UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Jun 09

09 June 1900

Freedom fighter Birsa Munda died


What happened?

Birsa Munda, valiant freedom fighter from the Munda tribe passed away in a prison at Ranchi.

Biography

  • Birsa Munda was born at Ulihatu in the Bengal Presidency (presently in Jharkhand) on 15th November 1875 into a Munda family. His parents were Sugana Munda and Karmi Hatu.
  • His childhood was spent in a typical Munda fashion amidst poverty.
  • He converted to Christianity and became Birsa David/Daud in order to receive an education from a missionary school.
  • He spent a great part of his childhood in Chaibasa. He was influenced by the national movement there. His father withdrew him the missionary school. Birsa developed a strong anti-government and anti-missionary stamp on his mind from there.
  • During the 1890s, he started speaking to his people about the exploitation done by the British. The British agrarian policies were stifling the tribal people and disrupting their way of life which was hitherto peaceful and in tune with nature. Another problem was that of cultural belittlement of the tribal people by the Christian missionaries.
  • The Mundas had followed the Khunkhatti system of joint landholding. The British replaced this egalitarian system with the Zamindari System. Outsiders entered the tribal landscape and started exploiting them. In their own turf, they became forced labourers. Poverty descended on them like a strangling chain.
  • In 1894, Birsa declared his declaration against the British and the Dikus (outsiders) and thus began the Munda Ulgulan. This is a very important rebellion of the tribal people among the various uprisings of the tribals and peasants in India in the 19th century.
  • Birsa also started his own religion and proclaimed he was god’s messenger. Many Mundas, Kharias and Oraons accepted him as their leader. Many other Hindus and Muslims also flocked to see the new leader of the masses.
  • Birsa advocated the tribal people to shun the missionaries and revert to their traditional ways. He also asked people not to pay taxes.
  • He was arrested in 1895 and released after two years. In 1899, he resumed his armed struggle with the people. He razed police stations, government property, churches and houses of Zamindars.
  • The British caught him in 1900 from Jamkopai forest, Chakradharpur. Birsa Munda died on June 9th 1900 while lodged at the Ranchi jail aged just 25. Authorities claimed he died of cholera although this is doubted.
Also on this day
1716: Sikh military commander Banda Singh Bahadur was tortured and killed by the Mughals. 1949: Birth of Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer in India.

 

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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