The status of women in the society of Jharkhand has always been equal participation at every level. Even in the very old times, when society was not completely dependent on agriculture, women used to do risky jobs like hunting and extracting flowers and honey from trees. They used to play the same role as men in the battles against external attacks on village society. Women have played a heroic role in the revolt of the ‘Ho’ people of Singhbhum under the leadership of Veer Budhu Bhagat in 1832, the Santal rebellion of 1855, the Telenga Kharia rebellion of 1880 and the Jatra Tana movement in 1914. In 1760, the Paharia tribesmen fought under the militant leadership of Baba Tilka alias Jabra Paharia. In this too, the Pahari women had fiercely fought the British Raj. Similarly, women had a strong role in Birsa Ulgulan in 1895-1900 against the British Raj. In the 200 years of colonial rule, the tribals of Jharkhand or Sadan all fought a historical struggle. In this freedom struggle, both the main components of the society – men and women – lived together in happiness and sorrow. They fought together and at the same time gave their lives to protect the motherland. It is worrisome that women who have taken an equal share in the making, creation and struggle of society have not got due respect in history. The names of most of the women involved in Birsa Ulgulan and martyred during the fighting are still anonymous.
There are two types of women in the era of Ulgulan. One is the one who personally came into the life of Birsa and the other is the women who took part in the Ulgulan war with their respective families and society. The women who joined Birsa personally also came in love but they were also fully involved in the activities of Ulgulan every moment with Birsa. In the present article, we will try to know about these two types of women involved in Ulgulan. This is important because studies on Uglulan often refer to fighting women and the women who came up with the dream of spending life with Birsa out of love are forgotten.
Birsa was only 20 years old when he called upon the Munda people to organize for freedom by declaring himself as ‘Dharti Aba’ to protect the Disum (Motherland). Kumar Suresh Singh has written in his book ‘Birsa Munda and his movement’ – ‘Birsa had grown into a strong and handsome young man in 1894. He was five feet and four inches tall. He was very attractive in sight and hearing and had a good nose, he had a strange gleam in his big eyes, he was intelligent. is of. One of these women was his fiancée. This relationship was arranged by the family but when they returned from jail, finding him not loyal to them, they did not pursue the relationship with him. She was a resident of Sankara village of Singhbhum. The other woman was Matias Munda’s sister. Two women who had expressed their desire to be with him on his release from jail, one was the daughter of Mathura Munda of Koensar and the other was the wife of Jagga Munda of Jiuri. Another woman was from Burudih whom Birsa had supported and sheltered. One of the two women who were with Birsa at the time of his arrest was his sister-in-law. The sister-in-law was from Burudih. The other woman was Sungi Munda’s daughter. Along with this, after the conflict over Dombari and Sail Rakab in 1900, the English police were looking for another woman. It is said that she was the daughter of Budhu Munda to whom Birsa was married three months before the start of the battle.
The above details reveal that at least 8 women were directly related to Birsa’s personal life. Due to his beautiful personality and intelligence, people easily fell in love with him. Kumar Suresh has told in his research book that Birsa was very proficient in playing the flute. Many girls used to make love to him in the early days just by listening to his flute. That’s why Birsa later gave up playing the flute. According to Dr. Singh, apart from the above seven women, ‘Birsa’s relations with some other women are also discussed.’ Dr. Singh has mentioned an interesting incident in this regard. He writes, ‘A woman from Chalakad fell in love with him badly. One day she climbed a tree with her child tied to her back and started singing. The next morning she got down from the tree, came close to Birsa and told him that her enemies were hiding nearby. Birsa rebuked him. She got mad at this neglect, started eating grass nagging and narrating the story of her cruelty aloud.
A large number of people joined him because of Birsa’s charming personality, exceptionally intelligent teachings and social work done by him in the time of famine-famine and epidemics-diseases. Men and women from all over the Munda area started reaching Chalkad to support and support him. It is to be noted that Birsa Ulgulan was not limited to Munda people as we are told. Dr. Singh has emphasized in his study that the effect of Birsa was on all kinds of people, castes and communities. Be it Adivasis, Hindus, Christians or Muslims. He writes, ‘Birsa’s influence was on all castes and tribes. Whether Banias, whether other Hindu castes and whether Muslims, all were rising towards the new religious sun. All roads were aimed at running.
Later on, as the organizational development of Ulgulan progressed, the political goals of the Birsa movement also became clear. In the beginning, the purpose of Birsa was only religious renaissance. But by August of 1895, a political objective had also been added to it. Thus now Birsa Ulgulan became a full-fledged cultural movement whose aim was multi-dimensional. religious, political and cultural. In the words of Kumar Suresh Singh – ‘As far as the socio-cultural aspects of the rebellion are concerned, they were no longer reformists but their aim was to revive the ancient values. Simultaneously the socio-cultural aspects became intimately associated with the political movement. A comprehensive and precise plan for various actions was woven from his side.
We find that till this period of Ulgulan, women had efficiently handled many responsibilities at every level as per the instructions of Birsa. She was involved in the administration and operation of all the operations on Dombari mountain, which became the new base of Ulgulan after Birsa’s arrest in Chalkad, logistics – water, food, security, maintenance of the camp, military exercises etc. The most important was the burden of protecting Birsa. Since Birsa was arrested in Chalkad very fraudulently, his followers were now more alert than before. They suspected that if Birsa was caught again, he would be killed by the British. That is why they did not want Birsa to be arrested again. For this the tight security of Birsa was necessary. And after much deliberation, the responsibility of protecting Birsa was entrusted to the women. Many historians have written about this that Birsa’s bodyguards were two women who lived beside him with equal arrows, bows and swords. So we can guess how important the role of women was in Ulgulan. We find this tradition of female bodyguards even in the modern era of Jharkhand movement. Because Jaipal Singh Munda’s bodyguards were also two women. This thing has been mentioned in the ‘Adivasi’ magazine of 1939 and in many magazines of that time.
Women themselves used to come to participate in the ulgulan, it is also discussed that the family members also went ahead and happily sent the women of the house to walk. Among them were not only unmarried girls but also married women. That is, men themselves did not hesitate in the slightest to dedicate their married women to Ulgulan. It is clearly mentioned in ‘Birsa Munda and His Movement’ that people were not only giving up farming and selling their cattle for Ulgulan, but were also handing over their wives to their land Aaba Birsa. He was not at all worried about who would take care of the women after their departure. Nor did they think that the duty of women was limited to the ‘home’ only. Because tribal communities like freedom more than the privacy of family-society. He had a very clear understanding that without the full equal participation of women, freedom could neither be enjoyed nor regained.
On 6 January 1900, when the Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi reached Aitkedih to arrest Birsa and suppress Ulgulan, he had his first encounter with women. Almost all the historians of Ulgulan have described this event prominently. According to this description, the police party had reached Gaya Munda’s house at Aitkedih village at 11 o’clock in the day. The deputy commissioner called for all the people of the house to surrender. Even after a long time no one came out from inside the house. Then a constable was sent to the house. He immediately came out shouting ‘Save-Save’. Then Gaya Munda’s voice came from within – this house is his and the deputy commissioner has no right to enter it. On this the deputy commissioner opened fire and threatened to set it on fire by showing matches. Even then no one came out to surrender. Finally the deputy commissioner set the house on fire. Gaya Munda was forced to come out with his family. The deputy commissioner has given a lively account of the struggle he had with Gaya Munda and the women of his house. According to his description – ‘Gaya was shaved with a naked sword. His lady Maki had a long stick in her hand. The little boy was carrying an axe. Ramu, a 14-year-old grandson, was carrying a bow and two arrows. One of the two daughters-in-law was with Dauli and the other with Tangi. Three daughters Thegi, Nagi and Lembu were holding sticks, swords and tangs respectively. …his wife was beating me with sticks. She was a terrible woman, just like a witch. This old dangerous woman had killed the police officer by throwing an ax. … it is also pertinent to mention here that at least two of the fighting women were carrying their young children in their left hand and were wielding an ax in their right. And fought with indomitable boldness, that in itself was a revelation and an astonishing phenomenon. And even more important was the role of women in this incident, which signaled a new turning point in the movement.
On 9 January, Sail Rakab Hill was besieged by British forces led by Forbes, Rose and Streetfield. Ulgulan’s fighters stood by the women. The army opened fire and the Ulgulanis responded with arrows, slingshots and stones. The battle soon turned into a massacre when Birsait retreated to escape the guns. The British soldiers retreated and made men and women their target. According to government records, three women were killed in this. Captain Rosse wrote – ‘Actually it was difficult to distinguish between men and women in the rebels.’ In the search after the firing, two men, one youth, twenty women, eight children were found hiding in the caves. A seriously injured child was also found along with the three women killed. According to the legends who was drinking milk from the breast of his dead mother. This barbaric shooting was criticized everywhere but the Lieutenant Governor of the British government cleared the army of all kinds of charges for this massacre and the tragic death of the women. Pastor Eyre Chatterton has reported in the ‘Story of Fifty Years of Mission Works in Chota Nagpur’ that after the January 1900 shooting at Sail Rakab, Birsa’s ‘about 100 followers, mostly women, were moved to Lager, 20 miles south of Ranchi’, was captured’.
According to the then documents, there was silence for some time after this barbaric shootout and massive siege operation. From this, the British officials assumed that the agitators were frightened. But Father Hoffmann cautioned the government and said in his report – ‘It would be a great mistake to be under the illusion that this incident has diminished the determination of Birsa’s men at all.’ Dr. Singh also believes that Birsa’s men and their wives were strangely stubborn and determined people and continued to fight. According to him, still ‘women from the homes of the absconding rebels were intimidating the peace-loving women of their respective villages’. Ho-shaven people are very stubborn, obstinate and fighting nature. Birsa Ulgulan is an unforgettable chapter in the anti-British Indian struggle. Also because the role of women in this was very high. However, after Ulgulan, 460 people from Ranchi area and 121 from Singhbhum area were taken prisoner. Of these, 476 were prosecuted. 296 were released on the condition of being innocent or pardoned and 68 on bond on condition of keeping the peace. 93 people from Ranchi and 5 from Singhbhum were hanged, deported, lifelong and rigorously punished for up to one day. It is not known how many of these were women, how many were men. The names recorded in the British documents are so misleading that it is very difficult to distinguish between the prisoner and the man. Yet there is documentary evidence of the punishment of Gaya Muda’s wife Maki, his daughters and daughters-in-law. Not only this, a picture of the arrest at the time of Ulgulan (see picture) clearly shows the presence of seven women. It is the responsibility of the newly formed Jharkhand government and society to make every effort to give a place in history to the women involved in the Jharkhand movement. This is an important step towards women empowerment.
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