• Santhals getting un-agricultured, concludes Anthropological Survey of India
  • February 15, 2015
    Through a resarch the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) reveals about shift in the socio-economic and cultural life of tribal communities like the Santhals during past few decades.
    Lately the AnSI has come up with the revelation that last six decades have seen the Santhal village’s economy being shifted to one of menial works from agriculture. This village Kuotala is located in in West Bengal’s Birbhum district. Now the majority of the men here work as labourers, gardeners, rikshaw pullers and care takers at private houses across the region.
    Simultaneously a six decades old seminal work of 1950 on the Santhals in the same village ‘The Santhal — A study in cultural change,’ points out that the Santhal society is originally an agrarian tribal society. 
    Agriculture, hunting, fishing, rearing of domestic animals and day labour are among the economic activities of the Santhals of Kuotala and adjoining villages. Another book of 1956 tells about the chief source of livelihood of this village as agriculture. 
    About the economy of the Santhal village, analyses Shyamal Kumar Nandi, Research Associate, AnSI, Kolkata, “However, now, the village economy has transformed with the rise in demand for cash in hand at the end of the day. Menial work in various developmental activities run by government or non-government organisations is being sought after by the villagers of Kuotala,” 
    The book suggests that now the cultural, religious and economic practices of the tribals have also gone through a change in nature weakening the social structure among the Santhals which were earlier strictly observed under the nose of the Santhal headman called Manjhi.
    Mr Nandy explains the root cause of the changing Santhal society,  “Some members of the community are not willing to hold the post of the Manjhi as they feel that they will have to devote a lot of time to community activities and not be able to make sufficient money,” 
    Construction work also turning the Santhal community away, finds AnSI. The organisation says their researchers have come across an instance where the Jaherthan or the sacred grove of the Santhal community had to get shifted due to a construction work carried out by the Visva Bharati. Here Jaherthan which is actually a cluster of trees, is considered by the Santhals to be the abode of their deities.
    The published work on the Santhals reveals that Kuotala dates back to 1865, long before the central university was set up, when a few immigrant Santhal families from the Santhal Parganas had gathered and established their abode there. In 1938 Visva Bharti purchased the land in and around Kuotala and the adjoining Santhal villages from the local zamindar of Surul, this is what turned the Santhals as the tenants of Visva Bharati.
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