Ans. Tribal people in different parts of India were involved in a variety of activities.
i. Some were jhum cultivators.
ii. Some were hunters and gatherers.
iii. Some herded animals.
iv. Some took to settled cultivation.
Ans. The movement was significant in at least two ways.
First – it forced the colonial government to introduce laws so that the land of the tribals could not be easily taken over by dikus.
Second – it showed once again that the tribal people had the capacity to protest against injustice and express their anger against colonial rule.
Ans. The Khonds were a community living in the forests of Orissa. They were basically hunters and gatherers. They regularly went out on collective hunts and then divided the meat amongst themselves. They ate fruits and roots collected from the forest and cooked food with the oil they extracted from the seeds of the sal and mahua. They used many forest shrubs and herbs for medicinal purposes, and sold forest produce in the local markets.
Ans. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tribal groups in different parts of the country rebelled against the changes in laws, the restrictions on their practices, the new taxes they had to pay, and the exploitation by traders and moneylenders. The Kols rebelled in 1831-32, Santhals rose in revolt in 1855, the Bastar Rebellion in central India broke out in 1910 and the Warli Revolt in Maharashtra in 1940. The movement that Birsa led was one such movement.
Ans. Three features of tribal people were:
i. Most tribes had customs and rituals that were very different from those laid down by Brahmans.
ii. These societies also did not have the sharp social divisions that were characteristic of caste societies.
iii. All those who belonged to the same tribe thought of themselves as sharing common ties of kinship.
Ans. When Birsa was released in 1897 he began touring the villages to gather support. He used traditional symbols and language to rouse people, urging them to destroy “Ravana” (dikus and the Europeans) and establish a kingdom under his leadership. Birsa’s followers began targeting the symbols of diku and European power. They attacked police stations and churches, and raided the property of moneylenders and zamindars. They raised the white flag as a symbol of Birsa Raj.
Ans. Hazaribagh, in present-day Jharkhand, was an area where the Santhals reared cocoons. The traders dealing in silk sent in their agents who gave loans to the tribal people and collected the cocoons. The growers were paid Rs 3 to Rs 4 for a thousand cocoons. These were then exported to Burdwan or Gaya where they were sold at five times the price. The middlemen – so called because they arranged deals between the exporters and silk growers – made huge profits. The silk growers earned very little.
Ans. Under British rule, the functions and powers of the tribal chiefs changed considerably.
i. They were allowed to keep their land titles over a cluster of villages and rent out lands, but they lost much of their administrative power and were forced to follow laws made by British officials in India.
ii. They also had to pay tribute to the British, and discipline the tribal groups on behalf of the British.
iii. They lost the authority they had earlier enjoyed amongst their people, and were unable to fulfil their traditional functions.
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