KEBANG and GAMBO :Adi Village Council System

KEBANG:

The Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh largely found in the erstwhile Siang district had developed a well organized republican system of administration. The KEBANG or the village council formed the basis of their political organization. The Adi folk songs and folklores often bear the reference to Kalu Kebo(the council of people), Kabo-Yabo (the public) and qumin-soyin(the village spirits) etc., which proves that the village council or kebang exitsted in the Adi society from the very early times.

Every Adi village is run by a council called kebang and all adult villagers are its members. All of them can participate in its deliberations which are guided by the elders of the council and are known as Kebang-Abus. The leadership of the Kebang is not hereditary but is acquired by an elder by virtue of his merits in different fields. The kebang was and is a democratic body and all the villagers are to take part in its meetings. Though there is no restriction on women taking part in Kebang, generally they did not participate in its deliberations due to one reason or another. The kebang, therefore, was generally an all male affair.

The meetins of the village council (Dolung kebang) are generally held at dere or moshup, the Adi name for public administration. During the British period, due to various reasons such as the possible fear of British intervention in their territory and curtailment of their right in the plains, two other categories of Kebangs came into being namely the Bango-Kebang or a council of many villages and the Bogum-Bokang kebang or a council of the whole Adi tribes. Due to the presence of the Britishers and their influence three more officials began to be associated with the kebang. They were the Gam, the political Jamadar and kotoki. The Gam or the Gaonburah were appointed by the Government under regulation 1 of 1945 by virtue of their influence, experience and acceptability to the villagers. Normally each clan had a Gam who could be easily spotted by the red coat that was their official dress.

   In the Keabang the proceedings are generally initiated and controlled by the experienced members called the Abus. The proceedings of the Kebang sometimes continue for days together till all participants are exhausted and arrive at an agreeable decision, failing which the kebang is adjourned for the next session. Every speaker in the Kebang begins his speech with an introduction called Abe, which narrates the ancient history and glory of the Adi tribe, and exhorts the village elders for important judgment. Cases of both civil and criminal nature are put up before the Kebang by the contending parties backed by their fellow clansmen and supporters. The Abus guide the speakers and interpret the laws, sometimes giving examples as to how a case of similar nature was decided earlier. It is noteworthy that the aim of Kebang is to make all parties agree to a compromise and not to enforce any judgment. Once a decision is taken in a Kebang its implementation is automatic. In the criminal cases, the common punishment is usually the imposition of fines and compensation to the aggrieved party.

The village councils are empowered to decide the cases falling within the jurisdiction of their respective villages. The cases which involve two or more villages, the Bongo Kebang is called and those cases or an event which can affects the entire community, the Bogum Bokang Kebang is convened. The Kebang operates on the principle of unquestionable loyaelity to the village community and customary laws. Many a times the supernatural guidance is sought through oaths and ordeals, which comprise of physical and psychological tests. The findings of the supernatural courts were considered to be final and binding though this practice is not generally encouraged now a days.

THE GAMBO

The Adis who live in Mechukha area had a different system of administration which centered around GAMBO. A GAMBO means a head or a leader or an influential person of a particular clan or village. Earlier these GAMBOS were selected by the village people to act as their leaders. This selection of the GAMBO was, generally speaking, hereditary and normally the eldest son succeeded his father. In some cases, the GAMBOS attempted to become the DERA or the chief of their village.

The Gambos decided the issue and disputes related to property, murder, thief etc.. in the village but were not arbitrary. They were guided by the customary laws and traditions. In the issues relating to relations with the outsiders, tribals or otherwise, the support of the chiefs of other village also sought. The Gambos did not have either the authority or the power to collect taxes from the villagers. The Gambos gradually lost their influence after 1954 when the Assam Frontier regulation of 1945 was enforced in NEFA.

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