Lakher - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The social structure of the typical Lakher village consists of phangsang (patricians), macchi (plebeians), and tlapi (regular citizenry). A special group exists within the phangsang called the kuei. These individuals have been excluded from the obligation of paying the chief the sabai (rice due) and sahaw (meat due). This privilege is awarded to the descendants of those who have extended some special service to the village or its chief (e.g., paying the indemnity owed to a conquering village after a military defeat or extending hospitality to a chiefs guests).

Political Organization. The basic political unit in traditional Lakher society is the village, governed by the bei (chief) with the assistance of the machas (usually a noble or gifted plebeian). Other officials include: the tlaawpa (village crier who dispatches the chiefs business within the village); seudaipa (blacksmith); khireipa (village writer who handles the chiefs correspondence); the tleuliabopa (sacrificial priest) appointed by the chief who offers the tleulia (Sacrifice) to propitiate the spirits inhabiting the hill upon which the village is located) ; and the cheusapathaipa (the cook for the Khazangpina sacrifice). In traditional Lakher society, the chief is the village's central political official during peacetime and war. He personally receives a variety of fees and services from the villagers and, along with the village elders, is empowered to levy such fees and services as are necessary to ensure the continued growth and safety of the community. With the abolition of chieftainship, the Lakher are being brought gradually into the mainstream of Indian political life.

Social Control. Social control is maintained by the Lakher jurisprudential system administered by the chief and his council of elders. The chief has final authority in all legal decisions, but provision is made for the expression of popular sentiment in these proceedings. If the chief is unable to render a legal decision, there is provision made for trial by ordeal. There is also a system of fines that may be imposed for various offenses. Capital punishment does not obtain in traditional jurisprudence. Murderers were required to pay fines—100 to 300 rupees according to Parry—and were excluded from performing clan-based sacrifices and participating in communal feasts. Other fines include those imposed for theft, assault, eavesdropping, trespassing, and character defamation. Control is also maintained by a series of anas. These are prohibitions against certain types of behavior that are believed to bring bad luck or death.

Conflict. As mentioned above, prior to British rule intervillage conflict was frequent. Resistance to British imperial authority was brought to an end by 1924. Since that time, the forces of acculturation have brought the Lakher closer to the mainstream of national life. The reorganization of the Lakher region, which began in 1947, has made it possible for the Lakher to have an impact on the government of their Homeland and a voice in the administration of Mizoram, the larger state of which they are a part.

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