Remembering Dharti Aba: JTSA Organizes Seminar on Birsa Munda on Jharkhand Foundation Day

15 November 2016| 2:30 PM: Jharkhand Tribal Students’ Association organized a seminar titled ‘Recalling Birsa Munda’s Struggle: Preserving Tribal Rights and Identity’ in order to commemorate the birth anniversary of the tribal leader from Chotanagpur plateau. Apparently, the day is also identified by the state of Jharkhand as Jharkhand Foundation Day in remembrance of the struggle and resistance put forward by the people under the leadership of Birsa Munda for self-determination during colonization, and in acknowledgement of the influence the movement had in formulating a demand for a separate state first voiced in the Adivasi Mahasabha in 1939 led by Jaipal Singh Munda.


Birsa Munda (1875-1900)

The event was held in the Committee Room, in SIS-2 and began a little before 3:00 PM in the presence of the speakers called in to discuss the historical significance as well as the continued inspiration of the ‘millenerian  movement’ lead by Birsa Munda. The list of speakers included retired diplomat and indepndent scholar of the Chotanagpur tribes Mahli Livins Tirkey; the scientist and ex-AJSU secretary Dr Ashok Kumar Baxla, Dr Soumyabrata Choudhary from SAA, JNU;  Prof. Tiplut Nongbri from CSSS/SSS, Dr Ajith Kanna from CFFS/SL, while the session was chaired by Dr Gomati Bodra from Dept of Sociology, JMI. The seminar was attended by students, scholars and faculty members.

While Mr Tirkey pointed out that Birsa is not a lone figure, but the last among a series of Tribal leaders from the Chotanagpur region who rose against the oppressive and exploitative forces, as a movement it derived inspiration from some 11-12 other similar tribal uprisings spread over a span of 300 years, by different tribes of the region.

On the other hand, Dr Choudhary emphasized on the need to acknowledge and incorporate alternative political and cultural  models especially when forces of homogenization and assimilation are afoot, he said. Dr Baxla recounted his own experiences as student in Ranchi University and Birsa Agricultural University to highlight the various forms of discrimination and injustices faced by tribal students. Prof Tiplut Nongbri reminded the audience of some relevant issues regarding tribal rights and dignity, especially those pertaining to the state identification of tribal religious practices, cultural practices and language which form an essential part of their identity.

Apart from which, the speakers also discussed the ideological construct of the term ‘tribe’ and ‘tribal’ and the manner in which mainstream discourses have been guilty of fixing tribal identity as either fixed in time or as opposed to the modern norms for ‘civilzation.’ There were pertinent questions raised by students regarding the idea of citizenship , indigenous practices for the preservation of the environment and the need for intervention to check human trafficking, especially tribal women.

Those present agreed that Birsa has become the locus of present day subaltern resistance and a symbol of struggle and resistance inherited from one generation to another. Prof Tiplut in fact, urged those present to think how Birsa would have reacted to the difficult conditions faced by the tribals in contemporary times.

Jharkhand Tribal Students’ Association is an independent organization in the campus, comprising of tribal students from the states of Central India.


Image Source: Wikipedia

The Informer correspondent