124th Death Anniversary of Birsa Munda

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Source-This post on Birsa Munda has been created based on the article “Birsa Munda’s 124th death anniversary: Significance of the tribal leader’s contributions” published in “Indian Express” on 10 June 2024.

Why in News?

Recently tribute was paid to revolutionary tribal leader Birsa Munda marking the 124th anniversary of his death.

About Birsa Munda

Birsa Munda statue.
Source: IE

i) Birsa Munda was born on November 15, 1875.

ii) He belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chotanagpur region (present-day Jharkhand). His community, originally nomadic hunters, had turned to farming.

iii) He completed his primary education under the guidance of teacher Jaipal Nag.

iv) Birsa converted to Christianity to join the German Mission school but left after a few years.

Impact of British Rule

i) Land Ownership Changes: The traditional land ownership system, known as “khuntkatti,” was disrupted by the Permanent Settlement Act (1793), introducing the zamindari system.

ii) Exploitation: The new system created land-owning zamindars (dikus) and tenant farmers (ryots), leading to the displacement and exploitation of tribal communities.

iii) Forced Labour: The “begar” system imposed forced labor on the tribal people.

iv) Moneylenders and Courts: Tribals were forced to depend on moneylenders and had their traditional clan councils replaced with British courts.

v) Famines: Famines in 1896-97 and 1899-1900 caused mass starvation among the tribal population.

Significant contribution of Birsa Munda

1. He was influenced by the Sardari agitation against British rule, Birsa became actively involved in the anti-missionary and anti-colonial movement.

2. Birsa founded the Birsait faith, which advocated against superstition and encouraged the worship of one God. He was revered as ‘Bhagwan’ (God) and ‘Dharti ka Abba’ (Father of the Earth).

3.  Birsa Munda launched the Ulgulan movement, a rebellion against British rule using guerrilla warfare. The movement aimed to establish the Birsa Raj and resist colonial laws and rent payments.

4. The Ulgulan movement led to significant reforms, including the repeal of the begar system and the enactment of the Tenancy Act (1903) and the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (1908), which protected tribal land rights.

5.  Birsa was arrested on March 3, 1900, and died in Ranchi Jail on June 9, 1900, at the age of 25.

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