The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter Two. The Social Structure and its Units
caption: fluctuations in village government over time between democratic and aristocratic; history
medium: books
person: Ngamwang/ of WakchingDzemang/ of WakchingPongyong/ of TanhaiLongmei/ of WakchingChingkak/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Tanhai
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York62:2
text: There seem to have been many fluctuations between the "democratic" and the "autocratic" system of village government. The decline of a local lineage of chiefs often brought democratic forces to the fore, however, there are instances of villages run on more or less democratic lines inviting outsiders of chiefly blood to assume the position of village chief. The history of the chiefs of Wakching, though somewhat obscure, provides an example for such an event. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the chieftainship of Wakching was held by a lineage of great Ang class, and my informants still remembered the names of Ngamwang and his successor Dzemang. When the latter died without issue, Pongyong, of the chiefly lineage of Tanhai village, succeeded to the chieftainship and married Dzemang's widow, who was of great Ang rank. She died, however, without male offspring, and Pongyong then married a commoner from whom he had several sons. In Pongyong's time trouble broke out between the five morungs of the village, and the quarrel assumed such serious proportions that the four morungs Oukheang, Thepong, Balang, and Ang-ban decided to expel the men of the Bala morung, who were regarded as the troublemakers. Since it was taboo to take up arms against people of one's own village, the four morungs arrayed against the Bala sent messengers to the paramount chief of Chi, asking him to do the job for them and to drive out the Bala men. The traditional democratic order based on the equilibrium of morungs, had broken down, and the chief of Wakching was powerless to restore order. The Ang of Chi agreed to comply with the request of the majority of Wakching morungs, but only on the condition that the Wakching people should depose their own chief and replace him by a member of the chiefly house of Chi. This was conceded, and "in the name of the Ang of Chi" and with the help of some Chi warriors, the men of the four morungs burned the entire Bala ward and drove out the inhabitants. Some Bala people found refuge in Wanching, while others were, surprisingly, allowed to return and were given shelter by individual Balang families under the pretext that they had "become Balang men."
text: Pongyong was deposed and Longmei, a younger brother of the Ang of Chi, was installed as chief of Wakching and given the land of the previous chief. Pongyong was, however, allotted some land of the expelled Bala men, and was made "morung chief" of the Balang ward. Only many years later, when Wakching came under British administration, were the Bala people permitted to re-establish their ward and rebuild their morung.
text: It would seem that Longmei never succeeded in imposing as autocratic a rule on Wakching as that exercised by the chiefs of Chi in their own domains, and that the Wakching morungs always retained some of their independence. Neither did circumstances favor the growth of a powerful chiefly house. Longmei's only wife of great Ang class and all her four children died, and although he had five other wives, his only surviving son was the offspring of a woman of commoner status. This son, Chinkak, ranked, therefore, as a small Ang. He nevertheless succeeded his father as chief of Wakching, but had neither the status nor the personality to rule effectively. At the time of my stay in Wakching Chinkak was chief only in name; he had been addicted to opium eating for years and had sold most of his land. Despite the decline in his fortunes, the villagers continued to give him free labour and such shares of meat as were due to a ruling chief, and he continued to receive tribute from some of Wakching's vassal villages.