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Remembering the Legend: 116th Birth Anniversary of Rungsung Suisa

Rungsung Suisa

The Nagas are politically obtuse. They do not understand the right thing at the right time. They are not united at the right time for the right cause. If such situations prevail in Naga Land, the Nagas will fight among themselves to finish themselves.
-Rungsung Suisa


By Tennoson Pheiray, TFM Ukhrul Correspondent

Rungsung Suisa (4 March 1907 – 17 April 1971) was an Indian politician. Suisa was one of the key figures in the movement to unite Naga populated areas in Manipur with the Naga Hills (Nagaland). He was popularly known as ‘Uncle Suisa’.

Rungsung Suisa belonged to the Tangkhul Naga tribe. He was the son of Rungsung Luithui. He hailed from Somdal, Ukhrul district. He studied at the Jorhat Christian High School. He was amongst the first youths of the ManipurHilll people to obtain matriculate education.

Suisa was one of five hill leaders named by the President Manipur State Darbar to participate in the Constitution-Making Committee in 1946. However, Suisa and the other hill leaders did not attend the first session of the Committee. On 13 August 1947, he chaired a meeting of hill leaders, at which the assembled demanded that the hill peoples should have the right to secede from Manipur after a five-year period. However, these demands were not heeded by the Committee, and in the new constitution the administration of the hill areas was placed under the control of the Maharaja. In June 1948, he was elected unopposed to the Manipur State Assembly.

In 1949, he visited Burma and came into contact with the Communist Party of Burma. His experience in Burma radicalized his political approach, taking a more revolutionary stance in local politics upon his return. He became a member of the Manipur Electoral College in 1951.

Suisa was elected to the Lok Sabha (lower house of the parliament of India) in the 1957 general election. He stood as the Indian National Congress candidate in Outer Manipur constituency, obtaining 21,316 votes (26.24% of the votes in the constituency). In parliament, he was represented in various committees.

Suisa was deathly against the passing of AFSPA in the Parliament in 1958. Here are the excerpts from the speech of Rungsung Suisa, a Naga MP from Outer Manipur when the Arm Forces (Special Powers) Ordinances was introduced in Parliament in 1958:

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir,
I have to be very frank, because I want to see that the Naga problem is solved as soon as possible. I would not mind if I have to offend any person or any leader because we have taken the risk of our lives into our own hands since 1946.

Do the Government think that such kind of ordinance will solve the problem? I want to ask the Government very frankly because the Naga problem has become a thorn in the flesh of the Government. If the leaders today solve the problem, then the Naga problem will not arise forever. But if this problem is not solved, even if the the Nagas are physically suppressed and physically eliminated, the problem will be there and the future generation will have to reap the fruits of the mistakes that are committed by us now.

In spite of trying our best according to our ability according to our understanding to solve the problem, I am sorry to say that either the Local Government or Central Government have not taken the Nagas into confidence. Wherever they want to do anything, they get reports from the CID, or the Intelligence Bureau or the military officers, or local officers and do something which is quite contrary to the feeling of the local people.

All these ordinances and sending of Armed Forces will not solve the problem. I can tell the House very clearly and very frankly that it is only creating more bitterness and harm. We know what a soldier is. A soldier is trained in the art of killing and destruction. He cannot appreciate the yearning of the human soul. As soon as he finds a colleague of his is killed, his anxiety is to kill some other people whether they belong to the rebel party or not. So we have to learn one lesson from the past actions. I wonder, whether any people in the world, during the last two World Wars, have suffered more than the Nagas. But are they kneeling down? They will not kneel down. They are being suppressed. Physically, you may suppress them and eliminate them. But the problem will still remain there. It will be in their hearts.”

This is a statement of RS Suisa in the Parliament in 1958. The Manipur Naga Council boycotted the 1962 general election and Suisa was one of the Naga leaders that was detained at Dum Dum for about a year. In 1964, he joined the Naga National Council as Advisor to the Vice President. (Source : Rungsung Suisawui Kasha Rinchan by Suisa Trust)

Suisa was assistant to the vice president of the Naga National Council 1964-1966. In October 1966, following the deadlock in the peace talks, he presented a proposal to solve the Indo-Naga conflict through confederation, with shared responsibilities between India and Nagaland on foreign and military affairs, but full Naga sovereignty on internal affairs. He sought to mediate between the Indian government and the Naga leaders. Allegedly, Indira Gandhi was open to accept Suisa’s proposal. However, the NNC opposed these moves and did not accept his proposal, as it went against their demand of complete independence. Suisa had travelled to London together with Vizol in June 1967 to present the proposal to Angami Zapu Phizobut it was rebuffed by him.

Today, the legacy of Suisa Rungsung seems to have slowly faded away from the minds of the people. Even so, his contributions and sacrifices will never go in vain.

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