The return of the adibasi: the multiple worlds of Jaipal Singh Munda

Speaker: Nandini Sundar

Jaipal Singh was an unusual man who crossed several worlds. From a small adivasi village in Chotanagpur, he was brought to England.  He matriculated from St Johns, Oxford in 1922, made friends with a range of students involved in Christian fellowship, sports and Indian nationalism. He resigned from the ICS over differences on leave for captaining the hockey team; joined the Royal Dutch Shell Group in Calcutta; taught at Achimota College, Gold Coast; was Principal at Rajkumar College, Raipur, a school for princes; and finance minister in the princely state of Bikaner. However, he found his true calling as president of the first adivasi organization, the Adibasi Mahasabha, which spearheaded the demanded for a separate Jharkhand state. Jaipal Singh was also one of the most distinctive voices in the Constituent Assembly. Towards the end of his life, he merged his party with the Congress, a party that he had always opposed. His two marriages, to Tara Majumdar, granddaughter of W.C.Bonnerjee, the founder of the Indian National Congress and Jahanara Jeyaratnam, daughter of a Sri Lankan who joined the ICS, also meant he lived across different social and political milieus.  


Nandini Sundar is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. Her recent publications include, The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar (Juggernaut Press, 2016); an edited volume, The Scheduled Tribes and their India (OUP, 2016); Civil Wars in South Asia: State, Sovereignty, Development(co-edited with Aparna Sundar, Sage 2014); and Inequality and Social Mobility in Post-Reform India, Special Issue of Contemporary South Asia(co-edited, 2016). She was awarded the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences (Social Anthropology) in 2010, the Ester Boserup Prize for Development Research, 2016 and the Malcolm Adiseshiah Prize for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies, 2017