(Last Updated on : 14/03/2011)
Chieftains in Kuki tribe begin with the Upa who is the senior most member of the community who is revered for the experience which he has gained all his lifetime. He is supposed to be the senior-most member of the entire tribe who is respected by all. The community of Kuki tribe largely depends on the Chieftains for running their administration. The Upa is then assisted by the Naopa who is the next in seniority but definitely younger to the Upa both in age as well as experience. The Naopa in normal course cannot take over the administration and has to seek full consent of the Upa and if the Upa allows he shall run the administration of the village with the assistance of the Council of Ministers. In spite of getting the consent of the Upa, the Naopa is entitled to perform certain formalities as well as obligation that are to go within its normal course. The administration of Kuki tribe then includes the council of Ministers form the third level within the village administration.
Chieftains in Kuki tribe are one of the perennial sources of all the customary laws which exist in the village. They are entrusted with all the rights and privileges that are institutionalised within the village community. As such the Upa and the Naopa who function as the chief of the village community are supposed to be responsible for all the social customs and functioning. It is only with their permission that the customs shall be followed in the land. Further the Institution of chieftainship which prevails in the Kuki tribe exhibit a high level of leadership which keeps the entire society together.
Chieftains in Kuki tribe are largely visible in the village structures of the Kuki tribe. The community is divided within a number of villages, each one having a chief. As the villages are the largest unit of Kuki administration, the chiefs of the villages are supposed to look after the administration of Justice, enforcement of executive function, maintenance of social practices and customary law including religious performances. Chieftain of Kuki tribe runs his administration from the office of the chief which is popularly known as the Haosa . This office shall be responsible for allotting land to the tribesmen for cultivation. It is one of the most important offices within the Kuki tribe which runs the village administration along with all the customs and functions of the land. On return the village people too are supposed to pay some return to the chief for the services which are delivered by the chief for them. This is called 'Changseo' which includes paying of some tribute after the harvest. This takes place annually.
Chieftains in Kuki tribe, along with the rights, also bear certain obligations towards the villagers. On return to the services rendered by the villagers, free of cost and the tribute paid by them as a token of loyalty, recognition, obedience and solidarity; the Haosa is supposed to protect them and their interest socially, politically and economically. It also includes the duty of the Haosa to see that the villagers are free from all external aggression and danger. Overall the office of the chieftain bears a lot of authority whbich makes him very similar Hobbes's social contract theory. The office can be regarded as the soul authority of the village. Chieftains in kuki tribe is one of the integral part of kuki culture which not only provides security to the village community but also engages into the day to day administration of the village in which the Upa is assisted by his council of ministers. Notwithstanding its defects this is one such traditional institution of the Kuki tribes which has been able to maintain the culture of the village community that has been able the challenges of modernity.
Thus chieftainship of Kuki tribe is one of the most vital social structures which form the core of village community. It not only looks after the regular administration of the village but also takes care to maintain the economical, political and religious factors of the community along with the judiciary of the land.