Thursday, September 23, 2021

Rediscovery of Haipou Jadonang (1905 – 1931)

Som Kamei

Jadonang was born in 1905 in a small village called Puilon (Kambiron) in Tamenglong district of Manipur. He belongs to the Malangmei clan of Rongmei tribe under the Zeliangrong conglomerate group.

Haipou Jadonang was a mystic rebel who was spiritually inspired to organize the religious and social reforms among the Zeliangrong Nagas of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. He also visualized a kingdom (MakamGwangdi) of his people which brought him to headlong clash with the British government. He was distantly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress movement for national freedom. He was first imprisoned at Tamenglong in December 1928 for prophesizing the end of the British Raj and coming of “Naga Raj”. He was sentenced to 7 days of rigorous imprisonment by the SDO of North-West sub-division at Tamenglong but he was released on the third day. His imprisonment and release emboldened him to go ahead for his preparation of his kingdom making him very popular amongst the people. In the process of his preparation, he reformed the irrelevant superstitious practices of the traditional religion, socially he united the kindred groups of Zemei, Liangmei, Rongmei and Puimei groups which laid the foundation for the Zeliangrong as a social and political entity. According to historian Prof.Gangmumei Kamei he also sought support from the neighboring Naga tribes like the Mao, Marams and the Angamis group to overthrow the British/ Whitemen rule. According to the political Agent of Naga Hills, J.P.Mills, in the note to J.C.Higgins, there was a full scale discussion in the village council of Khonoma about Jadonang’s kingdom (MakamGwangdi). They decided that since the white masters were already there, if the Angamis had to accept the suzerainty, it would be a mere change of masters and ultimately no support should be given to Jadonang and later on to Rani Gaidinliu. In a sense Jadonang was perhaps the first Naga leader to propagate for a Pan-Naga unity against the common enemy, in this case, the British Colonialism.
To unite the people, he urged the people not to pay annual house tax to the British government, protest against the forced labor of carrying the load of the official touring the Naga country of that time and sent out messages to all surrounding villages to join him in his uprising. A complete secrecy was maintained to mislead the government agents.
By the beginning of 1930, Jadonang’s movement had taken a semi-mutiny, semi religious and political form through his recruitment of warriors (Riphen) comprising of able bodied young men and women which also included the young Rani Gaidinliu in preparing for the rebellion to overthrow the British. The British got wind of the movement and decided to nip the movement in its bud by immediately re-arresting Jadonang at Lakhimpur, Assam by a strategy of deceit and lies. After the arrest he was taken to Imphal Jail and put up for a very unfair trial where J.C.Higgins, the Political Agent acted as the executioner and judge against all established norm of natural justice and sentenced him to death. The charges for murder of 3 manipuri traders were added to justify the death penalty.
The importance of Jadonang’s MakamGwangdi movement:
1.He reformed the highly superstitious way of life of the Zeliangrong religion by making it more simple and practical and made it an organized religion from a mere village centric practice to a more expansive regional identity movement. For the first time “Kalum Kai” or “Kellum Ki” a central congregation place for worship of “Tingkao Ragwang” or “Tingwang” was established. According to renown scholar Prof. Gangmumei Kamei, the religious reform he introduced in the traditional Zeliangrong society was a synthesis of Christian monotheism and Hindu idolatry and temple culture, rationalised and simplified form of religious worship and a political ideology of a kingdom which inspired political integration of the Naga group.
2.He instilled a sense of pride in the tribal identity and emphasized that we are not only to be ruled over but we can ourselves be our own ruler through his concept of “MakamGwangdi” (Makam is the term for all kindred Zeliangrong Naga group and Gwangdi means kingdom in Rongmei dialect).
3.Jadonang was probably the first Naga leader who actually organized a rebellion against the British Imperialism and instilled a sense of nationalism inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement of the mainland India.
4.Jadonang was also the one of the first Naga leader who talked and propagated the idea of a pan-Naga brotherhood and unity.
5.Laid the foundation for further development of socio-religion and political movement for Rani Gaidinliu to carry further forward. In fact, the real foundation of the reform movement which later on developed into the Heraka (Pure Religion) was laid by the Jadonang movement.

Rediscovery of Jadonang
Jadonang was forgotten by his own people due to the fear of suppressions by British and Manipur Government of those times. After the release of Rani Gaidinliu, things had changed but her conflicts with the underground Nagas in the 1960’s produced a feeling of misunderstanding among the Zeliangrong people. But from 1966 onward, a group of young intellectuals and social activists have been engaged in the interpretation of Jadonang and Gaidinliu in the contemporary historical, social and political perspective. Their efforts have started bearing fruits when the movement for Zeliangrong integration was started. The leaders have started referring to Jadonang’s Naga raj concept for the fulfillment of Zeliangrong dream for a Homeland.
Now Jadonang is being rediscovered as the philosopher of Zeliangrong Naga greatness and the world recognized him as the great martyr, a religious leader, a social reformer and protagonist of the Zeliangrong Kingdom. 29th August is observed as the martyr day, the day he was hanged to death by the British at Imphal. Memorials were constructed, children are named after him, and his stories are taught in schools. So in a sense Jadonang has been resurrected in spirit and his legacy lives on. In a larger perspective, Jadonang movement can be seen as an example of tribal resistance against the British Colonialism and the tribal attempts to reform themselves to meet the challenges of the modern times.
(The views of the author is personal and does not represent or reflect the view of the organization he represents)