The Mundas, a Santhal tribe, are often remembered for their rebellion against the British in 1855. But, like many central Indian tribes, they too are struggling to preserve their rich culture and heritage, with marginalisation due to poverty and illiteracy adding an extra burden.
Hope lies in their youth, especially in the youth group called Lahanti Club, active in Bihar’s Jamui district since 2017.
Not only do they record and document Santhali culture, food and festivals, they are also developing a pedagogy for the Santhal youth, so that they can educate themselves easily. Because all schools in their area use Hindi as the medium of learning, which, for first-generation learners who speak Santhali at home, often impedes and discourages learning.
Gautam Bisht, founder of Sinchan Education and Rural Entrepreneurship, a non-profit based in Chakai in Bihar’s Jamui district, was studying at Delhi’s Ambedkar University when he visited Bihar and found how people from Santhal tribes are struggling with illiteracy. So he connected with Santhali youth, worked on their skills and mooted this idea of organising a youth club. “Language was the big barrier. They are unable to communicate in Hindi,” he says. “So we focus on personal skill development. We prepared a book of local vocabulary. Now we are working on a story book.”
Already, there are around 25 centres run by Santhal youth in the region, influencing 400-500 youngsters.
There were seven board members who founded the club. The club is now involved in diverse activities. “We are organising film and theatre workshops, writing workshops,” says Bisht.
Lahanti in Santhali means “to move forward.” Youth with a vision of moving forward are using DSLR cameras, and the internet to tell their stories.
(This appeared in the print edition as "Making Great Strides In Preserving Munda Culture")
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