Commercial forest policy and tribal private forests
As I indicated in Introduction, the debate on environmental history, with its focus on the forests and pastorals, has ignored the private forests until recently. The few studies on private forests are largely confined to the Himalayan region and Bengal, Central and Bombay Presidencies. While suggesting that forests were denuded for the purpose of extending cultivation and commercial exploitation, literature on environmental history acknowledges the fact that the tribals and pastoral communities were disturbed during the pre-colonial as well as the colonial period in different parts of the country. Although this phenomenon was present in most of the regions, there were still some forest and hilly regions where neither the precolonial rulers nor the early colonial administration had intervened. The tribals themselves had, without any external intervention, managed themselves until the mid-19th century. The tribals of Kalrayan hills in Salem and Baramahal region of Madras Presidency enjoyed an autonomous system (see this chapter) without paying any revenue to any ruler during the pre-colonial period as well as the colonial period. The entire hill regions, including all forest resources, were managed/controlled by the tribal headman, known as the Jagirdar. During the second half of the 19th century, the colonial administration had intruded into these hills mainly to obtain control of the tribal private forests. This chapter attempts to highlight the colonial forest policy vis-à-vis tribal private forests in the Kalrayan hills of Madras Presidency during the late 18th and 19th centuries (1792-1881).