Revisiting the Boi System of Lushai Hills

By Lalhrilmoi Hrangchal

This paper examines the boi system of Lushai Hills during the colonial period. It argues that bois are neither ‘slaves’ nor ordinary ‘paupers’, they are but bois after all. Despite a polemic debate on the subject it remains lively and vibrant. This
paper intend to contribute not only in terms of the on-going debate but also in providing some original materials to substantiate the argument of the boi system that one finds in the Lushai Hills before and during the colonial period, which was neither slavery nor a charitable institution but bois. Overall, it argues that boi system is certainly one form of servitude, and substantially, it is neither a charitable institution nor slavery but contains the elements of both. The debate continues to centre on the issue of legal slavery which have been initially projected by the Christian missionaries. The colonial state defended the system in the name of preserving tribal ‘customs’ but deep into the controversy lies the colonial state vested interests in preserving a class of workforce. It divorced the boi system with that of slavery merely to protect their own interest although it recognised that the system was inhuman from the perspective of the ‘civilised’ society they purportedly proclaimed to introduce in the Lushai Hills.

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