In the time of World War I (1914–18), the British Government recruited a number of labourers and porters from the Naga tribes. As part of the labor corps, around 2000 Nagas and many more from North east led by RS Ruichumhao were sent to France, where, alienated from the other British Indian troops, they developed a sense of unity. They agreed that after returning to their homeland, they will work towards unity and friendship among the various Naga tribes. These Nagas under RS Ruichumhao leadership come together with the British officials, formed the Naga Club in 1918. Mr. R.S. Ruichumhai was one of the few who can speak English and translate to fellow Naga about the ideas of the important of forming Naga Club. No doubt he is one of the visionary leaders who contribute the ideas of forming the Naga Club. However, His name was excluded in the signing of memorandum to Simon Commission because his interest has turn toward spreading of Gospel in Nagalim.
This club provided the socio-political foundation for the Naga nationalist movement. In 1929, the Club submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission, requesting that the Nagas should be given a choice of self-determination after the British departure from India
A brief biography account of Mr. RS. Ruichumhao: He was born on 7th May 1896, He attended school from 1905-1912. In 1909, he was baptized by Rev. William Pettigrew. He was the first convert among the Western Tangkhul. He was also the first among Nagas in Manipur to receive education from Jorhat and Shillong from 1914-1916. During the 1st World War, he was selected as a leader to go to France to assist the Allied Forces as the Group Leader of 2000 Nagas in the Labour Corps and promoted to higher rank in 1917. In 1918, On his return from France, he clicks the Ideas of unity and friendship among all Naga and contribute the ideas of forming Naga Club but his interest is on tribal community with the Bible and the Holy Spirit with a single mission to spread the Gospel. Thereby, he went to Shillong for further studies in 1919. After that, he came back to Nagalim and with a vision and mission to spread good gospel. Very soon, this man, inspired by the Holy spirit, went far beyond the Mao-Maram frontiers in Manipur and Somrah Tract in Burma to preach the Gospel, winning 1300 souls single-handedly. He is still remembered as the good missionary of Christianity in larger parts of the Tangkhul community. He died on 17th January, 1933. He was only 37 then.
EPILOGUE: INTERPRETING SOME OF THE VISIONS HE SAW
Ruichumhao was a man of vision in the true sense of the term. His vision went beyond the realm of religion. It encompasses political, educational and economic vision too. He dug canals to divert water to fields that were not properly irrigated. These canals to these days continue to water these parched fields, ensuring that many families do not go hungry. Here in this section the focus is only on the spiritual visions he received from God. Some of these visions have already appeared in the preceding pages. They are selected because of their significance and wider implications. First, a brief summary of the visions is given, second, an interpretation and their fulfillments are traced.
1. While he was studying at the L.P. School of Phadang in 1907(?) a local woman saw in her dream a bright star over Somdal.
2. In 1906 at Phadang he dreamt that he was rolling upon the royal bed for young people kept at the house of the chief. Young people did not sleep at home but in their bachelor’s dormitory, which was mostly the chief’s house. A mammoth flat piece of wood hewn out of a single tree was used for this kind of bed. One such bed could accommodate around 10 persons.
3. At Ukhrul in 1908 on his way to the bathroom he was engulfed in a mysterious fire. But he was neither burnt, singed nor did he felt the searing heat. When Rev.William Pettigrew was told of this, he advised Ruichumhao not to tell others. “The Lord has wonderful but unknown plan for you” was the explanation of Pettigrew.
4. In 1918 while he was in France, he used to pray every day in the early hours of the morning. His body would be covered in a bright glow of light and sparks. The commander of his unit photographed this. When asked why he was praying everyday Ruichumhao replied, “I am standing on a foreign soil hearing throughout the day hearing the volleys of gunfire and battles. I am praying for the safety of the soldiers, for peace, and for victory for France and England”. The commander was impressed and remarked to his officers that Ruichumhao was fit to become a leader. He was assigned additional responsibilities and privileges after this incident.
Vision no. 1.
The bright star that was seen in the dream was Ruichumhao who shone both in his life and death.
Vision no. 2.
Rolling in the bed kept in the house of the chief fore shadowed the persecution and the struggle between the old religion of Shamanism and the new religion of Christianity. Ruichumhao and the new converts were perceived as iconoclasts destabilizing their society, since the new Christians would not join in observing the taboos, rituals and the other tribal religious festivals and functions. Imposing a fine of Rs 15 did not deter others from joining the church. Some defenders of the old ways and religion were fanatically violent. One such was Shangkatit an elderly man of Hoome village. He decided to take the matter in his own hands by vowing to kill Ruichumhao. Hearing that in three days Ruichumhao would be arriving at Khukhon Machit village, Shangkatit sharpened his spear. That night he dreamt that he turned into a lamb when Ruichumhao hit him with a stick. On hearing that Ruichumhao had arrived he went to the village with the intention of impaling Ruichumhao on his spear. But on seeing Ruichumhao he started trembling with fear. Casting down his spear he ran to him, knelt before him and pleaded, “Please do not punish me. I am very sorry. I wanted to kill you but you must be planning to send me to prison. For I dreamt that after you hit me I became a lamb”. Ruichumhao smiled and replied, “O grandpa, do not worry at all. But would you like to become a Christian?”. Shangkat it not only chose to become one but he promised to lead the whole village to Christianity. This kind of struggle between the two religions was the meaning of his vision.
Vision no. 3.
The vision of the mysterious fire that did not burn him was about the fight for justice on behalf of his people against L.L Peters the S.D.O. , Ukhrul. Peter was taking undue advantages of the Tangkhuls in the name of the Labour Corps and the government. During the paddy field season he would force them to work on the road for two or three weeks, use them as porters to carry army rations between Imphal and Ukhrul (82 km) and force young beautiful women to have sex with him. Burning with righteous anger Ruichumhao helped the victims to send a petition against Peters to J.C. Higgins, the Political Agent. Higgins on finding that the allegations against Peters were true transferred him to a distant place. His fearless fight for justice against a powerful officer like Peters was the meaning of vision no. 3. The Christians also accused Peters as being against conversion and anti-Christian.
Vision no. 4.
The light around his body and sparks from his chest meant the breaking out of the Kuki Rebellion War of 1917- 19. The stars signified recognition and honor for him at this war. He transcended tribalism and parochialism in his inter action with other tribes. It was no small achievement that his impartial and disinterested approach earned him the respect of other people, in this case, the Kuki tribe. Those who worked closely with him testified to his broadmindedness when dealing with the Kukis.
The prophecy of RS Ruichumhao (Tangkhul Naga), there were no activities of the so called Naga Club in the beginning. His father had revealed that “Ruichumhao” would lead the war one day. His prophecy came true as Ruichumhao was chosen the leader of the Christian Labour corps at the time when the four kuki Chiefs refused to sent their men
As British Labour Corps. Ruichumhao was one of the contribute in the foemation of Naga Club but he is no more taking apart in it but he was focus on the spreading the gospel in Nagalim.
- Ruivanao, Ringkahao. 2008. Biography of RS Ruichumhao/Haopa (1896-1933)