Why Hindutva groups want to reshape Birsa Munda’s legend

Hello,

For many years, the celebration of Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary was a modest affair. 

But residents of his birth village, Ulihatu in Jharkhand’s Khunti district, have noticed that of late, senior politicians of the state and Centre have taken to visiting the village on the occasion. In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself visited Munda’s birth memorial and paid tribute to him.

But as Nolina Minj learnt, reporting from Ulihatu, many believe that the right wing’s efforts to honour Munda are part of a larger strategy to appropriate him as a Hindu figure.

Activists and scholars argue that such moves are merely lip service, and that they are part of a larger strategy to appeal to the Adivasi voter base. They maintain that Adivasi culture and religion are distinct from Hinduism, and that, in fact, their communities continue to be neglected even today.

“Different groups and ideologies have tried to hijack Birsa's narrative,” Minj said. “But once you focus on the essential narrative, you realise, as activist Dayamani Barla points out, that Munda was fighting for the very same crucial things that Adivasi communities are fighting for today – their right to self-determination, and safeguarding jal, jangal and jameen.”

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Ajay Krishnan
Senior Editor

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