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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Santhal Governance System (Manjhi Regime)- JPSC/JSSC

Santhal Governance System (Manjhi Regime)

The Santhals (Munda ethnic group) are one of the majority tribes of India, a systematic farming tribe. Santhals have the highest tribal population in Jharkhand and are also found in the States of Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Odisha, West Bengal. They are the largest ethnic minority in northern Bangladesh's Rajshahi Divison and Rangpur Division. They have a sizeable population in Nepal & Bhutan. The Santhals speak Santhali.


Santhal Governance System (Manjhi Regime)

Santhal is most likely derived from a Bengali exonym. The term refers to inhabitants of Saont, now in the Midnapore region of West Bengal, the traditional homeland of the Santhals. Their ethnonym is Hor Hopon (sons of mankind).  According to Santhals' folklore, they came from Hihiri, which scholars have identified as Ahuri in the Hazaribagh district. From there, they claimed, they were pushed onto Chota Nagpur, then to Jhalda, Patkum, and finally Soant, where they settled for good. Colonial scholar, Col. Dalton claimed in Chai there was a fort formerly occupied by a Santhal Raja who was forced to flee when the Delhi Sultanate invaded the territory.


In the latter half of the 18th century, the Santhals entered the historical record when recorded as "Soontars". Coming from there, there were the people of the Pahadia community who were native to Santhal Pargana. When the British entered in 1765 AD, the Pahadia refused to accept subjugation. Failure to control the freedom-loving Pahadia tribe led to a clash between the Santhals and the Pahadia. In 1832-22, the Damin-e-Koh zone was established by demarcating 1338 sq. m. This terrain was allocated to the Pahadia tribe and the terrain spread over it reserved for settlement of the Santhals. 


After Independence, the Santhals were made one of the Scheduled Tribes. After Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the Santhal Pargana was made a separate division of the state. These Santhals have also agitated for recognition of their traditions in the census as a separate religion, Sarna Dharam, for which Jharkhand Assembly passed a resolution in 2020. Many still face poverty & exploitation, theft of their lands is common. Though spread out over a large area, Santhal tribes now considered Santhal Pargana as their cultural homeland.


Manjhi Regime:

The Santhals have obtained the Manjhi System from the Sauria-Pahadia tribe. Sauria's political life has been very democratic. There is a Panchayat in each Santhal village. The village is managed & headed by

  • Manjhi, who is the Head & also Worshipper of the village. He has administrative and judicial powers. He convenes the Gram sabha to settle the quarrels of the village, collects rent, and gives permission to establish a marriage relationship. 

  • Manjhi has an assistant, which is called 'Jogmanjhi'. Jogmanjhi keeps an eye on the people of the society for their conduct, as well as resolves marital problems. On the occasion of birth and marriage, his advice is important. In absence of Manjhi, his work is considered 'authentic'. 

  • The village consists of 'Godait' as a messenger, who informs the villagers of the gram sabha or festivals, asks them to gather at one place, and obeys and gets the command of the Manjhi.


  • Manjhi handles all the village's issues except through a serious crime like murder which is handled through Gram Panchayat.

  • In the decision of the quarrel, there are some senior gentlemen for discussion, where are called 'Bhogdo Praja'.

  • Crimes are punished whether financial or physical or both. Once the charges of sexual offenses are proven, the guilty is first submitted to prove in front of the wife and if the accused refuses, he is severe punishment is the punishment of 'Bithlaha' or (social benevolence). In this, a person is completely excommunicated, humiliated, despised, and removed from the village society.

  • Jogmanjhi is informed first when a virgin girl is pregnant and then a Panchayat meeting is held. If the girl identifies the name of the father of the illegitimate child and the charge is proved, then the culprit has to adopt the girl. If the father's name or identity is not disclosed by the girl, the girl's family has to offer rice, pulses, khassi, etc. for the rituals and banqueting as a punishment to remove the blame and sanctify the village. When a child is born, it is named after the Jogmanjhi of that village.

  • In the village panchayat, real estate matters, divorce, mutual disputes, etc. are resolved. If someone is killed then government intervention is necessary. 

  • Manjhi of 5-8 villages is called 'Deshmanjhi'. The cases which are not resolved, are sent to Deshmanjhi for further decision.

  • A 'Pargana' consisting of 15-20 villages is formed, which is an intramural organization. Its head is called 'Parganat'. Disputes between various villages are settled by this panchayat. 'Deshmanjhi or Manjhi', who cannot resolve the matter, sends it to Parganat. Parganat also has the right to do Bithlaha. Deshmanjhi is helpful to Parganat. 

Now the Government Panchayat has been established, due to which the power of traditional panchayats has decreased, yet both are working together. Stil, Pargant deals with social, marital, and other problems of all the villages in their area.

When a woman is found guilty of sexual relations with a companion male or non-Santhal, she is sentenced to 'Bithlaha'. There is also a provision to abolish the sentence of 'Bithlaha'. The guilty have to offer a large caste feast while apologizing. Now, the Bithlaha punishment is often given for nil. The administration's intervention has also started in this. The learning of following the oral constitution, rules, and bye-laws in collective and family life is found from childhood. Neglect and violation are punished by the social panchayat. Santhals recognize collective life.


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