Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday virtually laid the foundation stone for the ‘Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum’ in Manipur’s Tamenglong district. “Rani Gaidinliu was the epitome of valour & courage. PM @narendramodi govt is resolved to give our tribal freedom fighters their due respect and rights,” Shah tweeted after the event. Who was Rani Gaidinliu and why is her legacy important?
The museum project
The museum project was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India in 2019 at an estimated cost of Rs 15 crore. Official sources said that the museum would help preserve and exhibit artefacts related to the tribal freedom fighters, involved in different stages of the fight against the British colonial rule like Anglo-Manipuri War, Kuki-Rebellion, Naga-Raj movements, among others. However, with the proposal in its nascent stage, the details of the project report is yet to be finalised. The proposed museum will be set up in Rani Gaidinliu’s birthplace, Luangkao Village in Tamenglong district.
Rani Gaidinliu, the daughter of the hills
A spiritual and political leader, Rani Gaidinliu, of the Rongmei tribe, was born on January 26, 1915 at Luangkao village, now in Taosem Sub-Division under Tamenglong District of Manipur. At 13, she became associated with freedom fighter and religious leader, Haipou Jadonang, and became his lieutenant in his social, religious and political movement. Jadonang, who was also a Rongmei, started the ‘Heraka movement’, based on ancestral Naga religion, and envisioned an independent Naga kingdom (or Naga-Raja).
Rani Gandiliu’s association with Jadonang prepared her to fight the British. After the execution of Jadonang, she took up the leadership of the movement — which slowly turned political from religious. Rani started a serious revolt against the British and was eventually imprisoned for life. She was released after 14 years, in 1947.
Acknowledging her role in the struggle against the British, Jawaharlal Nehru called her the “Daughter of the Hills” and gave her the title “Rani” or queen. She passed away on February 17, 1993 at her native village Luangkao.
But before that, she was bestowed a number of honours including the Tamrapatra in 1972, Padma Bhushan in 1982, Vivekananda Sewa Summan in 1983, and Stree Shakti Puraskar in 1991. She posthumously was awarded the Bhagwan Birsa Munda Puraskar in 1996. The Government of India also issued a commemorative stamp in her honour in the same year.
The Indian Coast Guard commissioned a Fast Patrol Vessel “ICGS Rani Gaidinliu” in 2016. In 2015, the Centre, on her birth anniversary, issued commemorative coins of Rs 100 and a circulation coin of Rs 5 in her honour.
According to Imphal-based historian Professor N Joykumar Singh, Rani Gaidiliu was one of the few women political leaders who exhibited outstanding courage during the colonial period, despite limitations.
Unlike Jadonang, whose approach was inclined to be “millenarian”, Rani orchestrated for the need of an armed movement against colonial rule.
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Historians even hailed Rani’s movement as a significant event in the freedom struggle that inspired many, said Singh, adding that in 1938, the Nikhil Manipur Maha Sabha, the first political party of Manipur during the British colonial rule adopted a resolution to free Rani Gaidinliu from prison.
“The honour given to Rani Gaidinliu is very well deserved. It is a proud moment particularly for the Northeastern region for it can be viewed as an honour to the entire region,” said Singh.