Chapter XI. Custom And Contract (CNT Act 1908) Excerpts (B)

Chapter XI. Custom and Contract
Ghatwali Tenancies (II):
Colonel Dalton, Commissioner of Chota Nagpur writing on this subject (in 1865) observes: – “It is a fact that both in Dhalbhum, and in the Jungle Mehals of Manbhum, where the old Ghatwali families are still in possession , they are all the race, called Bhumij, that is of the same families as the Santhals and the Mundaris of Chota Nagpur and Larka Kols of Singhbhum.
Their tenures are the oldest in the country, older than the right of their chief, who, there is every reason to suppose, is descended from one of the same stock originally selected to rule over them.”
Mr. Hewitt, another Commissioner of Chota Nagpur expressed the opinion that the Ghatwals and their subordinates represented the Mankis and Mundas of other Kol communities, and their tenures were ancestral holdings dating from the the time when they first took possession of the country. In the case of the older Ghatwali tenures, the tenures descended from the generation to generation, according to the rules of inheritance in vogue among the family or clan. The custom was so certain, that Government has recognized it, notwithstanding the legal position of the Ghatwals since 1884; and when a Ghatwal dies or is dismissed, his heir or nearest relative is now ordinarily appointed to succeed him.
The members of the village communities recognize the fact that the Ghatwals are the original settlers; and, in several cases, it has been possible to trace their genealogy back to the time, when their ancestors founded the village.
In many of the older villages, inhabited by Bhumij Ghatwals and their relatives in Dhalbhum, it has been found that the stone slabs known as Sasandiris, which are the peculiar feature of the Mundari burial custom in Ranchi, have been erected by the Bhumijs. Under these stones are interred the bones of the original clearers of the village, and of their descendants, which are invariably the Bhumij Ghatwals and their relatives. In the Munda country in Ranchi district, only the khuntkattidars of the village can be interred under the Sasandiris. The custom is strictly observed and village sentiment would never tolerate that anyone except a member of the khuntkatti family should be interred in the place. The Bhumijs and the Mundaris are closely allied, speak the same language and no doubt come of the same original stock.
The term Ghatwal as applied to these tenures is misnomer. Ghatwal means “person in charge of a ghat”, i.e., a ferry or a mountain pass. The Ghatwals in Manbhum and Singhbhum are however, not usually in charge of “ghats” of either kind, though their geographical distribution would point to the fact that the majority were originally employed near the borders of the parganas, evidently with a view to oppose the entrance of possible marauders and invaders.

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