NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 4 - Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age

Chapter 4 - Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age

Question and Answers
Question 1: What problems did shifting cultivators face under British rule?
Answer:

→ For administrative and economic reasons, the British government tried settling the jhum or shifting cultivators. However, settled plough cultivation did not prove to be helpful to these jhum cultivators.
→ They often suffered because their fields did not produce good yields. The new forest laws also affected the lives of the shifting cultivators.
→ Shifting or jhum cultivation is usually done on small patches of forest land. Under the forest laws, the British extended their control over all forests and declared that forests were state property.
→ Thus, the jhum cultivators were prevented from practising jhum cultivation freely. Many were forced to move to other areas in search of work and livelihood.

Question 2: How did the powers of tribal chiefs change under colonial rule?
Answer:

→ Under 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, but they lost much of their administrative power and were forced to follow laws made by British officials in India.
→ They also had to pay tribute to the British, and discipline the tribal groups on behalf of the British.
→ They lost the authority they had earlier enjoyed amongst their people, and were unable to fulfil their traditional functions.

Question 3: What accounts for the anger of the tribals against the dikus?
Answer:

→ The land policies of the British were destroying their traditional land system.
→ Hindu landlords and moneylenders were taking over their lands.
→ Missionaries were critising their traditional culture.

Question 4: What was Birsa’s vision of a golden age? Why do you think such a vision appealed to the people of the region?
Answer:
Birsa Munda’s vision of a golden age was a satyug an age of truth in which the tribal people would live a good life, construct embankments, tap natural springs plant trees and orchards and practise cultivation to earn for their livelihood.
→ He talked about an age in which tribals would live an honest life and would not kill their relatives and brothers.
→ 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 were very much eager to lead a free life. They had got fed up with the laws made on forests and restrictions made by Britishers.

Question 5: Define the following:
a) Fallow
b) Bewar
c) Vaishnav
Answer:

a) A field left uncultivated for a while so that the soil recovers fertility.
b) A term used in Madhya Pradesh for shifting cultivation.
c) The worshippers of Vishnu are called Vaishnav.

Question 6: Write a short note on Birsa Munda.
Answer:

→ Birsa was born in the mid-1870s. The son of a poor father, he grew up around the forests of Bohonda, grazing sheep, playing the flute, and dancing in the local akhara.
→ Forced by poverty, his father had to move from place to place looking for work.
→ As an adolescent, Birsa heard tales of the Munda uprisings of the past and saw the sirdars (leaders) of the community urging the people to revolt.
→ They talked of a golden age when the Mundas had been free of the oppression of dikus, and said there would be a time when the ancestral right of the community would be restored.
→ They saw themselves as the descendants of the original settlers of the region, fighting for their land (mulk ki larai), reminding people of the need to win back their kingdom.
→ Birsa went to the local missionary school, and listened to the sermons of missionaries.
→ There too he heard it said that it was possible for the Mundas to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, and regain their lost rights.
→ This would be possible if they became good Christians and gave up their “bad practices”.
→ Later Birsa also spent some time in the company of a prominent Vaishnav preacher. He wore the sacred thread, and began to value the importance of purity and piety.

Question 7: What were the activities of the Tribals?
Answer:
The activities of the Tribals are
→ Shifting Cultivation
→ Hunting & Gathering forest produce
→ Herding animals settled cultivation

Question 8: Write a short note on jhum cultivators.
Answer:

→ Some of them practised jhum cultivation, that is, shifting cultivation. 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.
→ Shifting cultivators were found in the hilly and forested tracts of north-east and central India. The lives of these tribal people depended on free movement within forests and on being able to use the land and forests for growing their crops. That is the only way they could practise shifting cultivation.

Question 9: Who were the hunter and gatherers?
Answer:

→ 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. 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.
→ The local weavers and leather workers turned to the Khonds when they needed supplies of kusum and palash flowers to colour their clothes and leather.

Question 10: Who herded animals?
Answer:

→ 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.
→ The Van Gujjars of the Punjab hills and the Labadis of Andhra Pradesh were cattle herders, the Gaddis of Kulu were shepherds, and the Bakarwals of Kashmir reared goats.

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