NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary

Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age

Life of Tribals

The Baigas, Khonds, Bhils, Van Gujjars, Santhals, Mundas, Nagas and Banjaras are some important tribes of India who by the 19th century, undertook occupations depending on the topography and the climate of a region.
Tribes like the Khonds and the Baigas of central India were into shifting or Jhum cultivation along with hunting and gathering forest produce.

Tribes settled in the forested and mountainous regions of central and north-east India, also practiced shifting cultivation. These tribes never settled in one place, and were always on the lookout for new lands for growing crops.

While the women took up tasks like gathering forest products, collecting wood, clearing fields, and preparing oil and liquor, the men were into hunting, preparing the fields and growing crops.

The Bakarwals of Kashmir, Labadis of Andhra Pradesh, Van Gujjars of Punjab and Gaddis of Kulu reared animals like goats, cows and sheep. They moved from one region to another when the grass in a region got exhausted due to a change in the season.

Tribes like the Mundas of Chottanagpur took to permanent or settled cultivation even before the 19th century. They used ploughs and grew crops on the same piece of land year after year, and gradually acquired the rights over these lands.

Colonial Rule and Tribal Life

The British wanted the tribals to settle in one place so that it would be easier for them to control us. They introduced land settlements for a regular supply of revenue.

Forests were a source of livelihood for the tribals, and so the forest laws formulated by the British had a significant impact on their lives. The British declared all forests as state property and classified certain forests as reserved and the tribals weren’t allowed to cultivate, hunt or gather fruits in these areas.

This forced many of the tribals to move to other places in search of livelihood and created a scarcity of laborers for the British.

Some tribals were allocated small patches of land near the forest for cultivation, and in return asked to work for the British. The tribals eventually protested against these laws. The revolt of Songram Sangma in Assam in 1906 and the forest Satyagraha in the Central Provinces in 1930 were two such major revolts against the British.

It also affected the lives of tribals greatly as they were exploited by moneylenders and traders. By the 19th century, many traders and moneylenders started coming to the forests for purchasing forest produce, offering loans and obtaining cheap labour.

The 19th century saw many tea plantations and mines coming up in different parts of India. Since the forests were now under the British, many tribals were forced to leave their homes and work in these plantations and coal mines.

The British rule also affected tribal chiefs. The chiefs enjoyed administrative and economic powers earlier but now had to follow the rules laid down by the British, pay tributes to the British officers and stop practising their traditional functions.

Birsa Munda

In the 19th and the 20th centuries, tribals in many regions of India rose in rebellion. Birsa Munda was a tribal leader and a folk hero who belonged to the Munda tribe, born in the mid-1870’s. He was impressed by the sermons of the missionaries.

Birsa also spent time under a well-known Vaishnav preacher, and, influenced by his teachings, started giving importance to purity and piety.

He started a movement to reform the Munda society. He went against the British, the missionaries, moneylenders, traders and Hindu landlords.

The spread of the Munda Movement worried the British, they arrested and jailed him for two years in 1895. After Birsa was freed in 1897, he continued with his movement. His followers attacked churches and police stations, and took over the properties of the landlords and the moneylenders.
The movement faded out with the death of Birsa in 1900.

The movement forced the British to bring in laws to protect the lands of the tribals. The tribals proved that they had the ability to protest against the colonial rule and the injustices being meted out to them.

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