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Implications Of Chieftainship Under Indian Democracy

Traditional political life of the Kukis is deeply rooted to their customary laws in their society. The socio political institutions are closely entrenched with other institutions. Their system of political institution is based on Kinship relations and is termed as a mere ‘Social Organization’ distinguished from ‘Political Organization’ of civilized community, whose authority on the primitive people is undisputed. They contended that primitive State was not tyrannical, as is supposed to be, to its subjects because they were always a body of people related by bonds of kinship and relationship, by clanship and age grades and that they spoke of themselves as a group where practically everybody was related, in reality or fictitiously, to everybody else.

Schapera contended that political system among primitive societies was based on kinship relation and that each tribe claimed exclusive rights to the land it occupied. All people living therein were subjects to the chief, as head of the local Government, and only by moving away or migration could they escape his control. Outsiders might not settle in his territory without the chiefs’ permission, who rehabilitated them wherever he wished. Thereafter, they, the settled outsiders, became his subjects. In case they disobeyed him they were expelled. He not only regulated the distribution and use of the land but also decided the fate of his subjects on the basis of customary laws.

The entire village administration of a village is looked after by the Chief, who is assisted by his council of minister (Semang – Pachong) in terms of the traditional and customary laws of the community. Thus, chieftainship is a very powerful secular Institution based on kinship structure for the purpose of village administration which is the highest and independent political unit. Given this fact narrated above, the so called axis of rider ‘Chieftainship’ being bondage with the age old social institutions of the Kukis, even in this modern age it deserves an appreciation for those intellectuals, political parties, social workers and civilized societies rather than simply looking upon it as an obstacle on the anvil of land reforms in the tribal areas just for a cause of legal right or title over ownership of land for individual without deeply considering the substantial contributions it has made to the public administration, and until an alternative framework to substitute this social institution of Chieftainship is framed in a democratic manner and acceptable to communities.

Merit of Chieftainship:

  • Institution of chieftainship protected the land of Kukis from invasions by other communities.
  • Social institutions of chieftainship enable Kuki community to settle and solve many cases including murder case arising between individuals and groups within the community in accordance with the customary laws, and without involving the legitimate government.
  • Institutions of chieftainship so far play a vital role in leading the Kukis towards unity and to a common platform.
  • Social institutions of chieftainship of Kukis shall continue to be strengthened till such time the Kukis feel safe and secure through politically and economically in the generations to come.

Demerit of Chieftainship:

  • No individual is freely enjoying and performing their rights and duties in the village without the prior consent of the village chief.
  • Individual is denied to get credit from financial institutions and banks as he was unable to provide security in the absence of title and legal right over the land of the village.
  • Institutions of chieftainship posed a great hindrance to developmental projects as well as socio-economic development to the village in many factors.
  • Principles of democracy to be enforced to grassroots level among the masses have remained cut off over de facto power of land being exercised by the village chief.
  • No investments for socio-economic development including infrastructure in the village come forward from Private Firms, Public Undertaking, NGOs and Government in the absence of security and surety to be provided by the legitimate Government.

Perspective suggestions for Village Chief to ensure:

  • Village chief and his subjects should prepare themselves to face the challenges ahead of them towards globalization of the world economy and its regime;
  • Village chief should take initiatives towards bringing education, health care and sanitation in the village as an imperative for becoming a welfare village.
  • Individual must be given liberty to fully develop his skill, career, personality and his pursuit for development;
  • Individual should be encouraged to bring development in the village;
  • Village Authority must be entrusted with the assignment of responsibilities and duties to formulate a policy and programs in consultations with Government for the welfare of village;
  • Village chief should refrain himself from interfering into every activity undertaken by individuals unless it affects the role of chieftainship;
  • Village chief should take his villagers into confidence while taking major decision in order to maintain transparency and good governance of his administration;
  • Village chief must ensure equal distribution of resources including benefits received from Government to his villagers, to avoid deprivation of opportunity of villagers, and to properly maintain Government’s own facilities in the village in the desired manner of the public;
  • Village chief should work together with his counterparts of village in order to bring integrated development of all in the areas.

*The article is written by Priyadarshni M Gangte.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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