Birsa Munda was one of the most prominent vanvasi ( forest dwellers) leaders and freedom fighters of Bharat in the 19th Century. He led the famous “Ulgulaan” (meaning the great tumult) movement towards the end of 19th Century. He is worshiped almost like a God esp amongst the people of Munda community – such is the respect and adulation that Birsa Munda commands from his people.
Birsa Munda was born on 15th November 1875 to to Sugana Munda and Karami Haatu in Ulihatu Village of Ranchi . After his primary education in Saalga Village, he went to Chaibasa English Middle School. He was disturbed by the atrocities meted out by the British on his people. Even in School debates, he was vociferous in his advocacy for the cause of “Jal, Jungle aur Jameen” (water, forests and land) of the vanavasis.
In those days, a Christian missionary by the name Dr. Notret was active in the area and he tried to entice the Munda people into converting to Christianity by promising to get the British to return the land that they had usurped. But in 1886-87 when the Chiefs of Mundas launched an agitation to reclaim their lands from the British, all the missionaries admonished them and helped the British in a brutal suppression of the movement. Birsa Munda was aghast by this and revolted. He was terminated from his school and had to return along with his parents to his village.
The years form 1886-1890 were the formative years for Birsa Munda. These were the years which shook up Birsa from the inside and gave rise to an intense feeling of revenge and restoration of self-respect & pride. He was influenced a lot by the revolts of the Santhals, the Chuars and the Kol janajaatis ( tribes) . The piquant position of his tribe and great threat to their social, cultural and religious ethos sowed the seeds of rebellion in him. He resolved to restore the pride and self-rule of his people. His efforts to unite the Munda people were so successful that the British grew increasingly worried and uncomfortable. He “Birsaayit” and stressed on simplicity, devotion and brotherhood. He gave the slogan of “British go back” and called for restoration of traditional democracy. He said that the “Queen’s rule will be gone and the Abua rule will come!”
On 1st October 1894, as a young leader, he launched a movement for “lagaan-maafi” (exemption of land tax). He was arrested in 1895 and lodged in Hazaribagh central prison for two years. But the influence of Birsa only kept increasing and he came to be known as “Dharti Baba.” The flame of revolution amongst the tribal people was well and truly lit.
There were several clashes between the followers of Birsa Munda and the British in the years 1897-1900. In August 1897, 400 soldiers of the Birsa Army, armed with their bows and arrows attacked the Khunti Police station and won. In 1898 also, in another battle fought on the banks of river Tanga, the Birsa army defeated the British. However, the British struck back and arrested scores of their leaders. A lot of women and children also lost their lives in crackdown.
Birsa Munda was arrested along with 482 other members of his guerilla army on 3rd February, 1900 and was lodged in the Ranchi Prison. 15 different charges were slapped against him. Charges could be proved only against 98 of the 482 people arrested. Gaya Munda, a close confidante of Birsa Munda, and his son Sanare Munda were hanged to death.
On 1st June 1900, the jail doctor declared that Birsa Munda was afflicted with Cholera and on 9th June 1900 he was declared dead.
In all of 25 years, Birsa Munda achieved so much that he became revered almost like a God. He was the one who gave the tribal people pride, respect and confidence in their own culture, religion, society and nation. He was the one who opened the eyes of his people to the motives and machinations of the Christian evangelists and the British. He was a great freedom fighter whose contributions are celebrated till date.
It is to the credit of Birsa Munda and his revolt that the British were forced to enact a new law in form of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 under which the sale of Tribal lands to the non-tribal people was prohibited.
Let’s take a moment to remember and salute this great son of India – Birsa Munda.
- Translated from Hindi by Sri Ashish Naredi
Once again the Congress in Madhya Pradesh has threatened that they would ban participation in Sangh activities if they come to power. Given below is a series of court judgements from 1950’s onwards which clearly state that no citizen can be barred from participation in Sangh activities.
1. Indore Madhya Bharat High Court (1955):
*’Krishna Lal Vs Madhya Bharat State’* –
Court Ruling – “No Temporary Government Employee can be removed stating that he is a Member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.”
2. Patna High Court (1961):
*’Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar Vs Bihar State’*
Court Ruling – “Speech given at a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh programme is not an offence under Section 153A of Indian Penal Code IPC.”
3. Bombay High Court Nagpur Bench (1962):
‘Chintamani Nurganwankar Vs Post Master General K. M., Nagpur’s*
Court Ruling – “Any Govt Employee participating in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activities is not resorting to ‘Deistructive Work’ and no one can be removed from Govt service based on this.”
4. Uttar Pradesh High Court (1963):
*’Jai Kishan Mahrotra Vs Mahalekhakar, Uttar Pradesh’s*
Court Ruling – “Being a Member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cannot be the only reason for Compulsory Retirement of any Govt Employee.”
5. Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur (1964):
*’Kedarlal Agarwal Vs Rajasthan State and Others’*
Court Ruling – “Dismissal of a Govt Employee on the basis of his active participation in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activities will be null & void.”
6. Punjab High Court, Delhi (1965):
*’Manohar Ambokar Vs Bharat Sangh & Other’s*
Court Ruling – Participating in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activities can be termed ‘neither ‘Destructive Work’ nor ‘Illegal’. No Govt Employee can be Punished on this basis.”
7. Mysore High Court, Bangalore (1966):
*’Ranganathachar Agnihotri Vs Mysore State & Other’s*
Court Ruling – “Being a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh can’t be a valid reason to deprive an individual an opportunity to be appointed as a Justice”
8. Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh (1967):
*’Ramphal Vs Punjab State & Others’*
Court Ruling – “No Govt Employee can be dismissed on basis of his participation in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Camps.”
9. Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur (1973):
*’Bharat Prasad Tripathi Vs Madhya Pradesh Govt & Other’s*
Court Ruling – “No Employee can be removed on basis of his participation in a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh programme. Any orders issued for the Sake of justifying the same will not be valid.”
10. Uttar Pradesh High Court (1971):
*’Education Director, Uttar Pradesh & Others Vs Revat Prakash Pandey’*
Court Ruling – “No citizen’s ‘Right of confluence’ can be suspended during his Government Service.”
11. Gujrat High Court, Ahmedabad (1970):
*’D.B. Gohal Vs District Judge, Bhawnagar & Other’s*
Court Ruling – “Relation with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh doesn’t proves that it is a Political Protest, hence no Govt Employee can be removed from his service based on this point.”
12. Kerala High Court, Ernakulam (1981):
*’T.B. Anandan & Others Vs Kerala State & Other’s*
Court Ruling – “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cannot be deprived of Special Facility of Government School for their Programmes.”
13. Kerala High Court, Ernakulam (1982):
*’Smt Thatumkar Vs General Manager, Tele Communications, Kerala Mondal’*
Court Ruling – “No individual can be stopped from being appointed as a Government Employee on basis of his being a Member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.”
*’Madhya Pradesh State Vs Ram Shankar Raghuwanshi & Other’s*
Court Ruling – “No Employee can be removed from Service on the basis of him participating in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Activities.”
15. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1993:
*’Central Government Vs Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’*
Court Ruling – “Not Enough reasons to declare Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Illegal.”
This anecdote is from Verghese Kurien’s memoirs ” I Too Had a Dream” .
Maniben Patel, Sardar Patel’s daughter, was a woman of tremendous honesty and loyalty. She told me that when Sardar Patel passed way, she picked up a book and a bag that belonged to him and went to meet Jawaharlal Nehru in Delhi.She handed them to Nehru, telling him that her father had instructed her that when she died she should give these items to Nehru and no one else. The bag contained Rs 35 Lakh that belonged to the Congress Party and the book was the party’s book of accounts. Nehru took them and thanked her. Maniben waited expectantly, hoping he would say something more,but he did not, so she got up and left.
I asked her what she had expected Nehru to say to her. ‘I thought he might ask me how I would manage now, or atleast ask if there was anything he could do to help me. But he never asked.’ she explained. She was extremely disheartened and in a way the incident revealed the strain in the Nehru- Sardar Patel relationship. It was quite distressing to see that neither Nehru nor any of the other national leaders of the Congress ever bothered to find out what happened to Maniben after her father died.”
“After all the sacrifices that Sardar Patel made for the nation, it was very sad that the nation did nothing for his daughter.In her later years,when her eyesight weakened,she would walk unaided down the streets of Ahmedabad, often stumble and fall until some passerby helped her up.When she was dying, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel ,came to her bedside with a photographer. He stood behind her bed and instructed him to take a picture.The photograph was published in all the newspapers the next day. With a little effort, they could so easily have made her last years comfortable”
Ed Note : Compare the above with the efforts that Nehru took for his daughter Indira.