Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age
Q42. How did traders and moneylenders exploit the tribal people?
Why did the tribal group see the moneylender and trader as evil
outsiders and the cause of their misery?
Why did the tribal people consider moneylenders and traders as
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.
Q43. What problem did the British face after they brought
changes in forest laws? How did they solve the problem?
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?
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
Q44. Elaborate upon the shifting cultivation method.
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.
Q45. Why was the British effort to settle jhum cultivators not
Ans. The British effort to settle jhum cultivators was
not very successful because of the following reasons.
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
So the jhum cultivators in north-east India
insisted on continuing with their traditional practice.
Facing widespread protests, the British had
to ultimately allow them the right to carry on shifting cultivation in some
parts of the forest.
Q46. What was Birsa’s vision of a golden age? Why do you think
such a vision appealed to the people of the region?
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
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.
Q47. How did different tribal groups live?
How do they earn livelihood?
Ans. Tribal people in different parts of India were
involved in a variety of activities.
Some of them practised jhum cultivation,
that is, shifting cultivation. This was done on small patches of land, mostly
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.
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.
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.
Q48. What problems did shifting cultivators face under British
Ans. Problems faced by shifting cultivators under
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.
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.