Birsa Munda, The Eternal Strength

Discussion in 'Indian History' started by Speechless world, Dec 27, 2015.

  1. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    When any second generation Indian youth thinks of the Indian Independence movement, the first name that usually enters his or her mind is Mahatma Gandhi. Even though we know that the efforts of many others like Nehru, Tilak, and Aurobindo did not go without acknowledgement, there is still a very skewed perception of the freedom fighters during this time. In the endeavor to overthrow the British Raj, many common people transformed into leaders to undertake the challenge of regaining India’s independence. One such person was Birsa Munda, a humble tribal leader who played a massive role in the movement. His internal strength of fighting for his people was remarkable since initially he was the only one brave enough to take on the British. He stirred up awareness by questioning people’s beliefs, mobilizing groups of rebellions, and proving himself a threat to the British rulers, all before the age of 25.

    In 1875, Munda was born into a poverty stricken family in Ranchi (which is now the capital of the newly-formed state of Jharkand), that was being suppressed, alienated, and experienced injustice in every aspect of daily life. At the age of 8, his family was forced to separate so that they could all earn a living working in different fields, a situation that today’s youth couldn’t even fathom. As Munda was becoming very involved with his studies he met some local families who had been converted to Christianity in his own Munda tribe. He was so absorbed in learning the story of his own people as to why they had been forcibly attacked and converted that he let the sheep and goats graze in the field of grown crops. The owner chastised him and beat him, and said that he was not capable of anything.

    After leaving that village, he went to live with his brother when he was 10 years old and was still motivated to complete his lower primary examination at a German mission at Burju. He continued his education in Chalibasa at the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Mission school run by German missionaries. This is where Munda transformed into a fighter for the tribals. Even as a youth, without any support, he only had his internal strength guiding him in these tough times. When a Father at his school was narrating the story about the Kingdom of Heaven, Munda challenged him by asking where this Kingdom of Heaven was, since the exploitation of the tribals by landlords was at its worst.

    By 1890, he and his family had given up their membership to the German mission which led Munda to realize that this suppression by the British was intolerable. They were torturing the masses and gathering all the wealth available from all the tribal people. He began to organize people of the tribes to prevent Dikus (non-tribals) and Zaminders (money lenders) from stealing their land and becoming laborers in their own land. When he was 19 years old, there was so much discontentment among his people that he had no choice but to organize a protest in October 1894. He continued his protest march against the forest dues, in which the British were making tribals pay for living in the forest area. His very words were, “Maharani raj tundu jana oro abua raj ete jana,” which meant that the tribal people will put an end to the rule of the queen and re-establish their own kingdom. His courage and internal zeal pushed him to end the atrocities happening against his tribal brothers and sisters.

    Birsa Munda, now in his early twenties, had spread the word of patriotism like wildfire by giving examples of their ancestors who had fought for regaining control of their own country. He was able to unite the entire tribal community to speak in one voice against the British Raj. With Munda’s organizational skills and motivating speeches, he had awaken the masses to regain power from the Dikus and Zaminders to make themselves owners of the land again. Munda continued to use all his strength and vigor to fight for the people’s rights until he was arrested and put in the Ranchi Jail, where due to some mysterious conditions he died at the tender age of 25 years.

    Birsa Munda’s efforts and achievements of retaliation shattered the roots of the British in a very short period of time. His movement helped the passing of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 which specifically protected the rights and interests of the tribals. Many legislations have been passed by the Parliament and the State Legislatures protecting the tribals from having their land taken over by others. The government’s plans of the Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP) and Modified Area Development Approach (MADA) still need to be given more attention so that Birsa Munda’s dream can be a reality. The Government of India has dedicated a statue in his memory at the Parliament, but the true memory is the strength and conviction he has given his people and his own eternal strength that will be revered for generations to come.

    By Rashmi Priyanka Patil

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