Chapter : 1. Forest Society and Colonialism


Who could hunt ?
Hunting was considered as their natural forest right by the forest communities. So it was naturally resented when laws were made that imposed a ban on the birthright of the foresters. Hunting also included fishing and a variety of indigenous contraptions, like the bamboo trap and rabbit trap were devised to facilitate the event which involved a lot of fanfare. Most of the forest communities like the Baiga, Maria, Munda of Central and East India were so dependent on forests that they were on the verge of starvation when the new forest rules came into practice. The large scale hunting of big forest animals was a more recent phenomenon of the colonial period. Even during the medieval period hunting was a royal pastime for the Mughals and other ruling dynasties. But hunting became almost an obsession in the British period so much so that some of the species like the tiger and leopard almost became extinct. It was later that the laws against large scale killing and poaching of animals from the forests were made.
The main reasons for this behaviour of the colonists were :
They had the notion of the wild animals as being dangerous for human survival and not otherwise as was the belief of the tribals according to whom such animals were a part of nature.
Attached to this were the notions of a civilized society versus a savage society. This belief was an extension of their motion of ‘white man’s burden’ which legitimized all the wrong doings of the British in the name of religion and charity.
Hunting soon became a pastime and hobby with the Europeans who at times had nothing much to do except kill.

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