Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday recalled the contributions of noted tribal freedom fighter from eastern India Birsa Munda, describing him as "an inspirational force".
Addressing his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat', Modi said, Munda's contributions to the freedom struggle will remain etched in public memory forever. During this period of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, a Government of India initiative to celebrate 75 years of a progressive India and its glorious history, the country is remembering its brave sons and daughters, those great and virtuous souls, Modi said. Next month, the birth anniversary of one such icon and a brave warrior Bhagwan Birsa Munda is falling on the 15th of November, he said.
"Bhagwan Birsa Munda is also known as 'Dharti Aaba'. Do you know what this epithet means? It means the father of earth. The way Bhagwan Birsa Munda fought to protect his culture, his forest, his land, it could have only been done by ‘Dharti Aaba'," the prime minister said.
Munda taught the countrymen to be proud of their culture and roots, Modi said, adding the colonial rulers subjected him to countless threats and applied immense pressure, but he did not relinquish the tribal culture.
"If we have to learn to love nature and environment, then for that, too, Dharti Aaba Bhagwan Birsa Munda is one of our greatest inspirations. He strongly opposed every policy of foreign rulers which was detrimental to environment," he said.
Noting that Birsa Munda was always at the forefront while helping the poor and the distressed, the prime minister said, "He also made the society aware about eliminating social evils. Who can forget his leadership during the Ulgulan movement? This movement shook the British and, as an aftermath, the British had placed a huge reward on Bhagwan Birsa Munda." Munda had launched the Ulgulan movement against the exploitation of the tribals.
"The British government put him in jail and he was tortured to such an extent that he left us at the age of less than 25years. He left us, but only in the body; in the public psyche, Lord Birsa iMunda resides forever! His life remains an inspirational force for the people," the prime minister said.
Even today, folk songs and stories, full of recollection of his courage and valour, are very popular in the central region of India, Modi said, adding he bows to 'Dharti Aaba' Birsa Munda. He also urged the youth to read more about him. The more you know about the unique contribution of our tribal populace to the freedom struggle of India, the more proud you will feel, he said.
India's largest hockey stadium, which is coming up at Rourkela in Odisha's Sundargarh district, has been named after the tribal hero. The stadium will host the 2023 Men’s FIH Hockey World Cup.
Birsa Munda united the tribals against the British and forced the colonial rulers to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals. He spearheaded the tribal Millenarian movement that arose in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency comprising western districts of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
He was born on November 15, 1875, in Chhotanagpur plateau of present-day Jharkhand. Birsa Munda had organised his first protest march for remission of forest dues during the the great famine of 1895. He was arrested on March 3, 1900, while sleeping with his tribal guerrilla army at Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur. He died in Ranchi jail on June 9 that year aged 25.