Nagas - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The basic Angami social unit is the exogamous patrilineal clan (thino), though the clan has been superseded by the kindred (putsa). Individual identity is bound chiefly to these groups. Clan and kindred are responsible for the behavior of constituent members. Social status is reflected in the roofing of houses. Prestige can be attained by the collection of trophies in war and in sponsorship of festivals. Status may also be based on a person's individual clan membership.

Political Organization. A council of elders functions as the administrative authority in a village, and individuals with grievances may voice them at council meetings. Chiefs are also part of the political structure of the village, but the delimitation of their powers varies among the several Naga tribes. The government appoints village officials today. In Angami villages these are called gaonburas and their authority and responsibilities are similar to those of the village chieftains ( pehumas ) of the past. The office of the gaonbura is not hereditary. The same was true, in most cases, of that of the pehuma. The gaonbura's major administrative responsibility is the collection of the house tax, though he may also act on behalf of his villagers as a go-between with government Officials. The pehuma exercised most influence in the conduct of war, the settlement of disputes within the village being delegated to the elders' council.

Social Control. Conflicts are resolved within Angami Villages by a council of elders who discuss matters of dispute among themselves, with the parties involved, and with the general public, until some resolution is reached. Issues centering on tribal custom are usually referred to the older men of a clan. Factual questions are decided by oath, and the authority of the oath (particularly when one party swears by the lives of family and clan members) is rarely questioned.

Conflict. Naga tribes maintained a high degree of isolation from neighboring peoples. Conflict between villages, tribes, and clans was frequent before annexation of the highland Regions by the British, as were hostilities between the Naga and the Assamese living in the plains. Head taking was an Important feature of warfare among the Naga generally, and weapons included spears, shields, and guns (acquired in large part after the coming of the British). Initial British incursions into Naga-held territories met with substantial resistance. The Angami in particular were actively involved in anti-British resistance, frequently conducting guerrilla raids on British outposts. In time, the conduct of war was augmented by diplomatic efforts to resolve issues of territorial sovereignty and independence. As a result, armed resistance seasoned with diplomacy has been the Naga method of conflict resolution, first with the British colonial authorities and then with the Indian government.


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