The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter fifteen. Village Justice.
caption: headmen banish Samrangba for two years to prevent blood feud
medium: books
person: SamrangbaNingchangba
location: Kepelo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: At all costs bloodshed, and the resulting blood-feud, must be prevented. The headmen were not at the moment concerned with abstract justice. To them, the point of Samrangba's crime was that it had opened a rift in the village, a (119) split which might, if action were not taken, destroy the community. He was the erring party; he must go at least till tempers had cooled (which, among Nagas, can happen quickly) and the case could be temperately reviewed. His wife's family, since his own dared not appear, tried hard for a stay of execution on the grounds of her condition; but his offence was rank, and the council adamant. He had to go.
text: Just before noon, then, we saw from the camp a long file of armed men, neutrals recruited as a village police force, descending the steep street with his mother, brother and wife escorted between them. They halted opposite the bottom house. From the top of the street, by the upper morung, came the last few screams of the frustrated killers. Out from his refuge came a dumbly miserable Samrangba. He was moved into line, the escort closed up, and off they went, to take him four miles away, to safety in Kepelo - that useful Alsatia, which accepted exiles no reputable village would take. His wife and mother, loaded with pots and clothing, wailed aloud. The young Ningchangba, who had more nearly met death than his brother, was still white. Down the wide path the party trooped, in a long line, spears blinking in the sun; the four escorted figures were dark and obvious.
text: The ex-headman, Samrangba's uncle, was standing near me when we gathered at the foot of the path to see them go. He was weeping, and tears streamed down his crumpled old face.
text: " My boy, my boy ! " he kept crying. " That this should happen to my boy !"
text: Seeing me, Samrangba checked, and would have spoken. But the guard behind him took him by the shoulder and pushed him on, and he submitted and went. They filed away through the gate and down the steep drop outside, and the lamentations of the women grew fainter and fainter till the hill shut them off.
text: (120) The next day, tempers had cooled. The village court had met and two years' banishment had been decreed. To my amazement, Samrangba walked openly into the camp that afternoon to see Namkia - sentenced and sacrosanct; back to collect his possessions.