“Rani Ma” Gaidinliu and How Modi Appropriated Nehru’s Legacy in Nagaland

02 March 2018

On 3 March, the election commission will announce the results of the assembly elections conducted a week prior in the states of Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. In Nagaland, the Bharatiya Janata Party is in alliance with the regional Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, after splitting from the incumbent ruling party, the Naga People’s Front. Exit polls in the state have predicted a tight contest between the contesting factions, with a slight edge to the BJP-NDPP alliance.

In his latest book, Strangers No More, the journalist and author Sanjoy Hazarika takes readers through a comprehensive political and historical account of the situation in the Northeast, based on extensive interviews, research and personal experiences. In the following excerpt, Hazarika discusses the Heraka religious movement in Nagaland led by the young Naga nationalist Gaidinliu, and how the BJP “appropriated a Congress legacy without a whisper of protest from the Nagas, the Congress or anyone else.”

If you go to the hills of Benreu and trundle down a narrow path outside the village, you’ll come to a place where a high stone slab commemorates the centenary of the coming of the Christian missionaries to Peren district and specifically Benreu. You’ll notice a cluster of small gravestones with epitaphs to individual soldiers “of the Naga national army who laid down his life for national cause, mourned by his wife and family.” And so on. I asked our guide: “They were fighting the Indian Army, right?” That’s a standard assumption when one comes across such graves along remote roadsides and busy paths.

Sanjoy Hazarika is the director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

Keywords: Jawaharlal Nehru BJP Narendra Modi Nagaland Northeast