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Divide on Gaidinliu reflected in day-long seminar

KOHIMA, (NPN): Divided opinions over eulogising Rani Gaidinliu and construction of a memorial hall-cum-museum in Kohima in her honour, were reflected at the regional seminar held National Institute of Electronics & I T Merema(Nagaland University campus) organised by the Women Studies Centre (WSC) NU under the title “ The Life and Times of Rani Gaidinliu”. While scholars from outside opined that eulogising Rani Gaidinliu and construction of the memorial hall-cum-museum was quite befitting, leaders of state organisations did not share the view on account of recorded accounts.

Resource person and historian at IIT Guwahati, Dr John Thomas who presented a paper on history, identity and the politics of Rani Gaidinliu said she defied the British to become one among the tribal heroes of India’s independence struggle, which then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru understood and actively recognised. He said Gaidinliu not only defied the British but was also the founder of Heraka religion and opposed to paying tax to the British.  Resource person from Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University, Dr.Vijayalakshmi Brara said the full-fledged museum of Rani Gaidinliu would be of immense help to the scholars, academicians and also the researchers.

Peace Activist Niketu Iralu who spoke on communal harmony concerns said a space should be created wisely to carry out healthy dialogue and resolve together on this issue and said many things have gone wrong in the Naga struggle. He however said the wounds inflicted by the massacre of two church leaders and others by Heraka followers were yet to heal. 

Earlier, in her keynote address WSC director Dr Rosemary Dzüvichü asserted that it was important to look from the feminist perspective and see where “we” were heading to. She contended that most of the public statements were from the male perspective. Slamming the statement of NBCC just before the birth centenary celebration of Rani Gaidinliu in New Delhi, Dzivichü described it as “self-righteous and judgemental attitude that marks Naga Christianity”’ and not forgetting that all Nagas were not Baptists and do not come under NBCC. Rosemary argued that one did not lose anything by having a museum-cum- library in Kohima since it could be used to conduct various academic activities. Resource person, Dr. Ratan Kaurinta, assistant professor department of commerce, NU Kohima who presented on personal perspective on Rai Gaidinliu said her name had faded in memory but the controversy had served as a wakeup call to relook at “our very Rani Gaidinliu”. 

Kaurinta said it would be tantamount to insulting Gaidinliu by restricting her to any particular camp or ideology as she was champion of her own people, the Zeliangrog people.

Kaurinta asserted that the Catholic Church in Nagaland in the name of Diocese of Kohima, through Fr. Francis Thadathil, MSFS and others travelled to Lungkao, the native village of Rani Gaidinliu and handed over a certificate and gold medal on February 18, 1992 just before her last journey, in recognition of her relentless service and sufferings for her people.

While resource persons including Human Rights Activists Kekhrie Yhome were on the same page, other participants, especially from the Nagaland Tribes Council and Naga Hoho stood opposed to the idea of having Gaidinliu museum in the state capital.

NTC advisor Z. Lohe said finding a place for Rani Gaidinliu in the society should be based on the history and historical achievement but not out of compulsion or through the plea for women reservation. Lohe said Gaidinliu should not be idolized on falsehood and cited accounts of how Rani Gaidinliu had massacred not less than nine NNC leaders. He said relatives of Rani Gaidinliu should tender apology to the relatives of the victims of those she killed.

Lohe questioned whether Rani Gaidinliu, who was a confused woman, should be venerated. He said if Nagas were to idolize a murderer, then there would be nothing left for posterity.

NTC member Theja Therieh said venerating Rani Gaindinliu would be an insult to the Nagas as she killed patriotic soldiers, fought Britishers not for India’s freedom but to defend her own belief and practices. 

He narrated that Gaidinliu “practised witch craft, as told by her associates” who also said she spelt evil, discouraged the children to go to school and instead, encouraged them to place their books under the pillow and sleep so as to acquire the knowledge contained therein through the ‘spirit’. He said there was no reason to celebrate over such philosophy.

Further, Therie said just as chief minister Manipur stated that Rani Gaidinliu was a daughter of Manipur, therefore, if India wanted to glorify and venerate Rani Gaininliu based on historical background, then it can be done in any part f the world but not in Nagaland. 

He said the relatives of the victims were still crying for justice in wilderness as no justice has been delivered to them till date. Theja also said the victims and the relatives were “our” first concern now. He said trying to create image out of nothing would not be easy.

Speaker Naga Hoho Medoselhou said Rani Gaindinliu was a murderer, thereby Nagas would not like to respect a murder as she had not done anything good for the Nagas. He said a greater portion of Gaidinliu’s history was against the Nagas, killing NNC leaders that had cost the Naga Political movement tremendously. Therefore, he said there was nothing to remember Gaidinliu or pay to respects to her.

An elderly woman who introduced herself as a close aide of Rani Gaidinliu during 1950-1951, Mrs Kamai claimed that Phizo and Rani had worked together for the independent cause. 

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