Remembering Birsa Munda, Rani Kamlapati

But Why BJP Denied the Post of Chief Minister to Tribals in Jharkhand, Assam after 2014, 2019 polls? Naming a few places after Birsa Munda or a station after Rani Kamlapati does not amount to giving justice to the crores of Scheduled Tribes in India, opines Soroor Ahmed

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Soroor Ahmed

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But Why BJP Denied the Post of Chief Minister to Tribals in Jharkhand, Assam after 2014, 2019 polls?


Naming a few places after Birsa Munda or a station after Rani Kamlapati does not amount to giving justice to the crores of Scheduled Tribes in India, opines Soroor Ahmed


On the occasion of the 146th birth anniversary of the famous 19th century Adivasi freedom-fighter, Birsa Munda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 15 recalled his heroic struggle against the British.

Inaugurating a museum named after him in Ranchi through videoconferencing from New Delhi and addressing another function organised in Bhopal to rename the innovated Habibganj railway station after the last Gond queen, Rani Kamlapati, the Prime Minister claimed as to how the great contributions of the tribal heroes were ignored by the country.

No doubt, he was right. The achievements of the under-privileged and weaker sections of the society always get much less recognition. This is a sort of global phenomenon and in India the caste hierarchy further comes in the way.

But at the same time it is also very easy to pick several such instances from history to lambast a particular political party or a group . It is true that Birsa Munda has not got his due though it is also a fact that there are several institutions and public places in Jharkhand named after him. Rani Kamlapati, widow of Nizam Shah, the ruler of Ginnorgarh, might not have got so much attention, so far naming the places are


Yet naming a few places after Birsa Munda or a station after Rani Kamlapati does not amount to giving justice to the crores of Scheduled Tribes in India, most of them live in the heart of the country.

It is very easy to pay lip service to the tribals, or anyone else.

But is it not a fact that in the recent past the process of political disempowerment of the tribes of Jharkhand started in 2014, that is 14 years after the creation of the first state in the name of Adivasis? In the Assembly election held at the fag end of the year 2014 the Bharatiya Janata Party emerged victorious. But to the utter surprise of many political pundits the saffron party, which boasts of working in the region for the last many decades, made Raghubar Das its chief minister. The tribals were shocked to see this development as for the first time since its creation on November 15, 2000 Jharkhand got the first non-Adivasi chief minister. Even the BJP has in the past made tribals the chief minister – the first time Babulal Marandi just after the formation of the new state.

But what prompted the BJP to nominate a non-tribal as the sixth chief minister of the state? Raghubar Das originally Raghubar Sahu, is actually a Teli, the caste somewhat similar to Modi’s. Not only that he is from the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh (now his birthplace falls in Chhattisgarh) and his family settled down in the then Bihar much earlier in his life.

The irony is that the whole Jharkhand movement was launched against the dikkus (outsiders) and sahukars (money-lenders) . However, Raghubar’s father was just a labourer and not hailed from the exploiter class who came from outside in the industrially and mineral-rich part of the then undivided Bihar.

The Bharatiya Janata Party never accepted the Jharkhand movement led by Shibu Soren in early 1970s. Instead the saffron party floated the concept of Vananchal, but was compelled to concede the term Jharkhand under the pressure of tribals, who form around 27 per cent of the population.

Anyway the installation of Raghubar Das, a non-tribal and that too originally from outside the region, turned a large chunk of those Adivasis who were attracted by the saffron party, away from the BJP. The result was very much there. The BJP lost the Assembly election of December 2019, and Raghubar Das suffered a humiliating defeat from his own constituency, Jamshedpur East, which he had been representing since 1995.

It remained a sort of mystery as to why the BJP has suddenly been reminded about Birsa Munda on his 146th birth anniversary – or even Rani Kamlapati – when there is no Assembly election either in Jharkhand or Madhya Pradesh.

Even the three big states which are going to poll early next year – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab – have hardly any tribal population. Not to speak of just Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP had hardly done anything for the tribals in the recent past, even in Assam, where it had won Assembly poll early this year, it replaced a tribal chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, with a Brahmin, Himanta Biswa Sarma, though the former led the party to victory.

Besides, the Bharatiya Janata Party government had not yet recognised the long-pending demand of the Tea Tribes of Assam. They are the same Adivasis who were forcibly taken away from the central India by the British imperialists in the 19th century and compelled to work in the tea gardens of North-East. These Tea Tribes have not yet been included in the list of Scheduled Castes in Assam and are exploited by the tea companies, which were earlier owned by the Europeans. They were uprooted from the Chotanagpur region simply because they were repeatedly revolting against the British. Birsa Munda was one of those who led the rebellion and died at the age of just 25 in the year 1900, while still in the British custody.

The British hit two birds with one stone. They not only displaced the rebellious Adivasis from the central India, but also pitted them against the aboriginals of the then undivided Assam, who were up in arms against the colonial masters. These Adivasis were then made to work in the tea gardens. Even today they are not getting Rs 351 as daily wage as they demanded on the eve of the Assembly election early this year.

The Tea Tribes now form 20 per cent of Assam population. More than one century and a half later these Adivasis brought from elsewhere are considered outsiders and bloody clashes with the Bodos are quite common. All these are happening when both the Tea Tribes and the aboriginals of Assam reposed faith on the BJP, both in the Centre and the state elections.