Chapter V. Raiyats Having Khuntkatti Rights
Formation of a Khuntktati village:
The period at which the aboriginal clans of Mundas, Bhumijs, Santhals, and Uraons (Oraons) arrived in Chota Nagpur is uncertain.It is clear, however, that the Mundas and Bhumijs, at least, settled in the country at a very remote period. They cleared jungles and founded villages in many areas long before the arrival of the Hindus. The members of the aboriginal tribes appear to have had no ideas of individual ownership in land. The ownership of the village which they founded was corporate, and they appear to have jealously guarded the rights of the original brotherhood against encroachments by outsiders. If outsiders were admitted at all, they were not admitted as equals, but as the tenants or servants of the families of the pioneers of the villagers, who prided themselves greatly on the status as Bhuinhars or Khuntkattidars. In course of time, however, the family of the Maharaja of Chota Nagpur and other chiefs established a supremacy over these scattered village communes and exacted service or tribute. Subject to the payment of the tribute or the rendering of service, the rights of Khuntkattidaars were not disturbed. The members of the brotherhood, the descendants of the original clearers in the male line were the owners of the whole area included within the periphery of the village in which they or their ancestors settled, and they have succeeded in many instances in preserving their ancient rights to the present day. This class of tenancy is still found to exist in the intact Khuntkatti villages of the Munda Country in Ranchi District.
The more ancient Ghatwali tenures to be found in the districts of Manbhum and Singhbhum were undoubtedly of similar origin, though the character of the tenures has now been changed, their origin having been lost sight of in the course of the centuries. The later comers who settled in the village after the establishment of the village became Raiyats or Prajas of the Khuntkattidars. The status and rights of Mundari Khuntkattidars have in subject of special legislation and the provisions in the law relating to this class of tenancies.
The second class of the Khuntkattidars, whose rights are mainly referred to in this section, are of somewhat different origin. They are not necessarily owners or proprietors of the villages, which they or their ancestors founded save in the sense that the aboriginal tribes regard themselves as quasi-owners of all lands which they clear and reclaim. The village were established generally at a later period than the Mundari Khuntkatti villages that is subsequent to the period at which the various feudal chiefs established their over-lordship. The process was usually as follows:
A family of Santhals, Bhumijs or Mundas received a lease sometimes known as an abra-patta from the Zamindar, with permission to clear jungles and settle Raiyats. In other cases, they received verbal permissions, and, in many cases, they were no doubt, mere squatters. As they cleared the jungles, a village was founded, lands were brought under cultivation, and as they improved and extended the cultivated area, new comers arrived, and a regular village community was founded. The members of the original family who founded the village and their descendants through the male line are recognized Khuntkattidars or Bhuinhars of the village, and the later comers are the ordinary Raiyats. The chief member of the Khuntkatti family is usually acknowledged as the village Headman, and in some areas, as for instance, in Singhbhum district, where the Headman system still prevails, he collects the rents from the Raiyats and pays it to Zamindars, minus a deduction of about 20%, which he keeps as remuneration for his services. He is technically a tenure holder; but by custom, he is a Raiyat as far as the lands in his Khas cultivation are concerned, and in these latter he has Khuntkatti rights generally. These Khuntkatti tenancies are numerous in Singhbhum, and in the jungles areas of Manbhum district; and, it is believed that they exist also in Palamau and Hazaribagh districts.