By Harshmeet Singh
The Indian Nationalist Movement was adorned by many stalwarts such as Gandhi, Bose, Tilak, Bhagat Singh and Gokhale. While these inspiring souls were planning the debacle of the British Empire from North and South India, a 13 year old girl took charge of driving out the British from North East India.
Rani Gaidinliu was just 13 years old when she became a part of the Heraka movement. Founded on the religious lines, the movement was meant to reform the Naga community and recognize the supremacy of one God. Such was her participation in the movement that it later came to be known as ‘Gaidinliu movement’. Very soon, the movement took nationalist color and took up the motto of fighting against the British rule in Naga areas and Manipur. The British Empire saw the teenage girl as an imminent threat that could shake the roots of their empire. Resultantly, the British Government announced a cash reward of Rs 500 for anyone who would inform about her whereabouts. Following a major manhunt in 1932, the 16 years old Gaidinliu was arrested and charged with waging war against the British Empire. Subsequently, she was awarded life imprisonment. She walked out of the prison only in free India after Nehru gave orders for her release from the Tura jail.
Gaidinliu came out of the jail as a much more sober and mature person and decided to work for the upliftment of the north eastern people. She was never in support of a separate Naga nation, which was the major demand of the Naga National Council. This was one of the major reasons why a number of Naga leaders criticized her openly. She, instead, demanded a separate Zeliangrong district within India. She, along with her supporters, also set up “Zeliangrong Government of Rani Party”. Separate set of demands by Gaidinliu and other Naga leaders gave rise to an armed struggle which forced her to remain underground for 6 years. The Government of India struck a deal with her and asked her to come out of her hideout and return to her non violent and peaceful means. Following her return to public life, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan award in 1982.
Rani Gaidinliu’s name is hard to find in our history textbooks. She is an unknown name to most Indians and one of the many Padma Bhushan awardees to the statisticians. But maybe if you could think back to what you were doing as a 16 year old, you will realize what Rani Gaidinliu’s heart was made of.