The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: trip to Kohima
caption: Naga system of justice
medium: diaries
location: Yekhum
date: 16.8.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 16 August. Yekhum.
text: Today has gone in settling disputes and I was amazed to see how smoothly the Naga system of justice works.
text: Numbers of villagers streamed in and I watched them squatting at the back of the bungalow and addressing the interpreters. From time to time, voices were raised and there were angry shouts. But for most of the day the cases were put in a straightforward manner and the interpreters listened solemnly. By the end of the afternoon there were only a few matters which had not been straightened out and these were brought to Bill.
text: The first was an odd and pathetic affair. It seems that in this village there is a half-mad man who eighteen months ago suddenly raped a woman and now goes round annoying the men. The village wanted to know if a doctor could give him medicine (44) to put him right or whether he could be kept in Jail. Bill tried to explain that in a district with no mental institutions, this is a burden which the village must bear. A dispute had arisen because the clan of the woman who had been raped were claiming the usual fine of thirty rupees from the clan of the unbalanced man. They claimed that he was not mad but just a bad lot. His clan, however, were urging that he was mad and they were not responsible for his actions. Bill compromised by making the madman's clan pay fifteen rupees, but pointed out that they must restrain him. If he committed any major misdemeanour again they were to bring him in to Mokokchung and the matter would be reconsidered.
text: Bill has just had a village complain against a Hindu trader who has a shop on the edge of the district. In the rains he closes it and goes off, but in order to stop the Nagas from buying stores from anyone else, he has pulled up the bridge after crossing it! It is incidents like this which endear the plainsman to the Naga!
text: Yet another case concerned a gun. Three friends had been shooting in the jungle and on the way home the gun of one of them, which had foolishly been left loaded, went off killing one of the men. The gun did not belong to the man who was using it, but he had borrowed it from a license-holder. In the plains, this would have been the beginning of a police racket. As the man was not a license-holder, the police would immediately have blackmailed him with the threat of a murder charge. Here the facts were at once honestly reported, the gun was delivered up and the village punished the man by expelling him for ten years. The fact that the death was due to an accident did not count with the village. The sin lay in killing a man. Since the owner of the gun was hardly at fault, Bill is letting him take the gun away after giving him a warning.
text: While these cases were being settled, another interpreter had gone out to a village where there was disagreement about the new headman. The old headman was retiring and normally (45) his son would succeed him, but there was strong opposition from some of the villagers. The interpreter had just returned to say the matter is settled; another man has been found who pleases all parties and he is to be the new headman.