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Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas – Remembering Tribal Freedom Fighters

Published: 22nd Nov, 2021

Context

In a recent development, Union Cabinet has approved 15th November as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas to remember the contributions of India’s tribal freedom fighters for the country.

15th November was chosen as it is the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda who is revered as ‘Bhagwan’ by tribal communities across the country.

Analysis

Who was Birsa Munda?

  • Birsa Munda was born in 1875. He belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chota Nagpur Plateau
  • He converted to Christianity to join the German Mission school. However, he later decided to renounce Christianity and drop out of the School.
  • Birsait Faith: He created a new religion called ‘Birsait’,which worshipped only one god.
    • Given his growing influence in the tribal community, Birsait soon became the popular religion among the Mundas and Oraons. He was also given the nickname ‘Father of the Earth.
  • Influence on Birsa Munda: During the 1880s, Birsa closely witnessed the ‘Sardari Larai movement’in the region, which demanded the restoration of tribal rights through non-violent methods like sending petitions to the Raj. However, the oppressive colonial regime paid no heed to these demands. 

Munda Tribe

  • The Mundas (means "headman of a village") are one of the aboriginal peoples found in the Chota Nagpur region of eastern India.
  • The tribe has lent its name to the Munda branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family.
  • Sometimes Munda is used to designate the many tribes of the region (e.g., Munda, Santal, Ho) that speak Munda languages and share common spiritual and cultural values.
  • These tribes are also sometimes called Kolarian.
  • The name Munda was originally applied to the group by outsiders. The tribe's own name for itself is Hor-on.
  • The Mundas are a people of considerable antiquity, some scholars identifying them with the Mundas mentioned in the epic Mahahbharata. 

About Munda Rebellion

  • Munda Rebellion was led by Birsa Munda.
  • It was a revolt against the colonial masters and exploitative dikus(outsiders) and was aimed at establishing MundaRaj or Munda rule in this region.
  • The revolt later came to be known as The Ulgulan or“the Great Tumult”.
  • Reason for Munda Revolt:
    • In 1874, the British replaced the Khuntkari systemof Munda tribals with the Zamindari
    • It created the classes of zamindars (landlords) and ryots (tenants).
    • It also intensified the forced labor (vethbigari) in the forested tribal areas and made tribals depend on money lenders for money.
  • Impact of the Munda Revolt:
    • The movement compelled the British to take cognizance of the plight and exploitation of tribals and bring in the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act of 1908for their protection.
    • This Act restricted the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals giving Adivasis a huge relief and becoming landmark legislation for the protection of tribal rights. 

Assessing the role of tribals in India’s Independence

  • The Janjatis and their leaders rose in revolt against the colonial forces even before the freedom struggle of 1857.
  • Across India, following tribals kept up sustained and ferocious attacks on the British-
    • East India: Santhals, Kol, Ho, Pahadia, Munda, Oraon, Chero, Lepcha, Bhutia, and the Bhuyan tribes
    • Northeast India: Khasi, Naga, Ahom, Meamaria, Abor, Nyishi, Jaintia, Garo, Mizo, Singhpo, Kuki and Lushai
    • South India: Padyagars, Kurichya, Beda, Gonds and Great Andamanese in the south
    • Central India: Halba, Kol, Muriya, Koi
    • West India: Dang Bhil, Mair, Naika, Koli, Mina and Dubla
  • These movements threw up inspirational leaders.
  • Important leaders: Among them were Tilka Majhi, Tikendrajit Singh, Veer Surendra Sai, Telanga Kharia, Veer Narayan Singh, Sidhu, Kanu Murmu, Rupchand Konwar, and Laxman Naik.
  • Significant female Tribal figures: Rani Gaidinliu, Phulo, Jhano Murmu, Helen Lepcha, and Putali Maya Tamang.

How Janjatiya Gaurav Divas would be celebrated?

  • To mark this day, the Indian government launched a week-long celebration to commemorate 75 years of the history of tribal people.
    • Beginning: November 15, 2021
    • Conclusion: November 22, 2021
  • Central and State governments organized several activities as a part of the celebration.
  • The theme of each activity showcased the achievements of tribals in the Indian Freedom Struggle.
  • The government also undertook several initiatives in health, education, skill development, livelihood, and infrastructure.

What is the significance of Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas?

  • It commemorated tribal freedom fighters.
  • It is aimed to make the coming generations aware of sacrifices made by tribal freedom fighters during India’s independence movement.
  • It would acknowledge the cultural heritage and glorious history of tribal communities.

Conclusion

The Janjatiya Gaurav Divas will be celebrated every year to recognize the efforts of the tribals in the preservation of cultural heritage and promotion of Indian values of national pride, valor, and hospitality.

Verifying, please be patient.

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