Baiga - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. As has already been noted above, the Baiga are divided into several endogamous jat, which are themselves subdivided into exogamous garh and goti. Social relationships between the different jat are governed by a series of detailed and rather complicated regulations. Few, if any, caste prejudices are held by the Baiga, though some have been known to avoid untouchables and those who consume beef (out of fear of offending their Hindu neighbors).

Political Organization. Baiga villages appear to be governed autonomously, with leadership being exercised by the village headman ( mukkadam ). Other village officials include the landlord ( malguzar ) and watchman ( katwar ). Legal disputes and tribal offenses are handled by the panch, a group composed of key village members who convene with a quorum of five.

Social Control. Traditional Baiga jurisprudence governs tribal life to a greater extent than regulations established by national authorities. This jurisprudence is concerned chiefly with the maintenance of tribal integrity and prestige. Control is maintained by tribal excommunication, fines, and imprisonment. These matters are decided by both informal procedures (i.e., by nonstructured consultation of various Community members) and formal procedures (i.e., by the village panch). Tribal consensus, obtained by both formal and inFormal structures, regulates social behavior.

Conflict. Christian missionaries and Hindu culture have had minimal direct influence on the Baiga. Material culture, however, has been affected by Hindu influence. The Baiga are almost completely dependent on neighboring peoples for the manufacture of the goods that they consume, and their relations with these peoples (as well as with the British and Indian governments) have not been characterized by longstanding conflict. The only major issue of contention has been that of Baiga agricultural practice.


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