her but Also, since she was perceived to be close to the Indian government, the Naga nationalism parties didn’t acknowledge her but Rani Gaidinliu deserves acknowledgment. Through my writing I give great respect to Rani Gaidinliu for her courage and patriotism towards her country and her people.
- Miri, S. (1991) Lingmai Nagas, legends and stories, Delhi: Har Anand Publications in association with Vikas Publications House.
- Kamei, G (1997), Jadonang a mystic Naga rebel, Guwahati: Spectrum Publications.
- Kamei, Som (2022) Rani Gaidinliu: Legendary Freedom Fighter from the North East, Publisher Niyogi Books.
- Mall, Jagdamba (2020) Rani Gaidinlu (Hindi) Publisher National Book Trust, India.