Birsa Munda and Munda rebellion
- November 16, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Birsa Munda and Munda rebellion
Section: Modern India
- Birsa Munda lived a short — just 25 years — but valiant life.
- Born on November 15, 1875, in Ulihatu village in present-day Jharkhand, Birsa spent his childhood in abject poverty in a tribal Munda family.
- The Britishers introduced a feudal zamindari system in the Chhota Nagpur region, destroying the tribal “Khuntkatti” agrarian system.
- The Raj brought in the outsiders — moneylenders and contractors, as well as feudal landlords — who aided the British in their exploitation.
- During the 1880s, Birsa closely witnessed the SardariLarai movement in the region, which demanded the restoration of tribal rights through non-violent methods like sending petitions to the Raj.
- However, the oppressive colonial regime paid no heed to these demands.
- The zamindari system soon reduced the tribals from the status of landowners to that of labourers.
- The feudal setup intensified the forced labour (vethbigari) in the forested tribal areas.
- This culminated in Birsa taking up the cause of Adivasis. He shed new light on the religious domain.
- He stood firm against missionaries who were belittling tribal life and culture.
- At the same time, Birsa worked to refine and reform religious practices, discouraged many superstitious rites.
- He brought in new tenets, prayers and worked to restore tribal pride.
- Birsa impressed upon the Adivasis the importance of “sirmarefirun raja jai” or “victory to the ancestral king” — thus invoking the sovereignty of the tribals’ ancestral autonomous control over the land.
- Birsa became a mass leader and began to be considered as Bhagwan and Dharati Aba by his followers.
- The Mundas, Oraons, other Adivasis and non-Adivasis responded to his call and joined the “Ulgulan” or revolt against the colonial masters and exploitative dikus.
- Birsa asked the people not to pay any rent, and attacked the outposts of feudal, missionary and colonial authorities. With traditional bows and arrows, the tribals of Central and Eastern India waged an effective armed resistance against the British.
- Soon, he was captured by British police and lodged in jail, where he died in captivity on June 9, 1900.
- But BhagwanBirsa Munda’s spirited struggle did not go in vain. It compelled the British to take cognisance of the plight and exploitation of tribals, and bring in the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 for their protection.
- This Act restricted the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals, giving Adivasis a huge relief and became a landmark legislation for the protection of tribal rights.
- The British regime also took steps to abolish VethBigari or forced labour.
- India’s freedom struggle was strengthened by several tribal communities such as Mundas, Oraons, Santhals, Tamars, Kols, Bhils, Khasis, Koyas and Mizos, to name a few.
Other tribal leaders referred by PM
Referring to the inspiring struggle of Bhagwan Birsa Munda for tribal pride, the Prime Minister mentioned the association of the land of Jharkhand with the innumerable tribal heroes. He mentioned that many heroes like Tilka Manjhi, Sidhu Kanhu, Chand Bhairav, Phulo Jhano, Nilambar, Pitambar, Jatra Tana Bhagat and Albert Ekka have made this land proud. The Prime Minister said Adivasi warriors took part in the freedom struggle in every nook and corner of the country and mentioned Govind Guru of Mangarh Dham, Tantya Bhil of Madhya Pradesh, Bhima Nayak, Martyr Veer Narayan Singh of Chhattisgarh, Veer Gundadhur, Rani Gaidinliu of Manipur, Veer Ramji Gond of Telangana, Alluri Sitaram Raju of Andhra Pradesh, Rani Durgavati of Gond Pradesh. Lamenting the neglect of such personalities, the Prime Minister expressed satisfaction on remembering these heroes during the Amrit Mahotsava.