Gaidinliu was a freedom fighter and activist who fought for the cause of the Nagas both before and after Independence.
She was born in the village of Nangkao in Nagaland. At an early age was influenced by a leader of Naga resistance to the British, Jadonang. The British executed him in 1931, and Gaidinliu took his place. She exhorted the Nagas in their villages to resist the British and arm themselves against the soldiers; she declared her intention to see that the Naga nation no longer paid taxes to the government or supported it with forced labour as porters. She began a new religion, called ‘Haraka’ meaning ‘not impure’. The British reacted brutally, mounting a hunt of mammoth proportions. In spite of large rewards offered for information about her, the villagers shielded her from the authorities. In March 1932, a large number of villagers attacked a British outpost, and though they were repulsed the government decided to stamp out all resistance. In October, Gaidinliu began to supervise the construction of a large wooden fortress near the Polomi village. The British received reports of this, staged a surprise attack and captured her. She was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1937 the Congress tried to get her released; Jawaharlal Nehru especially was moved by her plight and campaigned eloquently to get the young girl’s sentence struck down, conferring on her the sobriquet of ‘Rani’ meaning queen. However, she was not released till Independence in 1947.
Her troubles did not end with Independence. She was not allowed to return to Nagaland after her release, and spent another 14 years in exile. In 1957, however, the Naga agitations started. Gaidinliu heard that her religion, Haraka, was under attack, and she raised an army to defend it and to press her demand for a Zeliangrong Administrative Area, comprising the areas of Zemi, Liangmei and Rongmei in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. After six years of living underground, the government got her to come out of hiding.
She ceased to organise the movement, but continued to campaign for peace and understanding in the Northeast. She was also honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 1993. In her remembrance, the Government of India even issued a postal stamp.