Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age
Activity (Page 42)
Look carefully at the tasks that Baiga men and women did. Do you see any pattern ? What were the differences in the types of work that they were expected to perform ?
- Women were expected to cut the dried stalks of crops. These were used as fuel. On the other hand, men used to cut large trees for fuel needs.
- The women gathered fruits like sago, tamarind and mushroom. They gathered edible roots or kanda or mahua seeds. The men used to hunt animals.
- The women gathered unburnt wood to use as fuel. Men worked in fields.
So, we can see that there existed a division of labour in the Baiga families. Men and women had separate works to do.
Activity (Page 47)
Find out whether the conditions of work in the mines have changed now. Check how many people die in mines every year, and what are the reasons for their death.
The conditions of work in the mines have changed and improved a lot, still the workers are facing a number of problems. Some are as follows :
- Machines cause noise pollution, which sometimes causes hearing loss among the workers.
- Tremors due to drilling, occupational skin diseases, gas poisoning etc. are common among the workers.
- Multiple injuries, head injuries, spinal injuries due to roof fall are seen among the miners.
There are many safety issues to be addressed.
- There is usually found heat and gas inside the mines due to poor ventilation.
- There is generally shortage of safety instruments like safety shoes etc. and the workers work only in their undergarments.
On an average about a hundred mining workers die per year due to various reasons. Some prominent reasons are as follows :
- Due to collapse of roof or walls of the mine.
- Due to flooding in the mines.
- Due to various occupational diseases and infections.
- Due to lack of safety measures.
Let’s imagine (Page 50)
Imagine you are a jhum cultivator living in a forest village in the nineteenth century. You have just been told that the land you were born on no longer belongs to you. In a meeting with British officials you try to explain the kinds of problems you face. What would you say ?
(1) Sir, for we people, forest is everything. We start our life in the forests and it is the place where our life ends.
(2) Our culture, livelihood, belief everything is related to forests. If someone wants to kill us, he has to do a simple thing, take away forests from Us.
(3) We get our food from fruits, roots, tender leaves, etc. that we collect from the forest. If you suddenly say that this does not belong to us anymore, where shall we people go? From where shall we have our meal.
(4) Sir, we graze our animals here. We get milk, meat etc. from them. If forest lands are snatched from us, where shall we graze our animals ? Please sir, do not do this.
(5) Many of us worship rivers, trees in the forest. Many of our festivals are incomplete without forests. Sir, if you make us landless, our culture will be destroyed.
So, sir I request you not to drive us away from this forest. If you do so a unique culture will be destroyed. Would you like so ?
Exercise Questions and Answers
Fill in the blanks :
(a) The British described the tribal people as _______ .
(b) The method of sowing seeds in jhum cultivation is known as _______ .
(c) The tribal chiefs got ________ titles in central India under the British land settlements.
(d) Tribals went to work in the _________ of Assam and the ________ in Bihar.
State whether true or false :
(a) Jhum cultivators Plough the land and sow seeds.
(b) Cocoons were bought from the Santhals and sold by the traders at five times the purchase price.
(c) Birsa urged his followers to purify themselves, give up drinking liquor and stop believing in witchcraft and sorcery.
(d) The British wanted to preserve the tribal way of life.
What problems did shifting cultivators face under British rule ?
- The jhum cultivators who took to Plough cultivation as per the British model, often suffered.
- The fields did not produce good yields. Still they had to pay revenue fixed by the British.
- Finally, they had to protest this new method. They wanted to shift back to the jhum cultivation.
How did the powers of tribal- chiefs change under the colonial rule ?
Under the British rule, the functions and powers of the tribal chiefs changed considerably :
- They were allowed to keep their land titles over a cluster of villages and rent out lands.
- They lost much of their administrative powers and were forced to follow laws made by the British officials.
- They had to pay tribute to the British and to discipline the tribal groups on behalf of the British.
- They lost the authority they had earlier enjoyed amongst their people, and were unable to fulfill their traditional functions.
What accounts for the anger of the tribals against the dikus ?
Missionaries, moneylenders, Hindu landlords and the British officials were considered dikus or the outsiders. They caused anger among the tribals because :
- They were considered the cause of misery and sufferings of the tribal people.
- The land policies of the British were destroying their traditional land system.
- Hindu landlords and moneylenders were taking over their land.
- The missionaries were criticising their traditional culture.
What was Birsa’s vision of a golden age ? Why do you think such a vision appealed to the people of the region ?
(1) Birsa talked about the Golden age as the age :
- When people lived a good life.
- When they constructed embankments, tapped natural springs.
- When they freely planted trees and orchards, practised cultivation to earn their living.
- When the people lived honestly without harming each other.
(2) Birsa’s vision appealed to the people because people had to suffer at the hands of the landlords, moneylenders and were made devoid of their rights due to exploitative British policies.
Find out from your parents, friends or teachers, the names of some heroes of other tribal revolts in the twentieth century. Write their story in your own words.
Jatra Oraon :
(1) He was a tribal freedom fighter from the Chhotanagpur region is the present day state of Jharkhand. During his leadership Oraon movement started against the British colonial rule during 1914-19.
(2) He fought for Oraon Raj. He criticised liquor drinking and superstitious practices among Oraons. His religious movement gave way to a “no-rent payment” campaign. Jatra declared that his followers should stop ploughing the fields of landlords and not work anymore as coolies or labourers for non-Oraons or for the government.
(3) He also questioned the traditional leadership of the pahans and mahtos or the village headmen. The basic idea behind this movement was that land was a gift of God and that no one had the right to interfere with, the tribals right over land.
(4) Jatra, along with his leading disciples was arrested in 1814. After his release, he abandoned the leadership of the movement. Later he came in contact with Gandhi and joined the Non-Cooperation Movement against the British.
Rani Gaidinliu :
(1) Rani Gaidinliu was bom in the present day state of Manipur. At the age of 13, she joined in the Indian freedom struggle with Hasipau Jodonang. Jodonang was the political and spiritual leader of Naga.
(2) Jodonang started a movement to drive away the British from Manipur. He was captured and hanged by the British.
(3) After the death of her Guru, Gaidinliu assumed leadership of the movement. The British tried to suppress the movement. Rani went underground. But, very soon she was arrested in 1932. She was sent to jail.
(4) Gaidinliu was released after India gained its independence. She was honoured with Tamrapatra and Padma Bhushan awards. Jawaharlal Nehru called her ‘Rani’ of the Nagas. She passed away on February 17, 1993.
Choose any tribal group living in India today. Find out about their customs and way of life, and how their lives have changed in the last 50 years.
- Gaddis are a pastoral tribe of Himachal Pradesh.
- They are shepherds by occupation.
- Gaddi women are very hardworking. They cut grasses and carry them to distant places and even climb mountains, to their home.
- Gaddi have their own traditional dance form. In this form, a couple dances for a while and is later replaced by another couple. The onlookers sing and clap to encourage the dancers.
- Due to the conversion of pasture lands into grazing lands and tax on pastures and animals, they suffered a lot during the British rule.
- Their conditions did not become good till independence. However, after the independence, Gaddis were restored with their pasture lands and grazing tax was abolished.
- The Government has begun various welfare schemes. They have also been provided reservation.