This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ashish Birulee. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Tribals Of Jharkhand Need Birsa Munda Today

More from Ashish Birulee

Santhal Revolt | Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santhal_rebellion

The tribal history of resistance can be remembered by three major revolts which time can never erase. After Baba Tilka Majhi, it was the first spell of tribal awakening for freedom and independence from the British Empire. The three revolts are the Kol Revolt in 1829-1839, followed by the Santhal Revolt in 1855-1856 and the Munda Revolt in 1899-1900, which is also known as Ulgulan Revolution. The Great Bhagwan Birsa Munda led the Ulgulan revolution. All three revolutions were a victory, and that is the reason the tribals sang the first songs of victory and freedom long before the Independence of 1947.

The Birth Of Ulgulan

A leader is not born, the circumstances, the environment, the necessities, education, and self-realisation of taking the lead, makes a person a leader.

Birsa Munda was born on November 15, 1875. It was the period of the late 19th century when the British were forcefully grabbing lands from the tribals which turned them from freemen to bonded labourers, which further led to death and poverty. The exploitation of tribals and discrimination had become a daily occurrence during this period, and there was no sign of help or solace. The British, while coming to India, brought education along with them. Birsa Munda, too, attended one of the missionary schools in Ranchi. He was very sharp in studies, was a fast learner, and had an insight and vision for the future of his people, and it is all these things combined that made him rebel at an early age of his life.

Birsa Munda Jayanti and Jharkhand Sthapna Diwas is celebrated on the same day. | Image: Ashish Birulee

Birsa Munda started a movement called “Ulgulan”, which means ‘revolution’ in the Mundari language spoken by the Munda tribe. The fight was for the right to their lands. His leadership was phenomenal, and thousands of tribals stood with him. The uprising of tribals posed a threat to the British government. For a long time, they couldn’t capture this God-like man, but unfortunately, he was arrested by the British police on 3rd of March 1900 in the Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur and was put in jail in Ranchi.

He died of Cholera on June 9, 1900, at a young age of 25, at least that is what was declared by the British government. The tribals, however, refused to trust their statement and believed that the officials in jail killed him. Even after his death, the impact of the movement remained very strong, and the British government had to form the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, which was passed in 1908.

“Ulgulan” means ‘the revolution’ in the Mundari language. | Image: Ashish Birulee

The Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908

This act restricts the passing on of land from tribal people to non-tribals. It acts as a protecting shield for the tribal land, but does it completely protect it? The answer is no—because there is another law called the Land Acquisition Act 1894, which completely undermines the CNT Act, 1908 and facilitates easy loot of tribal land.

In the name of development and public service, dams, factories, roads and railways and canals have been built in Jharkhand, in the process of which 90% of tribals have lost their lands. Cities like Jamshedpur and Ranchi are based on grabbed tribal land. If the CNT Act has been protecting the tribal lands since 1908, how come non-tribals have successfully built their homes and how come so many mines and industries have been constructed and put into operation on indigenous land? It isn’t my job to answer these questions; it is the government’s.

Land grabbers and invaders will stop at nothing to do what they came for. In 1907, the year before the CNT Act was passed, the Tata Group had already acquired the lands of tribals for mining iron ore in Noamundi and Jamshedpur for establishment of its industrial empire. Jamshedpur at one time was known as “Kalimati” (Land of Black soil) and was home to the Munda, Santhal and Ho tribes, who were forcefully displaced by the dikus (non-tribals), so that their land could be acquired. The non-tribal government tried a number of times to amend the act, and eventually, the Raghubar Das government successfully weakened the act. The government, after the amendment to Section 49, will be able to acquire land in the Chota Nagpur region without anything stopping them.

Whose Independence Was Really Celebrated In 1947?

India belongs to the tribals. The UNO admits it as well. The first invaders were the Aryans, second were the Mughals, and the last were the British. Tribals never welcomed invaders nor accepted slavery. The Mughals and the Brahmans welcomed East India Company, and that is how the door was opened to British ruling India for over 200 years. The scenario changed when the uprising of tribals began.

The continuous victory and achievements of the tribal revolution were so impactful that each revolution successfully formed acts like the Wilkinson’s Rule 1837 after the Kol Revolt, Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1876 after the Santhal Revolt and Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, after the Munda Revolt. These achievements demoralised not only the British but also non-tribals because even they couldn’t breach tribal lands. The insecurity grew further as the British were on the path to hand over the documents of independence to tribal hands. What happened in 1947 clearly signifies that the country got independence only to be ruled over again. The first Prime Minister was supposed to be a tribal, not a Brahman or anyone else. Unfortunately, injustice, discrimination and exploitation against tribals continued even here, and the Brahmans occupied all the important posts. Not a single tribal was given rights.

These are not false allegations; it’s the real face of the Indian Government. If the government is made for the Indian people, then why are the laws made by the British like the Land Acquisition Act, Income Tax, Police Act still existent after Independence? The British couldn’t harm the tribals as much as the Indian Government has. The hatred of the Indian Government towards tribals could be witnessed on January 1, 1948, when the flowers of the freedom celebration weren’t even dry. The tribals who were protesting for a separate state in Saraikela Kharsawan in Jharkhand were brutally killed in police fire. It was a massacre, and till date, the tribals of Kharsawan do not celebrate New Year’s to mourn the martyrs and the day is known as a Black Day for the tribals.

Thousands of tribals paying tribute to the tribal matryrs who were killed in Seraikela Massare in 1st January in 1948. | Image: Ashish Birulee

Why We Need Birsa Munda Today

People and the government in power should understand that with great power comes great responsibility and humility, but instead, what we are seeing is that with more power comes more cruelty—a destructive superiority complex, arrogance and dictatorship. If this is how the government continues to treat the tribals and the speed at which the natural wealth and social culture are being exploited, the tribals will not be saved, and India will never progress with full potentiality.

During the Revolt of 1899-1900 Birsa emerged as the supreme leader of the Mundas.| Image: http://indiafacts.org/birsa-munda-first-tribal-martyr/

Therefore, Bhagwan Birsa Munda is needed again for the tribals to be saved. However, in the world, as we know it now, just one Birsa Munda will not be enough to carry the weight of this responsibility. It’s not just Bhagwan Birsa Munda we need; we need Baba Tilka Majhi, Sidhu Kanhu, Chand Bhairav and Phulo Jhano as well.

Once again, let’s look through the history pages of tribal revolts and learn about something which isn’t mentioned—that all the revolts were fought separately, and all of them were a huge success.

Imagine what would have happened if they fought united?

You must be to comment.
  1. Bina Diggi

    This is what we all need is courage…hope each and everyone own the same courage you have…

  2. The Adivasis in Jharkhand need a Birsa Munda today as their land is being taken over for development – Gaonconnection | Your Connection with Rural India

    […] This article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz-Adivasi Lives matter, with permission from Adivasi Lives Matter. You can read the original article here […]

More from Ashish Birulee

Similar Posts

By Yuvaniya

By Rachit Sharma

By Pragya Uike

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below