BIRSA MUNDA CONTINUES TO INSPIRE STRUGGLE OF ADIVASIS

The 142nd birth anniversary of national leader Birsa Munda is celebrated all over the country today. He was born on November 15, 1875 in Ranchi and died on June 9, 1900 in the Ranchi Jail. His 25 years of struggling life continues to inspire people and his liberating thoughts remain relevant to the contemporary challenges faced by the nation in the context of development of Adivasis and governance of Adivasi areas.

s65_manas-jena  18 November 2016 | MANAS JENA | in Bhubaneswar

The 142nd birth anniversary of national leader Birsa Munda is celebrated all over the country today. He was born on November 15, 1875 in Ranchi and died on June 9, 1900 in the Ranchi Jail. His 25 years of struggling life continues to inspire people and his liberating thoughts remain relevant to the contemporary challenges faced by the nation in the context of development of Adivasis and governance of Adivasi areas.

This pioneering leader’s portrait donated by Birsa Munda Statue Committee, Rourkela, got a place in the Parliament complex in the year 1989. A number of educational institutions and public establishments, airports, jails, stadiums etc. have been named after him as mark of respect to the great warrior of justice. The State of Jharkhand was created on his very birth day in 2000 and the State’s foundation day is celebrated as his birth anniversary. The National Book Trust of India under national biography series has published his biography written by KS Singh in 2001.There are also films such as Ulgulan -Ek Kranti and novels such as ‘Aranyara Adhikar’ by Mahaswata Devi based on Birsa’s life and struggle. Today, Birsa Munda’s legacy is recognized in the ideological galaxy of Phule and Ambedkar and it is contributing to the social transformation dialogue going on in the universities of the country. His vision is contributing to strengthen the composite pluralistic culture of India.

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Birsa Munda’s legacy being symbolized as identity of Adivasis and their self-esteem, dignity and rights over resources, land, forest, water and mineral for a dignified life and self-determination. His life and struggle is an inseparable part of history of the end part of 19th century central India that witnessed tribal upsurge against internal and external colonization by British and native feudal class, zamindars, money lenders and kings over the tribals and other marginalized communities searching for homeland. The central issues of the people’s movement was land and identity which was questioning the dominant notion of ownership over land, its utilization, and imposition of dominant socio-cultural practices, language and belief system. In line with Birsa Munda there were many powerful leaders like Baba Tilak Majhi, Sidhu -Kanhu, Chand Bhaira, Nimal Munda, Laxman Nayak, Dharanidhara Bhuyan,Rendo Majhi, Chakara Bisoi, Aluri Sitaram Raju, Madri Kalu, Sandi Sabara to name a few, whose struggles were not properly documented by historians and their contribution to freedom struggle has not been recognized adequately.

The dreams, aspirations and demands of the struggles of these nationalist leaders and especially those from among the Adivasi communities later reflected in the constitution of Independent India under the able leadership of Dr BR Ambedkar as Chairman of the drafting committee and Jaipal Singh Munda, Member Constituent Assembly and president, Adivasi Mahasabha and many others who have sacrificed their life in anti-British and anti -feudal struggle to establish a united Independent India.

What is the picture of the socio-economic condition of the tribals today after 116 years of death of Birsa Munda and 66 years of constitutional governance? The living condition and standard of life of the Adivasis have not changed to the desired extent and they are found in the bottom of almost all social development indicators. There has been deliberate criminal negligence in enforcement of the mandate of the constitution in the interest of the Adivasis of the country. They are the ones who have made maximum sacrifice for the modern industrial development of the country. Many of them got uprooted from their homeland and became homeless refugees. Hunger, death, poverty, distress migration, trafficking, violence and lawlessness are the order of the day in the tribal areas.birsa-munda

The tribal population in 5thScheduled areas has been decreasing with huge migration of Adivasis and emigration of non-Adivasis to tribal areas. This has drastic ramifications over the Adivasis and the governance of the tribal belt. In the coming days, the challenges will e more intense. The community ownership over land and forest resources is getting privatized with new laws and encouraging individual ownership .The language, culture and religion of Adivasis are in grave danger and it is difficult to maintain its continuity in the changing condition.
The collective struggle of all marginalized poor, including Adivasis on the path of Birsa Munda and others will shape the future society. There are examples of Sami parliament in Norway and separate electorate for Maories of New Zealand to ensure their self-governance and mainlining indigenous identity with dignity. In many countries tribals are demanding reparation against historical injustice. The affirmative action in India has been playing a major role in ensuring the representation of Adivasis in legislative bodies, executive and lower judiciary which need to be strengthened. But the policy of affirmative action has not been effective in building dignified inclusion of Adivasis in all spheres.
The land ownership, quality education and access to finance capital is still a distant dream for a majority of the poor Adivasi households and development funds for illiterate and poor are drained to the pockets of non-Adivasis. After seventy years of independence, the representation of Adivasis remain insignificant in many important sectors, like civil society, academics, media, literature, judiciary, executive, business, trade and commerce.

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The State Government has not brought necessary amendment in the laws in consonance with provisions of 5th Scheduled area. It is not making budgetary allocation under Tribal Sub Plan which has been seriously affecting the tribal participation in governance of tribal areas and development of tribal population. The statuary bodies such as NCST, TAC, MTA, STFDC and other-related departments are doing only routine work but in real terms the development of the tribals remains far from satisfactory.

Remembering Birsa Munda certainly gives strength to the ongoing struggle of Adivasis and other marginalized communities struggling against all kinds of marginalization, injustice and exploitation for building an egalitarian society based on constitutional values of liberty, equality, fraternity and democracy, while striving together in upholding the unity and integrity of the nation.

Manas Jena, Bhubneshwar (manasbbsr15@gmail.com)

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