In 25 years of brief life (1875 – 1900) the realization about missionary fraud, social exploitation and illegal foreign occupation were the essence Birsa Munda offers today to Young India to learn from his struggle.
Born in an extremely poor family yet rich within the family tradition and Munda Social order, Birsa Munda was an intelligent, sharp and inquisitive child. One of the family acquaintances Jaipal Nag advised him to join school and pursue academics. In vicinity there was a German mission School, who put a condition to convert to Christianity for getting education for this small boy.
Poverty is the mother of all the sins in the world.
Birsa Munda was blackmailed to become Birsa David. The missionary claim of charity, benevolence were veiled behind the fraudulence and deceit.
In a few years, the alert mind of Birsa Munda perceived the religious perversion and sinister design of church in the Tribal belt of Bihar and Orissa. He could see the rampant conversion and religious exploitation being committed on to the innocent tribal.
In 1895, at 20 years of age, Birsa Munda realized, if the tribal society had to be saved, Missionary church shackles had to be broken. At Chalakkad village in Tamar, He renounced Christianity and exhorted his tribesmen to do the same. It was a clarion call. Tribal society cutting across the region responded with alacrity and reconversion to Tribal faith spread at an electrifying speed. Such was the attraction for Birsa Munda, that even caste Hindu and Muslim residing in the Chota-Nagpur region were rallying after him.
The rise of Birsa Munda and his column of faithful tribals set the alarm bell ringing in the church. Not only Church was engaged in weakening the social order of tribal life but also collecting exploitative taxes and usurping land in those regions. Soon the Church conspired to arrest Birsa Munda. Birsa Munda was arrested and sent for two years of prison sentences.
On 28 January 1898, after his release from Jail, Birsa Munda evolved into an even more determined and combative Incarnation. He started aggressively pursuing his endeavor to enlighten the tribal society from the evils of missionary. He was now a messenger of God and preacher into the remotest of Singhbhum district. Contemporary folk songs commemorating his effort, humility and personality were spreading like wildfire. He was now known as Dharti Aba, i.e. the father of land. He started a movement to claim the usurped temple of Kols tribes from missionaries at Singhbhum.
In such a short time, he could invigorate Mundas, Orasons, Kols, Kharias to follow the tribal belief and shun the Christianity. Alarmed at the expanding influences of Birsa Munda, The Christian missionaries conspired to arrest him. Sensing the conspiracy, Birsa Munda now astute enough to silently slip into the south in Orissa on a concealed trip. He spent some time among the tribal society of Coastal Orissa and stayed at the famous temple of Lord Jagannath Jee.
1899, He returned and declared himself to be the Messenger of Tribal faith and proclaimed the termination of Victoria Raj. The Raiyats (Tenant) were asked to refuse to pay any taxes and he presided over the new self-rule called Munda Raj in the tribal belt of Munda belt of Khunti, Tamar, Sarwada and Bandgaon.
Birsa Munda proclaimed a revolution to set free the Tribal land and people from Christian missionaries. Nearly 7000 armed tribals with Bow and arrow assembled at Ranchi and proceeded to confiscate the notorious and exploitative missionary. The two were on target, one at the Anglican Mission at Murhu and another at the Roman Catholic Mission at Sarwada. Alarmed at the mobilization, British came running for the rescue of the church.
The Birsa Munda fought a guerrilla war for the next two years. In the ensuing pitched battle, Birsa kept attacking British administrative installations. Unable to collect taxes and convert the Tribals into Christianity, The British attacked Birsa at Jamkopai near Chakradharpur. It was 3rd Feb 1900, surrounded from all sides, Birsa led the last battle. The tribal fought bravely but with depleted ammunition and no supply line, they had to surrender. 63 Tribal were convicted and sent for long to life sentences. Birsa Munda was tortured and murdered in jail custody on 9th June 1900.
He attained martyrdom fighting for the cause of Tribal life for religious sanctity from missionary church and administrative purity from British Empire.
Decades before Veer Savarkar, It was Birsa Munda who understood chicanery and collusion between the Church and British Empire. These are among those few nationalist freedom fighters who foreseen the danger of British. Unlike later decade’s freedom fighter like Gandhi and Nehru, who never took up aggressive rebellion and thus avoided the Pain Persecution and Torture of British.
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