ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kuki Chieftainship in Democratic India

Kukis from North East India continue to practise a traditional chieftainship system, in sharp contrast to the democratic systems in the rest of the country. This has resulted in the impairment of democracy and development in Kuki areas. There is a need to rethink the relationship between the two systems and their prospects within the scope of India’s democracy.

The Kukis live in Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and Tripura. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 categorised them under the generic nomenclature “Any Kuki Tribes.” In Manipur they live in all the five hill districts and in certain areas in the Imphal Valley. They constitute the second largest population in Manipur. In Nagaland, they are found living in the three districts, namely, Kohima, Dimapur and Phek. Some live in Meghalaya. In Tripura they are known by different names. In Assam they live in Karbi Anglong, N C Hills (now Dima Hasao), Kachar, and other parts.

Generally, Kuki tribes continue to harbour a certain nostalgia for inherited traditional governance. Chieftainship is considered inalienable for the 22 tribes that constitute the Kukis. In Mizoram the system was abolished by the Assam–Lushai District (Acquisition of Chief’s Rights) Act, 1954. Tripura had replaced it with the panchayat system functioning under the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. Chieftainship has been functioning among the Kukis despite the introduction of the representative system. The two systems are considered to be in opposition to each other. Their coexistence, however, had an impact on certain aspects of chieftainship.

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