Rani Gaidinliu, yes you read it right. You must be thinking who this woman is that I am repeatedly trying to force into your brains which are all clogged up with the tales of the Rajas, Rani’s and the famous freedom fighters of India, right?
Rani Gaidinliu is an uncommon name yes, but her achievements were not common, which our history textbooks have somehow overlooked over the period of long years and neither do she remain anywhere in our memories, in our discussions and public places or even in the pages of politics. She is known nowhere to the common men and a myth sadly to her own people.
Rani Gaidinliu was a reformer, a freedom fighter, a spiritual leader and a guerrilla warrior who served 14 years in prison during the freedom movement, making her one of India’s longest incarcerated political prisoner of all times!
Amazed or surprised? Don’t be! She might not be found among the pantheon of revolutionaries, liberators and freedom fighters we think and read of every Independence Day and Republic Day. Why? Might be because she belongs to the North East regions of India, Nagaland, yes yes the place where non- Indians or foreigners stay according to most of the other India. However, I will make sure that this time you turn back and notice her daintiness, charismatic and brave achievements that she achieved at her age and during her time.
“We are free people, the white men should not rule over us..” was what Rani Gaidinliu said to the ethnic and the local Naga tribes from the remotest hills of North East India, surprisingly at a mere age of just 13!
Her life and struggle; For the country and her people
Rani Gaidinliu was born in a small village in Manipur during the time of the British Raj and joined the freedom struggle with her brother at the mere age of just 13 years. When she became about 16 years of age, she was made the leader of the women wing in the religious movement of the region called the Heraka Movement which however was all about getting a separate rule of the Naga people in the region, and thus this would be considered differently.
Things drastically changed for this young girl, Rani when her brother and the leader of the movement were executed and she openly came to the fore and revolted against the British Raj. The movement that she was going ahead with was famous as the Zeliangrong Movement against the Britishers and at the age of 17 she already got to get noticed from all areas as a courageous, stubborn, strong, morally stable yet god fearing girl with extreme conviction.
Rani after the execution of her brother mainly focused on getting the British out of India by urging and asking people to not work for the British Raj and even not pay the taxes levied by them; certain ways that freedom fighters used to show non-cooperation towards the British. Her courage and bravery are commendable also due to the facts that under her great leadership, the Britishers got to face a lot of attacks while she remained underground.
While her activities against the British rule were posing to be a threat for the foreigners at that time, the British authorities launched an extensive man- hunt to trace her down and even went ahead to give away monetary rewards if someone gave away any whereabouts of her existence. The success of Rani Gaidinliu was so widespread that the British government even offered anyone facilitating her arrest a full 10 year tax break which was a non- refusable offer at that time.
It was an year later that she was on the peak of her fighting spirit that she and her team were arrested in the year 1932 when the Assam Rifles, then working under the British government while they were building a fortress in a small village in Pulomi.
Things turned for worse when Rani’s followers murdered a local man while she was in jail and the then British government suspecting her behind the activity sentenced her to life time imprisonment. While she was in jail from a period of 1933 to the year 1947, most of her team members were either executed or jailed with her.
It was in the year 1937 when Jawaharlal Nehru met this brave freedom fighter and promised her release and even gave her the title of “Rani” or the “Queen” of her people and described her as the “Daughter of the hills” that she is still now vaguely remembered as!
While the release petitions from Nehru failed to get finalized as the British government felt that the release of Rani would again lead to an uprising in the North East, she unfortunately had to stay in the prison till India gained its freedom and Nehru released her, with all her dignity intact. That was the valor and the spirit of the freedom fighter, Rani Gaidinliu, and yet we choose to not acknowledge her activities?
Even after India gained independence, yes Rani did want a state of their own for the betterment of her tribe and people, but fete had other plans and she and her people came to an understanding with the government where all her followers were absorbed into the Nagaland Armed police forces.
In the later years, Rani Gaidinliu was conferred with a lot of awards and accolades by the Indian government, yet she remains behind the veil. She was honored with the Tamrapatra Freedom Fighter Award in the year 1972, The Padma Bhushan in 1982, the Vivekananda Seva Award in 1983, the Birsa Munda Award after her demise and a postal stamp was also released in her honor in the year 1996.
Years later in 2000, she was also conferred with the Stree Sakti Puraskar and an on-shore patrol vessel was launched by her name by the Hindustan Shipyard in Vishakhapatnam in 2010.
The great legacy of Rani continued till the year 1993 after which she passed away, but her achievements and her work for her native people as well as the country would certainly haunt us with her memories. While she was a legend at her own rights, a woman who sacrificed her childhood, youth or rather her entire life for the upliftment of her people and for the freedom of the nation from the reigns of the British rule.
Her life is an inspiration to all the youth, her struggle, grit and determination combined were capable of giving us FREEDOM, while treading the most difficult and uneven of the paths we have never known.