Freedom movement in Nagaland

Freedom movement in Nagaland

The British contact with the Naga began after the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. This treaty for the first time brought the concept of map and boundary and the tribal of the hills particularly the Naga became its victim. The demarcation of boundary placed the groups into separate regions or pails striking at their otherwise unified existence not constrained by the existence of boundaries. The net effect of this was that some Naga tribes were places within Burma and others were dispersed to different states of Northeast India. Until the advent of the British and signing of Yandabo Treaty, the notion of territorial or political authority was unknown in the hills. The different tribes had been living in freedom without any geographical boundary or restriction since ages. After annexing Assam, the British began to consider the Naga areas to be part of the colonial interest. But they followed a policy of cautious non-interference towards the hill tribes; especially the Naga because they considered annexing the tribal hills was not profitable to them.

However, the situation began to change when the Naga first major encounter with the British took place. In January 1832 when Captain Jenkins who with his 700 army of men and 800 coolies marched tlirough the Naga territory on their way to Assam from Manipur had to face a fierce Naga attacks and unfamiliar terrain. As Iralu puts it, the Naga attacked any one who trespasses their areas. To stop this raids many expeditions were carried out by the British in the Naga Hills between 1831 and 1851 with heavy losses. The British had to pass through the Naga Hills on their way to Assam but the Nagas often caused trouble by way of sudden attacks to the British. These attacks greatly harmed their interest so it became imperative for the British to capture Naga territories without much ambition of occupation as they knew the Naga were famous as a wanior tribe and the British were wary of this fact.

The policy of the British towards the Naga hills becomes evident from the position taken by Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor General of India “I dissent entirely from the policy which is recommended of what is called obtaining control, that is to say, of taking possession of these hills, and establishing sovereignty over their savage inhabitants. Our possession could bring no profit to us, and would be as costly to us as it would be unproductive. As it is impossible to contemplate the permanent possession of these hills, so it seems impolitic to sanction temporary possession of them. This policy was followed till around 1862. But when Cecil Beadon took over as the Lieutenant Governor the British began to bring some of the Naga villages under their political control particularly the ones that constituted direct threat to them. In November 14, 1878 the British occupied Kohima despite the fierce resistance put up by the Angami tribe which lasted for eleven days. This was followed by speedy consolidation of British rule in the Naga Hills. However it must be noted here that the British occupation of the Naga Hills was confined only to the areas which were contagious to British settlement of Assam, particularly in the borders of Nowgong and Sibsagar districts. This was mainly to protect its subjects from the Naga raids; otherwise the British had no real intention or interest to conquer the Naga Hills. So their occupation was mostly confined to the area covering present day central Nagaland. The British had their Administrative centre in Kohima, Mokokchung and Wokha. The Naga of these areas for the first time had to accept an alien power over their territory as they could no longer resist the strong, superior and well-equipped British army. There were many other Naga tribes over whom the British never exercised any kind of administrative control. Most of the areas bordering Myanmar and Tibet were left out by the British because they knew it was futile and useless for them.

Rani Gaidinliu

Rani Gaidinliu is a legendary freedom fighter of whom India is really proud of. An Indian historian writes, “Any nation or country would be proud to have such a gifted woman who sacrificed everything for her people and for the cause she believed was good and true. She became a living legend in her own lifetime”. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee described Haipou Jadonang as a Martyr and Rani Gaidinliu as a freedom fighter of India.

Rani Gaidinliu was born on 26th January 1915 in a Rongmei village of Nungkao in the mountain range of Kala Naga between the Barak and Makru rivers in Tamenglong district of former princely state of Manipur. Her father name was Lothonang and her mother was Karotlienliu. She belongs to the influential Pamei clan of the village. Her father was not the chief of the village but young Gaidinliu was a pampered child of the whole clan. Gaidinliu literally means, ‘a girl who is a harbinger of good news’. From her childhood Gaidinliu showed her extraordinary qualities and talents. She grew up as a little mystic. She was always independent, determined and courageous in whatever she did. She dominated over her elder sisters. She was always a leader of girls of her dormitory. According to her supporters, her life took a new turn when she met a kindly deity who looked exactly like her in the forest near her village. Later on she learnt that the goddess was the daughter of God Bisnu of the Zeliangrong pantheon of gods and goddesses. They established a lifelong friendship. Gaidinliu’s parents thought that their daughter would become a Shaman priestess. Later on the Political Agent of Manipur Mr. J.C. Higgins described her as a Maibi, a medicine woman; but Gaidinliu was much more than a Maibi as Jadonang was much more than a Maiba, a medicine man. Gaidinliu came to know of Jadonang through dreams and she visited Kambiron to meet her future master. Since 1926-1927 the relationship between the master and disciple developed between Jadonang and Gaidinliu. Jadonang noted the god given talent of young girl and she also volunteered to join his movement. Ultimately she became the most trusted lieutenant of Jadonang.

Tingkao Ragwang or Tingwang, the Supreme God. Gaidinliu participated in the acts of reformation of the Zeliangrong religion, abolition of taboos and gennas, organisation of religious congregations, performance of dances and singing of songs and hymns as carried out by her master Haipou Jadonang. Young Gaidinliu was opposed to the oppressive rule of the British particularly the forced labour imposed on the poor villagers. She came into contact with large number of people through her association with Haipou Jadonang mostly in their religious reforms movement. During the last joint pilgrimage to the holy cave of Lord Bisnu, young Gaidinliu came to know of her future and her struggle. A new religion was revealed to Haipou Jadonang and Gaidinliu enjoined upon to follow the reform religion. She learnt about the impending death of Jadonang. When Jadonang was arrested by Assam Police in Lakhipur, she escaped into the hills.

After arrest of Jadonang by Mr. C. Gimson, Deputy Commissioner of Cachar in Assam, Jadonang was handed over to Mr. J.C. Higgins, the Political Agent of Manipur. The Government decided to make a demonstration march of Assam Rifles Column from Jirighat to Nungkao to Tamenglong and to Imphal. During this march on 13 March 1931, young Gaidinliu came to the notice of Political Agent J.C. Higgins, SDO S.J. Duncan and Major Bulfield of 4th Assam Rifles. The seventeen year old Gaidinliu escaped into the Zeilad lake forest area. She was accompanied by 40 youth including girls. She went into hiding waiting for the outcome of the trial of Jadonang at Imphal. She knew the truth and always insisted that Jadonang was innocent of murder and not present at the occurrence of the crime. After the trial and unfortunate execution of Jadonang on 29th August 1931, Gaidinliu took up the cudgel to organise the people. A historian writes, “The real revolt occurred after the martyrdom of Jadonang. Gaidinliu, the charismatic, spiritual and political successor of Jadonang was the leader of the rebellion. The revolt was a violent protest against the British Imperialism and a logical consequence of the ideology and strategy of Jadonang, which would have taken shape but for the sudden, short and unexpected British clampdown on the protagonist of the Naga Raj. The arrest, trial and execution of Jadonang stunned his followers with fear and anxiety. His village, his own villagers disowned him. Jadonang’s role was the preparatory phase and real action came during the phase of Gaidinliu, his brilliant and determined disciple. Success or failure she did not care. Fight she must; she was determined to put the master’s ideology to practice”.


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