Rani Gaidinliu called upon her supporters that we are free people and the whites cannot rule us. We will not pay taxes to the government and will not follow their unjust laws.
Lekhaka-Shiv Kumar Singh
Rani Gaidinliu: Rani Gaidinliu was born on 26 January 1915 in Nungkao village of Tamenglong district of Manipur. She was the third of eight children of her father, Lothonang Pamei. His family belonged to the influential ruling class of the village. Gaidinliu belonged to the Rongmei tribe. Gaidinliu was independent and strong-willed since childhood.
However, Rani Gaidinliu did not go to school in her childhood. Actually, there was no school in his area. However, he got the inspiration to read and write from his cousin and Guru Jadonang. At the age of just 16, Rani Gaidinliu gave sleepless nights to the British government by leading a major movement.
Gaidinliu joined the Heraka movement
Rani Gaidinliu participated in the Heraka movement at the age of 13 along with Naga leader and her cousin Haipou Jadonang (1905–1931). Jadonang was running the movement to unite the Naga tribes, protect their customs and ancient religion Heraka from the increasing influence of Christian missionaries. They were also opposing British interference in Naga areas.
Jadonang also discovered and worshiped the ancient holy cave of Lord Vishnu in the Bhuban Hills. They worshiped another supreme god, Tingkao Ragwang. When Jadonang was arrested and hanged by the British in Imphal on 29 August 1931, Rani Gaidinliu took the responsibility of this movement in her own hands.
In those days, the British had established their terror over that region. He imposed a collective fine on many villages and confiscated their weapons. Rani Gaidinliu told her supporters that we are a free people and the whites cannot rule us. We will not pay house tax to the government and will not follow their unjust laws.
Assam Rifles post attacked
With her 4000 armed Naga soldiers, Gaidinliu continued to fight the British by going underground. Enraged by Rani Gaidinliu’s movement, the British started trying to suppress this movement and tried to reduce their enthusiasm by burning many villages of the revolutionaries associated with it and killing people. This incident angered the armed Nagas and they openly attacked the government post of Assam Rifles.
With the increasing popularity of Rani Gaidinliu, the problems of the British started increasing. The British decided to deploy a special battalion to capture Gaidinliu. Tax waiver and cash reward were announced for those giving information about Rani Gaidinliu. But, Gaidinliu used to be two steps ahead of the British. She constantly changed her place and started attacking the British in a guerilla manner.
On 17 October 1932, the Assam Rifles led by Captain MacDonald made a surprise attack on Pulomi village and Gaidinliu was arrested. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was kept in several jails in the Northeast for the next 15 years.
Nehru gave the title of ‘Queen’
When Gaidinliu was in jail, Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru visited her in 1937. He also wrote an article about this in the English newspaper ‘Hindustan Times’. Nehru gave Gaidinliu the titles ‘Daughter of the Mountains’ and ‘Queen’ for her courage and contribution. For Gaidinliu’s release from prison, Nehru requested British Parliamentarian Lady Astor to take up the matter and try for the release of the queen. However, this effort of Nehru did not yield any result. Gaidinliu was released from prison only when the country became independent on 15 August 1947.
Even after independence, she stood for her society.
Even after independence, Rani Gaidinliu engaged in connecting the people of her society with the traditional religion of Heraka and uniting the Zeliangrong community of Naga tribes. The purpose of his movement was to work for the people of the Zeliangrong community and bring them together under one umbrella, who were scattered in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam before independence. He also submitted a memorandum in this regard to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Rani Gaidinliu believed that to lose one’s culture is to lose one’s identity. On the other hand, since independence, a section of the Naga leadership, in which the Naga National Council was prominent, had been talking of separation from India. He was also opposed to attempts to establish Heraka. Things got so bad that Rani Gaidinliu had to go underground once again with her supporters. She returned to the mainstream in 1966 with the efforts of the Government of India. Rani Gaidinliu fought first with the British and missionaries and then with the separatists of her community for her identity with Heraka.
During her stay in Kohima, Rani Gaidinliu was awarded the ‘Tamrapatra Freedom Fighter Award’ in the year 1972. In 1982, he was awarded the ‘Padma Bhushan’ for his unprecedented contribution to the society. In 1983, he was awarded the ‘Vivekananda Seva Samman’. In 1991, she was given the ‘Stree Shakti Puraskar’.
Rani Gaidinliu died on 17 February 1993 at the age of 78. Rani Gaidinliu was posthumously awarded the ‘Birsa Munda Award’ in the year 1996. In the same year a postage stamp was also issued in his memory. In 2015, on the occasion of 100 years of Gaidinliu’s birth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued coins in memory of Rani Gaidinliu and addressed her as ‘Queen Mother’. The Indian Coast Guard also commissioned a fast patrol vessel named ‘ICGS Rani Gaidinliu’ in 2016.
What is the Zeliangrong community?
‘ZELIANGRONG’ is a group of three Naga tribes, namely Zeme (ZEME), LIANGMAI (LIANGMAI) and RONGMEI (RONGMEI). ZELIANGRONG is made by combining the English letters ZE, LIANG and RONG of these three tribes. The people of these tribes live in the three northeastern states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
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Story first published: Thursday, January 26, 2023, 10:02 [IST]