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Jharkhand: Scholarship Named After Jaipal Singh Munda Gets Its First Six Beneficiaries

Hemant Soren said the scholarship is a fitting tribute to the tribal icon, who was possibly the first from his community to study in the UK.
Jaipal Singh Munda. Photo: tribalzone.net/Wikimedia Commons

Ranchi: Nearly a century after Jharkhand’s iconic leader Jaipal Singh Munda was admitted to St John’s College, Oxford, six students from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities in the state have been selected for pursuing higher studies in prestigious UK institutes under a state-funded scholarship – ‘Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Munda Overseas (MGJSMO) Scholarship’ – instituted in his name.

Born in an ST family at Takra Pahantoli hamlet in undivided Bihar, Jaipal Singh Munda who used to look after cattle was taken by missionaries to England after they recognised his exceptional talent and he graduated with Honours in Economics from St John’s College, Oxford.

Munda had left the coveted ICS and later captained the Indian Hockey team in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games to win the gold medal.

Munda, who had taken up teaching assignments abroad, returned to India in 1937 and became a voice for the rights of tribal people.

The batch of six students will pave the way for tribal talents to apply and seek support in future for studying abroad under the scholarship scheme that was approved by the state cabinet in December 2020 in its meeting chaired by chief minister Hemant Soren.

Soren said it is a fitting tribute to the tribal icon and the scholarship is possibly the first provided by any state to promote young talents to pursue studies in prestigious institutes abroad.

Of the six students who qualified for the maiden MGJSMO Scholarship, Hercules Singh Munda will pursue an MA at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies; Ajitesh Murmu will study for an MA in Architecture at the University College of London; Akanksha Mery has been selected for an MSc in Climate Change Science and Management at Loughborough University; Dinesh Bhagat will pursue MSc in Climate Change, Development and Policy at the University of Sussex; Anjana Pratima Dungdung has been selected for MSc at the University of Warwick; and Priya Murmu will pursue an MA in Creative Writing at the Loughborough University.

Hercules Singh Munda told PTI, “My roots lie in a hamlet named Sarlong, where my ancestors had resided for six generations… I am a second-generation learner from my family. I completed an engineering degree in IT from BIT Mesra in 2015…I will be pursuing a Master’s in Linguistics and look forward to utilising my acquired knowledge for the promotion of tribal languages and cultures of Jharkhand and thereafter India. I also look forward to building language technologies that are inclusive of tribal languages such as Mundari which is my native tongue.”

Akanksha Balmuchu, who belongs to the Ho tribe from Chakradharpur and studied Biotechnology in Bengaluru said, it is overwhelming to be a part of this programme. “Grateful to the state government as they thought of taking this step, empowering and encouraging students to pursue more in their life,” Balmuchu said.

Anjana Pratima Dungdung who hails from Gumla said she wanted to inspire people to become a voice for the voiceless. “The scholarship is a great move taken by the present government to help the students especially the tribals to showcase their talents and skill and uplift those around them.”

Dinesh Bhagat who comes from a farming background said, described the scholarship as a revolutionary step of the Jharkhand government towards higher education. “I have witnessed the struggles of my parents and how they overcome obstacles in their lives. It made me resilient to pursue my goals…I am honoured to be in the first batch of the Marang Gomke Overseas Scholarship,” he said.

Priya Murmu said she wanted to use her writing skills to unearth Jharkhand’s rich history that has been passed down through oral traditions. “Jaipal Singh Ji was a close friend of my grandfather. The scholarship awarded to me in his name is an invaluable gift to me,” she said.

Ajitesh Murmu said being the first batch of Jaipal Singh Munda overseas scholars has enabled him to achieve his dreams of studying in one of the best universities for architecture.

“We hope that in the coming days, other students will also get inspired from them, the tribal youth will represent our culture, our values, our rich legacy and our society on the world stage and will bring glory to Jharkhand and the rest of the country,” Soren said.

The Jharkhand government had launched the MGJSMO Scholarship Scheme on December 29, 2021, with a provision to provide all financial support to 10 students from ST communities of Jharkhand intending to do a one year Masters or a two year MPhil in 22 courses in select 15 top universities of the United Kingdom.

The government had notified the programme on March 7 and in September, the first batch of six students was selected.

The state government claimed that Jharkhand is the only state to execute a state-funded initiative for only ST students for taking up higher education in the UK. The Government of India provides 20 scholarships under an overseas programme for SC and ST students.

Chief minister Soren on Wednesday will be felicitating the students and their family members.

Under the scheme, these students coming from the Scheduled Tribes category will be provided tuition fees, and living, journey and other expenses.

At present, the institutes include universities in the UK and Northern Ireland. In the future, it will be extended to prestigious institutes of other countries as well.

Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Munda was the first student from a Scheduled Tribe to study overseas at Oxford University in England between 1922 and 1929. He had formed the Adivasi Mahasabha in 1938, raising the demand for a separate Jharkhand state for STs.

He was called ‘Marang Gomke’ (great leader) in Mundari, a regional language in Jharkhand. Munda was also a part of the Constituent Assembly, responsible for drafting the Indian constitution.

(PTI)

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