Smita Gupta, The Hindu, New Delhi, October 3, 2011
Musician, linguist, writer, scholar, educationist, institution-builder, tribal activist — and a key figure in creation of Jharkhand — Ram Dayal Munda passed away in Ranchi on September 30 at the age of 72. [...]
Dr. Munda believed strongly that the Adivasis would survive only if their culture continued to flourish: Nachi se banchi (Dance to survive), he would say. Indeed, for him, the preservation of the tribal way of life, culture and languages was integral to his work of improving their lot, and fighting for their rights to the forest land they lived on. [...]
Dr. Munda’s own life story was exemplary. Born in 1939, in the tribal village Diuri in Ranchi district, he attended the neighbourhood Luther Mission School at Amlesa: from there, he moved to the sub-divisional town of Khunti, 40 km away from home, to study at a secondary school there. As the centre of the historic Birsa movement, the area attracted international scholars, especially anthropologists. Dr. Munda found himself playing guide to such visitors, an experience that led him to an M.A. in anthropology at Ranchi University (1963), followed by a PhD on tribal languages at Chicago University (1970). After teaching stints at the universities of Chicago and Minnesota, he returned to Ranchi University to head the newly established Department of Tribal and Regional Languages, finally becoming its Vice-Chancellor in 1985.
In 1999, he retired from active teaching to concentrate on the cultural mobilisation of the Adivasis: this included active policymaking at the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous People in Geneva and the U.N. Forum of Indigenous Issues in New York, as a senior official of the Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ICITP), an all India tribal-led and managed movement.
Dr. Munda will be particularly remembered for building a troupe of dancers and musicians, whether as a student in India or in the United States, or later when he was teaching at Ranchi University: he consistently sought to integrate traditional performance culture into modern-day life. His troupe led the Indian cultural contingent in the Festival of India in the USSR in 1987; in 1989, it toured the Philippines, China, and Japan. Thanks to his leadership, village akharas for dance and music were revived across Jharkhand.
In 2007, Dr. Munda was honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademi; in 2010, he was awarded the Padma Shri.
It is his lifelong dedication and contribution to the cause of preserving tribal culture that will live on.
Source: The Hindu : News / National : A life dedicated to preserving tribal culture
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2506981.ece
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