Context: The President of India remembered Birsa Munda.
- Birsa Munda was an Indian freedom fighter, religious leader and folk hero.
- He spearheaded the Millenarian movement that arose in the Bengal Presidency (Present-day Jharkhand)
- In recognition of his impact on the national movement, the state of Jharkhand was created on his birth anniversary in 2000.
- He belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chhotanagpur Plateau area.
- Munda spent his childhood surrounded by Christian missionaries, whose main mission was to convert as many tribal people as possible.
- He received his early education at Salga under the guidance of his teacher Jaipal Nag. On the recommendation of Jaipal Nag, Birsa converted to Christianity in order to join the German Mission school.
- Having gained awareness of the British colonial ruler and the efforts of the missionaries to convert tribals to Christianity, Birsa started the faith of ‘Birsait’.
- Soon members of the Munda and Oraon community started joining the Birsait sect and it turned into a challenge to British conversion activities.
- During the period, 1886 to 1890, Birsa Munda spent a large amount of time in Chaibasa which was close to the centre of the Sardars agitation.
- The activities of the Sardars had a strong impact on the mind of the young Birsa, who soon became a part of the anti-missionary and anti-government program between 1886 – 1890 in Chaibasa, and started a movement called ‘Ulgulan’, or ‘The Great Tumult’.
- Birsa wanted to reform the tribal society and so, he urged them to let go of beliefs in witchcraft and instead, stressed on the importance of prayer, staying away from alcohol, having faith in God and observing a code of conduct.
- Birsa Munda then founded a new religion called Birsait. The religion believed in One God and encouraged them to revert to their original religious beliefs.
- People belonging to Oraon and Munda became convinced Birsaites, and many started referring him ‘Dharti Abba or Father of Earth’.
- Through his religion, Munda also preached a strong Anti – British sentiment and mobilised thousands of tribal folk to form guerrilla armies to attack the Raj.
- He was arrested by the British police on March 3, 1900, and died in Ranchi on June 9 that year. He was only 25.
- His slogan threatening the British Raj is still remembered today in the states of Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. The Slogan was ‘Raj setar Jana, Maharani raj tundu jana’ which means ‘Let the Kingdom of the Queen be ended and our kingdom will be established’.
- Eight years after his death, the colonial government introduced the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act in 1908, which prohibits the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals.
- Though he lived a short span of life and the fact that the movement died out soon after his death, Birsa Munda is known to have mobilized the tribal community against the British and had also forced the colonial officials to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals.