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How did the colonial rule affect the tribals in India and what was the tribal response to the colonial oppression? | UPSC 2023 General Studies Paper 1 Mains PYQ


How did the colonial rule affect the tribals in India and what was the tribal response to the colonial oppression? 

(UPSC 2023 General Studies Paper 1 (Main) Exam, Answer in 150 words)


Traditionally, Tribal communities were owners of Forest resources as they lived in resource-rich forest areas. However, the colonial power, Britisher wanted to control the resource-rich forest areas for the commercial exploitation of forest resources. This led to a struggle between Britishers and Tribal communities. 

Britisher introduced land revenue systems, foreign laws, and commercial forestry practices that disrupted traditional tribal land-use patterns, leading to exploitation and displacement of tribal communities.

The following ways colonial rule affected the tribals in India:

Commercialization of forests:

The expansion of Railways and export of forest resources increased the demand for timbers, which encouraged the Britishers to exploit the forest resources.

British Forest Laws:

Indian Forest Act of 1865 and 1878 restricted tribal access to forests and natural resources, further affecting their traditional hunting, gathering, and Jhum cultivation. This affected the livelihoods and cultural practices of many tribal communities in India.

Land revenue policies and expansionist policy:

The introduction of the Zamindari and Ryitwari systems led to the commercialization and expansion of agricultural areas in tribal regions.

Encroachment of tribal land by Britishers and landlords led to a tribal revolt by the Santhal tribal revolt.

The policy of interferences:

Many Christian Missionaries tried to convert the tribes to Christianity, which led to discontent and doubt among tribal communities.

Criminalization of tribes:

The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 was brought by Britisher to criminalize many tribes like Gujjar, Lodhi, Sanyasis, Bowreah, Budducks, Bedyas, etc.

Tribal response to the colonial oppression:

The following were tribal responses to colonial oppression:

Armed Revolt:

Tribal communities sought to protect their interests through non-violent means, however, some tribes like Santhal and Munda actively resisted the colonial power through armed. Santhal Rebellion started in the year 1855 in present-day Jharkhand and West Bengal against the Zamindary System. Munda Rebellion (1899-1900) started due to unfair land-grabbing practices by colonial and local authorities. These tribal revolts were often filled with grievances related to land alienation, economic exploitation, and cultural suppression.

Isolation and Cultural Preservation: 

Many tribes in India isolated themselves from colonial power and maintained the traditional ways of life in remote areas. 

Active participation in national movement:

Many tribal communities actively participated in national movements like the non-cooperation movement ( 1920), the Civil Disobedience movement ( 1930, and the Quit India Movement ( 1942). For example, the Tribal community of Gujarat participated in Bardoli Satyagrah in 1928.

In summary, the rise of colonial rule in the tribal regions gave rise to anti-British sentiments during colonial rule, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The overall impact of colonial rule on tribals was detrimental, leading to socio-economic disruptions and cultural changes that persisted even today after India gained independence in 1947.

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