Monday, May 9, 2016

Veth (bondage) and Forest Settlement

Veth (bondage) and Forest Settlement

Darbars, the families of Princely States were the owners of agriculture land of villages before independence. The farmers (Patels) were the cultivators. After harvesting, the yields were kept in the "kharvad" under the police guard of the Darbar. As per the traditional agreement, the farmers will hold 1/4 or 1/3 share of the yield and rest will be taken away by the Darbars. The villagers were living in a "veth" system of slavery, in which each family had to serve the darbars families (the land owners) in their household works by rotation. Grinding cereals in a hand mill, washing clothes, cleaning utensils, cleaning house, rearing cattle, cooking if guests came, carrying head loads, etc. Other castes were also doing "veth" as per their job division and in rotation of the day. Each Darbar family had been allocated the service families as "gharak" within the village.

In Mothan village of Lalpur Taluka of Jamnagar, the tradition of veth was prevalent. The family of farmer Manji Patel was serving the Village Darbar family. It was an event around the year 1925. Manji Patel's wife, that day went to see a sick relative living in a nearby village, some 5 kms away. Some guests arrived at Darbar's house and there was a need to cook food for all of them. The servant of Darbar came to call Manji's wife. As she was not at home, Manji was summoned by the Darbar and was ordered to go to that village and bring back his wife. Manji requested the Darbar, that had it be known about the guests she would've postponed the visit, but as she has already gone, it will be difficult for him to go and bring back her in time. Finally, the Darbars threatened him to surrender the land given for cultivation. Leaving family behind, Manji and his 6 colleagues went towards Junagadh in search of another land.

Copying comforts of English Kings, some Kings bought Motor Cars. Jamnagar King had a Motor Car. But the Nawab of Junagadh was moving in his horse buggy (roadsters). He had scarcity of resources. His Nagar Brahmin Diwan advised him to allot land of Gir for cultivation to the farmers to increase the revenue income. The Nawab made an announcement. Manji and his 6 fellows were searching for the land, followed the announcement, went to Gir, identified land and established a village Amrutvel. They were paying 4 anna as Masvadi charge and some portion of yield as crop share to the Nawab. All seven farmers brought their families and left the "veth" of Darbars. They were living with their new companions: varieties of trees, lions, leopards, deers and birds. Their cows were their 'kamdhenu'. Cow milk and milk products increased their life expectancy, made them stronger and fearless so that they live happily with the Kings of Jungle, the Lions.

Manji's son Jamanji is 81 years old now, living a life of good health. His body is fitter than a urban guy of 40 years old. All his senses are well to see, hear, understand and argue. One of his sons is living in US. Two of his sons are settled in Mumbai. And he and his wife are happy living in Gir, with cows and lions. Cow milk, butter milk and ghee are giving them long, happy and healthy life. His father was the traditional head of the village. And now he is leading the lot a Chairman of the EDC (Eco Development Committee), maintaining the bio diversity of the Nature.

After independence, the Forest Department had accepted their settlement rights and allowed their holding but land ownership right had been kept with the Forest department. If whole of the farmer family leave Gir, the land goes back to the Forest Department. The farmers carry only the occupancy rights. Therefore, some old couples are living in the Forest and demanding the inclusion of their children's name in the Forest land records. Jamanji was explaining the life in Gir.

9 May 2016


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