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Thursday, March 31, 2011


As regards the history of the Garos, practically nothing is known. They are no doubt still very primitive. Till recently they were regarded as nothing more than cruel, blood-thirsty savages, this notoriety having been gained by them as a result of frequent and numerous raids carried out by them on the people of the neighbouring plains districts. On the occasion of each such raid a number of people were killed and their heads carried off as trophies, head- hunting having been with them as with the Nagas, their most favourite pastime. Apart from this killing for sheer fun, human victims were required for sacrificial purposes also. The sacrifices were made to propitiate the gods after a fateful event such as the death of nokma (the head of a village or a clan). Similar human sacrifices were performed by the Jaintias of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District. The stone on which the victims were decapitated can still be seen on the bank of the Kopili river (See the Picture below)

Head-hunting was effectively stopped in the Garo Hills as late as 1876 only. in that year not less than two hundred skulls were surrendered by the Garos to the Deputy Commissioner or in his camp at a place called Rangrengiri, a few miles from Tura, the district headquarters of the Garo Hills District. It was due mainly to these depredations that the British, whose policy till then was to leave the hill-tribes alone (because of absence of potentialities of exploitation of resources in these barren areas), were compelled to occupy the land of the Garos physically in 1872, along with the effective extension of their administration to the rest of Assam. Prior to this, Goalpara, including Garo Hills, but excluding Eastern Duars, was administered from Rangpur in Bengal and as such formed a part of the province of Bengal, which by the Mughal Emperor's farman of the 12th August 1765, was transferred to the East India Company. It became a part of Assam in 1874, when Assam was constituted into a separate Chief Commissioner's province.
Since then, till shortly after independence, when tribal District Councils were established, the Garo Hills District was administered by a Deputy Commissioner, who was more or less the final authority in all matters, judicial and executive. He was, however, only some kind of an overlord. The villagers themselves managed their affairs with the help of village elders. A group of villages elects a Laskar for life and he functions as a magistrate for the purpose of petty cases (serious crimes are rare). Real power is, however, exercised not by the Laskars but by the heads of clans called Nokmas who elect the Laskars. This system worked democratically and efficiently; but with the establishment of the District Councils authority is gradually shifting from the villages to the centralised headquarters at Tura. It is doubtful if this is proving beneficial for the common man.

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