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Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life

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Pastoralists are people who do not stay in one place and keep moving from one place to another to earn a living. Pastoralism has been influential in the societies of India and Africa for a long time. Under colonial rule, the pastoralists’ life has changed completely. Regulated movements, grazing grounds reduced and the revenue payment has increased considerably. The agricultural stock declined and their trades and crafts were affected considerably.

Changes after Colonial Rule

 The changes occurred mainly because:

  1. Land revenue was the mainstay of the colonial state; hence they wanted to transform all grazing lands into cultivable land, through which expansion of cultivation led to an increase in revenue collection. The uncultivated lands were seen as wastelands. Waste Land Rules were laid in various parts of the country. Under these rules, uncultivated lands were taken and given to select individuals.
  2. By mid- 19th century, various Forest Acts were enacted in various provinces. Through these acts, forests that produced commercially valuable timber like deodar or sal were declared as “Reserved” and other forests were classified as “Protected”. The pastoralists were not allowed to enter these areas, which changed their lives tremendously.
  3. Suspicion of the colonial state on the nomadic people was quite frequent. The government wanted to rule over a settled population. In 1871, the colonial government in India passed the Criminal Tribes Act. Through this Act, many communities of craftsmen, pastoralists, and traders were classified as “Criminal Tribes”.By nature and birth, they were classified as criminals.
  4. Various kinds of taxes were laid on land, canal water, salt, trade goods, and also on animals. The grazing tax was introduced in mid- 19th century. Between the 1850s and 1880s, the right to collect tax was auctioned out to contractors. By the 1880s, the government began collecting taxes directly from pastoralists.

How Did These Changes Affect the Lives of Pastoralists?

The measures introduced by the colonial state had a tremendous effect on the lives of the pastoralists. There was a shortage of pastures. The transformation of grazing lands into cultivated fields led to the decline of available pasture lands. As the pasture lands decreased, the animal stock had to feed on the remaining grazing lands. As the restrictions were applied, grazing lands came to be used rigorously because of this; the quality of the pasture lands declined. This further created a situation of shortage of food for animals and deterioration of the health and well-being of the animals.

Pastoralists of India


How Did the Pastoralists Cope with these Changes?

The reaction of the pastoralist to these changes came to be varied. Some of them reduced the number of cattle and others discovered new pasture lands. After 1947, new political boundaries between India and also Pakistan stopped the entry of camel and sheep herding Raikas, for grazing at the banks of the Indus. In other years, the richer pastoralists bought lands and also settled down, giving the nomadic lifestyle. Through the cultivation of lands, many became peasants, others started trading. Also, the poor pastoralists borrowed some money from the moneylenders for survival. Their presence was present and for some areas, the population of pastoralists expanded, and in others, new laws and also settlement patterns forced the pastoral groups to alter their lifestyle.



Evolution of Forest Laws in the British Period in India

1856: Lord Dalhousie underlined the importance of establishing a clear forest policy. Railways were introduced to India for the first time in 1853, from Mumbai to Thane. One of the primary reasons for this awareness was the increasing difficulty in acquiring an appropriate supply of lumber (required for the massive extension of railway lines that was then being constructed).

1878: The Forest Act of 1878 was enacted, which ended communities’ centuries-long use of their forests and gave colonial governments responsibility for forestry. On the one hand, the provisions of this Act established a virtual State monopoly over the woods in a legal sense, while on the other, they aimed to prove that the villagers’ customary usage of the forests was not a ‘right,’ but a ‘privilege’ that could be removed at will.

1927:  India’s main forest law – had nothing to do with conservation, in keeping with the forest usage policy of 1878. It was established to meet the need for timber in the United Kingdom. It attempted to trump customary rights and forest management systems by designating forests’ state property and exploitation of their timber. This Act does not provide a detailed definition of forests. The statute categorizes forests into three types: reserve woods, protected forests, and village forests.

FAQs on Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life

Question 1: What is the meaning of pastoral life?


A lifestyle of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to different seasons and the differing availability of water and pasture.

Question 2: What defined the seasonal rhythms of the movement of the pastoralists in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh?


The seasonal rhythms of pastoralist movement in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were defined by the alternation of the monsoon and dry seasons. During the dry season, they relocated to coastal locations and then left when the rains arrived.

Question 3: Where did the Raikas live? What is their occupation?


Raikas resided in Rajasthan’s deserts. Every year, the harvest varied, and no crop could be produced across a vast area. As a result, the Raikas combined agriculture and pastoralism.

Question 4: What happened to Maasailand in 1885?


The colonial powers competed for territorial possessions in 1885. The international border between British Kenya and German Tanganyika split Maasailand in half. The Maasai lost 60% of their pre-colonial territory.

Question 5: Name Maharashtra’s most prominent pastoral community.


Maharashtra’s Dhangars were a significant pastoral community.

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Last Updated : 24 Feb, 2023
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