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.

BirdEye View of Suspension Bridge, Pangin, Pasighat #Arunachal Pradesh#

BirdEye View of Suspension Bridge, Pangin, Pasighat #Arunachal Pradesh#.

Pasighat to Bodak and Pangin-Proposed DAM site by jaypee group

dam proposed dam site by jaypee group
dam proposed dam site by jaypee group-Pasighat, Bodak and Pangin
proposed dam site by jaypee group
the proposed dam site by jaypee group-East Siang

da proposed dam site by jaypee groupda proposed dam site by jaypee group

 

Village Houses Of Arunachal Pradesh

Village House

 

 

Exotic Location: EAST SIANG AND UPPER SIANG – SCENERIES

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EAST SIANG AND UPPER SIANG ARUNACHAL PRADESH 2
EAST SIANG AND UPPER SIANG ARUNACHAL PRADESH 2
EAST SIANG AND UPPER SIANG ARUNACHAL PRADESH INDIA

EAST SIANG AND UPPER SIANG ARUNACHAL PRADESH

THE Assassination of Captain Noel Williamson and Medical Officer Dr Gregorson (31st March 1911) and Abor Expedition and its Consequences

THE Assassination of Captain Noel Williamson and Medical Officer  Dr Gregorson (31st March 1911)

and Abor Expedition and its Consequences

A political agent of the British Raj. Captain Noel Williamson and his doctor companion were carrying the message of the death of King Edward VII to the tribal chiefs. After some ten minutes you will come to Captain Noel Williamson’s grave just up above the houses. It still has its original stone inscription and a more recent brass plaque “On this spot was murdered Noel Williamson, Assistant Political Officer Sadiya, 31st March 1911”.

Captain Noel Williamson's grave
Captain Noel Williamson’s grave in Komsing village Pasighat

“Noel Williamson was the Assistant Political officer of Sardia (sic) who toured the Siang Valley in 1909 up to Kebang. He had a friendly approach and gained the confidence of the people. Greatly encouraged by this gesture of goodwill, he decided to visit Komsing from where an invitation was extended to him. A plan was made, and even though the Government at first was reluctant, they subsequently approved the limited tour (beyond the inner line) up to Komsing on the left bank of the Siang river.

Accompanied by Dr Gregorson (sic), Medical Officer of European and Native Staff of tea gardens in Upper Assam, a company of 47 porters and armed escort, Williamson left Pasighat on 20 March 1911. At ferry point of Komlighat a friendly courier of one of the headmen of Kebang village Takut tried to dissuade him, as there was a conspiracy to stall the move. But Williamson brushed him aside and crossed the river and arrived at Sissan village. At Sissan a number of porters fell sick forcing Dr Gregorson to stay back while Williamson marched ahead to Komsing.

 On 29th March accompanied by an interpreter, three sick porters left for Rotung en route to Pasighat. The interpreter was carrying three official envelopes for delivery to post at Pasighat. He flourished these envelopes to the curious villagers in a show of great importance. The envelopes were bordered with black stripes as a mark of mourning for the death of King Edward VII of the British Empire. But the foolish interpreter boastfully explained that white indicates two sahibs, the black borderline countless sepoys and the red seal was of great anger. He further told the frightened villagers that his move to Pasighat was to deliver the letters to call the army to level the hills by bombardment. Greatly alarmed, the leaders decided to stop the delivery of the letters. Fast runners moved to Kebang, the leading village and relayed the ominous message. Next morning when the interpreter and his companions moved out in great self-assurance they were waylaid and brutally murdered. The people then mobilised for an offensive attack. Stockades were built up, needle-sharp panjies laid on the route of march, stone chutes with immense piles of boulders concealed on the path, strung arrows held in tension of string to fly at all directions, patrols moved out to watch towers, an elaborate signal system operated, food packets cached for emergency.

On 31st March, a patrol of sturdy youths secretly crossed the river to the other bank and descended on Sissan to surprise the small party. Dr Gregorson, along with the escort and porters fell to the attack. Only three could escape death by jumping into the river. At Komsing village Williamson was received with traditional hospitality. Assured of friendship and peace, all were in a relaxed mood. The second patrol from Kebang already took up position. It was midday when Williamson went for a bath in the enclosure when all of a sudden a heavy sword blow fell on him and he died soon after. Simultaneously followers and others including the sentries were taken completely unaware and fell to the attack.

It was a tragedy of the worst magnitude. The escaped sepoys managed to reach Pasighat to convey the news of the disaster; an immediate alarm was raised. Soon after a massive operation was planned under the command of Major General H Bower, the Officer Commanding of Assam Brigade. The Brigade comprised the crack units of Gurkhas, sappers and miners, medical team, cartographers, naturalists and scores of army officers. The extensive preparation for the punitive expedition continued till mid October. Troops were brought from far away Kolkata by river steamers and ferried across to Koboghat by dozens of country crafts. The party then moved up river and took punitive action. An ambush was planned by the people from Kebang village and their few allies (villages north of Kebang refused to become involved) but this was spotted and instead, the villagers themselves were caught in the crossfire from two machine guns and massacred.”

 

Abor Expedition and its Consequences

 

Noel Williamson along with Dr. Gregorson went across the ‘inner line’ in the Abor hills in March 1911 and with the exception of six coolies, who managed to escape, Kebang Abors murdered the members of the expedition at village Komsing. The Government of India took it as an affront to the imperial prestige. An impressive expedition under Major General Bower was sent to teach a lesson to the offending Abors. Three survey missions were also sent along with the pacification expedition to map out the entire region up to the Himalayan water shade. The survey missions were to explore and survey the country and recommend a suitable frontier line between India and Tibet. The Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur, A H W Bentick, in his ‘Political Report on the Expedition’, furnished the proposals as to the future of this frontier tract on April 23, 1912. Accordingly, the North East Frontier Tract was divided in to three sections: the central and eastern sections to control the Ponpong Nagas, Singphos, Mijus, Chulikata and Babejia Mishmis and the various tribes of Abors as far as the Siang –Subansiri divide, and the western section (which came to be known as the Balipara Frontier Tract) to deal with the tribes from this divide westwards to Bhutan. The two eastern sections were placed in the charge of one Political Officer with head quarters at Sadiya, which came to be known as ‘Sadiya Frontier Tract’.

Under this dispensation, two Assistant Political Officers, one, for Abor subdivision at Pasighat and another, at Wallong for the Lohit Valley subdivision, were proposed. The Government of India Act, 1919 vested with the Governor of Assam with the administration of the three Frontier tracts and declared them as “Backward Tracts”. Similarly, the Government of India Act, 1935 termed these tracts as the “ Excluded Areas” in 1936, by which it was meant that the State Assembly of Assam was not empowered to frame rules for these ‘Excluded Frontier Tracts’ and the Governor of the State was to govern them directly. Between 1943 to 1948, these frontier tracts were re-organized in to five Agencies: Sela, Subansiri, Abor, Mishmi, and Tirap.

 

Sino-Indian Border Dispute and Arunachal Pradesh

Sino-Indian Border Dispute and Arunachal Pradesh

The Tibet Expedition, 1903-’04 represents one of the landmarks of British’s ‘Forward policy’ to the Himalaya region. However, the gains made by the expedition were squandered at the altar of British imperial interests. The Chinese,who were found totally ineffective during the expedition, were permitted to pay the indemnity on behalf of the Tibetans and the British empire made a hasty retreat from its imperial designs in the Eastern Himalayan region. Charles A Bell, Political Officer, Gangtok, and the overseer of the British interests in Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet, realized in 1909 that the British did not have an effective treaty right over the foreign relations of the communities in the Eastern Himalayan region.

 Before he finalized the Anglo-Bhutanese Treaty, 1910, he wrote to the Secretary to the State, Government of India, in respect of each of the tribes’ on the following points:

 “(i) How far does the territory of the tribe stretch towards Tibet from the Indian frontiers?

(ii) How far is the country cultivable, e.g. how far would it be able to support troops, if and when, the lands were fully cultivated? It may be, as in Bhutan, that there were large areas of the government land at present uncultivated.

(iii) To what extent the tribal territory would act as a barrier to invaders, e.g. its physical difficulties, breadth (of the land) to be crossed and the supplies (when the lands are cultivated as fully as possible) obtainable?

(iv) Whether the tribes in any way have recognized the suzerainty of Tibet or China? The claims of these countries are often so shadowy that it would be well to clear up the point as far as possible.

(v) (Is there a) possibility of inducing the tribes to agree to the treaty? I understand that the use of bazaar in the plains give us a good hold over the tribes.We may have some other pressures to bear.”

 China invaded Tibet in 1910 and this time, unlike in 1904, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan theocrat, took refuse in India. Worried of the Chinese advance and ambitions in the Himalayas, the British thought about its vulnerable hold on the eastern Himalayan ranges. The British hurried in to holding the Shimla Conference in 1913-1914, in which the Tibetan and Chinese representatives were joined by Henry McMahon, the Chief British Negotiator, with Charles A Bell and Fredric M Bailey, the then Political Officer and his successor respectively. The Conference could arrive at initialling an agreed boundary on the Eastern Himalayan region between the three delegates, but it was not finally signed by the three delegations. Though they had no reason for that at that time, but the Chinese government repudiated the claimed and agreed boundary in course of time.

 The British had their reasons to be convinced that the agreed boundary running across the Himalayan water-divide, (which came to be known as the McMahon line) was the long existing natural northern boundary in the region. Bell, who had been keeping a close watch on the going on in the region, proposed another step to bring the Assam Hills under more effective administrative control from the British. He suggested to the government the creation of a “North Eastern Frontier Agency” on the pattern of the North West Frontier Agency (NWFA). The Agency, headed by an Agent, would be head quartered at Tawang, on the western most district of Arunachal on the shortest route between Lhasa, the Tibetan capital and Calcutta, the British imperial seat of power in India. It was to include the British ‘political’ works connected with Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and Assam Hills. The First World War 1914-1918, its aftermath, the world-wide economic depression, the Second World War and the British withdrawal from India were some of the reasons, which came in the way of affecting the McMahon Line as the northern boundary of Arunachal Pradesh. Thus, the British were not in a position to implement the decisions of the Simla Conference or give serious consideration to Bell’s suggestions on time.

 The two distinct world-views represented by the Indian Union and the People’s Republic of China led to a “silent” conflict between the two neighbours from 1950’s. This exploded into an open armed clash between the two regimes in 1962. Since then, the two governments have been holding a series of talks to sort out the boundary dispute. Arunachal Pradesh is one of the Indian regions which China claims is disputed territory. India has been careful to evolve special dispensation suited to the largely tribal population of the state. Keeping in view of the national policy to integrate the small ethic groups with the larger nationalities., Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister of and the self-confessed “missionary” of his gospel on the policy to the tribes, Verrier Elwin, evolved a set of five principles as the “tribal Panchsheel” as the magna carta of the tribal administration in India (Elwin 1964). Not only that, they also created in the 1950s a new inspired and committed bureaucracy known as the Indian Frontier Administrative Service IFAS), which extended the limits of administration slowly and presently was disbanded in the aftermath of the Indian army debacle.

 Singphos and Khamtis, migrated from Shan State of Burma towards the end of 18th century and were known as war like- peoples. Today they are enterprising and extremely progressive business group and progressive farmers and traders, who are in touch with the plains of the Assam. Siang district is the home of the Adi group considered to be one of the most progressive in the State. They are divided into two: Gallong section (Ramos, Bokar and Pailibos) and Padam- Minyong section consisting besides Padam and Minyong, Passis, Pangis, Boris, Ashings, Tangams and Shimongs. Though these communities are known for their strong democratic spirit, they also had the tradition of slavery, which still reflects at societal levels. “An important feature of many Adi villages is the dormitory, the club of the boys and men, which organizes the youth of the tribe and used for deliberations of the Kebang or tribal council” (Elwin 1964). Again, this was the region, where Noel Williamson, the British Assistant Political Officer and members of the expedition were murdered in 1911.

 Subansiri is the home of the Nyishis as well as the most agricultural enterprising and environmentally sensitive of the State’s communities, the Apatanis. In the year 1890 the first European visitor to the Apatani plateau found: “in a remote, well-watered valley lived a society of highly organized, industrious people, who had developed an extensive system of irrigated fields and, though ignorant of plough, succeeded with their hoes in raising two annual crops for themselves and their neighbours. But they had no contacts with the outside world; the Daflas prevented them going down to trade in the plains; and so they lived, fairly prosperous. Fairly happy, in complete isolation” (Elwin 1964). The Nyishis and Hill Miris are other communities of the district. A near revolution has occurred of late, when a site was selected to establish a modern township, Itanagar, for the state capital in the thinly populated foothills of Subansiri. The Nyshis rose to the occasion took full advantage of the opportunity and are on their way to being one of the most powerful communities of the state.

 Monpa and Sherdukpens are the residents of Kameng district in west. They keep large herds of cattle; graze them on the various elevations as per the season; have an economy around bovine rearing. They follow the Geylugpa (yellow hat) sect of Mahayan Buddhism. Tawang, the seat of one of the most important monasteries in the Himalayas, is located here and is about 350 years old. It is one of the living centres of Buddhist  in the world, where hundreds of monks and nuns are trained. This is the land of one of the most progressive communities of the state, who are famous farmers, trader’s as well an as good animal husband. This was also the region through which the Tibetan Dharamaguru, the Dalai Lama, descended to India in 1959 leaving behind his official abode in Lhasa in Tibet. Since then, this has also been the Himalayan battle ground between the Indian and the Chinese army in their border skirmishes.

 Arunachal Pradesh is also saddled with another problem: integration of two sets of foreign refugees; the Chakmas and Tibetans, both settled in Lohit district. About 20, 000 Chakma refugees from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and some refugees from Tibet were settled in the district way back in 1960’s. They were allotted some land to support them through cultivation. This step was taken in the period in Arunachal history, in which it was not only shocking defeat of the Indian army in NEFA, but its identity as a distinct political unit was yet to be carved; its own administration was to be established; and some political education was to be imparted to its leaders for a democratic system to function. After nearly four decades, Chakmas’ population has risen to above 60, 0000, who demand their citizenship, which is opposed by a sizeable public opinion of the State on the ground that this numerically large ethnic group will affect the fragile ethnic among the indigenous communities in the State.

 

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