Post Mortem

The Naga national movement: Beginning and conclusion

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/11/2020 12:11:03 PM IST

 The early Naga movement in Manipur: Among the Naga ethnic groups in Manipur, it was the Zeliangrong Nagas who took the initiative to revolt against the British rule in Manipur. This movement can be considered as the early political movement of the Nagas. It was led by the charismatic leaders, Haipou Jadonang and his cousin sister Rani Gaidinliu. Jadonang, who declared himself as the ‘messiah king” was born in the year 1905 at Kambiron (Puilon) village in Tamenglong district of Manipur. 

The founder of Heraka religion (Haraka, Pure), envisaged for an independent Naga Kingdom especially for the Zeliangrong community. He was hanged by the British in 1931 and Rani Gaidinliu succeeded him. At the age of 13, she joined the Heraka religious movement. It is interesting to note that this religious movement later turned out to be a political movement seeking to drive out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas. Jadonang and Gaidinliu led a messianic rebellion against the British. The Zeliangrong Nagas saw the imposition of British rule on them not only as a political vendetta but also as a threat to their economy. They also saw the intrusion of Kukis into their territory as threat to their land and survival. According to Stephen Fuchs, at this time of troubles and dissatisfaction, Jadonang appeared on the scene as a messiah or a saviour of the Kaccha Nagas (as they were called by the British at that time then).  

The exciting slogan of Jadonang was –“Makammei rui Gwang Tupuni” (meaning Makam People will be the rulers) which inspired the masses. Gradually Makam people began to accept the idea of an independent state. They refused to cooperate with the Government. They denied to pay house tax to the British and did not participate in any executive works. Jadonang started a political movement under his trend of religious and social activities against the British Rule in Manipur, particularly in the hills region of Tamenglong. A regular massive training was given by him to the youths of Army (Riphen). By 1930, it was said that all the Zeliangrong villages were asked not to cooperate with the unjust laws and taxation imposed by the British.  When all the plans of overthrowing the British Raj were about to put into action, Jadonang was arrested and martyred on 29th August 1931 at Imphal. Rani Gaidinliu, the successor of Jadonang, took active part in giving training to the young girls. She organised armed soldiers and fought against the British.  In October, she built a fort in Pulomi village for about 4000 armed followers to fight against the British. However she was arrested and imprisoned. She was released after India got Independence and died in 1993. The movement founded by Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu had inspired many other ethnic movements in North East India.   

The messianic movement started by Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu was the first people’s movement by any Naga group/tribe in Manipur. Although it did not have much influence on the other Naga tribes certainly it served as a wake-up call for unity among the Naga ethnic group as Kukis and British begun to be ‘common enemy’ of all the Nagas at that period of time. It became the germinating seed of later Naga freedom movement. 

The later Naga freedom movement: The early Naga movement was mostly confined to Zelianrong Nagas roughly covering part of Nagaland, Manipur and Assam. But the later movement of the Naga became more intensive and extensive in its objective and coverage. Thanks to the British for sending thousands of Nagas to France as Labour Corps during the First World War. It is said that Mr. Raichumho, an educated Tangkhul Naga from Manipur was the leader for the Naga group. He was among the first students of William Pettigrew who came to Manipur as Christian Missionary and started English Medium School at Ukhrul in 1896. While in France, the Nagas were kept together as one group from where they discovered their uniqueness and distinct trait from other people. After returning from French, with the help of some British officers, the Nagas founded Naga Club in 1918. They worked towards Naga unity and friendship among the various Naga tribes. It was this Club that submitted the first memorandum to the Simon Commission of the British government for free Naga in 1929. They pleaded not to treat the Nagas as part of the Indian Administration. They underscored their identity as distinct from the plainsmen among whom their staple diets of beef and pork are taboo, and their apprehension that they would lose their land if placed under Indian administration. Later on, the Naga cause was taken up by Naga National Council (NNC). 

It was this later movement started by NNC under the dynamic and farsighted Naga leader Angami Zapu Phizo that gave birth to a nationwide freedom movement of the Nagas. After Indian Independence, A.Z. Phizo told the Nagas to be cautious because the White government (referring to the British) had gone and now the Black government (referring to Indians) has come. Since, the common Naga people find difficult to understand the meaning of Independence, Phizo made them understand it in a very simple way. He told the Nagas that “their land will be taxed; soil, sand, and salt will be taxed. Even cows and pigs will be counted and taxed. No one will be allowed to eat beef and pork. Cow slaughter will be banned.” Phizo was able to convince his people that India will completely separate them from their closely knitted land and its resources. They will lose all freedoms. Even their food culture will be controlled. As India and Naga leaders failed to solve the problem through peaceful dialogue, the Naga nationalists were forced to up arms by the early part of 1950s to pursue their dream of freedom. The rebellion of the Naga tribes in 1956 necessitated a progressive build-up of forces in the north-east and by end of the 1950s a division was tied down in guerrilla fighting in the Naga Hills. As the demands of the Naga campaigns increased, more battalion of the Indian Army were siphoned across Punjab to the north-east. New units were formed to sustain the Punjab force’s strength, and consequently the Army began to grow again. Assam Rifles, the erstwhile British trader’s bodyguards, was turned into semi-army force to deal with Naga militants. Hence, militarisation spread to all Naga inhabited areas and gradually entire North East. The rest is history. 

We must understand that no movement in the world starts all at once like ‘Big Bang’. There is a time of birthing and development to maturity.  It’s not like a race competition where all players run together at the same line, same timing at the sound of whistle or pistol. Naga’s way of condemning of each other by saying that ‘I came first, You came later; or my tribe started the movement first, your tribe came later; or my organization was first..etc.etc.’ doesn’t bring anything good to our movement. Let’s respect the present leaders and save our movement. India should also know that despite disunity among the Nagas, their unique history and right to self-determination remains intact.   How will the Nagas of present generation bring the concept of ‘Naga Nationhood’ to its conclusion? Will it be inclusive, honourable and acceptable to all or will it be a region specific, piecemeal and half-baked solution? We have a bright beginning. Can we have a bright conclusion? Only time will tell us!! 

Z.K. Pahrü Pou, 

Mission Compound, Pfutsero

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