When Jaweplu Chai takes charge as the first woman judge in Arunachal Pradesh next month, she would be taking along her community’s centuries of wisdom to the judicial platform.
Referring disputes to the Kebangs (traditional village councils) has been an age-old practice not just in her Mishmi community, but across tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.
Chai, who was also the first woman lawyer from her Mishmi community – with barely 30,000-population – has topped this year’s Grade I Arunachal Pradesh Judicial Service (APJS).
She is currently undergoing training in Guwahati along with fellow officers from other Northeastern states.
After training, she would be joining as the additional district and sessions judge at Basar in West Siang district.
“At the Kebang, no party is a loser, there is ‘give and take’ and at the end of the discussions, there is no enmity, which ensures the issue is not raised again. This is what modern judiciary describes as ‘alternative dispute resolution’ (ADR) mechanism and encouraged as it helps in bringing down pendency of cases,” Chai, 40, says.
Her story is an inspiration for the small Mishmi community, perceived as one of the backward communities in Arunachal Pradesh.
Her father was a political assistant (an honorary post with the government) and used to interact with several eminent people.
“My mother accompanied him, all decked up in fine jewellery. During interactions with senior administration officers and their wives, she realised, it is the education – and not jewellery – that gives identity to a person.”
After her father’s death, the struggle continued fighting adverse conditions. When she graduated from NEHU, Shillong, Chai wanted to start some business “just like everybody else.”
An Assamese friend lashed at her for going after money and an officer, who was not from Arunachal Pradesh, scolded her.
“He told me there are barely any educated people in Mishmi community. I am bright, so why am I not studying further?”
Today, she is glad she listened and studied to be a lawyer.