The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The great integrationist, freedom fighter

Rani Gaidinliu—A victim of slander
By Prof Gongmumei Kamei

Rani Gaidinliu was a political, social, religious and cultural awakener—all rolled into one. All the top-ranking leaders of the country hold her in very high esteem. She became a legend in her lifetime and innumerable people—young and old—draw inspiration from her. Rani Ma was born on January 26, 1915. This date is celebrated throughout Zeliangrong areas in all the three adjoining states of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. Today, we miss that epoch-maker, who was the preceptor of Heraka movement, a political, social, religious and spiritual leader, poet, singer, composer of several modern dance forms, dancer and dance teacher—all rolled into one.

With a view to exploring more and more from her mysterious and divine life, I interviewed her in 1969 at her Kohima residence continuously for nine days and nights and these interviews were recorded in nine volumes of my diaries, which are a treasure for writing her biography. From there, I discovered the injustices and excesses meted out on her person by Naga Christian missionaries. After release from jail in 1947, Rani Ma was not allowed to visit her village and her people in Zeliangrong area. She was put in exile in complete isolation in Yimrup village of Tuensang area, then an unadministered area. During her five-six years stay at Yimrup, she was known as Naga Rani. After that, she was allowed to settle in Manipur in 1952.

I first met Rani Ma in January 1966 and I was very much influenced by her virtuous, dynamic and multifaceted personality. The more I talked to her, the more I learnt from her. This made me to remain associated with her for 27-year-long period till her death on February 17, 1993, at her Lungkao village. Rani Ma was the victim of British colonial rule. She was also the worst victim of slander spread by Christian missionaries and Naga underground movement. The Christianised Nagas, too, condemned her under the influence of Christian missionaries, Naga underground organisation and British colonial rulers. And this propaganda still continues. She went underground second time for six years in free India to defend her culture, her religion and her people from NNC and missionary menace. She wanted to build a bridge over the gulf between the Naga and non-Naga society of our country. On the request of Central government and state governments of Nagaland and Manipur, she came over-ground and stayed in Kohima from 1966 to 1992. It is a matter of regret that leaders of Nagaland condemned her as ‘kampai’ (kachcha Naga) and Christian missionaries cursed her as the worshipper of satan and heathen. Political leaders, underground cadres and Christian missionaries made constant and continuous attacks on her to prevent the people from falling under Rani’s influence and weaken Heraka movement.

In 1981, Smti Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, told me that I should write a book on her and Heraka movement vis-a-vis Zeliangrong People’s Convention (ZPC). The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also told me that the book on her and her photos should be distributed throughout the country to let people know about Nagas and their religion. But I could not do that during her lifetime but I wish to do it now. For that purpose, I am collecting information, documents and her photos. I met Rani Ma in 1992 in her village—Lungkao—and she died in February 1993. I regret that I could not write anything on her at that time but after 13 years I am prepared to write on her.

The people of the country now know her better than what many of us know about her. They hold her in very high esteem. Her photos finds place in the row of national heroes like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Veer Savarkar and Swami Vivekananda, in the houses of great leaders of the country. Government of India has honoured her with tamra patra and Padma Bhushan award in recognition of her contribution in the field of Indian freedom movement, selfless service to the society and preservation of age-old Naga religion and colourful culture. She was honoured at Dimapur in the early nineties by the people of Nagaland—both the Naga and non-Nagas. She was conferred Vivekananda Seva Samman by a reputed NGO—Shri Burra Bazar Kumarsabha Pustakalaya, Kolkata—and Birsa Munda Award by Jabalpur, MP. GoI released a postal stamp and instituted Stree Shakti Puraskar in commemoration of Rani Ma Gaidinliu. Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram played a vital role in popularising Rani Ma and her ideals throughout the country. Rani Ma reformed the traditional relilgion and named it “Heraka” which means “Pure”. Christian missionaries demean the traditional God. But Rani Gaidinliu propounded the worship of philosophical God—the Almighty. She evolved the scientific mode of celebration of various traditional festivals of Nagas. There lies the greatness of Rani Gaidinliu.

(Based on the speech of and discussion with Prof Gongmumei Kamei by Jayant at Rani Gaidinliu’s 90th birth-anniversary celebration at Jalukie in Nagaland on January 26, 2006.)

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