Gaidinliu (1915–1993) was a Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against British rule in India. At the age of 13, she joined the Heraka religious movement of her cousin Haipou Jadonang. The movement later turned into a political movement seeking to drive out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas. Within the Heraka faith, she came to be considered an incarnation of the Goddess Cherachamdinliu.
Gaidinliu was arrested in 1932 at the age of 16 and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the British rulers. Jawaharlal Nehru met her at Shillong Jail in 1937 and promised to pursue her release. Nehru gave her the title of “Rani” (“Queen”), and she gained local popularity as Rani Gaidinliu.
She was honoured as a freedom fighter and was awarded a Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Rebellion and incarceration
She openly rebelled against the British rule, exhorting the Zeliangrong people not to pay taxes. She received donations from the local Nagas, many of whom also joined her as volunteers. The British authorities launched a manhunt for her.
She evaded arrest by the police, moving across villages in what are now Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. The Governor of Assam dispatched the 3rd and 4th battalions of the Assam Rifles against her, under the supervision of the Naga Hills Deputy Commissioner JP Mills.
Monetary rewards were declared for information leading to her arrest: this included a declaration that any village providing information on her whereabouts will get a 10-year tax break. Her forces engaged the Assam Rifles in armed conflicts in the North Cachar Hills (16 February 1932) and the Hangrum village (18 March 1932).
In October 1932, Gaidinliu moved to the Pulomi village, where her followers started building a wooden fortress. While the fortress was under construction, an Assam Rifles contingent headed by Captain MacDonald launched a surprise attack on the village on 17 October 1932. Gaidinliu, along with her followers, was arrested without any resistance near the Kenoma village. Gaidinliu denied that she had any role in the attack on the Hangrum post of the Assam Rifles or the construction of the fort.
In December 1932, her followers from the Leng and the Bopungwemi villages murdered the Kuki chowkidar (watchman) of the Lakema Inspection Bungalow in the Naga Hills, suspecting him to be the informer who led to her arrest. Gaidinliu was taken to Imphal, where she was convicted on the charges of murder and abetment of murder after a 10-month trial. She was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Political Agent’s Court for abetment of murder. Most of her associates were either executed or jailed.
From 1933 to 1947 she served time at the Guwahati, Shillong, Aizawl and Tura jails. Many rebels proclaimed her and Jadonang to be their inspiration in refusing to pay taxes to the British. However, her movement declined after the last of her followers, Dikeo and Ramjo, were arrested in 1933. Jawaharlal Nehru met her at the Shillong Jail in 1937 and he promised to pursue her release.
His statement, published in the Hindustan Times, described Gaidinliu as a daughter of the hills and he gave her the title ‘Rani’ or Queen of her people. Nehru wrote to the British MP Lady Astor to do something for the release of Rani Gaidinliu but the Secretary of State for India rejected her request stating that trouble may rise again if Rani was released.