Rani Gaidinliu

Rani Gaidinliu – The Untold Tale of a Brave Indian Freedom Fighter

When it comes to the Indian freedom struggle against the British for independence, you will recollect many names of popular freedom fighters that have been mentioned in the history books. Do you recollect the name of a freedom fighter who was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian Government in 1982? A brave woman who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the British Government at a young age of 16. She was popularly described as the "Rani of the Nagas" by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. There is a postal stamp in her name too. Do you recognize who she is? Most won"t be able to because the school and college books don"t provide information about her. She is none other than Rani Gaidinliu, who led a revolt against British rule in India.

The early years of Rani Gaidinliu

  • Gaidinliu was the political and spiritual leader of the Rongmei tribe.

  • Rani Gaidinliu was born on 26th January, 1915 in Nungkao village in the district of Tamenglong.

  • The lack of schools and educational opportunities in the area meant that she did not receive any formal training or education. However, Gaidinliu had innate leadership skills.

  • She was keen to preserve her community"s culture and identity.

  • Her revolutionary career began in 1927, when she was deeply influenced by her cousin Haripau Jadonang, who had started a major social and political movement against the Britishers.

  • She began working jointly with Jadonang at a young age of 13. 

  • She participated in the "Heraka Movement" under the supervision of Jadonang which was aimed at restoring the ancestral Naga religion.

The Heraka Movement

  • The Heraka Movement was a social movement started by Jadonang with the purpose of reformation of old religious practices in order to strengthen the political movement against the British government.

  • At a young age of 13, Gaidinliu, under the mentorship of her cousin Haripau Jadonang, actively participated in the Heraka Movement and was at the forefront.

  • The objectives of the movement was to stop the forceful conversions of Nagas to Christianity and establishment of the Naga self-rule.

  • Nearly six years after launching the Heraka Movement, the popularity of Jadonang grew tremendously.

  • With the help of the Zeliangrong Nagas, Jadonang achieved tremendous success.

  • The Britishers started perceiving Jadonang as a threat to their power in the north-eastern region of Manipur.

  • In 1931, he was captured and executed during a mock trial.

Rise of Rani Gaidinliu and the resultant revolt

  • After the execution of Jadonang, the baton of leadership fell on Gaidinliu. At this time, her age was only 16.

  • Gaidinliu took up the leadership of the movement, which slowly transformed into a political one from religious one.

  • She called on all the Zeliangrong Nagas not to pay taxes to the Britishers or help them in any way.

  • Repressive measures were taken by the Britishers, which included collection of fines from villages by the police and Assam Rifles.

  • Rani Gaidinliu and her followers began moving from one village to another in Manipur, Assam, and Nagaland to evade arrest by the Britishers.

  • The revolt started by Gaidinliu gained intensity and became a really serious one.

The capture of Rani Gaidinliu and her supporters

  • Due to the growing popularity of Gaidinliu, the British government started searching for her.

  • The British government also announced monetary rewards for those providing any information about her whereabouts.

  • One day, the British government received an intelligence report that Gaidinliu and her followers were located in a small village named Pulomi.

  • Based on this information, the British authorities sent a special contingent of the Assam Rifles under Captain MacDonald to capture Gaidinliu.

  • In order to deceive Gaidinliu and her team, the captain sent his troops in the other direction.

  • This meant that Gaidinliu and her supporters thought that they were in a secure position.

  • On 17th October 1932, Captain MacDonald launched a surprise attack on Gaidinliu and her team.

  • Rani Gaidinliu and her supporters were caught without a fight.

  • Gaidinliu was humiliated, handcuffed, and brought to Kohima on foot, from where she was taken to Imphal.

  • After being found guilty, Gaidinliu was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Most of Gaidinliu"s close associates were either jailed or executed.

  • In 1937, when Rani Gaidinliu was still in jail, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru saw her imprisoned during his tour of Manipur.

  • Pandit Nehru called her the "Rani of Nagas".

  • Gaidinliu also earned the title of "daughter of the hills" from Jawaharlal Nehru.

Release of Rani Gaidinliu

  • After a 14-year long imprisonment, Gaidinliu was released from jail.

  • In 1947, after India"s independence, Pandit Nehru ordered for the release of Gaidinliu from jail. 

  • After being released from jail, she continued to work for the upliftment of backward people in her community.

  • Rani Gaidinliu breathed her last on 17th February 1993 at Nangkao, her native village.

Honors received by Rani Gaidinliu

  • 1972 – Tamrapatra

  • 1982 – Padma Bhushan

  • 1983 – Vivekananda Sewa Summan

  • 1991 – Stree Shakti Puruskar

  • 1996 – Bhagwan Birsa Munda Puraskar (posthumously)

  • 2016 – ICGS Rani Gaidinliu, a Fast Patrol Vessel commissioned by the Indian Coast Guard.

Rani Gaidinliu connected the Naga people"s battle for independence with the larger objective of India"s freedom struggle. She also advocated Mahatma Gandhi"s principles and message across Manipur. 

In 2015, the Centre issued commemorative coins Rs. 100 and circulation coins of Rs. 5 in her honor on her birth anniversary. In 2021, The present Union Home Minister of India, Mr. Amit Shah laid the foundation stone for the "Rani Gaidinliu Freedom Fighter Museum" in the Tamenglong district in Manipur.

The courage, dedication, sacrifice, and patriotism shown by Rani Gaidinliu is unquestionable. The contribution of Rani Gaidinliu as a freedom fighter and her valiant fight against the Britishers must be recognized. In addition to helping the Naga people for their struggle for independence, she connected her people"s battle with India"s larger struggle for freedom for the Britishers. Rani Gaidinliu was a freedom fighter whose role in India"s freedom movement cannot be overlooked. Yet not many remember her today, and don"t even know who she was.