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A Big Blot in the Justice System of the Land

A Village Chairman Lynched to Death under the Custody of the Traditional Bodies

The uncalled incident that took place at Halang village, Ukhrul District on 10th February, 2014, where Vr. Abner, a village Chairman of Huining Ato was arrested and beaten to death by the villagers of Halang village, once again beg us to question the credibility of justice system in our society. Notwithstanding the cogent reason to arrest the deceased by the villagers of Halang, even the scorned criminals in the modern society gets equal trial to state their stands before a punitive action is being imposed upon them. However, in our society, and particularly in this village, to the disdain of the common senses, alleged accused or culprits are known to have been dragged out of their homes at the behest of the traditional village organizations, and beaten to death by mobs. It is just over a year ago, another man in this village was arrested and lynched by the mob under the custody of the youth and women organistions, for alleged bootlegging business.

It is not uncommon in our land, such unsettled land disputes and custodial competition over the territory have turned into ugly tragedy. In this case, the Halang Ato which is fighting for separate patta from Halang village, currently functioning as an autonomous administrative unit, objected to the felling and gathering of woods in their territory. Whereas, the villagers of Halang disapproves of the power exercised by the Huining Ato council, went to apprehend the Chairman and Secretary of the latter and given a thrashing which as a result led to the death of the Chairman.

In often cases of such land dispute and custodial competition over the lands, villages in the Naga country take their cases to the traditional courts. Despite decisions are delivered based upon the best traditional jurisprudent practices, owing to the lack of institutional authority to implement the verdict of traditional courts and organizations with retributive forces to prevail, in most of the cases the conflicting parties failed to abide by the verdicts. Therefore, it is no surprise disputed cases are appealed for settlement to the nationalists’ organizations, particularly, to the NSCN-IM in the Tangkhul country, with the hope that their pervasive authority in the land might give a rest to the disputes. However, as much as the verdicts of the traditional courts are not legally adopted, the rulings of the nationalists’ organizations lay no institutional sanctions in the prevailing system, not to mention their rulings are often replete with controversial propensity.

In times of Naga national movement when the denizens are shunned from redressing their problems in the Indian court which is considered as alien to the Naga customary law, the failure of justice system in the current Naga society is taking toll on the innocent lives. The Nagas are also seen torn asunder in the multiple structural-institutional systems without proper channel to seek recourse for dispensation of justice, while the Indian administrative law of the land demands one thing and the expectant desire of the Naga traditional law forces the denizens to behave otherwise. Truth be told, there are umpteenth unsettled or under-settled cases in the land of the Nagas which are accruing the magnitude to tear apart the social fabric of the society.

Despite such incommensurable justice systems, even in the mere appeal to the rational conscience that killing or execution of life under any circumstance should not be the foundation of building values of the society. The social security of the Naga society cannot be based on the fear psychosis of killing one another, as it is now. When terror dictates humans’ conscience, it perverts truth. Perpetrator of crimes, particularly that involves killing, should be condemned by every organization, and punitive action be taken immediately. However, to do that, a legal body in tandem with Naga customary law should be created, which must have sanctioned legal powers within Indian national and International justice system.

Now, coming back to the aforementioned crime at Halang village, a fall out of embittered custodial disputes over the land, which is a case sub-judice, should be taken as an instance that such unsettled cases can turn into a pool of bloody feuds. Like the Naga national movement is based on the claim to the inherent political rights of the people to decide their future on their own, new found villages and smaller villages fighting for their land patta should be given equal rights, without hinging on the unnecessary peremptory feudalistic customary rights of the village chiefs. A nation or society must be governed with the minimum windows of conflictual possibility. Otherwise, as long as there are scorned and unequal relationship among villages, rife with internal attitudes of domination and servitude, the Nagas will witness more of such tragedy in years to come.

However, pinning down the crime in focus, the perpetrators who now flagrantly got shielded in the guise of the mob, needs to be identified by sequential deconstruction of the event and hold accountable to it. At the prima facie, one understands Mr. Abner died in the custody of the traditional bodies, viz., the village council, women society and youth organization, but those leaders on whose capricious vigilantism, a precious life was exposed to the fury of the mob should be held responsible. Importantly, if the community organizations which are supposedly the vanguard of life and security becomes a threat to the dispensation of justice, must not the Nagas question what good is there for these organizations in the world of competing equality, and thriving rights and freedom of one and all?

Franky Varah

(The Writer is a Ph.D Scholar, Centre for Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi)

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