Toon gripe over icon - Birsa comics: 2 ready, 1 out

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By RUDRA BISWAS
  • Published 18.06.11
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Chief minister Arjun Munda at the launch of the comics at Central Library in Ranchi on Friday. (Hardeep Singh)

Ranchi, June 17: It’s a tragi-comic toon fight starring Birsa versus Birsa.

Chief minister Arjun Munda today released 10 sets of 16-page comic books on tribal freedom fighters and soldiers, including Veer Birsa, published by New Delhi’s reputable Rajkamal Prakashan, raking up an old wound at Jharkhand Tribal Research Institute.

Two lakh copies of its comic series on Birsa Munda printed a year ago are stacked at the tribal institute simply because the state, which ironically financed the venture, lost interest after the all-colour series came out, even to the extent of forgetting to release it.

At the glittering book release, Munda unknowingly rubbed salt on the tribal institute’s wounds by appreciating the work done by Rajkamal Prakashan. He said: “Through these books, people will learn more about the lives of the warriors and help enrich their own lives.”

Also present were dignitaries such as MLA G.J. Gaulstan, Ranchi University vice chancellor A.A. Khan, tribal academic B.P. Kesri, writers Mahua Majhi and Vikash Kumar Jha and Doordarshan (Ranchi Kendra) director Shailesh Pandit.

Munda also lapped up compliments by Rajkamal Prakashan managing director Ashok Maheshwari, who called the chief minister a “book lover”.

The tribal institute, meanwhile, has been left fretting. In 2009, the state human resources department had given nearly Rs 45 lakh to it for comics on tribal heroes inspired by Amar Chitra Katha, after which the institute launched an intensive study on Birsa Munda and lesser-known freedom fighters.

By 2010, the institute came out with two lakh copies of a three-part comic series on Birsa Munda, tracing his 25-year-old life from his birth at Uliyatu village in 1875, his arrest in February 1900 and his death at old Ranchi Central Jail on June 9, 1900. The comic series was to be distributed free to students across the state.

Not a single copy went to schools.

The enterprise cost Rs 20 lakh, while around Rs 25 lakh was still with the tribal institute, which wrote to the state HRD department asking for directions on how to utilise the rest of the money. No one bothered to reply.

“The state tribal research institute had put in a lot of effort to come out with a three-volume set on Birsa Munda,” rued institute director Prakash Chandra Oraon said.

Home secretary J.B. Tubid promised to look into the mess. As education secretary two years ago, he had mooted the comic book idea. “I had got the state government to release funds.”

For now, as Rajkamal Prakashan’s Birsa comics hit the stands, it looks like silver fish will continue to enjoy the comical feast offered by the state’s counterpart.