Nabin Chandra Mandi was born on 1st March 1938 at Chuwasuli under the Binpur block of Jhargram district of West Bengal in a farming family. His father Srimat Chandra Mandi was the village headman. Srimat Chandra Mandi used to run the family by farming. Nabin Chandra was brought up under the care of his mother Churamani Mandi. He was the second child of his parents. He had one elder sister Hiramani, two brothers Shyamcharan and Gobardhan.
They had minimal farmland. His parents went to work in Namal (Hooghly-Burdwan region) to run their family. He also went to work in Namal.
His parents were illiterate but they knew the value of education. So, they decided to admit their child to a school. At that time there was no primary school in Chuasuli. So, he walked three kilometers to study at Palaidanga Primary School. Then he got admission to Maguria school seven kilometers away from home and passed eighth class from there. He passed matriculation from Nanibala school.
After some days he got a job in the National Library in Kolkata. He started studying ancient manuscripts in the National Library and searched for literature related to the Santal Rebellion. He played a vital role in turning the Adivasi young generation towards libraries. He invited the young generations to read many books and pamphlets related to tribals. At that time Pandit Raghunath Murmu was working for the spread of the Olchiki script among the Santal community. Hearing this news, Nabinchandra rushed to Darbose of Odisha to meet with Pt. Raghunath Murmu.
Nabin Chandra informed him that millions of people of the Santal community of Bengal are in the darkness of illiteracy. They need to be educated. He started the fight for education from his own family. He formed the Adibasi Socio-Educational & Cultural Association(ASECA), West Bengal branch with the help of some well-wishers of Bengal in 1967. He served as general secretary from 1969 to 1970.
He also served as the president of ASECA from 1995 to 1997. As per the rule of Govt. he retired from the post of senior assistant in 1996 and returned to the village and concentrated on farming. He was the first editor of Jug Jarpa, a monthly mouthpiece of ASECA published from Kolkata in Olchiki script.In 1980, the Jug Jarpa was changed to Singar Sakowa.He served as an editor till 1984.
In the early sixties, a fifteen-minute weekly Santali program was broadcast from Kolkata Akashvani. Basically, the artists of Ranchi got the opportunity to perform in the program. ASECA (Under the leadership of Nabin Chandra) demanded that Santali artists of West Bengal should be given a chance and daily Santali programs should be broadcasted from Akashbani Kolkata. In 1973, the Santals of Bankura, Purulia, and Medinipur gathered at the Shaheed Minar under the leadership of Nabin Chandra, Kushal Baskey, Baidyanath Soren, Joyram Murmu, Bidhubhusan Hembram, and Bandiram Murmu to demand daily Santali programs in Akashbani and education in mother tongue Santali.
This was the first large gathering of Santals in the heart of the metropolis. The government led by the then Chief Minister of Bengal Siddhartha Shankar Roy sent the report to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. As a result of this report, a daily half-hour Santali Akhra (Santali Programme) was started from 15th August 1975.
In the eighties, for the first time under the State Council of Educational Research Training, a primary level syllabus and terminology committee were formed for Santali language in Olchiki script. He was a member of both committees. A large number of non-Adivasi mocked the Santali language as Thar. But Nabin Chandra would not hesitate to speak in his mother tongue. He would speak in his mother tongue Santali without any hesitation while he was traveling on bus or tram in Kolkata.
In the beginning, doing any Santali programs for the radio with Adivasi women, artists was very difficult. Most of these women of rural villages were reluctant to go to the radio station because of superstitions and shame. It was Nabinchandra who took his wife and the wife of his brother to the radio station to sing. After that others came forward breaking the shackles of superstitions to participate in the programs.
During the tenure of the Left government, he played a vital role to the official naming of Sidhu Kanhu Dahar (Street) in Kolkata. He was one of the prominent tribal figures who was instrumental in persuading the state government to officially observe Hul Day on 30th June. He helped hundreds of Santali young men and women to get government jobs. He trained the youths at his home who were called for a job interview. He was a pioneer of superstition and the renaissance of Santal society. As per the rule creation death will happen. This great social worker and reformer passed away on 30th April 2021.
Image Credit: Anandabazar Patrika