The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: chapter four - the village administration
caption: the village court
caption: ends of justice in criminal action
medium: theses
person: Samrangba/ of Laisong
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
location: Laisong Kepelo
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
caption: chapter three - the village administration
text: In criminal cases the aim of the village court is again the maintenance of village solidarity. The criminal, the irritant body, is expelled from the community either permanently or for a term of years, and in serious cases such as murder, rape and adultery, where feelings run high, the council intervenes to prevent retaliatory action which might result in a blood-feud and disintegrate the community. The criminal is removed to another village under armed guard; the case is tried in his absence, and, by the time sentence has been passed, tempers have to some extent cooled and the aggrieved parties have less excuse for taking personal vengeance. The following example is typical.
text: In 1941 a youth named Samrangba courted a girl in Laisong, his own village, but she disliked him and would have nothing to do with him. He later married another Laisong girl.
text: The following year, when his wife was expecting her first child, he went to the lower girls' dormitory just before dawn, made an attempt on the girl he had formerly courted, and escaped unrecognised after a scuffle. In his flight he passed two youths of his own kienga, and they recognised him. In the normal way they would not have betrayed a fellow-member of the kienga, but in the case of a criminal offence they were bound (95) to do so. When they were questioned a few minutes later by the girl's kinsmen, they identified the culprit.
text: Immediately after the assault the girl ran home to her parents' house. Her kinsmen were called and they cross-examined her for two hours. If at any time she had encouraged Samrangba's attentions, no case of rape could lie. They failed to shake her story and the evidence of her contemporaries supported her, as her dislike of Samrangba was notorious. Shortly after daybreak her kinsmen decided that her story was genuine; they armed themselves with spears and went out to kill Samrangba.
text: A friend warned him that they were on their way to his house, and he escaped into the belt of woodland surrounding the village. He made his way through this to the house of a man connected with neither party to the case, and there asked for sanctuary. This was afforded him and his protector's kinsmen were immediately called to the house to defend it against the avenging party, who attempted to break in as soon as they found that Samrangba was there. Meantime the headmen, who had now been informed of the disturbance, collected a strong guard of 'neutral' villagers unconnected with the dispute. This guard removed Samrangba to Kepelo, a village four miles away, which at that time was the only settlement in the Central Nzemi area which was prepared to accept expelled criminals as settlers. It had split off from its parent Haijaichak through (96) a quarrel over the policy to be followed towards Government, and was anxious to increase its strength at all costs. The kinsmen of Samrangba's wife attempted to secure a stay of execution on the grounds of her condition, but this was refused and his younger brother, his wife and his mother were sent away with him. His younger brother and mother [6 [Record T86812]