Peace Education: Traditional methods of conflict resolution in the tribal society of Manipur - By: P. Thanglianlal

Peace Education: Traditional methods of conflict resolution in the tribal society of Manipur

                                                                                                                               P. Thanglianlal

Research Scholar

Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong

Key words:

Peace Education:Is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills and behaviours to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment.

Traditional Method: Following or belonging to the customs or ways of behaving that have continued in a group of people or society for a long time without changing. The villagers retain a strong attachment to their traditional values/customs/beliefs. The handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another.

Conflict Resolution: Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to disagreement among them. The disagreement may be personal, financial, political, or emotional. When the disputes arise, often the best course of action is negotiation to resolve the disagreement.


In order to promote human value in human society, in beginning must starts from individual/self. To put non-violence into practice we need will power (Inner disarmament/inner peace). A peace education is not really about politics. It is about something deeper than politics; about the assumption and presupposition that guide our lives. Peace studies began after the catastrophe that was World War II... but really “took off” during the cold world as the United State and the Soviet Union both adopted a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Agreed to destroy anytime and attack back. And later there are numerous United Nations declarations on the importance of peace education.

Tribal society

The tribal community scattered in all the hills areas of Manipur and the total population of tribal were 11, 67, 422 persons according to 2011 census. They live in the villages and firmly uphold the doctrine that one never abandons one’s village, home and clan. The village are generally thickly populated and are situated on the top of the hills enclosed with thick forest. The village has been the highest political, social, economic and religious unit and the main sources of spiritual, social and cultural bonding among the people. The hereditary village chief and his clan-based village council is the highest decision making body in the village who take the responsibility of looking after the welfare of the villager. The chief is not only the head of the village but also acts as the head priest who enjoys many right and privileges.

The administration of the legal matters in the Traditional tribal society is done at the local level through the village council. The administration of justice in the traditional tribal society was strictly based on customary laws. However, if the cases cannot be settled down by the village council, it is settled through ordeals which are claiming to be the last judgement by swearing in the name of heaven and earth. What is important in this form of judgement is the prominent role that nature plays in human decision. It tells us that nature plays a great role in the faith and trust of the tribal as the enforcer of law. They took oath in the name of heaven, earth, sun and moon which relate to natural things. Traditional tribal did not have written laws and regulations to judge different cases of litigation. One of the common judgements practised by the tribal was the immersion in water. In this, the one who can stay longer inside the water is considered innocent and the other the offender.

Until the arrival of modern education and institutions in the tribal region, the economic, social, cultural and religious activities would revolve around nature and wereclosely intertwined with their livelihood and culture. In the absence of modern day calendar, traditional tribal would observe the sun and the shadow that is cast would indicate the time. Months are counted in relation to the shape of the moon and it is named accordingly in relation to their agriculture activities and change of natural vegetation. Seasons are calculated in terms of climatic changes and the beginning of one agriculture operation till the next is considered a year. Even through the sound of birds they could understand the changes of seasons. For instance, they could understand from the coming of migratory bird cuckoo, that spring has come and they could also learn from the crowing of wild hen that summer has come.

Tribal conflicts

In the tribal society social conflict is found wherever individuals or groups engage themselves in antagonistic or hostile relationships. Conflict can arise because of such reasons as differences, group interests and aims. It can take different forms like quarrels and disputes, feuds and armed fights. It is generally recognised that social conflicts is destructive in nature. Therefore, whenever a conflict emerges, efforts are made to resolve it before it does irreparable damage.

It is worth noting here that in tribal societies governed by the traditional law, conflict resolution is within the context of a restoration and reparative system rather than an adversarial and punitive system. In criminal case the goal is to heal and restore the victim’s well-being and to help the offender to save face and to regain dignity. In a civil case, the parties involved are helped to solve the dispute in a way that there are no losers, but all are winners. (Win-win method). The ultimate aim is to restore personal and communal harmony.

In situations of conflicts with other communities, some community have avoided a confrontational approach because their leaders were concerned about the possible loss of life among their followers. They were concerned about the safety and welfare of their people. Though some other community leaders did not mind taking up arms in order to protect their interests, their ultimate objective was to ensure the safety and well being of the people. Wherever possible, inter-tribal conflicts were resolved through negotiations and compromises so that peaceful relations could be restored.

In the case of internal conflicts, the tribal community adopted very similar, if not identical, mechanism, methods and procedures. The elder played a leading role. The parties involved were given ample opportunities to express their grievances and present their case. Witnesses were examined and cross examined. In the extreme case when evidence was not very clear, supernatural powers were invoked through oaths. The final verdict was given by the elders in such a way that the guilty were punished, injustices were undone and victims were suitably compensated. The ultimate aim was to ensure harmonious living within the community.

Traditional methods of conflict resolution

Ø  In the traditional system, the council of the elders also played a decisive role in inter-village and even inter tribal disputes and conflicts. The assumption was that the elders were knowledgeable, wise and impartial and that they were concerned about the common good and welfare of all.

Ø  All the parties involved in a dispute were given an opportunity to explain the case. Not responding to the summons issued by the council of elders was treated as contempt of the council and was dealt with by imposing  fines.

Ø  In the deciding case, the council of the elders examined the evidence carefully. They also examined carefully the party involved. But when the evidence was inconclusive the ritual of oath taking was adopted.

Ø  The guilty party was required to undo the damage or by making a restitution by paying the price of the object. Further, the guilty were made to pay a fine in cash or kind. Fines were realised without any consideration shown to the persons concerned.

Ø  The traditions of the village and local customary laws were followed in the entire process. These are closely bound up with the traditional religion. Belief in spirits, especially the fear of evil as punishment for wrong doings, was the basis of such traditions.

Ø  All the disputes, including inter-village and inter tribal ones, were seen as harmful to the orderly life and smooth functioning of the community. Therefore, efforts were made to find solution at the level where it first occurred. Family disputes were sought to be solved at the family level, and only when a solution was not found, the higher levels like the clan and the village were involved. The aim was to restore harmony so that community life could continue. 

Changes in the traditional methods

While traditional processes continue to functions, there is a growing tendency to approach the so called modern systems like the courts dispensing justice under the legal system. The two factors that brought changes are conversion to Christianity and the second is the process of modernisation. One of the important consequences of the conversion to Christianity is the weakening of the belief in spirits and the giving up of practices considered superstitious. In general, the fear of the spirits has greatly decreased. Similarly the belief that offending the spirits leads to all types of evil has become considerably weak. Thus religious foundation of the traditional methods has become weak. 

Modernisation has affected the tribal society in various ways. Modern ideas are replacing traditional ones, and new practices have begun to emerge. Simultaneously, along with a weakening of the community feeling, there is a rise in individualism. The community is not seen as important if an individual can manage by himself or herself. Thus communitarian dimension of the traditional practices and the respect for the elders have become weak. A further development is the introduction of the new legal system and the administration of justice.

Looking toward the future

Though the traditional process and institutions of conflict resolution have become weak, the ideology behind them is still relevant. This ideology is based on the primacy of the community and on the system of religious beliefs in the activity of the spirits in the world of human beings. Further, traditional methods point out how willingness to make compromises by the parties in conflict, and their readiness to abide by the common decisions can lead to solutions acceptable to all. This can result in lasting harmony and peace based on mutual respect and justice in this troubled land which is the home of so many tribal communities.

Case study (Conflict based on land)

Conflict based on land and natural resources are more common than any other type of conflicts. In a village, there was a dispute between two persons over the boundary of their land. After many attempts to solve the dispute, both of them approach the higher authority (Village Council/Gaon Buras) court. The matter was considered by the court and both the claimants were called for questioning. After investigating the matter, the court members visited the area and found that the boundary makers were still intact. The boundary of their land was marked by stones putting in different directions. This pattern of putting stone as boundary markers was a practice found from the ancient time.  After inspecting the boundary markers of the stones, one of the disputants was found guilty of encroaching on the land of the other. The guilty was fine and was further warned that if the same matter happened again, the court will impose a fine of more amounts.



Few steps how to resolved a conflict:

Do we need a peace maker in our world today?

One of the most important life skill you have learn in life, you must learn this, conflict resolution or how to resolve a conflict. You know conflict messes your life. Some conflict last of a week, a month and a year and years. There are international war, regional conflicts, conflict between race, conflict in religion, conflict  in political party, conflict among rich and poor, between man and women, educated and uneducated and so on.  Creating peace is a part of being kind. In order to have a nicer society, we need to promote peace among every one. Each and every one is imperfect, and we are all different and have conflict almost every day in our life. This is an important skill you have to use how to resolve a conflict at work, marriage; you get to know how to resolve a conflict with your family, with friends in the community, at church in small group or everywhere. Here the problem is nobody taught us how to do it. Nobody certainly you don’t learn it from your parents and you never learn in the school, class how to resolve a conflict.



Information gathering

The way you determine the fact, the option for changes and the timing of pressure for raising the issue is a collective process.



It is the process of developing articulate leaders, who are knowledgeable about the issues. It is directed toward the community through all forms of media about the real issues and human consequences of an unjust situation.


Personal Commitment

It means looking at your internal and external involvement in the nonviolent campaign and preparing  yourself for long-term as well as short-term action.



It is the art of bringing together your views and those of your opponent to arrives at a just conclusion or clarify the unresolved issues. At which point, the conflict if formalised.


Reference and reading material

Bison, H. (1988). Managing Conflict. Newbury Park, MA: Sage Publications.

Das, J.N. (1987). A study of the Administration of Justice and the Tribals and Races of the North-Eastern Region. Guwahati: Law Research Institute, Gauhati High Court.

Jeyaseelan, Lazar. (2011). Conflict Mapping and Peace processes in North East India. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre.

Serto, Leban (2011).  Teaching for Peace and peace curriculum in Manipur. Guwahati: NESRC.

Danda, A.K. (1991). Ethnicity in India – Tribal studies of India Series T144. New Delhi; Mital Publications.

Fisher, Ronald J. (1997). Interactive conflict resolution. Syracuse University press.

Susan Fountain (1999). Peace Education in UNICEF. New York

Ansari, S.A. (1991). Manipur-Tribal Demography and Socio-Economic Development. Delhi: Daya Publishing House

Other sources