The year: 1890-92. It was a time of turmoil when several Adivasis in the Chhotanagpur region were falling prey to the false preaching of the Christian churches and were forced to embrace Christianity. It was a ploy by the British to convert Adivasis into Christianity in an attempt to stem protests. Birsa Munda and his family also believed in the preaching initially and converted to Christianity. Soon, however, Birsa saw through the trickery and not merely did he convert to Hinduism again, he also convinced several Adivasis who had converted to Christianity to embrace Hinduism once again. It was this Birsa Munda who later became 'God' of the Adivasis and came to be regarded as `Dharti-Aba' or 'Father of the Universe.'
The British administration was jolted and in an attempt to nab Birsa announced a reward of Rs 500 for his arrest. The British trick worked and some greedy informers of the British captured Birsa when he was sleeping at night.
This book, a biography of the great Adivasi leader, Birsa Munda, tries to capture some of the brave glimpses from the life of a daring revolutionary who gave up all he had to fight for the rights of his people and to ensure the freedom of his motherland.
Gopi Krishna Kunwar Birth: December 30, 1970
Educational qualification: M.A., B.J.
Experience: Bureau chief of Prabhat Khabar,' correspondent of Lohardagga Aakashvani, Doordarshan and PTI. Associated with literacy campaign since 2000, devotes time to social service and is attached to several NGOs.
Achievements: Awarded `Akshar Sree' four times for exemplary service. Recipient of `Satyen Mitra Smriti Saksharta Puraskar' in 2007 by former President of India, H.E. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil for successful direction of North Literacy Campaign.
Contact: Kunwar Bhawan, Apar Bazar, Lohardagga, (Jharkhand).
Introduction re 1890s was a decade when the priests of the hurches in Jharkhand were known to covert innocent Adivasis living in the forests to Christianity. Birsa Munda's family too fell into the trap. Soon, however, it realized the deception and Birsa Munda not only returned to the fold of the Hindu religkon, but also made many others who .had been tricked into adopting Christianity, fall in line. It was this realization about the trickery of the Christians that made Birsa Munda rebel against them. He emerged not merely as a leader of the Adivasis, but also became their voice in the fight against British oppression and demand for the rights of the Adivasis. He went on to be regarded as 'Dharti-Aba' (Father of the Universe).
With the call to lead a pure life away from corruption and dishonesty, Birsa led his fellow men against the British administration. Soon, he became a terror for the colonial masters, so much so that he was arrested with trickery in the dead of the night on August 24, 1895, by Captain Mayers. He was gagged, brought to Ranchi and put in jail. Later, 15 of his associates were also arrested. Legal proceedings were initiated and he was tried in a court of law in Khunti. Birsa and his associates were sentenced to serve a prison term of two years.
Once released from jail, Birsa began an armed revolt against the British. He started to build a private army of revolutionaries. Several revolutionaries joined in and held secret meetings to discuss plans on how to fight the British forces. The aim was to make India independent of the British and free the Indian society from the grip of the zamindars (landlords).
As days passed, Birsa intensified his revolt. The British administration was jolted. The British were good at the art of treachery and declared reward money of 500, then a princely sum, to anyone who could give information about Birsa's whereabouts. Many other Munda Sardars also carried rewards for their arrest. Finally, Birsa was done in by seven people who made him captive for greed of the reward money and handed him over to the British.
Birsa was tried in the court of law yet again like an ordinary person. He was charged with creating arson, inciting violence and murder. A list of 15 of the accused was prepared with Birsa as the leader.
May 30, 1900. Birsa complained of physical discomfort, but no one bothered to give him any medical attention. Sometime later, he was taken to court with other prisoners, where Birsa's condition suddenly deteriorated. He was rushed back to prison. His had high pulse rate, dry throat, weak eyes and faltering voice. He was given some medication by the prison medical officer.
Birsa's condition deteriorated further on June 8 and he became too weak due to constant diarrhea. The next day, June 9, his condition worsened as he began to vomit blood. He slipped into a coma due to excessive weakness and at around 9 am, the 'God of the Adivasis' passed away.
Even in death, Birsa Munda terrorized the British. Afraid that the news of his death could trigger a violent protest, his body was secretly burnt on the banks of Subarnarekha river by the prison authorities with no one coming to know of it.
This book is a humble effort to pay tributes to a great revolutionary who lived only till the age of 25, but inspired the masses to protest against the suppression of human rights and justice.
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