As the nation moves closer to the historic landmark of 75 years of Independence, we need to be ever grateful to the sacrifices, struggles and the indomitable spirit of our freedom fighters and draw inspiration from their life stories. There are many great men and women who remained unsung and their tales of valor and sacrifice did not get due recognition.
In a series of posts beginning on September 6th, I started writing about the lesser known women freedom fighters and their invaluable contribution in freeing India from foreign yoke. I feel that every Indian, particularly the younger generation, should read their life stories. Their inspiring tales should become part of our history textbooks.
Schools should organise visits to their memorials and wherever possible light and sound shows should be held to highlight the sacrifices of the lesser-known yet significant historical figures.
Here, I am reminded of a famous Hindi poem,
शहीदों की चिताओं पर जुड़ेंगे हर बरस मेले
वतन पर मरने वालों का यही बाकी निशां होगा
“Fairs will be held every year on the funeral pyre of martyrs
This will be the only remaining symbol of those who died for motherland”
The poem essentially highlights the desire to keep the memory of martyrs alive in people’s minds…. Because that is the only way we can inspire the people to follow the great ideals of our great freedom fighters. That is the best way to pay our tributes to them.
Rani Gaidinliu- ‘Daughter of Hills’
Today, I will highlight about the valor of Naga village girl Gaidinliu, who is stated to have led an armed rebellion against the British at the age of 13.
She was believed to have been captured at the age of 16 and spent the next 15 years of her youth in prison. She was freed only in 1947 when the Britishers had left.
Rani Gaidinliu or Rani Maa as she was fondly known ignited the flame of nationalism in the hearts of the people of North East. She urged her community to reject the British rule and stopped them from implementing the oppressive laws. She united people against the British and gave a clarion call for freedom-“We are free people, the white men should not rule over us….”
It is said that when Gaidinliu was born, the umbilical cord surrounded her neck, and the priests predicted that she would grow up to become an extraordinary woman.
Gaidinliu was believed to be just 13 when her cousin, Haipou Jadonang, who was also her Guru, introduced her to the Heraka movement. The movement apart from its religious aspects aimed at uniting people against British atrocities. It is said that when her ‘guru’ was executed in 1931 by the Britishers, Gaidinliu proved to be an able ‘shishya’ and took over the leadership of the Heraka movement.
Gaidinliu was also stated to have been a gifted speaker and became an inspirational leader at that young age. She was also believed to have successfully mobilized people (including young girls and women) to join her army and together they waged guerrilla warfare against the British.
The threat posed by her was so much that the British had reportedly announced a bounty of Rs 500 and offered tax relief for 10 years for the entire village if anyone disclosed her whereabouts. But the people remained loyal to Gaidinliu as they respected her.
In a desperate attempt to find her, the British forces were believed to have interrogated every girl named Gaidinliu in that region, this reportedly prompted Gaidinliu to change her name for sometime
The British were also believed to have been alarmed by Gaidinliu’s growing defiance and popularity and assigned special battalions to nab her. After several failed attempts, she was stated to have been eventually captured from Pulomi village where she and her supporters were building a wooden fortress.
Rani Maa was arrested when she was merely 16 years old in 1932 and was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1933. She could be freed only in 1947 after India won independence. She was probably the only woman freedom fighter who was imprisoned for such a long period of almost 15 years. It takes a resolve of steel to make such a huge sacrifice for the nation.
I have my own experience of jail life when I had spent more than 17 months during the infamous Emergency. I saw many strong-willed men break because of the severe toll the prison life takes on emotional and physical health. I can imagine how difficult it would have been for Rani Maa to spend 15 years in confinement.
Words cannot explain my profound gratitude for Rani Maa for the sacrifices she made for all of us and for our future.
(As written by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu in his Facebook post)