Gautam Guha, Agami Kalarab: There is a certain malleability attached to the phrase ‘freedom struggle’. For many Indians, the phrase refers to their long struggle for Independence against British colonial rule. This was a movement which brought together Indians of many hues on one common platform. Long before they arrived on the scene, and a few decades before Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh made their presence felt in the freedom struggle, there was Birsa Munda, a tribal revolutionary who frightened the British colonialists.
This revolutionary from the forest lands of the Chota Nagpur Plateau in present-day Jharkhand is the only tribal leader whose portrait hangs in Parliament. He was only 25 when he died in the custody of British authorities in the Ranchi Central Jail. Since Independence, the Indian Republic has claimed Birsa as one of its own.
Cutting across circles in both academia and politics, the fact that there should be a relevant movie made, contemporising Birsa’s life and message, is indeed a long-pending wish. Yes, there have been some books, movies and documentaries made on the stalwart, but he remains unknown to the youth of today. There is no doubt that the time is ripe to bring back Birsa for the people of today, and there cannot be a better moment than now.
Subaltern personalities, like Uda Devi, Rani Jhalkari Bai, Udham Singh, Tirot Sing and Birsa Munda, are the defining beacons of the Indian freedom struggle who ensured that the British got a stiff dose of India’s ability to fight any kind of oppression. Love for India, feelings for the masses, leadership skills and the ability to feel for one’s beloved cause are all important lessons to be picked up and lived by each and every one of us.
These heroes have taught us to think big as each played a pivotal role in enabling the masses to promptly strike back whenever they faced cultural imperialism. These are personalities who are not just meant to be seen as idols, but more importantly, as ideals. During their time and age, they inspired thousands from their respective communities.
Today, we must look up to them, and internalise the qualities that they stood for. The contribution of the tribal personalities towards the Indian freedom movement remains unmatched, despite battling adversarial circumstances related to living, eating, even the most basic of life’s requirements. Imagine, Birsa Munda was all of 25 when he died — yet, his impact has been so profound. Birsa’s life was driven by poverty, but he still set a powerful example for the youth to emulate in their pursuit of giving more to society than what is taken. He has been an astounding contributor to modern India, but he has also unfortunately been relegated to the background in today’s times. At the age of 25, Birsa managed to understand the pulse of his fellow tribal citizens. His vision for his Munda community was to trace their roots and ethos back, and as a result, a whole section of society benefited.The draft of the Constitution prepared by the committee under Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s aegis was approved and accepted on this day. It is a perfect tribute that Birsa Munda’s portrait hangs in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament, as a mark of honour and respect. We must rediscover The great ‘Vagawan’ on his 144th birth anniversary today.