Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age

Tribals are groups of people living in different parts of India who have their own customs and traditions, different from those laid down by the Brahmins. The tribals share a deep bond of kinship and do not have social divisions like the Caste System. Khonds and Baigas lived by hunting animals and gathering forest produce. Bakarwals, Gaddis, Lambadis and Van Gujjars are pastoralists who moved their herds of cattle or sheep according to the season. By the nineteenth century, many people from within the tribal groups started agricultural activities.

During colonial period, the British were uncomfortable with tribal groups and wanted them to settle down and become peasant cultivators. Before the British rule, the tribal chiefs enjoyed a certain amount of economic power but during British rule functions and powers of the tribal chiefs changed as they were allowed to keep their land titles and rent out lands. The British extended their control over all the forests by declaring forests as state property. Many tribals revolted against the forest laws of British. During the 19th century, tribals were exploited by traders, moneylenders and the contractors who paid them wages. Birsa Munda urged the Mundas to recover their glorious past. The British officials were worried about the political aim of the Birsa movement and arrested him in 1895. The movement faded out after the death of Birsa Munda.

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