Traditional governance in transition among the Yimchunger Nagas of Northeast India
The Yimchunger Nagas are among the seventeen ‘official tribes' of Nagaland state in India, and largely inhabit the remote Tuensang and Kiphire districts bordering Myanmar. Yimchunger village governance, as with many of their Naga neighbours, has been noted for its sophistication despite a long historical association with inter-village raids and head-taking practices. Village elders - or Kiulongthsürü -, have traditionally performed what might constitute the legislative, executive and judicial functions of administration. The village, as the prime political entity in relation to its neighbours, is a unit mediated through patri clan membership, genealogies and institutions. The close-knit administrative structure, underpinned by unwritten clan laws, contributes to community stability, and these older systems remain largely in place and active. Modernising processes, as in minority societies across Asia, have introduced significant change, initially under the aegis of British 'non-interference', and subsequently under the policies of the Indian state. More recently, initiatives such as the Nagaland Communitisation Act of 2002, have sought to incentivise local governance structures to accommodate development goals by transferring ownership and management of education, health, and infrastructure responsibilities to village committees. This essay serves as a brief overview of Yimchunger social polity, and addresses these shifts in brief, with attention to continuities and discontinuities in traditional practices.
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