Rani Gaidinliu (1915 - 1993)
Rani Gaidinliu (1915 - 1993)
- by Jim Ankan Deka

Rani Gaidinliu (26 January 1915 - 17 February 1993) - was the first female freedom fighter from Manipur, India. 'Free India' was a dream of Rani Gaidinliu under the British rule. She was honoured as a 'freedom fighter' and was also awarded a 'Padma Bhushan'. Late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlala Nehru, described her as the 'Daughter of the hills' or Queen of her people. She was also known as 'Rani Ma'.

Rani Gaidinliu was born to Lothonang Pamei (father) and Kachaklenliu (mother) in Longkao (Nungao) village of Manipur. She was the 5th child among her six sisters and a brother. Since her childhood days, Gaidinliu was known for her dynamic, multifaceted and virtuous personalities.

The year Rani Ma was born, Manipur, along with rest of the country was the victim of British colonial rule. In 1927, when she was just 13 years old, she met prominent local leader Haipou Jadonang at Puilon Village. And persuaded by his ideologies and principles, she launched the revolutionary movement against the British in the same year.

In 1931, while returning with Gaidinliu from 'Bhubon Cave' in Cachar after worshiping God, Jadonang was captured by the British. After he was hanged on Aug 29, 1931, by the British, Gaidinliu took over the leadership and challenged the British officials. When The British Govt. tried to suppress her movement, she went underground.

The army made a house to house search. Though the British announced a reward of Rs 500 to anybody who would inform them about her whereabouts, the entire village stood together in support of Rani. Finally the British Govt. captured her on 17 October, 1932 in Poilwa (Pulomi) Village (present Nagaland), and sentenced her to life imprisonment. Rani Gaidinliu was just 16 years old then.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru met her at Shillong Jail in 1937 and described Gaidinliu as the daughter of the Hills and gave her the title of “Rani Gaidinliu” or Queen of her people. 

Rani Gaidinliu, Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (from Facebook)
After serving the prison term of 14 years in various jails in Guwahati, Aizawl, Tura, Shillong and elsewhere, 'Rani Ma' was freed in 1947 after India gained freedom. She was however not allowed to return home at her native village in Manipur that she stayed at Vimrap Village of Tuensang with her younger brother Marang till 1952. It was a tearful re-union of sister and brother when they could not communicate well in their mother tongue at that time. (Due to long separation of nearly 2 decades).

After her release she organised a resistance movement against the Naga National Council (NNC) - led insurgents in 1966 and had to go underground again. On the request of Central government and state governments of Nagaland and Manipur, she came over-ground and stayed in Kohima from 1966 to 1992.

The travesty is that she was not allowed to visit her people for whose freedom, religion and culture she sacrificed her prime of youth. Same reason was given that if she was allowed to return to her 'Heraka' people, the movement for preservation, protection and promotion of her forefather’s religion and eternal culture would catch-up momentum. A section the Naga society, who was under deep influence of christianity, was opposed to 'Heraka movement' and Rani Gaidinliu. Rani Ma was kept in Yimrup village of Tuensang district; nearly 300 km away from her people.

It was a matter of regret that leaders of Nagaland condemned her as ‘kampai’ (kachcha Naga) and Christian missionaries cursed her as the worshiper of the 'satan' (devil) and heathen.

Rani Ma reformed the traditional relilgion and named it “Heraka” which means “Pure”. She propounded the worship of philosophical God —

the Almighty. She evolved the scientific mode of celebration of various traditional festivals of Nagas. There lies the greatness of Rani Gaidinliu.

“Invasion by foreign religion and foreign culture will pose danger to Naga identity. Beware of this danger”.
—Rani Gaidinliu had said.