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Who was Birsa Munda?

Though he lived a short span of life, Birsa Munda is known to have mobilised the tribal community against the British and had also forced the colonial officials to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: November 15, 2017 10:26 am
Birsa Munda, Birsa Munda Jayanty, Birsa Munda birthday, Birsa Munda birth anniversary, Jhanrkhand, Jharkhand birth anniversay, Birsa Munda news, Jharkhand news, Indian Express Birsa Munda’s achievements are known to be even more remarkable by virtue of the fact that he came to acquire them before he was 25.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Birsa Munda was a young freedom fighter and a tribal leader, whose spirit of activism in the late nineteenth century, is remembered to be a strong mark of protest against British rule in India. Born and raised in the tribal belt around Bihar and Jharkhand, Birsa Munda’s achievements are known to be even more remarkable by virtue of the fact that he came to acquire them before he was 25. In recognition of his impact on the nationals movement, the state of Jharkhand was created on his birth anniversary in 2000.

Born on November 15, 1875, Birsa spent much of his childhood moving from one village to another with his parents. He belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chhotanagpur Plateau area. He received his early education at Salga under the guidance of his teacher Jaipal Nag. On the recommendation of Jaipal Nag, Birsa converted to Christianity in order to join the German Mission school. He, however, opted out of the school after a few years.

The impact of Christianity was felt in the way he came to relate to religion later. Having gained awareness of the British colonial ruler and the efforts of the missionaries to convert tribals to Christianity, Birsa started the faith of ‘Birsait’. Soon members of the Munda and Oraon community started joining the Birsait sect and it turned into a challenge to British conversion activities.

During the period, 1886 to 1890, Birsa Munda spent a large amount of time in Chaibasa which was close to the centre of the Sardars agitation. The activities of the Sardars had a strong impact on the mind of the young Birsa, who soon became a part of the anti-missionary and anti-government program. By the time he left Chaibasa in 1890, Birsa was strongly entrenched in the movement against the British oppression of the tribal communities.

On March 3, 1900, Birsa Munda was arrested by the British police while he was sleeping with his tribal guerilla army at Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur. He died in Ranchi jail on June 9, 1900 at a young age of 25. Though he lived a short span of life and the fact that the movement died out soon after his death, Birsa Munda is known to have mobilised the tribal community against the British and had also forced the colonial officials to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals. Birsa’s achievements as a young tribal revolutionary has continued to be celebrated over decades now and he has successfully carved out a space for himself in popular and folk literature, academia, and mass media.

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  1. s
    sri.s
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm
    If the modern day Indian media and alt-left were there at that time they would have termed Birsa Munda a 'gau-rakhshak'. Yes, he made it sure there were no cow slaughter. Read 'Birsa Munda and His Movement' by K S Singh. Nowadays commies and so called 'dalit activist' try to prove santhal or tribals eats and always ate 'beef' thus non-Hindu.
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    1. L
      ladu
      Nov 15, 2017 at 11:59 am
      How could he be a nationalist freedom fighter ? The idea of nationalism comes much later in British India. Sometime around the second decades of the 20th century. Anti British sentiment is only in some of the urban cities till then . Munda was certainly a great fighter for tribal right not Indian nationalism. Most tribes have suffered as much from uppercaste landlordism and from displacement by development projects in Independent India. Get your theory right before you distort it.
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      1. s
        sri.s
        Nov 15, 2017 at 12:32 pm
        You talk like pappu!!! From where does caste come here? From pre-Islamic India to even islamic time 'tribals' were living their own ways. Tribals follow their own traditions and have own cultures and follow a religion similar to Sanatan Dharmic practice of worshiping nature,trees,animal and even mother Goddess. They suffered mainly post Brits who entered the hinterlands of India. Btw, there are not much genetic differences between so called tribals and common Indian public.
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      2. A
        abodh
        Nov 15, 2017 at 10:56 am
        Thanks for sharing Information about Birsa Munda, very little is known about him. We must remember people like him.... not only on his birthday but ---- Always
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        1. S
          sd
          Nov 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm
          Why? His portrait hangs in the Central Hall of the Indian parliament, the only tribal leader to have been so honoured. That's not enough for you?
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            Vishnu Kant
            Nov 15, 2017 at 5:53 pm
            Not in central hall but yes in parliament along with 30 most reputed leaders of their time commencing from Chandragupta Maurya to Gokhle. It's a matter of proud not only for Janjatis but for all nationalistic forces to find his status in The parliament
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          2. s
            sri.s
            Nov 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm
            Read, K S Singh's book on Birsa Munda. Search online Amz or SD or Flk.
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