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Rani Gaidinliu: The fearless Daughter of Hills

Ground Report | New Delhi: Who is Rani Gaidinliu; The government has declared November 15 as Janajatiya Gaurav Divas which is the birth anniversary of the great tribal leader, Birsa Munda, His role in the freedom struggle changed the course of modern India’s history. A week-long celebration started on November 14 to recognise and celebrate the roles of unsung tribal heroes.

It would not be fair to celebrate 75 years of independence without remembering these heroes. On of it is Rani Gaidinliu , a Naga spiritual and political leader, who fearlessly fought against the British colonisers for the rights of her people.

Who is Rani Gaidinliu, the Fearless Freedom Fighter?

Gaidinliu was born on January 26, 1915, in a small Manipur village called Nungkao, sometimes known as Luangkao, in the Tamenglong district. She received no formal schooling. She was, nonetheless, educated in their traditional manner. Her revolutionary adventure began in 1927, when she was just 13 and joined her cousin Haipou Jadonang, who was leading the Heraka Movement, a movement to revive the Naga Tribal religion. She led this anti-British agitation at the age of 17, which ended in her arrest and 14-year imprisonment.

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The Heraka Movement

The Heraka Movement started by Gaidinliu’s cousin was not simply a religious reform movement, but also a political anti-British movement. “To alter traditional religious rituals in order to enhance the movement intended at overthrowing the British,” Gaidinliu said of the movement. The British saw Jadonang as a major danger to their power in many parts of Manipur because of his enormous popularity among the Zelianrong Nagas. He was arrested and hanged during a sham trial in 1931.

Rise of Gaidinliu

Gaidinliu took up the baton from her cousin to ensure that the movement did not die with Jadonang. She linked her spiritual role as a leader of the socio-religious movement to her role as a nationalist, evoking Mahatma Gandhi’s national efforts to urge her people to revolt against the British.

“Loss of religion is the loss of culture, and loss of culture is the loss of identity,” Gaidinliu says. Gaidinliu started her own Naga tribe’s version of the Non-cooperation Movement. After instructing all houses to refrain from paying taxes, she made it difficult for the British government to function in the region.

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After her arrest, she was finally released in 1947, after India’s independence, on first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s orders. Nehru described Gaidinliu as the “daughter of the hills” and he gave her the title of ‘Rani’ for her courage.

Rani Gaidinliu Post Independence

She sought to improve the Zelianrong people’s situation, but she was despised by many Naga groups, particularly Christian converts and supporters of the Naga National Council (NNC). The Christians saw the Heraka revival movement as anti-Christian, and the NNC despised her for her outspoken resistance. She was forced to go underground once again in the ’60s as she faced opposition from other Naga leaders.

For all her efforts in the freedom struggle, she was awarded the Tamra Patra in 1972, the Padma Bhushan in 1982, the Vivekananda Seva Award (1983), and the Birsa Munda Award posthumously by the Government of India. The Government also issued a postage stamp in her honour in 1996 and a commemorative coin in 2015

On 17 February 1993, at the age of 79, Rani Gaidinliu passed away. In her honour, the Indian government also released a postage stamp in 1996. Today the world remembers her as the the fearless ‘daughter of hills’.

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