The Garo Code of Law By Fr. Giulio Costa
The Garo Code of laws can be summed up in three words. These threewords are – Asimalja, Dakmalja and Nima. According to the legendary story, Asi was a woman and Malja was her husband.
The Garo Customary laws can be summed up in three words. These three words are – Asimalja, Dakmalja and Nima.
Asimalja : This word can neither be defined nor translated literally. According to the legendary story, Asi was a woman and Malja was her husband. They committed a grievous crime and subsequently, both met with violent death. The word is so powerful that merely to pronounce it is enough to restrain any Garo from committing any wrong or themselves to fall into temptation. The activities which fall within the scope of Asimalja are:
1. Failure to observe the days of general purification or the ceremonies which regulate such functions.
2. To marry within the forbidden degrees of relationship-consanguinity.
3. To marry within the forbidden degree of affinity. An ordinary son-in-law, i.e. who does not marry the heiress, may not marry his mother-in-law, nor his wife’s elder sister-in-law, nor the widow of his younger brother. The woman, on the other hand, cannot marry the widower of her younger sister.
4. To cut down the jungle or grove, Bamboo and wood.
5. To swear falsely touching the head of one child is another asimalja or sin.
Dakmalja : A literal translation of the word would be, “Thou shalt not do it”. It embodies the Garo code of laws, laws which we would call moral, civil, criminal, and penal.
▪ The moral laws: The activities which fall within the scope of moral laws are:
1. Amita or Adultery
2. MONGA-SALA; or seeking to seduce/Harassment: By this, the Garos mean all those acts, words and allurements which they use to tempt and seduce a woman.
3. SIKDRAA or to commit immoral act when a girl is in helpless position.
4. ALSALA or baiting by parents
▪ The criminal laws: This part specifically provides the activities which are considered by the Garos as an offense. The activities which fall within the scope of penal laws are:
1. CHONNIKANI or Contempt: This occurs when out of envy one speaks mockingly of another’s physical or intellectual defect, of his financial position, or manner of acting. Compensation is provided.
2. JEGRIKA SAIA or Wrangling, reproach: one must not use offensive words, for this might entitle the offended party to compensation if the case is brought up in a court. Not even a husband may offend against the law of good behavior in dealing with his wife; otherwise, she or her relative may pull him to court.
3. ETALMIKANI or to pull one’s leg : If a man pulls other man’s leg in his absence and if the latter can prove with witnesses that he has actually uttered words of mockery at his absence.
4. KA ‘DINGSTEKANI or ridicule.
5. DOKGRIKANI or Beatings: it is a serious issue in Garos.
6. KA’ DO NA or intend to kill.
7. DENA NI or Murder: There are legal or llegal homicides in thisrespect.8. Robbery.