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Malabar Manual Vol 2
William Logan

By V. Chappu Menon, B.A.

Position and Extent.—The Laccadives {Laksha Dwipa — "The hundred thousand islands,’’ also called the Divi or Amindivi Islands) consist of a group of islands off the Malabar Coast lying between 8° and 12° N. lat. and between 72° and 74° E. long. The northern portion of the group is attached to the Collectorate of South Canara, and the southern portion, which is otherwise known as the Cannanore Islands, is attached to the Malabar district. The approximate area, population, and other particulars regarding the latter group are given below :—

All the dependent islets are uninhabited, with the exception of Viringilli, which is used occasionally as a hospital for the small-pox patients of Minicoy.

Physical Aspects.—The topographical features of all the islands are very simple and almost identical. Each is contained within a coral reef stretching in a general direction from north to south and lies just within the eastern side of the reef, whilst on the western side a more or less extensive lagoon intervenes between the shore and the reef.

Androth is, however, an exception to this rule, in that it has no lagoon worthy of the name and lies east and west instead of north and south. Outside the reef on one side the sea deepens abruptly beyond the reach of ordinary sounding tackle (on the east side, save in the case of Androth where it is on the south), and on the other the coral shoal slopes gradually away for some distance till a depth of about 20 fathoms is attained, when ordinary soundings again suddenly cease and reveal the existence of a stupendous submarine precipice.

The water in the lagoon is generally so still that in the worst weather coir or coconut fibre may be soaked without danger of being washed away.

The surface of the islands is almost flat, the small inequalities that exist being either of artificial origin as in Androth and Kalpeni, or in some few instances of the nature of sand dunes. The elevation is nowhere more than a few feet above the level of the sea. The crescent-shaped form of the body of the island is due to the more perfect development of the eastern and protected side of the coral formation. The same feature characterises all these shoals and leads to the theory1 that they rose to the surface in the form of circular or oval shallow basins, and that, under the protection of the shoal, the eastern rim gradually developed itself towards the centre and formed an island.

NOTEs.1—Mr. Darwin’s theory that the coral insect by its ceaseless labours slowly formed the land as the island mountain tops as slowly sank in the ocean, is the one that best fits all the known facts. The coral insect, it seems, cannot work at greater depths than between 20 to 30 fathoms. —W.L. END OF NOTEs

This theory is strengthened by the fact that on some of the islands this gradual increase towards the lagoon is still going on. The receding tide leaves the outer edge of the reef nearly dry, and the tide water passes out of the lagoon by two or three breaches in the outer rim, which are sufficiently large to admit the light native craft into the natural harbour formed by the lagoon and varying in depth from a few inches to several fathoms at low tide.

Soil and Products.—The soil is generally poor, consisting solely of white coral sand and extending for the most part to a depth of only a few feet, at which depth a sub-stratum of coral limestone is met with. In most of the islands also there are spots where the soil is almost entirely composed of loose coral stones. Tlie islands are covered with vegetation, the luxuriance of which under such unfavourable circumstances is apparently due to the favourable climatic influences of their insular situation and to the fact that the coral free stone substratum underlying the islands is porous. In all the islands fresh water is to be found at a depth varying from 5 to 8 feet, but it is affected by the tide, rises and falls several inches, and is not as a rule very wholesome. The chief products are coconuts, limes, which grow luxuriantly in favourable situations, bread-fruit, dry grains and vegetables—the latter two only to a very limited extent.

There are cattle and goats in some, and fowls in all, of the islands. Rats are unfortunately numerous, and prove very destructive to the coconut plantations. Turtles, both of the green and of the tortoise shell-bearing species, are common, particularly the former, and fish, in great variety and of most astonishingly bright colours, are abundant. The sea slug (holothuria), which passes its time in taking in and discharging large quantities of sand, is also plentiful. Shell fish too are abundant, particularly the cowry, and conch shells are not uncommon.

In birds, the islands are singularly defective. The golden plover, the whimbrel, and one or two varieties of cranes visit the islands during their migrations, and owls have been imported to slay the rats.

People.—The people belong, without exception, to the Muhammadan faith, but they are organised after the Hindu fashion into three simple classes or castes-

(1) Kamavar (doers, agents), consisting of the families of principal people who monopolise the boat-owning.

(2) Malumis subdivided into—

(a) Malumis proper (pilots or sailors), and

(6) Urukars (boat people), employed formerly as common sailors, but now in various avocations, and

(3) Melacheris (climbers), who are the tree-climbers and toddy-drawers and universally dependants of the higher classes.

Notwithstanding their form of religion, monogamy is universal, and the women appear in public freely with their heads uncovered, and in Minicoy take the lead1 in almost everything, except navigation. Their language is Malayalam, which is usually written in the Arabic character, except in Minicoy where Mahl2 with a mixture of corrupt Malayalam is spoken. The inhabitants, more especially those of Minicoy, are bold seamen and expert boat-builders. The condition of the various classes and their ordinary avocations are described in the separate notices of the islands.

NOTEs: 1. Conf. Vol I, p. 287.

2. Conf., Appendix XI. END OF NOTEs

History of the islands.—The ancient history of the islands is involved in obscurity. Tradition says that the principal islands were, settled about 1,000 years ago by people from the coast. The first occupation is attributed to an accident, but considerable voluntary immigration also appears to have taken place. The accident referred to was as follows :—

"A tradition is preserved among them that their forefathers formed part of an expedition from Malayala, which set out for Mecca in search3 of their apostate King, Cheraman Perumal, and was wrecked on these islands. The inhabitants certainly remained Hindus long after their first settlement and were probably converted to Islam not more than 250 or 300 years1 back. They retain some of the general distinctions of caste as well as the law of succession in the female line with certain local modifications. This law is still adhered to on the island of Amindivi, where distinctions of caste and a more numerous population have been obstacles to the gradual change by which the custom of regular parental descent is supplanting the local law of Malabar on the islands of Kadamat, Kiltan and Chetlat of the Canara portion of the group ; in the southern islands, still under native management, the old custom is more rigidly observed." - (Robinson)

NOTEs: 3. Conf. Vol I, p. 241.

1. Note - The islanders probably became Muhammadans at a somewhat earlier period than this. The change of faith was probably contemporaneous with the rise of the Mapilla house of Cannanore (conf., Vol. I., p. 360 foot-note). END OF NOTEs

Some of the principal inhabitants claim descent from Nayars and even the Nambutiris of Malabar. The Melacheris are apparently the descendants of Tiyyars and Mukkuvars (fishermen) of the coast. The early administration of the islands appears to have been of a purely patriarchal type, conducted by a Mundyal, Mudutal or chief inhabitant, and the heads of the principal families. It continued till nearly the sixteenth century, and in no way differed from that prevailing on the mainland.

Society was organised by castes having hereditary functions to perform in the body politic, and indeed the archaic form of organisation appears to have been better maintained in these isolated islands than on the mainland. The land in particular appears to have formed a portion of the common stock of the community—and, at the present time even, the idea of ownership of the soil has very imperfectly taken hold of the minds of these islanders.

Minicoy, though the population is Mahl, is no exception to this rule, and so little has the idea of property in the soil taken root, that it is customary even now for a man to plant a coconut tree in his neighbour’s backyard if his neighbour neglects this duty and if space is available. The trees growing on the soil are, however, strictly considered to be private property, and the islanders have marks which enable them to distinguish one man’s trees from those of another.

The islanders embraced Muhammadanism at some period subsequent to the thirteenth century, owing, as is supposed, to the preaching of Mumba Mulyaka, an Arab teacher who first appeared in the island of Ameni. He met with opposition at the outset, which was, however, overcome by his demonstration of miracles and supernatural powers. Androth, which was the scene of his first success, contains his grave and shrine and has always been looked upon as a holy island. The islanders were probably always more or less dependent on the princes of the Kolattiri family and the admirals of their fleets, the progenitors of the Mappilla house2 of Cannanore.

NOTEs: 2. Conf., foot-note, Vol, I. p. 360. END OF NOTEs

The Portuguese made a settlement on the island of Ameni, but were shortly afterwards (about A.D. 1545) exterminated by poison owing to the intrigues of the Kolattiri princes. About 1550, the Kolattiri Raja, who no doubt found the islands to be, after the advent of the Portuguese, an irksome possession, conferred them, it is said in Jagir, with the title of Ali Raja (Raja of the deep or sea), on the head of the Cannanore family, the stipulated peishcush being either 6,000 or 12,000 fanams.

It is said that this tribute continued to be paid, but probably with more or less irregularity as the fortunes of the two houses waxed or waned, by the house of Cannanore to the Kolattiri princes till the middle of the eighteenth century. The Bednur invasion and subsequently that of Hyder Ali led to the dismemberment of the Kolattiri kingdom and to the independence of the Cannanore house, who retained the exclusive possession of the islands as allies of Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan.

The island of Minicoy appears to have been a more recent acquisition by the Cannanore family from the Sultan of the Maldives and the people probably never acknowledged fealty to the Kolattiri princes.

The islanders state that it was surrendered by them to the Cannanore house on condition of protection being afforded to them against the Kottakkal1 Kunyali Marakkars, the famous Malayali pirates, who used to harry the island periodically.

NOTEs: 1. Conf., Vol. I, p. 12 and p. 332 foot-note. END OF NOTEs

In 1786 the inhabitants of the group attached to the South Canara district revolted, in consequence of the rigorous enforcement of the coir monopoly, and transferred their allegiance from the Cannanore house to Tippu Sultan. In 1799, when Canara fell to the East India Company, these islands, which had been attached by Tippu Sultan to his Kacheri of Mangalore, were not restored to the Bibi of Cannanore, but a remission of 1,500 pagodas, equivalent to Rs. 5,250, was conceded instead in 1822. The Cannanore islands became at the disposal of the Company by the storming of Cannanore towards the end of 1791, and were further ceded with Tippu’s entire dependencies in Malabar by the Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792.

This southern or Malabar group of islands, along with Cannanore itself, are still held by the Cannanore family at a peisheush of Rs. 15,000 (less the remission above mentioned), alleged to be one-half of the profits derived from the trade with the islands and from the lands at Cannanore—a tribute which, though adopted only provisionally at the time of the first settlement, has remained unaltered to the present time. The Malabar islands have, in recent years, been twice sequestrated for arrears of revenue, and at the present time are under the direct management of the Collector of Malabar.

Fiscal administration.—The sources of the revenue derived from the islands during their administration by the raja comprised —

(1) The monopolies of coir, coconuts, cowries, tortoise-shell, holothuria, and ambergris.

(2) Confiscations, escheats, naziranas, pilot customs, and fines for criminal offences and for evasions of fiscal restrictions.

Besides these, there were several other cesses levied by Mukhyastans, the Pandaram or fiscal agents of the raja and the kazi, in matters falling within their respective provinces. But these, which were for the most part discretionary and unauthorised, have been given up or discontinued. The only monopolies now recognised are those of coir, cowries, tortoise-shell, holothuria, and ambergris. The two last named have almost died out, and yield no revenue to the Pandaram exchequer.

Coir monopoly.—By far the most important item of revenue is the monopoly of island coir. The earliest form in which this assessment was collected was by the exaction of a tithe of the produce on exportation from the islands as well as by the collection of a tithe of rice brought in exchange. For two centuries this, with certain royalties, constituted the whole revenue of the group. In 1765 the right of purchase of coir by the Pandaram was first introduced, when the market value of that article was 60 to 70 rupees per candy, and the price to be paid by the Pandaram was fixed at Rs. 30 per candy payable in rice at a fixed rate of Rs. 2¼ per muda, supposed to contain 50 Calicut seers, whilst the average price of rice was Rs. 1—12—0 per muda.

The tithe duty on coir was transferred to Cannanore and charged as an import duty ; the tithe duty on rice imported into the islands was also retained. From these sources the profits were for a time enormous, and this system was pursued until 1826.

In 1827 the price of coir suddenly fell from Rs. 60 to Rs. 20 or less, but considering the profits derived from the coir monopoly for so many years previously, the Government held with regard to their Canara islands that they could not fairly call on the islanders to share in the loss by low prices, and no change whatever took place in the Government islands. In the Cannanore islands, on the other hand, the nominal price payable to the islanders was reduced from Rs. 30 to Rs. 22 subject to the same deductions as before (viz., 10 per cent, import duty on coir, 10 per cent, export duty on rice and 1 per cent, on account of sundry expenses), and to further aggravate the evil, the commutation price of Rs. 2¼ per muda of rice was maintained, notwithstanding the fact that the market price at that time was only Rs. 1½.

In 1832 a further reduction was made in the rate of payment for coir which was fixed, irrespective of the market or any other money rates, at 5¾ mudas of rice for a candy of coir subject to the usual deductions of 21 per cent. The price obtained by the islanders for their coir thus dwindled down to about Rs. 6-6-0 per candy. It was alleged by some of the islanders, who represented their grievances to Government, that, besides the starvation rate allowed to them on their coir, they were subjected to further and considerable hardships and losses, because -

(a) Their coir was dried1 again and beaten in bundles at Cannanore with a view to reduce its weight.

(b) Deductions were made on account of old debts which were never proved to their satisfaction.

(c) The raja’s agents exacted presents.

(d) There was considerable delay in settling the accounts and allowing the vessels to return to the islands.

NOTEs: The islanders, as recent experience shows, sometimes damp their coir to give it more weight. The temptation to do this must have been irresistible, when their produce was being paid for at a starvation rate. END OF NOTEs

All these charges were of course denied by the raja and his agents, but the fact remained that the islanders were driven into open defiance of his authority and refused to import any coir into Cannanore. These complaints, as well as the large arrears of peishcush left unpaid by the Cannanore house, induced Government to interfere in the interests alike of the raja and of the people, and the islands were on the last occasion attached and brought under Government management on the 3rd April 1875. The monopoly rates at which the islanders have been paid since 1st January 1878 for their coir are as follows :—

(a) First sort coir per candy of 560 lb., Rs. 6 plus four sacks or eight mudas of rice, nominally equivalent to Rs. 22 in all, but actually rising or falling above or below that sum according as the price of a muda of rice rises above or falls below Rs. 2 per muda.

(b) Second sort coir do., Rs.4 plus 3½ sacks or 7 mundas of rice, nominally equivalent to Rs. 18 in all.

(c) Third sort coir do., Rs. 4 plus 2½ sacks of rice, nominally equivalent to Rs. 14 in all. Each sack contains 100 Calicut seers of 65 tolas of rice each. The rates are very nearly the same as those prevailing on the Canara islands.

This arrangement is advantageous to the islanders because it secures to them payment for their coir yarn in the article (rice) in which payments are made for its manufacture at the islands, and the money payment in addition enables the islanders to purchase other articles of consumption. The islanders are (as in justice they ought to be, so long as such a faulty revenue system remains in force) protected against a falling market for their produce and a rising market for rice ; and as matter of fact, the price of rice having risen of recent years, the islanders have been receiving for their coir yarn better prices than they could have obtained in the open market.

The following statement shows the revenue from the coir monopoly during five years ending with fasli 1293. The figures represent actual sales, including in some cases the balance of coir yarn of previous year. For convenience, fractions of candies and rupees have been omitted.

The revenue fluctuates with the season and with the varying conditions of the coir market, and cannot be relied on. Sometimes the monopoly results in losses to the island administration. The coir monopoly does not exist in the island of Minicoy. A sort of Karayma or fixed rent, at the rate of 15 palams or 5 lb. of coir on each tree confiscated and allowed to remain in the management of the family from whom the property was seized, is exacted in some of the islands. The Kavaratti islanders chiefly noticed this as one of their grievances.

Coconut monopoly.—In 1826 a coconut monopoly was established in the islands according to the same system as existed in regard to the coir. It has, however, since been abolished. During the continuance of the monopoly, people turned to the manufacture of jaggery which was free ; but whereas in Agatti the toddy was not plentiful, they betook themselves to the manufacture of oil Almost all the revenue derived from coconuts is now obtained from Minicoy ; it amounted in fasli 1293 (1883—84) to Rs. 20,394. The produce, however, included a portion of the stock of the previous year and was unusually large.

Cowry monopoly.—It is not known at what period this monopoly was commenced. The fisheries were carefully preserved for the Pandaram and could not be undertaken without permission. This permission is, however, not required now except when people proceed to any part of the islands where there is danger of theft of Pandaram coconuts. When fished, the whole must be delivered under heavy penalties to the Pandaram. They were received originally by measure in exchange for rice, the earliest rate being two seers of rice for one seer of cowry. In 1826, when the price of coir fell, the cowry rate was reduced to one seer of rice for one seer of cowry When this change tended to diminish the supply, the rice rate was raised from one to one and a half seers. The present price is 4 annas a seer of cowries, which weighs nearly two pounds. The monopoly is a failure. In fasli 1293 there were purchased 11 candies, 10 maunds, 27 lb. of cowries at a cost of Rs. 871—5—1 and these realised on sale only Rs. 448-4-7.

Tortoise-shell.—Green turtles are found in considerable numbers on the shoals and in the lagoons of the islands, and are valuable for their blubber. The tortoise-shell yielding species is comparatively rare. Up to 1815 the rate was 10 to 15 seers of rice for each tortoise-shell according to its size, and this was raised afterwards to Rs. 6 per lb. with a view to hold out sufficient inducement to the people to prosecute the fishing. The present rate is Rs. 2 per lb. In fasli 1291, 11½ lb. were purchsed from the islanders at a cost of Rs. 23, and realised on sale Rs. 57—8—0. As cowries and tortoise-shell are not important sources of income to the islanders, there were no serious complaints about the inadequacy of the remuneration paid to them by the raja.

Holothuria (Beche-de-mer of commerce).—The manufacture of beche-de-mer appears to be somewhat recent and to have given rise to some successful speculation. The Pandaram claimed it as a royalty and preserved all holothuria, either manufacturing the beche-de-mer on its own account or renting the fishing to coast merchants. Mr. Underwood, in 1882, found that “the trade in the Atta or sea-leach (beche-de-mer) has not quite died out. Men do not come over from the mainland as in former days and hire labour to catch them. Some of the more industrious islanders go and pull them off the rocks and out of the sand and cure them. They are sent to Mangalore in the odams and thence shipped to China."

Ambergris.—Very little of this article is found on the islands, but when found it is considered to be a royalty.

Morinda Citron and Lime Monopoly.—The Morinda citron of Androth and the lime of Kavaratti were formerly articles of monopoly. The former used to be monopolised at one-fourth of its value and the latter gathered by the Pandaram agents, a good portion being taken as the Pandaram share and sent to Cannanore or made into pickles. The tax was abolished with the sanction of Government, conveyed in their order of 23rd February 1880.

Salt and Tobacco Monopoly.—On the introduction of salt and tobacco monopoly on the coast they were imitated in the Cannanore islands. The raja made considerable profit by this ; but of late it has fallen into disuse, and the people now supply themselves. The free supply of salt to the islanders was recognised by Government in February 1880.

Pilot Customs.—The people of the group are skilful pilots. They used to pilot crafts from the coast till they cleared the group of islands, and also to Arabia. A nazirana at the rate of Rs. 3—8—0 on a voyage of the former description and of Rs. 7 on the latter, was exacted. This has now been given up.

Other naziranas used to be exacted as follows : —

First.—Rs. 300 to 500 on succession of the heir to the office of kazi, which is hereditary.

Secondly.—Rs. 100 to 300 on occasions of titles or dignities being conferred on principal personages. These titles had local privileges attached to them and implied power to levy certain contributions, such as pick of fish, etc.

Thirdly.—Rs. 4 to 11 on occasions of interviews or audiences of the raja.

Fourthly.—Payments for permission to wear ornaments. Formerly toddy-drawers, too, had to pay cesses under the name of naziranas towards the support of the public servants, although the trade in jaggery manufactured by them was free. All these have since been given up.

Bread-fruit trees have been assessed with the sanction of Government, conveyed in February 1880.

Waste land.—The raja claims all waste lands as Pandaram or crown property. The claim has been acquiesced in to a large extent by the people. The ideas of the islanders in regard to property in the soil have been only slowly developing in recent years. Originally, the land was the common stock of the community and the administration is now engaged in dividing it among the people. The waste lands claimed by the raja are given on application to any one who will undertake under a cowle1 or written agreement to cultivate them within a certain time, and all improvements made become the sole property of the cultivator. When the land has been all thus settled, it will probably become possible to abolish the trade monopolies with their irksome restrictions, and to throw the island trade open.

NOTEs: 1

The form of cowle at present in use is as follows : —

Agreement between ___________ on behalf of the Collector of Malabar and ___________ of ___________.

I, ___________, hereby lease to you and I ___________hereby take on lease from you the Pandaram land described at the foot of this document on the following terms :—

I, ________, agree to pay rent for the same as specified below, viz. :—

(a) In ________ of coir of the best sort made in the island and at this rate each year till________.

(b) In ________ of coir of the sort above said and at this rate in each year till ________.

(c) In ________ of coir and at this rate in each year until the under-mentioned paimash is made.

2. I, ________, further agree that within three years from the date of this lease the said land shall be cleared, and shall thenceforwards be kept clear, of jungle and planted up with cocoanuts, in such a manner that there may be at no time less than one plant for every ________ perukams, exclusive of the land occupied by buildings.

3. Paimashes shall hereafter be made at such intervals as may be fixed with the sanction in writing of the Collector of Malabar, acting under the general or special orders of the Government of Madras, and at each paimash the rent to be thenceforwards paid by me shall be calculated at the rate of ________ on each tree found to be in bearing at the said paimash.

4. I further undertake that I will not erect any mosque or bury any human body in the said land.

5. I, ________, under the authority vested in me by Government through the Collector of Malabar undertake that no rent shall be demanded from you, your heirs, representatives or assigns on account of any trees hereafter planted by you or them on the said land until the expiration of ________ years from the date of this lease.

6. 1, ________, further undertake that (subject to your punctually paying the stipulated rent, and otherwise complying with the terms of this agreement) you, your heirs, representatives or assigns shall not be ousted until the expiration of forty years from the date of this lease, nor after the termination of the lease, until you are paid the compensation provided for in the next succeeding paragraph. But with the sanction in writing of the Collector acting under the general or special orders of the Government of Madras, this contract may for any special reason be terminated after one year’s notice in writing has been given to you. In this case you will be entitled to compensation as provided in paragraph 7 together with a further sum amounting in all to 15 per cent, of such compensation.

7. I further undertake that if you, your heirs, representatives or assigns are ejected on the expiration of your lease, or for non-payment of rent or for any other sufficient reason, you or they shall be paid compensation for all valuable trees of whatever description you or they have planted during the lease at rates to be fixed with the sanction in writing of the Collector of Malabar, acting under the general or special orders of the Government of Madras, or by a person appointed by him as arbitrator.

8. You, your heirs, representatives and assigns are at liberty to dig wells and tanks, to erect buildings (other than rhosques) and to dwell on the land.

9. On you, your heirs, representatives or assigns being ejected you shall be at liberty to remove the said buildings, and shall be allowed one month so to do ; subject to a lien thereon for any rent which may be due.

10. You shall not be entitled to receive any sum as compensation save and except in the manner provided in paragraphs 6 and 7.

11 . Until the next paimash, the rent shown m paragraph 1 (a) and (b) as payable by you in coir shall at your option be payable in money at the rate of _____ per _____.

12. You _____ shall be at liberty to relinquish the land after giving a year’s notice in writing to the Collector of Malabar, but in this case you will not be entitled to any compensation for improvements.

13. If you, your heirs, representatives or assigns lease the land or any portion of it to a sub-tenant, the sub-lease shall be in writing and registered, and such subtenant shall not during the remainder of the currency of this lease, be ousted from possession of the land, except with the sanction in writing of the Collector of Malabar acting under the general or special orders of the Government of Madras, and then, only on compensation being paid to the sub-tenant at full market rates for all improvements made by him.

14. In the event of the rent being allowed by you to fall into arrears, it will be collected by the attachment and sale of your movable property.



General and Judicial Administration.— Very little is known about tbe ancient administration of the islands. The administrative machinery of each island consisted of a karyakar (raja’s agent), one accountant and three or four Nadapals (village runners), the latter number having been subsequently reduced to two. These officers were under the immediate orders of Cannanore, and were seldom controlled in their work by the personal visits of either the raja or his principal karayakars. They were entrusted with the administration of petty police and civil justice, the maintenance and protection of the monopolies, the collection of revenue and the management of the Pandaram property.

The karyakars were aided in their work by mukhyastans or principal men who sat with them in committee in the adjudication of all matters. The mukhyastans were invested with certain dignities and privileges and had their office hereditary in their families. Their presence was necessary to constitute the kacheri for the transaction of business and they exerted considerable influence over the islanders. This form of patriarchal administration was suited to the rude state of society on the islands, but corruption and its concomitant baneful influences were rampant, and goaded the islanders into open rebellion and resistance of the Cannanore authority.

All cesses, customs and contributions due to the Pandaram and local servants, judicial fines and penalties for breaches of fiscal rules, etc., were secured by attachment and confiscation of the defaulter’s property and where they could not be fully recovered they were carried into the accounts as debts against the family and realised whenever opportunity offered. Evasions of payments were also punished by fines and imprisonment. There were no prescribed rules of procedure in regard to trials or judicial proceedings and matters of importance were referred to Cannanore for orders. It was supposed that records had been kept of all such proceedings, but they were stated to be not forthcoming when demanded of the Raja by the Collector.

There was no distinction between criminal offences and those constituted by commercial and fiscal arrangements, and the same summary proceedings were resorted to in all matters.

It has been affirmed that offences of a heinous nature happily never occurred on the islands, and it is possible that this might have been the case. Some years ago the murder of a child alleged to have been committed with a view to obtain her jewels was stated to have occurred in the island of Kavaratti, and it was believed that the perpetrator’s house was "plundered” by the inhabitants in an organised body1, the jewels and a boat were sold and the proceeds given to the victim’s family. A plantation of 8 or 10 trees was also carried to the Pandaram account.

NOTEs: 1. The Kuttam (see Glossary) was no doubt a rough but most effective instrument of justice in such cases. The community simply rose and plundered (as in this instance) the guilty individual and his family, reducing them to beggary. END OF NOTEs

It is curious that this form of rough and ready justice was most frequently employed for the punishment of the offence of sorcery. In the adjudication of petty civil disputes oath, arbitration and ordeal were freely employed, and oaths in the name of the raja and on the Koran were considered peculiarly solemn. The kazi also exercised jurisdiction over matters falling within his province.

The islands form one of the scheduled districts and no written law has yet been extended to them. Nor is there, so long as the islands remain under the direct administration of Government officers, much necessity for the introduction of written laws, which in the case of such archaic forms of society only lead to the breaking up of the bonds on which society rests, and to the consequent multiplication of chicanery, fraud, and other too numerous evils. When society has become more complex, written laws must of course follow ; but meanwhile the enlightened despotism of the officers of Government, founded on justice and good conscience, is a form of administration which the islanders thoroughly appreciate and which they have as yet shown no wish to have changed.

Since the last sequestration of the islands, in April 1875, for arrears of peishcush due by Sultan Ali Raja of Cannanore, the administration of the islands has been improved in several ways. The islands have been periodically visited by Covenanted European officers and a small staff of clerks, and the grievances of the people have been fairly and equitably dealt with both on the spot as well as on the mainland.

One amin with a gumasta (clerk) to assist him, and paid fairly well, has been appointed for each island, and has been authorised to try petty civil and criminal cases of a nature which do not involve any intricate or nice questions beyond the keen and intelligence of this class of officers. Their powers extend to a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 15 days and of fine not exceeding Rs, 15, and the trial is conducted with the aid of two or more assessors selected in turn from the list of chief men in each island.

A number of volumes of the Registration Department usually in use on the coast have been sent to the islands, and the amins have been directed to copy into them walls and other documents relating to divorce and other important transactions in the island. The present establishments on the islands are as follows :

The islands were attached on the first occasion for arrears of peishcush due to Government under orders issued on the 7th September 1854, but from circumstances beyond control there was some delay in carrying them into effect.

The Islands of Androth, Kalpeni, Kavaratti and Agatti were taken charge of on the 9th November 1854, and the island of Minicoy on the 22nd March 1855, but there was resistance in the last-named island owing to the intrigues of the house of Cannanore, and this was not finally overcome till after the visit of Mr. Thomas in the early part of 1858. The islands were released from attachment on liquidation of arrears in 1861. The attachment on the second or last occasion took place on the 3rd April 1875.

The names of officers who have from time to time visited some or all of the islands are as follows :-

Commentary                MMVol 1               MMVol 2

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