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Revealing the Unsung Contribution: Birsa Munda

~ By Prerana Agrawal

Our national movement gets succeed by little contribution in various parts of India. Various places were facing uprising or revolt against British rule. In the present time, whenever we hear the title of freedom heroes, our brain instantly responds to some great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhash Chandra Bose.

There were some hidden freedom heroes whose stories are still unsung in some parts of the country. It might be because they gave a contribution to a specific region, say for, an example, tribal areas that are still vulnerable regions in India. One of the heroes was Birsa Munda who was the young hero of the Indian Tribe, he belonged to the Munda Tribe of Chhotanagpur Plateau and revolt against the British rule.

Aba Birsa Munda (15 Nov 1857 – 1900)

Birsa Munda was born on 15 November 1857 at Ulihate in Bengal Presidency (now in the Khunti District of Jharkhand). In the early years of his life, he spent time with his family at Chalakkad and he developed an interest in playing the flute. He grazed sheep in the forest of Bohonda. He had to move from one place to another in search of work and this experience made him understand different issues by which the community was suffering due to British exploitation.

He did his early education at Salga under the guidelines of Jaipal Nag. Being a sharp student, Jaipal Nag recommended him to join the German Mission school. Therefore, he was converted to Christianity as Birsa David as it was a compulsion to make an entry in school and get enrolled in the school. He however opted out of the school after a few years. Birsa’s long stay at Chaibasa from 1886 to 1890 and constitute a constructive period of his life and after leaving Chaibasa in 1890, Birsa and his family members gave up their membership in the German Mission and opted their original tribe religious system. Later, he involved himself in the popular Agitation Movement which was against the British rule as the Britishers restricted the traditional right of the Mundas in the protected forest.

During the early 1890’s, he started to spread awareness among the common people about the plan of British Company to gain total control of India. Birsa not only preached the new religion but also mobilized people and formed the Guerrilla army to end the British raj. His quote was constantly kept motivating tribals – “Abua raj seter Jana, Maharani raj Tundu Jana” (Let the kingdom of the queen be ended and our kingdom be established). As tribal people were the real proprietors of the soil hence movement was remarkably significant as it forced the colonial government to introduce the law so that the land of tribal people could not easily be taken away by the outsider.

The result of the Movement shows that the tribal can protect themselves from cruelty and express their anger against the colonial rule. In 1895, he asked his fellow tribesman to renounce Christianity and guided them to worship one God and introduced them to the path of austerity, purity. Followed the instructions of Birsa Munda, his followers attacked several places loyal to the British.

Britishers agitated and warned the Munda tribe for war. Finally, forces gathered at Dumbari hills against the Britishers. Due to huge military advantages, the Britishers were able to defeat Munda. However, Birsa managed to escape but later get arrested. He was kept at Central Ranchi Jail. The young hero hanged in jail in 1900 at the early age of 24. After 8 years of his, in 1908 British government introduced CNT (Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act) to prohibit the transfer the tribal lands to non-tribals. Birsa’s legacy is still alive and tribal people celebrate his birth anniversary.

Many institutions and organizations are named after him such as –

• Birsa Agricultural University • Birsa Munda Airport • Two films named “Ulgulan-Ek-Kranti” in 2004 and another “Gandhi Se Pehle Gandhi” in 2008 • A 150-foot tall statue of Ulgulam (Birsa Munda ) is proposed to be built in Jharkhand.

Recently, the Ministry Of Tribal Affairs setting up the Tribal Freedom Fighters’ Museum to give due Recognition to Sacrifices and Contributions and Country’s Freedom Struggle by Tribal People. It is a welcome step. We all should be thankful for such enthusiastic contributions as India is inherited from various personalities.

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