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"Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
......... from An Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard
Birsa Munda (1875–1900) , an Indian tribal freedom fighter, religious leader and folk hero belonged to the Munda tribe that is primarily found in Jharkhand state North India. He was born on November 15, 1875 in Ulihatu, Khunti, to Sugana Munda, an agricultural laborer, and his wife, Karmi Hatu and he was one among the seven children born to his parents. He was one of the important leaders and a folk hero who led the freedom struggle along with his tribal indigenous religious community against the British in the modern tribal belt of Bihar and Jharkhand. He died at the age of just 25 while in Jail and his impressive portrait, along with great freedom fighters, hangs in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament as a mark of honor for his invaluable contribution towards India's freedom struggle.
Bisra was against the British who had already taken many tribal lands across India for cultivation of cash crops. The British, besides, wanted coal and also wood for many railway projects, etc and were particular about taking control over the tribal lands. In some places, they not only took away their lands but also made them work like galley slaves. It was simply exploitation galore of poor tribes. Bisra was also against the Zamindari system as many zamindars fleeced the farm workers and offered low wages to them. Using the culture, tradition and symbol of their tribal society as the main rallying points to fight the British because he did not like their tribal tradition and culture destroyed, he created an awareness among his people about their lands and their rights. At the same time, he also fought for tribal rights, social justice, cultural rejuvenation, their distinct identity, etc. Most importantly, tribal communities strength lies in forests, so he did not like forest resources taken away by the foreign invaders. He knew very well. once their resources were gone, they would be in serious trouble.He emphasized the fact that the forest resources should be retained at any cost.
Bisra, unfortunately died while serving his prison term in Ranchi, Bihar. He was just 25. What a man could achive in 50 to 60 years, he did in in a short period of time and made a mark as a great freedom fighter and tribal leader and successfully fought against the exploitative policies of the British with particular reference to tribal areas. He gathered an army of tribes against the British when he realized that the East India company was torturing his community to exploit their natural resources from their land when they were born and raised and unashamedly filling their coffers and sending the enormous profits to their mother land.
Not educated, his ability to restore the land rights of the tribes is an exemplary act and it shows his vision and leadership quality at too young an age. His name is well etched in the pages of the history of India's freedom struggle.