Ans. Tribal groups often needed to buy and sell in order to be able to get the goods that were not produced within the locality. This led to their dependence on traders and moneylenders. Traders came around with things for sale, and sold the goods at high prices. Moneylenders gave loans with which the tribals met their cash needs, adding to what they earned. But the interest charged on the loans was usually very high. So for the tribals, market and commerce often meant debt and poverty. They therefore came to see the moneylender and trader as evil outsiders and the cause of their misery.
Ans. Once the British stopped the tribal people from living inside forests, they faced a problem. From where would the Forest Department get its labour to cut trees for railway sleepers and to transport logs?
Colonial officials came up with a solution. They decided that they would give jhum cultivators small patches of land in the forests and allow them to cultivate these on the condition that those who lived in the villages would have to provide labour to the Forest Department and look after the forests. So in many regions the Forest Department established forest villages to ensure a regular supply of cheap labour.
Ans. This was done on small patches of land, mostly in forests. The cultivators cut the treetops to allow sunlight to reach the ground, and burnt the vegetation on the land to clear it for cultivation. They spread the ash from the firing, which contained potash, to fertilise the soil. They used the axe to cut trees and the hoe to scratch the soil in order to prepare it for cultivation. They broadcast the seeds, that is, scattered the seeds on the field instead of ploughing the land and sowing the seeds. Once the crop was ready and harvested, they moved to another field. A field that had been cultivated once was left fallow for several years.
Ans. The British effort to settle jhum cultivators was not very successful because of the following reasons.
i. Settled plough cultivation is not easy in areas where water is scarce and the soil is dry.
ii. In fact, jhum cultivators who took to plough cultivation often suffered, since their fields did not produce good yields.
iii. So the jhum cultivators in north-east India insisted on continuing with their traditional practice.
iv. Facing widespread protests, the British had to ultimately allow them the right to carry on shifting cultivation in some parts of the forest.
Ans. Birsa was deeply influenced by many of the ideas he came in touch with in his growing-up years. His movement was aimed at reforming tribal society. He urged the Mundas to give up drinking liquor, clean their village, and stop believing in witchcraft and sorcery. Birsa urged his followers to recover their glorious past. He talked of a golden age in the past – a satyug (the age of truth) – when Mundas lived a good life, constructed embankments, tapped natural springs, planted trees and orchards, practised cultivation to earn their living. They did not kill their brethren and relatives. They lived honestly. Birsa also wanted people to once again work on their land, settle down and cultivate their fields.
Such a vision appealed to the people of the region because they got fed up with British forest laws and the restrictions that were imposed on them.
Ans. Tribal people in different parts of India were involved in a variety of activities.
i. Some of them practised jhum cultivation, that is, shifting cultivation. This was done on small patches of land, mostly in forests.
ii. In many regions tribal groups lived by hunting animals and gathering forest produce. They saw forests as essential for survival. The Khonds were such a community living in the forests of Orissa.
iii. Many tribal groups lived by herding and rearing animals. They were pastoralists who moved with their herds of cattle or sheep according to the seasons. When the grass in one place was exhausted, they moved to another area.
iv. Many from within the tribal groups had begun settling down, and cultivating their fields in one place year after year, instead of moving from place to place.
Ans. Problems faced by shifting cultivators under British rule
i. For administrative and economic reason, the British wanted the jhum cultivators to settle down and become peasant cultivators. The British effort to settle jhum cultivators was not very successful. Settled plough cultivation is not easy in areas where water is scarce and the soil is dry. In fact, jhum cultivators who took to plough cultivation often suffered, since their fields did not produce good yields.
ii. The life of shifting cultivators was directly connected to the forest. So changes in forest laws had a considerable effect on their lives. The British extended their control over all forests and declared that forests were state property. In these forests people were not allowed to move freely, practise jhum cultivation, collect fruits, or hunt animals. Many were therefore forced to move to other areas in search of work and livelihood.
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