Chapter 4. Forest Society and Colonialism

• Despite fact that we are living in a hyperindustrialized period, woods continue to play an important role in our lives. paper for your books and copies comes from forest. cooking oil, gum, coffee, honey, fruits you eat, material with which tires are made, a lot of medicines, timbers & a whole lot of other things come from forest.
• Forests provide us with a diverse range of resources to meet our various needs — fuel, fodder, leaves, trees suitable for building ships or railways and trees that can provide hardwood.
• Forest items such as roots, fruits, tubers & herbs are used as medicines while timber is used to make agricultural implements such as yokes and ploughs.

Why Deforestation?
• Deforestation is cutting down of trees indiscriminately in a forest area. Under colonial rule, it became very systematic and extensive.
• As population grew over years and people needed more food, peasants cleared more land for farming. British encouraged people to grow crops like jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton that they could use in their businesses. They thought that forests were useless land because they didn’t make money or grow crops. People thought that farming was a sign of progress. British government cut down a lot of trees so they could grow crops on new land, which would bring in money for them.
• Oak forests in England were disappearing. There was no timber supply for shipbuilding industry. Forest resources of India were used to make ships for Royal Navy.

Sleepers on Tracks
• Sleepers are wooden planks laid across railway tracks; they hold tracks in position. Railways spread from 1850s. Railways were essential for colonial trade and for movement of imperial troops.
• From 1860s, railway network expanded rapidly. Trees started falling as railway tracks spread through India. government gave out contracts to individuals to supply required quantities. Forests around railway tracks started disappearing.
• spread of railways in 1850s created a new demand. Railways were essential for colonial trade and for movement of imperial troops. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel and to lay railway lines sleepers were essential to hold tracks together. Each mile of railway track required between 1,760 & 2,000 sleepers.

• Large areas of natural forests were cleared to make way for tea, coffee & rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing need for these commodities. Colonial Government took over forests and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap rates.
• British were concerned that traders’ careless usage of trees and local people’s use of woods would result in forest destruction. Dietrich Brandis, a German expert, was appointed as India’s first Inspector General of Forests. He realised that a suitable system for managing forests needed to be implemented and that people needed to be educated in conservation science. However, it required legal backing.
• Brandis set up Indian Forest Service in 1864 and helped formulate Indian Forest Act of 1865. After Forest Act was enacted in 1865, it was amended twice, once in 1878 and then in 1927. The 1878 Act divided forests into three categories: reserved, protected & village forests.
• Imperial Forest Research Institute was set up in Dehradun in 1906. Scientific forestry was taught there. In scientific forestry system, forests with different kinds of trees were replaced by plantations. Forest management plans were made by forest officials. They planned how much of forest had to be cut and how much had to be replanted.

How did Forest Rules Affect Cultivation?
• One of major impacts of European colonialism was on practice of shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture. It has many local names such as lading in Southeast Asia, milpa in Central America, chitemene or tavy in Africa and chena in Sri Lanka. In India, dhya, penda, bewar, nevad, jhum, podu, khandad & kumri are some of local terms for swidden agriculture.
• European foresters regarded this practice as harmful for forests. Shifting cultivation made it harder for government to calculate taxes. Therefore, government decided to ban shifting cultivation.

How were Lives of People Affected?
• Villagers wanted forests with species of different types to satisfy their needs for fuel, fodder & leaves. On other hand, forest department wanted trees like teak and sal suitable for building ships or railways. Roots, leaves, fruits & tubers were used for many things. In forest, almost everything was available such as herbs, yokes, ploughs, bamboo.
• Forest Act meant severe hardship for villagers across country. After Act, all their everyday practices became illegal. People were now forced to steal wood from forests.

• People who lived near forests ate deer, partridges, and other small animals they caught by hunting. Forest laws made it illegal to hunt, and people who were caught were punished for poaching. In a strange way, though, British encouraged people to kill wild animals like tigers. When Kings and British officials went hunting, they found that villagers were no longer allowed to go into forests. They were alone with forest and wild animals. Animal hunting became one of their favourite things to do. So, hunting got worse to point where some animals, like tigers, almost went extinct.

New Trades, New Employments and New Services
• New opportunities opened up in trade. In India, forest trade was not new. It existed from medieval period, where adivasi communities used to trade elephants and other goods like hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, gums & resins through nomadic communities like Banjaras.
• Outsider Europeans, on other hand, were given exclusive rights to trade in forest by British. nomadic groups were forced to abandon their way of life. Europeans hired Santhals from Assam, Oraons from Jharkhand and Gonds from Chhattisgarh to work in tea plantations. But wages were too low and working conditions were bad.
• Many pastoral communities lost their means of livelihood. New opportunities of work did not always mean improved well-being for people.

Rebellion in Forest
• In many parts of India and across world, forest communities rebelled against changes that were being imposed on them.
• Bastar-Rebellion: Bastar is a part of Chhattisgarh. Maria and Muria Gonds, Halbas & Dhurwas are among indigenous peoples who inhabit here. They are in intimate proximity to Mother Earth. They believe that Mother Nature has given land to each village in Bastar. There is a friendly relationship between these settlements. So, when Forest Act came, villagers of Bastar could not take part in shifting cultivation or hunting.
• Some people were obliged to relocate in order to make a living. In exchange for free labour for forest department, a few villages were allowed to dwell in reserve forest. However, famines of 1899 and 1907 followed. They despised reserve as a result of hardship. Under Dhurwas’ leadership, villagers planned to attack forest officials, personnel & anyone who backed them.
• locals robbed bazaars and police posts after days of painstaking resource collecting. They attacked homes of forest authorities and forest product trailers, as well as bazaars and police stations. These peasants were indeed crushed by British troops. relentless vitality of Adivasis, on other hand, is a source of inspiration for many.
• Fears of People: In 1905, Colonial Government proposed to reserve two-thirds of forest in and stop shifting cultivation, hunting & collection of forest produce. Some people used to stay in forests by working free for forest department and these are known as forest villagers.
• Villagers have long been harmed by rising land rents and frequent labour and commodity demands. People began to discuss these topics at village council meetings, bazaars & festivals.
• Kanger forest’s Dhurwas took lead in first reservation. Bazaars were looted, officials’ and traders’ homes were burned and robbed, schools & police stations were robbed and grain was redistributed. To put down revolt, British troops were dispatched.
• practise of keeping people out of forests and preserving them for industrial use remained after independence.

Forest Transformations in Java
• Java is famous as a rice-producing island in Indonesia. But there was a time when it was covered mostly with forests. In Java, Dutch started forest management. Villages existed in fertile plains and there were many communities living in mountains and practising shifting cultivation.
Woodcutters of Java: Javanese Kalangs were expert forest cutters and roving cultivators. They are experts in harvesting teak and supplying it to monarchs for construction of their palaces. In 18th century, as Dutch began to acquire control of woodlands, they attempted to enslave Kalangs. Kalangs fought back in 1770 by storming a Dutch fort at Joana, but revolt was put down.
Dutch Scientific Forestry: Dutch created forest rules in Java in 19th century, limiting locals’ access to forests. Wood could only be chopped for riverboats or house construction. Villagers were fined for grazing cattle, hauling wood without permission and using horse carts or animals on forest routes. Dutch first levied rents on forest land that was being cultivated, then freed some settlements from these charges provided they worked together to offer free labour and buffaloes for cutting and hauling timber. blandongdiensten system was name for this system.
Samin’s Challenge: Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village, a teak forest village, questioned state’s ownership of forest and argued that state had not created wind, water, earth & wood, so it could not own it. Soon a widespread movement developed. Some of Saminists protested by lying down on their land when Dutch came to survey it, while others refused to pay taxes or fines or perform labour.
War and Deforestation: Both First and Second World Wars had a significant impact on woodlands. Dutch used a ‘scorched earth’ approach in Java, destroying sawmills and burning massive heaps of teak logs. It was difficult for Indonesian Forest Service to reclaim this territory after conflict.

New Developments in Forestry
• Conservation and preservation of forests has now become focus rather than timber. It has been realised that if forests are to survive, local community needs to be involved. There are many such examples in India where communities are conserving forests in sacred groves. In many places, across India, from Mizoram to Kerala, dense forests have survived only because villages protected them in sacred groves called sarnas, devarakudu, kan, rai.

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