By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
On a day where much happened – not the least being the excited crowds, the amazing street performers, the typical hypnotic, dance inducing drum music; the sloganeering, singing Congress cadres- that day still belonged to one man.
Birsa Munda was only 24 when he was hanged by the British in 1900; but this freedom fighter, leader of a rebellion, acharismatic personality who spearheaded a religious movement, throws a very large shadow. As the leader of the first major tribal movement against the British, he holds a high place of honour in the roll call of leaders of India’s Independence movement.
On the occasion of Munda’s birth anniversary, it was only appropriate that we ask Bharat Yatris from the tribal community for their thoughts.
For Ashika Kujur who belongs to the Oraon tribe in Chattisgarh, Birsa Munda is an awe inspiring, revered figure. “He gave us hope and a separate at a time when adivasis were treated as slaves. In some places he is worshipped as a God.”
Ratna Painkra, from the Kanwar tribe in Chattisgarh, links Birsa Munda’s struggles to the #BharatJodoYatra. “He fought against the forces of fascism and divisiveness,” she says, “And that is exactly what we are doing today through the medium of the Yatra”. Dr Belliah Naik from the Banjara community in Telangana, believe that Munda was “One of the first to strike a blow for India’s freedom struggle and an inspiration for revolutionaries who followed him.”
For Sachin Mirupa, belonging to the Bodh tribe in Himachal Pradesh, an appreciation of Munda was also part of a search for tribal identity. “We didn’t know much about him initially,” he states, “But over time as we attended tribal conclaves, we realise his impact and relevance to all our peoples across India.”
And Munda’s importance only continues to grow when, as Bijendra Uikey from tne Gond tribe in Madhya Pradesh puts it, “Tribal problems continue to persist, including forced capture of tribal land by government and builders.” Dinbandhu Boipai from the Ho tribe in Jharkhand also lists a number do other issues inclusion “Denial of forest lands which are their historical and traditional habitat, poor access to education and employment, leading to forced large scale migrations.” For Anand Sinku, also from the Ho tribe in Jharkhand, “Lack of access to education facilities” is a significant challenge for tribal communities.
All see a ray of hope from the Bharat Jodo Yatra and Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi. “Rahul Gandhi’s love for the tribal communities is so obvious and inspiring”, says Shashi Singh from the Gond tribe in Chattisgarh, “And we feel that his vision for our peoples is the most progressive and unifying.” Kotnaka Tirupati, who belongs to the Gond tribe in Chattisgarh, says he is inspired by the “Depth and frequency of Rahul Gandhi’s extensive interactions with tribal communities in the Bharat Jodo Yatra.”
These Yatris agree that today there is even greater need for the ideals of Birsa Munda. “The BJP government goals is divisive and will stop progress”, says Yogesh Meena, from the Meena community in Rajasthan, “We desperately need the unifying, tolerant values of tne Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Congress to ensure that India’s tribal communities are not stopped from moving forward.”
Currently in the state of Maharastra, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a five month, 3500 kilometre long Padyatra from Kanyakumari in the South of India to Kashmir up in the North. It is part of the party’s national mass outreach program aimed at highlighting social polarisation, economic inequalities and political centralisation.
Ground research: Aparna Ashwarya (INC Communications Department research team)
Midday Travel Facts:
1. Current District – Hingoli, Washim
2. Hingoli district is the birthplace of famous Marathi writer, F.M Shinde.
3. Hingoli is well known for its educational institutions.
4. Aundha Naganath, one of the 12 jyotirlingas is located in Hingoli district making it an important pilgrimage destinations for Hindus.
5. Washim Taluka is the largest cotton-producing area in Maharashtra and is also the largest producer of sorghum along with the Malegaon and Mangrulpir areas.
6. Washim district is well known for its famous pilgrimage sites, including the Venkateswara Balaji Temple.