Even as some three thousand people across India from tribal groups and their supporters, attended a on June 9 organized a webinar to commemorate the 121st anniversary of Birsa Munda’s martyrdom, a question still hangs in the balance. The indigenous people are still being alienated and forced to give up their lands.
Sister Lalita Roshni Lakra reports on a webinar
Munda, a tribal hero and revolutionary from Jharkhand, died at the age of 25 while fighting the British for independence and to protect tribal people’s “jal, jungle, zameen” (water, forest and land).
Among the webinar participants was Chhattisgarh Governor Anusuiya Uikey, who called upon tribal people to imitate Birsa Munda in strengthening their culture. Munda, she added, had championed the development of his tribal community in Jharkhand while waging the war against the British for freedom.
The governor, who was the chief guest, also said Munda organized tribal youth to remove superstitious beliefs from their community. “He worked hard to protect and preserve the natural resources of the then Chhotanagpur. He strengthened our culture,” added the governor who hails from a tribal community in Madhya Pradesh.
The webinar was organized by ‘Adivasi Samanway Manch Bharat’ (association of indigenous people of India). About 3,000 people attended the webinar through Google Meet, two YouTube channels –Adivasi peoples live and Indian Indigenous Peoples — and a Facebook channel.
Munda was born on November 15, 1875, at Ulihatu, a village in Jharkhand’s Khunti district, and he died on June 9, 1900 n Ranchi Central Jail.
In 1908, the colonial government introduced the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act that prohibits the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals.
Omkar Markam, a tribal leader from Madhya Pradesh, regretted that his people are deprived of their rights. The coronavirus pandemic has shown to the world the need for pure air, water and food for human survival.
“And it was with the tribals” until they were displaced from their habitat in the name of developments. “Jal, jungle and jameen are our fundamental right,” Markam said and demanded the implementation of the provisions of forest rights act.
He said some 350,000 Adivasis in his state have lost their claim on the forest after being displaced from their places. “
“Where will they go?” he asked while urging the participants to fulfill the dreams of Birsa Munda.
“Many tribals are educated and are in good place but need to be concerned about the rest of the Adivasi population who are still backward,” he added.
A session on youth stressed the need to make society independent, and protect and preserve natural resources.
“We become youth not by our age only but by our thoughts, perceptions, mentality, thinking pattern,” the participants said recalling how Birsa Munda took on the mighty British at his very young age.
The webinar also urged the tribal youth to work collectively to end injustice, exploitation, and unequal treatment of tribal in any Indian state.
Phoolman Chowdhary, a leader of Nepal’s Tharu tribal community and member of the Advisory Member of United Nations Permanent Forum, proposed three recommendations at the webinar:
• To ratify 169 of ILO Convention
• To read UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People) and to apply it in India
• To do something to protect, promote and preserve the indigenous languages in the indigenous languages decade of 2022-2032.