Special Memorandum of the Land System of the Munda Country (XI)

By Father J. Hoffman and Mr. E. Lister
C. Description of the present condition of the broken Khuntkatti village
Decay of the Khuntkatti village:
  • In the case of other villages the opening of communications has given a value to the timber in the jungle which it did not previously possess. One or other of these baits has in a large number of assesses tempted the Munda or Pahanr to an assertion of superior rights, which has resulted in the reduction of other members to an inferior position.
  • In order to the resist the illegitimate pretensions of a Munda posing as landlord or as sole owner, the Pahanr Khunt members, either alone or in consultation with the Munda Khunt members have in recent times frequently refused to pay any contributions whatever to the Munda. The latter would then be sued for arrears of rent by the Manki or as intruded landlord. In cases in which both the Manki and the Pahanr were trying to improve their won official and social position at the expense of the other members of the brotherhood, both would at times refused the ordinary contributions and would then be sued for arrears by the superior landlords. In such suits either the Munda alone or both the Munda and Pahanr have generally been treated as real landlords. The Munda, or, as the case might be, the Munda and the Pahanr, were made the only parties to the suits, and the decree was executed by the sale of his or their “tenure” under the Tenancy Act., this transaction being deemed to have the effect of stripping every member of the Khuntkatti brotherhood of all his rights.
  • The Sardar agitation has frequently led to the ruin of Khuntkatti villages. The agitators would persuade not only the ordinary members, but also the head or heads of the villages, to refuse all payments due to the superior landlord, who would sue for arrears in the manner stated above and with the consequences there indicated.  In justice to the courts, it should be stated that, in the circumstances, they could not but he misled; for it must be remembered that the country inhabited by the Mundaris is for the most part rugged and very inaccessible. The people themselves are not only shy, but of exceedingly limited intelligence and quite unable to understand anything of legal formalities. They speak a language peculiarly liable to misunderstanding by a person superficially acquainted with it. Till recently there have been no books from which an officer could learn that language sufficiently, and the absence of all literature and clear tradition deterred investigators. Consequently, little has been recorded of them in the past, and an officer arriving in the district had no opportunity of understanding them on their land system. For their peculiar ideas and customs the Mundaris have had to borrow alien words, and these have often proved misleading, as will appear from the typical example. The Khuntkattidars were sued for rent as Raiyats by a man who had purchased the Munda’s rights in the village. On pleading that they were Khuntkattidars, they were asked by the Court whether they had paid “Malguzari” to the Munda. They quite naturally replied that they had; and from the apparent admission the Court argued that they were Raiyats and gave a decree against them. And so they were ruined simply because the Mundaris, having no word in their language to signify their contributions towards the village rent, unsuspectingly accepted the Hindi word for rent pressed upon them by the Court interpreter.
  • Again, in some cases within recent times unscrupulously landlords have taken advantage of the minority or incompetence of the Munda, or of the rivalries and dissensions in the brotherhood, to break down the system by mere force. Doubtless it was this cause that operated most largely in the days before the introduction of settled government.
  • In the Bhuinhari area, and especially in Sonpur, it is probable that the destruction was effected by military force. In these villages there are numerous colonies of Rautias and other military castes, who hold small Jagirs consisting of 1 or 2 villages; and these doubtless were the instruments by which the Mundaris were compelled to abandon the Khuntkatti system.

Read Part-XII

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