The cover of The Legend of Birsa Munda was unveiled on 14 March 2021 by former cabinet minister and MP, Shri Suresh Prabhu, and political commentator and TV presenter Shehzad Poonawalla. Written by Tuhin S. Sinha and co-authored by Ankita Verma, the book is a thoroughly researched tribute to the life and times of the great tribal freedom fighter, Birsa Munda. Filling gaping holes in Indian literature and history, the book aims to bring to the forefront the role of this lesser-known tribal revolutionary who played an extremely important role in India’s struggle for independence.
Commenting on the selective documentation of history that fails to reflect the contribution of many in India’s freedom struggle, former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said, ‘It is a fact that there have been deliberate attempts to distort history and this distortion has been happening over the last few centuries. In contemporary times, people have deliberately twisted history and presented it in a concocted manner for ideological reasons. And earlier, the Britishers did the same to suit their priorities and convenience. They wanted to portray themselves as saviours.’
Tuhin Sinha remarked that Birsa Munda’s contribution is special because in a short life span of merely 25 years, he had challenged the Missionaries, which had unleashed an unstoppable conversion mafia in the villages of present-day South Jharkhand. ‘History has been unkind to our tribal heroes. From 1780 onwards, starting with Tilka Majhi in the Santhal region, to U Tirot Singh in the North East, to the Sido-Kanhu brothers in present-day Jharkhand to Birsa Munda, there have been numerous examples of valiant Adivasi freedom fighters who shook the might of the oppressive British empire in their own ways.’
‘Young Birsa’s spiritual evolution into “Bhagwan Birsa Munda” marked the resurgence of the tribal Munda clan, which had been facing unspeakable atrocities for decades. It needs to be noted that the freedom struggle in tribal areas was layered. They had to stand up to foreign missionaries as well as the zamindars who were hand in glove with the British. Birsa’s armed revolution of December 1899 brought the Britishers to their knees, who were then forced to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards tribals,’ he added.
Reflecting on the current raging debate about the religious affinities of the tribal population in India, Tuhin said, ‘Birsa Munda invariably used anecdotes from the Gita, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat while preaching to his followers. Unfortunately, today some politicians are misusing the legacy of Birsa Munda to create a divide between our tribal and non-tribal population. Therefore, it has become more important to revisit the inspiring life of Birsa Munda.’ TV Presenter and commentator Shehzad Poonawalla also congratulated author Tuhin Sinha for coming up with a book on the life of Birsa Munda. ‘It was not just about political freedom but even cultural freedom from the foreign oppressors that motivated somebody like Birsa Munda ji,’ he observed.
Ankita Verma, the co-author, shared that while researching on Birsa Munda, she discovered that he was not only a revolutionary but a true reformist. ‘It takes an extraordinary spirit to inspire people to face British guns with only bows and arrows. Birsa Munda is a patriot in the true sense,’ she added.
The book The Legend of Birsa Munda reflects PM Narendra Modi’s India @ 75 vision of acknowledging our unsung tribal revolutionaries. The book releases on 15 August 2021, and as a true reflection of India’s diversity, the book is being published in multiple languages (English, Hindi, and Marathi) by Amaryllis and Manjul Publishing House.