Jaipal Singh Munda (1903-1970) was an Indian politician, tribal leader, orator, writer, educationist, and excellent hockey player. He left Indian Civil Service to represent his country in the Olympics. He was the captain of the Indian hockey team which won the gold medal in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, which was India’s first Olympic gold medal in any sport. He was a popular leader of tribals of Bihar and Jharkhand and fought his whole life for the creation of a separate state, Jharkhand, for tribal people. He was a member of the constituent assembly and gave many fiery speeches to present the various challenges faced by the tribal people.
Jaipal Singh Munda was born on Saturday, 3 January 1903 (age 67 years; at the time of death) in Pahantoli of Takra village in Khunti district (then subdivision), Ranchi, Jharkhand (then-Bihar in British India). His zodiac sign was Capricorn. He studied at the local school in his area, went to nightlong tribal fairs, enjoyed hunts in the annual community hunt, and looked after cattle herds. On 3 January 1911, his father got him enrolled at St. Paul’s School in Ranchi. At St. Paul’s School, Jaipal met Canon Cosgrave, who spent his own money to build St. Paul’s School and another school for women, and he was also a missionary of St. Paul’s Cathedral and belonged to S.P.G Missionaries of the Church of England. Canon developed a liking for Jaipal as he was impressed by his intelligence and exceptional leadership qualities. When Canon returned to England, he took Jaipal with him. Jaipal later attended St. Augustine’s College in Canterbury for two years. He completed a master’s degree from St. John’s College at Oxford University with honours in economics in 1926. During his graduation, he demonstrated exceptional intelligence in his studies, brilliant playing abilities and leadership qualities in sports particularly hockey, and debating skills.
Jaipal Singh Munda in his 20s
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
He was born into a Munda family.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name was Amru Pahan and his mother’s name was Radhamani. He had an elder brother.
Wife & Children
He got married to Tara Wienfried Majumdar, the daughter of P.K Mujumdar and Egnesh Mujumdar, in 1931 in Darjeeling in a Christian marriage ceremony. He had two sons named Birendra and Jayant and a daughter named Janki. Although he and Tara had a love marriage, it did not last long. His second wife’s name was Jahanara Jeyaratnam, the daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil who joined the Indian Civil service in 1954. He had a son named Ranjit Jeyaratnam from his second marriage.
Jaipal Singh Munda’s first wife, Tara Wienfried Majumdar
He followed Christianity as his family converted to Christianity. When he joined St. Paul’s School in Ranchi and came in contact with Canon Cosgrave, he was drawn towards religion more and went on to study to become a priest before changing his life path.
Indian Civil Service
In 1927-1928, he was selected as an Indian Civil Service probationer at Oxford which required 2 years of study in Oxford. He scored the highest marks in the interview among all the candidates and topped the exam as well. While he was in the middle of his training, he went to play in the 1928 Olympics as the captain of the Indian hockey team without an approved leave. When he came back from the Olympics, he was told to repeat one year, which he found insulting to his principles, and he resigned from the ICS in 1928.
He was an exceptional hockey player and was known as the finest fullback in the University hockey teams of England during the 1920s. He played for St John’s College at Oxford from 1922 to 1926, captaining the college hockey team in the 1924-25 season. He later played for Isis Hockey Club in Oxford and was selected to represent Oxford University for the annual Inter-Varsity match against Cambridge University. Oxford had lost the previous 3 matches against Cambridge; however, Oxford defeated Cambridge 3-0 in the match held on 20 February 1924 at Beckenham. His popularity skyrocketed after this win, and in the same year, he became the first Indian person to be awarded Oxford Blue. He became the captain of the Oxford hockey team and guided his team to the second win against Cambridge by 3-2 in the match held on 18 February 1925, again at Beckenham. He formed The All India Hockey Club Team in 1925 which comprised 15 players including Shahzada Mohammad Yusuf, a student at Fitzwilliam House, Cambridge University and originally from Punjab, who later won gold in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and former president of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, who was pursuing graduation at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University at the time of the tour. The team toured many cities in Europe including Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and Valencia from 17 December 1925 to 6 January 1926. He brought his college and university teams to Indian Princely states like Baroda, Bhopal, and Patiala on tours. During one of such tours in 1925, he advised M.S. Ansari of Bhopal to form a regulatory board which resulted in the formation of the Indian Hockey Federation in the same year. In 1928, he was offered the captaincy of the Indian hockey team while he was doing probation in Indian Civil Service. He request the Indian office for a leave which was denied following which he decided to captain the Indian team and joined the team at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. India won 16 matches with one drawn out of 17 in the knockout stage under his captaincy. Due to a dispute with the British manager, A. B. Rossier, he did not play in the subsequent knockout stages; however, India won the final match by defeating the Netherlands by 3-0, winning its first gold medal in Hockey and in all sports, in the Olympics. After returning to India in 1929, he started the hockey team of the Mohan Bagan Club of Kolkata and captained them in many tournaments. After his retirement from sports, he served as Secretary of the Bengal Hockey Association and as a member of the Indian Sports Council. He also wrote columns in various leading newspapers about hockey which were applauded by the readers.
A photo of the hockey team of Oxford University with Jaipal Singh Munda (sitting in the centre)
After resigning from ICS, he worked at the Kolkata office of the Burmah Shell, a multinational British oil company, as its senior assistant from 1929 to 1932. Thus, he became the first Indian to hold the position of a covenanted mercantile assistant in a Royal Dutch Shell Group. He made a shift towards the education sector and joined as the senior housemaster of the junior and unnamed house at the Prince
of Wales College at Achimoto in Britain’s Gold Coast Colony in West Africa from 1932 to 1936. After a successful stint in Achimoto, he returned to India and joined as the principal of the Rajkumar College in Raipur in 1936; however, he faced discrimination at his job, and he joined Bikaner Princely State’s administration as its Revenue Commissioner in 1937. He later became Colonisation Minister and eventually its Foreign Secretary. He left the job and returned to Bihar in 1939.
He decided to enter politics by seeing the poor conditions of the tribal people during his visit to Patna and Ranchi in December 1938. He also met Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India, at Sadaqat Ashram in Patna for an employment-related concern; however, he was not happy with the treatment, and he decided to fight independently for the rights of tribal people. When he returned to Bihar in 1939, then Governor of Bihar and Orissa and his longtime associate, Maurice G. Hallet, offered him membership of its Legislative Council, which he denied following which the Chief Secretary of Bihar and Orissa, Robert Russel, advised him to take up the cause of the tribal people. He went to Ranchi where he was welcomed in a very warm manner by the tribals, and on 29 January 1939, during the second session of Adivasi Mahasabha, he was declared its leader. In the district council elections held in 1939, Adivasi Mahasabha won 16 out of 25 seats in Ranchi and 22 out of 25 seats in Singhbhum. He organised many sessions of Adivasi Mahasabha and gave speeches against the Congress and termed them Anti-Adivasi. He also formed the Adivasi Labour Union for Adivasis working in the industrial areas of Jamshedpur.
Jaipal Singh Munda dressed in traditional attire
1940 Congress Session and Subhash Chandra Bose’s Protest Session
In 1940, Congress declared to conduct its annual session at Ramgarh in Jharkhand (then – Bihar) from 18 March 1940 for three days; however, Subhash Chandra Bose, who had become a rival of Congress by that time, declared to conduct a protest session on 16 March 1940 at the same place. Subhash requested Jaipal to gather the maximum number of people for his session, to which Jaipal promised he will; however when then-Governor Maurice G. Hallet came to know about this, he met Jaipal and disallowed him from going to Ramgarh. He also imposed section 144 on Ranchi-Ramgarh Road, and he told Jaipal that he would get arrested if he went to Ramgarh. Jaipal discussed this with his associates and went to Ramgarh via the Pithauria forest with around 5000 people armed with bows and arrows due to which Subhash’s protest session became successful. He met Subhash in the session and discussed the need to form a separate state of Jharkhand; however, Subhash persuaded him to wait until the independence of India as such division would affect the freedom struggle adversely. He later organised a protest against Congress’s session due to which Mahatma Gandhi became angry with him. Also, after Gandhi’s opening speech in the session, the weather turned bad, and the tents were damaged due to the heavy rains. Jaipal conducted a tribal session at the same place, two days after the Congress’s session, and in a taunting tone, he referred to the bad weather during the Congress’s session and said that God is with us.
Member of Constituent Assembly
In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bihar and gave his first speech in the Constituent Assembly on 19 December 1946. He raised the concerns of tribal people in his speeches and protested the use of the word Janjati for denoting the tribal people. He often said in his speeches that he represented all the tribal people of India. He highlighted the fact that there were only 6 tribal members out of the 296 members in the Constituent Assembly. He presented the views on the arms carried by tribals, the rice wine of tribals, and opportunities for tribals in independent India. In a speech given on 24 January 1947, he termed the Adivasis as the original ancestors of the land and the unknown fighters of the freedom struggle and said,
Sir, I rise to speak on behalf of millions of unknown hordes – yet very important – of unrecognised warriors of freedom, the original people of India who have variously been known as backward tribes, primitive tribes, criminal tribes and everything else, Sir, I am proud to be a Jungli, that is the name by which we are known in my part of the country. Living as we do in the jungles, we know what it means to support this Resolution. On behalf of more than 30 millions of the Adibasis [CHEERS], I support it not merely because it may have been sponsored by a leader of the Indian National Congress. I support it because it is a resolution which gives expression to sentiments that throb in every heart in this country. Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6,000 years. The history of the Indus Valley civilization, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the new comers – most of you here are intruders as far as I am concerned – it is the new comers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to the jungle fastnesses. This Resolution is not going to teach Adibasis democracy. You cannot teach democracy to the tribal people; you have to learn democratic ways from them. They are the most democratic people on earth. What my people require, Sir, is not adequate safeguards as Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru has put it. They require protection from Ministers, that is the position today. We do not ask for any special protection. We want to be treated like every other Indian. There is the problem of Hindustan. There is the problem of Pakistan. There is the problem of Adibasis. If we all shout in different militant directions, feel in different ways, we shall end up in Kabarasthan.”
He was instrumental in the formation of the fifth and sixth schedules of the constitution which relates to the protection of the distinctiveness of tribal people. He was a member of the Finance and Staff Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (other than Assam) Sub-Committee.
Politics in Independent India
After the independence of India, Adivasi Mahasabha was renamed as Jharkhand Party and won 32 seats in the 1952 Bihar elections. He sent a memorandum to States Reorganization Commission for the creation of a separate state Jharkhand comprising the tribals of then-South Bihar; however, it was rejected on the basis that the region had many different languages with no link and the state would not be able to sustain itself economically. He was disappointed by the rejection and the declining popularity of his party. In the 1962 Bihar elections, his party won 20 seats, and he became Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar. In 1963, he merged his party with Congress; however, when he felt that his demands are not being met, he resigned from the post. He later regretted his decision of merging his part with Congress, and he tried to separate his party before he passed away.
He passed away due to a cerebral haemorrhage on 20 March 1970 at the age of 67 at his residence in Delhi. He was subsequently buried in his ancestral village of Takra, Khunti, Ranchi, Jharkhand.
- Canon Cosgrave, principal of St. Paul’s School in Ranchi and missionary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, baptized Jaipal Singh Munda.
- He was the head of the debating society of Oxford University for a few years of his graduation. At the same time, he was also the Honorary Secretary of the All India Hockey Club which operated from Church Imperial Club in Victoria Street, London SW1.
- He was selected to the Oxford University team without any trial and was later selected for the Wimbledon Hockey Club.
- His style of game as a deep defender included clean tackling, sensible gameplay and well-directed hard hits. He was also a great sprinter.
- He introduced himself as Jungli in his inauguratory speech in the Constituent Assembly.
- He went on the honeymoon with Tara Wienfried Majumdar to Jagdalpur in then-Bastar state, which was arranged by the then-governor and his old friend from Oxford University, Donald Ratlam.
- During his study at Oxford, he became friends with many Indians including Iftikhar Ali Khan (Nawab of Pataudi), and Lilamani Naidu (daughter of Sarojini Naidu).
- When he left the ICS in 1928, he did not pay the 35 pounds he owed to Oxford university.
- He is popularly called Marang Gomke (Popular Leader) by the Adivasis of Chhota Nagpur.
- He knew 4 languages including English, Hindi and tribal languages, Sadri and Mundari.
- Whenever he used to give a public speech, a cock used to sit on his shoulder. His party’s symbol was a cock.
- He was a member of Loksabha from its first session till his death in 1970.
- A stadium, named after him, was opened in Ranchi in 2013. Jaipal Singh Munda stadium was opened at Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak by VC Prof. T.V. Kattimani in 2019.
- His childhood name was Pramod Pahan, which was changed when he got enrolled at St. Paul’s School in Ranchi.
- A separate state Jharkhand was declared on 15 November 2000.
- In 2021, the Jharkhand state government launched Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Munda Overseas Scholarship to provide a chance to students to study abroad and contribute to the development of the state after their studies.
- NGO Umeed Foundation gives Jaipal Singh Munda, an annual award, to the talented sportsperson of Jharkhand.
- During his three months probation period at Burmah Shell, he earned 200 pounds per month. After his probation was over, he earned 750 pounds per month.
- When he was working in Burmah Shell, his manager told him to use another lift than the lift he used. He told Jaipal that this lift is for Britishers only.
- When he was the principal of Rajkumar College in Raipur, he stopped smoking and started playing polo.
- The second session of Adivasi Mahasabha, where he was declared the leader, was attended by Sarat Chandra Roy, known as India’s first anthropologist, and Nagendra Nath Rakshit, director of the Tatanagar Foundry Company and a supporter of the creation of Jharkhand, who gifted Jaipal with a Dodge car.
- His memoir was named Lo Bir Sendra: an autobiography, and it was published in 2004.
- He mentioned in his memoir that his family was rich as per the conditions of his area, and his family owned 2 horses.
- On 3 January 2023, the Minister of Tribal Affairs of India, Arjun Munda, inaugurated a human-size statue of Jaipal Singh Munda at Jaipal’s ancestral village, Takra in Khunti.
Jaipal Singh Munda’s statue in Takra, Khunti