Rani Gaidinliu: The Naga leader whom Jawaharlal Nehru hailed as a queen

Tribal leader Rani Gaidinliu joined the freedom struggle at a young age of 13, was arrested in 1932 when she was barely 16 and was released in 1946 after having spent 14 years in prison

In the history of India’s independence struggle, the contributions from the freedom fighters belonging to the North-East must not be ignored.  There have been women who defied all odds and actively took part in the movement to oust the British rulers from the country. Among all, Naga leader Rani Gaidinliu is considered as one of the most iconic freedom fighters. The tribal leader joined the movement at a young age of 13, was arrested in 1932 when she was barely 16 and was released in 1946 after having spent 14 years in prison. Her tale of courage and resilience is an inspiration to several women belonging to the north-eastern part of the country.


Role in Freedom struggle:

Gaidinliu joined the Heraka religious movement at the age of 13. The movement soon turned into a political one with the sole motive of driving away the British from Manipur and Naga areas. The members of her group began to hail her as an incarnation of a goddess. Sensing that the movement would spell trouble in the long run, the British authorities arrested her cousin Haipou Jadonang and hanged him in 1931. Gaidinliu took over as the leader of the movement and asked her people not to cooperate with the government. She also led many attacks on the British.

Also read: Gulab Kaur: The woman who distributed arms in Ghadar movement while posing as a journalist

Gaidinliu’s terror was such that the British authorities placed a bounty on her head to facilitate her arrest. In one such situation, the government declared that the person giving her whereabouts will not be required to pay taxes for at least 10 years.

In 1932, Gaidinliu moved to Pulomi village and her supporters started building a wooden fortress. During the construction, an Assam Rifles contingent attacked the village, leading to her arrest. She was taken to Imphal where she was convicted of murder and attempt to murder. Gaidinliu was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Political Agent’s Court. Over the next 14 years, she stayed at Guwahati, Aizawl, Shillong and Tura jails. Nevertheless, her popularity did not wane and the followers refused to pay taxes to the British.

Meeting with Nehru

At the peak of the freedom movement, Jawaharlal Nehru met Gaidinliu in 1937 in Shillong Jail and promised to pursue her release. He not only described her as a daughter of the hills but gave her the title of Rani. After the interim government of India was formed under Nehru, Rani Gaidinliu was released from jail. After staying with her brother at Vimrap village of Tuensang, she finally moved to her native village of Longkao.

Post-freedom work

Rani Gaidinliu opposed Naga insurgency that called for secession from India. After setting up for Zeliangrong Movement of Rani Party, she demanded a separate Zeliangrong Administrative Unit within the Indian union. In 1966, she met the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri in connection with her demands. Rani Gaidinliu was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1982 and the Vivekananda Seva Award a year later.

Also read: How Pritilata Waddedar dressed as a Punjabi man to attack a European club in Chittagong

Rani Gaidinliu died on February 17, 1993 at the age of 78. She continues to be remembered as an inspirational freedom fighter and reformer from the north-east.


In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened an event marking the birth centenary of Rani Gaidinliu. He also issued commemorative coins of Rs 100 and a circulation coin of Rs 5 in her honour. Here’s what the PM said about her.

Also read: Maharani Jind Kaur: The last Queen of Punjab who waged 2 wars against the British

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom.

This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com