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Jharkhand Movement and Muslim Contribution

Special series on Jharkhand’s Muslims- Part—2

By Mahtab Alam and Mary Abraham,

Jharkhand has been the land of struggles and uprisings from the ancient times. The movement and struggles that it has witnessed, be it social, economic, cultural or political has been instrumental in shaping its current political scenario.

History of Muslims in Jharkhand

According to RR Diwakar, author of Bihar Through Ages, the first Muslim contingents arrived in Jharkhand territory 800 years ago and settled in the villages of Mundas.Muslims mixed up with the locals in such a way that they forgot their own culture,language and life-styles. The most surprising matter is that the residents of this territory not only treated them as their own but Father Hoffman says, they, (Mundas) adopted Arabic and Persian words in their own language. It is believed, Muslims set up their mosque in Jharkhand territory for the first time in 1661 in Dayoodnagar. Later on madrasas were set up.

Freedom struggle and Muslims of Jharkhand

The historical events show that Muslims in Jharkhand have taken active part in the Indian Independence struggle. Shaikh Bhikhari was one of the great heroes, who led the fight against the British Empire and sacrificed his life. In 1857, at the age of 38, he along with Thakur Vishwanath Shahdeo, he played a pivotal role in Mukti Vahini. He helped the Indian army when there was revolt at Doranda (Ranchi) on 31 July 1857. “The combined forces of Umrao Singh, Shekh Bhikhari, Madho Singh, Bishwanath Sahdeo and Ganpat Rai and rebellious sepoys of Ramgarh battalion and of Doranda army camp broke jail and freed the prisoners, burnt record rooms and administrative offices at Ranchi. Ranchi commissioner Dalton, deputy commissioner Denis and judicial commissioner Oaks fled from Ranchi through Kanke-Pithoria road and Ranchi became free,” observers J S Mazumdar, former Advocate General of Jharkhand.

The British commander Graham and three other officers were stunned by Shaikh Bhikhari’s bravery. He planned with commander Vishnu Singh to fight the Britishers, when the army attacked Ranchi on 2 August 1857. This bravery foiled the Britishers plans. Not only Muslims, Shaikh Bikhari awakened the Santhalis of Santhal Pargana to revolt against the Britishers. “Credit of mobilising the Santhal adivasis against Company government goes to Shekh Bhikhari. Shekh Bhikhari was himself a zamindar of 12 villages and later became dewan of Khatanga state of Tikait Umrao Singh. Both of them were patriots and closely followed the war of independence which began in other parts of the country,” writes Mazumdar.

In 1923 Momin Conference was formed at Murma, 13 miles west from Ranchi. Its Chotanagpur conference was organized to condemn Jalianwala Bagh massacre and to pay homage to the martyrs and save the weaving profession from the British tyranny. Apart from Shaikh Bhikhari, Imam Ali (Brombay), Nazahat Hussain (Bundu) Jaggu Mian (Bijulia) Farzand Ali (Itki) Abdullah Sardar (Sisai) Zakir Ali (Itki) Ali Jan Mian (Gudri Ranchi) Sohbat Mian (Ranchi) Chandan Mian (Dumri) was among the important Muslim figures of Jharkhand who protested against the brutality of the Britishers in India.

Movement for separate state and Muslims of Jharkhand

Like in the freedom struggle, Muslims of Jharkhand played an active role in the movements for the formation of a separate state in Jharkhand. “The role of Muslims in the movements for Jharkhand as a separate state can hardly be under-estimated,”comments Faisal Anurag, a senior journalist and author of several books on Jharkhand movements. “In fact, the Muslims were one of the most visible communities who were a part of the movement right from its beginning,” he adds. Be it Jharkhand Party’s movement led by Jaipal Singh or Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s led by Shibu Soren,Muslims played an important role,” he reiterates.

It is a fact that Muslims throughout Jharkhand region were the first to raise the issue of a separate state called Jharkhand. In 1912, Asmat Ali gave a call for the separation of Jharkhand from Bihar for the first time. And in 1936 Momin Conference passed the resolution calling for a separate Jharkhand state. In 1952 Chiragh Ali Shah raised the voice for the fulfillment of this demand and in 1989 Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik played an important role while leading the Jharkhand movement. In 1937 R. Ali of the Momin Conference, defeated the Muslim League candidate and became a member of Bihar Legislative Assembly. Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik was formed at Sitaram Dera,Jamshedpur led by Prof. Khalid Ahmad. Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik in 1989 played an important role in the Jharkhand movement as it struggled along with All Jharkhand Student’s Union (AJSU). In 1989, Muhammad Murtaza Ansari (Chakdrapur), in 1990 Ashraf Khan (Khellari – Ranchi), in 1992, Muhammad Sayeed and Zuber Ahmad (Sonari-Jamshedpur), in 1993 Wahab Ansari (Kothashila-Purulia) and S.K.Qutubuddin (Medinapur) sacrificed their lives for the Jharkhand movement. In this regards, the role of Abdur Razzaque Ansari of the Momin Conference can need special mention.

Today, the Muslims of Jharkhand might be in a pathetic condition and politically nowhere but Muslim’s contribution for Jharkhand is something that shouldn’t be and must not be forgotten.

Note: The writers have greatly benefited from the work done by Afsar Ali on the subject and wish to express their thanks.

Read next article in this series on Muslims in Jharkhand: Issues, Problems and Challenges.