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NCERT Solutions for Colonialism and the Countryside Class 12

Class 12 History Chapter 10 Question and Answers

1. Why was Jotedar a powerful figure in many areas of rural Bengal?

Answer 1 

In the eighteenth century, a group of rich peasants were consolidating their position in the villages. They were known as the ” Jotedar”.

The Jotedar was a powerful figure in many areas of rural Bengal for several reasons 

  • The jotedars were large landowners who amassed extensive landholdings, sometimes spanning several thousand acres. 
  • The jotedars fiercely resisted attempts by the zamindars to increase the land revenue (jama) of the village. They obstructed the duties of zamindari officials, mobilized ryots who were dependent on them, and deliberately delayed the payment of revenue to the zamindar. In some instances, when the estates of the zamindars were auctioned due to non-payment of revenue, the jotedars themselves became the purchasers. 
  • They not only controlled local trade but also engaged in money lending, which gives them immense influence over the poorer cultivators in the region.

2. How did zamindars manage to retain control over their zamindaris?

Answer 2

The zamindars manage to retain control over their zamindaris in the following manners.

Three key strategies that they utilized were fictitious sales, attacks on outsiders, and maintaining close relationships with the ryots (peasants).

  • Fictitious Sales: One strategy employed by Zamindars was the fictitious sale of their Zamindaris. This involved complex manoeuvres to avoid losing control of their estates. For instance, they transferred their property to female relatives since the British East India Company had decreed that women’s property would not be taken over. Additionally, their agents manipulated auctions by outbidding other purchasers but refused to pay the purchase money. As a result, the estates were repeatedly resold at auctions, with the zamindars’ agents buying them again and again. This created a cycle of endless auctions, ultimately resulting in the estate being sold back to the zamindars at a lower price, and they never paid the full revenue demand. This fictitious sale strategy was particularly widespread in Bengal, including in Burdwan.
  • Attacks on Outsiders: Zamindars resorted to physical violence to prevent outsiders from taking possession of estates purchased at auctions. When individuals from outside the zamindari attempted to establish their ownership, they often faced attacks by the former zamindar’s lathyals (armed retainers). These violent attacks created a hostile environment for outsiders, making it difficult for them to assert their control over the zamindari.
  • Relations with Ryots: The zamindars maintained close relations with the ryots, the peasant cultivators working on their land. The ryots considered themselves the subjects or proja of the zamindar, and this relationship was built on a sense of mutual dependence. The zamindars provided certain benefits and protection to the ryots, and in return, the ryots recognized the zamindars’ authority. This close bond between the zamindars and ryots further solidified the zamindars’ control over the villages.

Due to these strategies, the Zamindars were able to resist displacement and maintain their power over the villages. Eventually, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the power of the zamindars collapsed, and the jotedars (wealthy peasants) emerged as the new powerholders in the countryside.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of these strategies varied across regions and historical contexts. While these tactics allowed some zamindars to retain control, others faced challenges and eventual decline due to changing socio-political and economic circumstances. 

3. How did the Paharias respond to the coming of outsiders?

Answer 3

The Paharias, indigenous tribal communities inhabiting the hilly regions of Bengal, initially resisted the settlement of Santhals, another tribal group, in their territories. However, over time, they had to accommodate the presence of the Santhals due to various factors. The Paharias’ responses to the coming of outsiders, including the Santhals and other settlers, can be summarized as follows:

Resistance and Accommodation: In the beginning, the Paharias resisted the settlement of Santhals and other outsiders in their lands. They sought to maintain their autonomy and protect their resources. However, as the pressure from the incoming communities increased, the Paharias had to find ways to accommodate and coexist with them.

Shift to Deeper Areas: As outsiders encroached upon their lands, the Paharias responded by shifting deeper into the hills. They sought refuge in more remote and inaccessible areas to maintain their distinct way of life and preserve their culture and traditions.

Confinement to Barren Areas: As the process of settlement and colonization intensified, the Paharias found themselves confined to more barren and rocky regions of the hills. This was a consequence of losing access to fertile lands and resources, as outsiders claimed the more desirable areas for cultivation and exploitation.

Challenges to Shifting Cultivation: The Paharias traditionally practised shifting cultivation, but as the forest cover began to be cleared by outsiders, this practice became increasingly difficult to sustain. The loss of forest resources and the need for stable settlements posed challenges to their traditional livelihood practices.

Changes in Livelihood: The clearing of forests by outsiders disrupted the Paharias’ traditional dependence on forest resources for their livelihood. They could no longer rely solely on hunting, gathering, and shifting cultivation. This forced them to adapt to new economic circumstances and seek alternative means of subsistence.

The coming of outsiders, including the settlement of Santhals and the clearing of forests, had a significant impact on the lifestyle and living conditions of the Paharias. They had to navigate changes in their territorial control, livelihood practices, and resource access. Their responses ranged from initial resistance to eventual accommodation and adaptation in the face of shifting circumstances brought about by the presence of outsiders.

4. Why did the Santhals rebel against British rule?

Answer 4

The Santhals rebelled against British rule during the 19th century due to several reasons that caused dissatisfaction among their community. The main causes for the Santhal rebellion were as follows:

High Land Revenue: The Santhals were discontented with the tax regime implemented by the British East India Company. They believed that the land revenue rates imposed on them were excessive and exploitative. The burden of high taxation negatively impacted their livelihoods and economic well-being, leading to growing resentment.

Increased Zamindari Control: As the Santhals settled in the Damin-i-Koh area and expanded their settlements, the influence of zamindars, who were intermediaries appointed by the British, began to grow. The zamindars started exercising greater control over the lands brought under cultivation by the Santhals. This encroachment on their lands and the perceived interference in their traditional way of life created resentment and resistance.

Exploitative Moneylenders: Moneylenders, who were seen as agents of Company rule, operated in rural areas and were regarded as villains by the Santhals. They had the authority to auction off the land of defaulting Santhals, exacerbating their financial difficulties. The exploitative practices of moneylenders and the threat of losing their land added to the grievances of the Santhals and fueled their rebellion.

Class 12 History Chapter 10

In response to the Santhal rebellion and to address the concerns of the Santhals, the British took certain measures. They established a separate district called Santhal Pargana, which was intended to provide the Santhals with a distinct administrative unit. This move aimed to protect their rights, promote self-governance, and mitigate their grievances. Additionally, laws were enacted to safeguard the interests and well-being of the Santhals, further recognizing their distinct identity within the colonial system.

The Santhal rebellion highlighted the discontent and resistance of the Santhal community against British rule. Their dissatisfaction with the tax regime, encroachment by zamindars, and exploitative practices of moneylenders were key factors that contributed to their rebellion. The subsequent establishment of Santhal Pargana and the enactment of protective laws reflected the British administration’s attempts to placate the Santhals and address their grievances.

5. What explains the anger of the Deccan ryots against the moneylenders?

Answer 5

The anger of the Indian ryots (peasants) against moneylenders during the post-civil war period can be explained by several factors:

The decline in Indian Cotton Exports: During the civil war in the United States, Indian merchants had hoped to capture the world market in raw cotton. However, after the civil war, cotton production in America revived, leading to a decline in Indian cotton exports to Britain. This decline in exports negatively impacted the economic conditions of the ryots who relied on cotton farming, contributing to their frustration and anger.

Restriction of Credit by Export Merchants and Sahukars: Export merchants and sahukars (moneylenders) in Maharashtra refused to give long-term credit and restricted advances to peasants. They demanded repayment of outstanding debts, placing further financial pressure on the already burdened ryots. This restriction of credit deepened the ryots’ grievances against moneylenders.

Increased Revenue Demands: Concurrently, during the expiration of the first revenue settlement term, the demand for revenue was increased from 50 to 100 per cent. This sudden increase in revenue demands imposed an additional financial burden on the ryots, who were already facing declining prices for their produce. The inability to meet these inflated demands left the ryots with no choice but to seek further loans from moneylenders, who, in turn, refused to provide loans, exacerbating the ryots’ anger.

Exploitative Practices of Moneylenders: Moneylenders became insensitive to the plight of the ryots and violated customary norms of the countryside. They charged exorbitant interest rates that far exceeded the principal amount, disregarding the general norm that interest charged should not exceed the principal. Cases of unjust interest charges, such as charging over? 2000 as interest on a loan of? 100, were reported. These exploitative practices and violations of customs deepened the ryots’ resentment and anger towards moneylenders.

Manipulation of New Systems: In response to the Limitation Law passed in 1859, which fixed the validity of loan bonds for three years, moneylenders manipulated new systems to continue exploiting the ryots. They found ways to bypass the regulations and maintain their oppressive control over the ryots’ finances, further fueling the ryots’ anger.

The anger of the ryots against moneylenders during this period stemmed from a combination of factors, including the decline in cotton exports, restriction of credit, increased revenue demands, exploitative practices of moneylenders, and manipulation of new systems. These circumstances created a sense of injustice, economic hardship, and violation of customary norms, leading to growing anger among the ryots towards moneylenders.

6. Why were so many Zamindaris auctioned after the Permanent settlement?

Answer 7

The auctioning of many Zamindaris after the Permanent Settlement can be attributed to the Zamindars’ failure to pay the agreed land revenue on time. The reasons behind this failure are as follows:

High Land Revenue: Many Zamindars believed that the land revenue settlement imposed on them was excessively high. This, coupled with a decline in food grain prices soon after the Permanent Settlement, made it difficult for the ryots (tenant farmers) to pay the revenue, resulting in defaults by the Zamindars.

Strict Timelines: The revenue payment was expected to be made on time, regardless of the ryots’ harvesting cycles. This rigid timeline often posed challenges for Zamindars, as the revenue had to be paid even when the ryots were facing financial difficulties due to poor harvests or market conditions.

Diminished Authority: The authority of the Zamindars was curtailed by the East India Company. They were no longer the sole enforcers of law and order at the local level, and their influence and control over the peasants and the collection of taxes were weakened. This loss of power sometimes made it difficult for Zamindars to effectively collect revenue from the ryots.

Delays in Payment: In some cases, Jotedars (rich peasants) and the ryots deliberately delayed the payment of land revenue as a means of resistance or protest against the Zamindars. These deliberate delays caused defaults by the Zamindars, leading to the subsequent auctioning of their Zamindaris.

The combination of high land revenue, strict timelines, diminished authority, and intentional delays in payment created a situation where many Zamindars failed to fulfil their revenue obligations, resulting in the auctioning of their Zamindaris by the British authorities.

7. In what way was the livelihood of Paharias different from that of Santhals?

Answer 7

The Paharias, residing in the foothills of Rajmahal, led a distinct way of life compared to the Santhals. The information about their lives primarily comes from the observations of Buchanan, an East India Company physician who ventured into the Rajmahal Hills. Here are some key aspects of the Paharia community:

Nomadic Lifestyle: The Paharias predominantly led a wandering life. They were nomadic in nature, moving from one place to another in search of resources and sustenance. However, it is worth noting that they also practised shifting cultivation, which involved clearing patches of land for cultivation and then moving on to new areas after a certain period.

Dependency on Forest Resources: Forests played a crucial role in the livelihood of the Paharias. They heavily relied on forest resources such as timber, non-timber forest products, and hunting animals for their survival. One notable resource they extracted and utilized was mahua, a tree that provided them with edible fruits and other products.

Attitude towards Outsiders: The Paharias generally regarded outsiders with suspicion and were often hostile towards them. Due to their nomadic lifestyle and relative isolation in the hills, they maintained a guarded approach towards outsiders, including the East India Company and other external entities.

In contrast, the Santhals differed from the Paharias in several aspects:

Transition to Agriculture: Unlike the Paharias, the Santhals swiftly embraced agriculture and adopted a more settled way of life. They engaged in farming activities and developed agricultural practices as a primary means of sustenance.

Relations with Outsiders: The Santhals had relatively better relations with outsiders, including the East India Company. They were more receptive to the influences of external forces and interacted with them more willingly. This could be attributed to various factors, such as their engagement in settled agriculture and the changing dynamics brought about by colonialism.

It is important to note that these observations are based on historical accounts, primarily from Buchanan’s report, and offer insights into the distinct characteristics and lifestyles of the Paharia and Santhal communities in the Rajmahal Hills during that period.

8. How did the American Civil War affect the lives of ryots in India?

Answer 8

The American Civil War affected the lives of ryots in India in the following ways :

In the beginning, as a result of the civil war, the imports of cotton from America fell from over 2,000,000 bales in 1861 to 55,000 bales in 1862.

Initial Increase in Cotton Production: During the civil war, the import of cotton from America to Britain drastically declined. To fill this gap, export merchants in Bombay seized the opportunity to increase cotton production in India. They provided advances to sahukars (moneylenders) and ultimately to the ryots themselves, encouraging them to expand cotton cultivation. Ryots were given advances of? 100 for each acre planted with cotton. This led to an increase in cotton production, but it also resulted in heavier debt burdens for many ryots.

Post-War Decline in Cotton Exports: When the civil war ended, cotton production in America revived, and Indian cotton exports declined as a result. Export merchants and sahukars were no longer interested in extending long-term credit to ryots. The reduced demand for cotton, coupled with falling cotton prices, had a detrimental impact on ryots’ livelihoods. They faced difficulties in repaying their debts and suffered economic hardships.

Increased Revenue Demands: At the same time, the British colonial administration raised the revenue demands on ryots under the new settlement. The revenue demand was increased from 50 to 100 per cent, creating an additional burden on the already struggling ryots. With declining cotton prices and limited access to credit, ryots found it increasingly challenging to meet the inflated revenue demands.

Overall, the American Civil War initially provided an opportunity for ryots to expand cotton cultivation and benefit from advances provided by export merchants and sahukars. However, the post-war period brought a decline in cotton exports, falling prices, and increased revenue demands, leading to economic hardships and debt burdens for many ryots. The war’s effects disrupted the lives and livelihoods of ryots in India, exacerbating their struggles in an already challenging agrarian economy.

9. What are the problems of using official sources in writing about the history of peasants?

Answer 9

Indeed, you have highlighted some significant problems associated with using official sources in writing about the history of peasants. The points you mentioned further emphasize the limitations and challenges involved. Here’s a summary of the issues you raised:

Limited Perspective: Official records often focus on the perspectives and interests of the ruling authorities, such as the Company Raj. They may neglect alternative viewpoints and fail to consider the broader context of events, leading to an incomplete understanding of peasant experiences.

Cultural Bias: British colonial attitudes and prejudices against local people, their culture, and traditions may have influenced the portrayal of peasants in official records. This bias could result in an inaccurate or distorted depiction of peasant life, contributing to a negative and demeaning image.

Manipulation of Records: Official sources can be subject to manipulation or selective presentation of information to serve the interests of those in power. This manipulation may involve altering or suppressing evidence, as seen in the example of the Deccan Ryot Commission’s conclusion that downplayed the role of high land revenue and attributed peasant grievances solely to moneylenders.

Critical Evaluation: To overcome these issues, it is essential to approach official sources critically and complement them with a variety of other sources. Balancing official records with alternative perspectives, oral histories, local traditions, and non-official sources can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the lives and struggles of peasants.

In conclusion, while official sources provide valuable insights into historical events, they must be approached with caution and cross-referenced with other sources to overcome biases, fill gaps in information, and gain a more accurate understanding of the history of peasants.

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