Sunday 14 June 2015

Rani Gaidinliu

Why in news?
1. The high-level National Implementation Committee (NIC) on Commemorations in May, held its first meeting here to discuss this year's "commemoration schedule" - to celebrate the lives of six iconic figures from Indian history. (we will cover all of these in subsequent articles/lecture videos on Modern History):
  • Birth centenary of Rani Gaidinliu
  • 150th birth anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai, 
  • 200th birth anniversary of Tatya Tope, 
  • 475th birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap, 
  • birth centenary of Bhisham Sahni and 
  • 500 years of the return of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to Vrindavan
2. Manipur government decided to install a life-sized statue of Rani Gaidinliu, the first freedom fighter of Kabui (Zeliangrong) tribe. (on her birth Anniversary - 26 January 2015). They also released a commemorative  Re. 1 postage stamp.

  • Gaidinliu (1915–1993) was Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against British. 
  • At the age of 13, she joined Heraka religious movement of her cousin Haipou Jadonang.
  • She was 16 when she became the leader of the Heraka movement after its charismatic leader Jadonang was executed by the British. 
    • While the Heraka movement was long aware of the civil disobedience movement in British India, it was Gaidinliu who first used Gandhiji’s name and identified her peoples’ struggle against oppression and self-determination with the larger national movement gaining ground in India. Through armed resistance, she quickly transformed a religious-indigenous rebellion into a revolutionary movement for independence.
  • The movement later turned into a political movement seeking to drive out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas. 
    • Within the Heraka cult, she came to be considered an incarnation of the goddess Cherachamdinliu.
  • She was from the Rongmei tribe (also known as Kabui).
  • An advocate of the ancestral Naga religious practices, she staunchly resisted the conversion of Nagas to Christianity. She was honoured as a freedom fighter and was awarded a Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.

Rani Gaidinliu with The Freedom Fighter Tamrapatra Award (1972) given by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. (Photos: Biju Boro)

Arrest and release
  • Fifteen years before Indian independence, the 17-year-old Gaidinliu had raised a three-tribe Zeliangrong army against the British to establish Naga Raj, and resist the Nagas' conversion to Christianity. 
  • She lost the Battle of Hangrum (Assam) in 1932 and was arrested later that year from Poilwa village, now in Nagaland. Naga converts were primarily held responsible for her capture and imprisonment.
  • Nehru met her at Shillong Jail in 1937, and promised to pursue her release. Nehru gave her the title of "Rani" ("Queen"), and she gained local popularity as Rani Gaidinliu After Independence, she became Jawaharlal Nehru's poster girl of the northeast. 
  • She would remain a prisoner for another decade, before being released from Tura Jail on October 14, 1947, after India became independent. The newly independent Indian State quickly recognised Gaidinliu’s potential as a symbol of Naga separatism. Upon her release the Indian government imposed severe restrictions on her movement and she was not permitted to return home to her people till 1957.
  •  The Naga National Council (NNC) leaders found her ideology, vocal opposition to the insurgency and Christian missionary presence an obstacle to the Naga separatist struggle. 
  • With the growing NNC threat against her life she went underground once again in 1960. She was honoured as a freedom fighter and awarded a Padma Bhushan, but toward the end of her life she became a neglected figure. Rani Gaidinliu died alone and disillusioned in 1993.

[Sources: Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Sangai Express, Wikipedia, Business Standard]


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