The Zeliangrong Naga community is organizing a programme to commemorate Haipou Jadonang's death anniversary on 29th of August at the Nagaland House, Abdul Kalam Road, Delhi at 6 P.M. Writer Boniface Kamei, writes about this young freedom fighter from Manipur, in the following article.
Quite unlike the other months in the year, the month of August in India is filled with nationalistic fervour. Flag hoisting, parade, fireworks, singing patriotic songs, national anthem and speeches by the Prime Minister and the President of India are visuals and events that we have been accustomed to for seventy five years. The creed of truth and non-violence that won us independence under the stewardship of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru are recounted endlessly. More than often the efforts of the minority communities get a passing reference. Haipou Jadonang, a Zeliangrong Naga from Manipur, who was executed by the British on 29th August 1931, is one such martyr of the anti-colonial movement.
Jadonang was born in 1905 at Kambiron Village in Tamenglong district of Manipur. He first came into prominence as a spiritual leader who sought to reform the indigenous religion of the Zeliangrong Nagas amidst the proselytization attempts of the foreign Christian missionaries. Prior to Jadonang’s intervention, the religion of the indigenous tribe was polytheistic and it suffered superstition. He introduced monotheism advocating the worship of Tingkao Ragwang (heavenly god), instead of worshipping all the demi-gods and spirits. He also abolished the observation of genna (taboo day on which no one works) on incidents such as still born child, death of a woman during labour, earthquakes, and others, for they were unproductive to the community. Jadonang’s defiance to the British rule came in 1928, when he declared that colonial rule would come to an end in three years, and he vowed to establish Makaam Gwangdi or Naga Raj. For making such declaration he was imprisoned. After his release, he enlisted five hundred youths in his army called Riphen to fight the British. He advocated to his people not to pay house tax or provide free porter labour to the British. Instead, he asked the people to contribute money towards the army he was forming to fight the exploitative colonial rule and establish the Naga Raj. He subsequently sent his army to North Cachar in Assam and also to the Naga Hill inhabited by the Zeliangrongs. These activities and his rising popularity earned him the ire of the colonial state.
Taking cognizance of the rise of nationalistic fervour among the Zeliangrong Nagas and its potential to spread across the Naga Hills (Nagaland), the British Political Agent J.C. Higgins sent a report to the colonial state government that Jadonang and his follower, Rani Gaidinliu, should be imprisoned for a year to subdue the rising rebellion. Jadonang was arrested on 19th February 1931 for sedition under 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). And later he was charged under 302 of IPC for the alleged murder of four traders. The trial of Jadonang was politically motivated to crush the Naga movement against the British. There was no evidence to prove that Jadonang was in Kambiron at the time of the murder. In fact he was on tour of a village called Nungkao when the crime took place. But the Manipur Administrative report of 1931-32, mentioned that Jadonang was wanted for the new national movement and the murder of four merchants. Such reports merely served the purpose of ending the rising sentiments against colonial rule. This is particularly true in Jadonang's case as he was denied a counsel to defend him. The British political agent arbitrarily decided on the case and Jadonang was sentenced to death.
Jadonang was only twenty-six when he was executed. His movement was carried forward by Gaidinliu. But she was also arrested by the British in 1932 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Between the years 1933 to 1947, she was shuttled through the jails of Guwahati, Shillong, Aizwal and Tura. In 1947, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, released her from Tura jail and conferred her the title, 'Rani'. Today she is known as Rani Gaidinliu. Without the efforts of Jadonang and Gaidinliu, the Zeliangrong Nagas would have lost their cultural identity. It is because of them that the indigenous religion Tingkao Ragwang continues to hold some prominence in the cultural life of the Zeliangrong Nagas. However, the legacy left behind by them continues to suffer. In 2015, the chief minister of Nagaland, T.R. Zeliang decided to build a memorial hall to commemorate Rani Gaidinlu. However, the majority Christian population of the state opposed the move. Such incident highlights the dual nature of Naga identity that is proud of the traditional culture but are avowedly Christians who regard the traditional roots as belonging to heathenism.
Today Jadonang is honored in different ways. Colleges, community parks, football clubs and tournaments are named after him in Manipur. But the fact remains that he is barely known outside the state of Manipur and his anti-colonial activities have not caught the national imagination. Perhaps the anti-taxation campaign started by Jadonang can be studied along with the agitation against taxation such as Dandi March in the discourse of anti-colonialism. This would give the people at the periphery a sense of centrality. In Delhi, the Zeliangrong Nagas are organizing a programme on the 91st death anniversary to commemorate his martyrdom. The programme will be on 29th August at Nagaland House, Abdul Kalam Road. The program begins at 6 P.M.