Hul and the Scandinavian-Santal Legacy: The Glory and Irony of History and Our Common Future
Goodwill Message 162nd. Anniversary of Santal Hul (2017AD)
By Prof. Tone Bleie, Head of Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative (SSInherit)
JOHAR FROM THE HIGH-NORTH AND SCANDINAVIA
On behalf of the University of Tromsø, and the Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative (SSInherit), I like to greet the organizers and participants of the 162nd anniversary of Santal Hul Program.
Let me briefly introduce the Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative and myself. My name is Tone Bleie.
As an anthropology student in the early 1980s AD. I was lucky to be invited by my friend Paul Tigga to live in an Adivasi-inhabited border area in Dinajpur, Bangladesh. The Santals, Oraons and Mundas of
the area were hospitable hosts and started teaching me about their own history in Jungle Mahal and the
circumstances that led their ancestors to migrate and settle in the plain areas currently within Bangladesh. These historic narratives made a great impression on me. I have since had the privilege for more than 30-years to work as a researcher, advisor and human rights advocate on issues of Adivasi livelihoods, land rights, cultural heritage, political and spiritual history.
With colleagues, I founded The Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative four years ago, in order to restore the friendship between us and Santals around the world and to help ensuring that you get proper access to the enormous Bodding-Santal Collection of crafts, jewelry, weapons, traps, drums, agricultural implements and manuscripts, which is in the custody of a museum and a library in our capital, Oslo.
The Scandinavian-Santal Legacy, is closely connected with the Hul. Let me say a few words how we understand “the Hul connection”.
The Hul Connection for Our Joint Heritage.
It is an ironic twist of history that the circumstances that led to the Hul, its dramatic course and dire aftermaths, paved the ground for the Santals to allow – not without controversy – a few Scandinavian missionaries to settle in your midst. The early encounter in Benagaria in the late 1860s became the foundation for a generations-long contact as brethren peoples. The first generation missionaries became honorific Santals, rather than dikus.
Oral and written evidence about the Hul’s background shows that the Santals realized they needed the skill to read and write in order to oppose and rectify unfair treatment of moneylenders and Zamindars. This is elaborated in Hul stories of how a piece of paper fell on the head of Sido as Thakur appeared, writing and holding a book, as Thakur imbued Sido and Kanhu with his royal powers.
The Scandinavian-Santal enlightenment movement would not have started, had not the your ancestors w a n t e d to resist foreigners’ intrusion and land grabs by way of script, education, legal literacy. Your
ancestors found it wise to mobilize the Scandinavian missionaries intermediaries between you Santals on one side and the colonial authorities, moneylenders and land grabbers on the others. Our first Norwegian ancestor who arrived in your territories right after the Hul was a craftsman and tenant’s son who himself and faced poverty, forced migration and a discriminatory justice system.
SSINherit News: New Digital Opportunity
A Norwegian university museum and national library have for more than a full century been the custodians for a huge collection of your oral and material heritage. It is our responsivity to honor and think anew about how to manage this legacy in an era when ethnic minorities and indigenous rights to own cultural heritage must be respected. Until recently, Santals could only access your heritage treasures in Norway by traveling to Oslo or getting access to a set of microfilms, repatriated from Oslo to India. The Norwegian custodians are now digitizing the Bodding Collections. This means that you now can log into a computer, gain access and search on the websites of the Museum of Cultural History or the National Museum of Norway. If you want historic photos, you should search up Danmission’s Photo Library. You can actually make your way and view your wonderful spiritual and material objects (jewelry, drums, religious objects, equipment and tools) stories, told and written down by your ancestors. You can download individual photos and larger files without other costs than printing costs. The user-friendliness for external foreign users will need some improvements, based on feedback.
You may start exploring these websites:
Much valuable material in the Bodding-Santal Collection remains unpublished. That includes a vast
collection of Santal stories, collected by prominent Santals who worked with Paul Olaf Bodding. Some of
the stories tell about the time situation before, under and after the Hul insurrection, written down by
Sagram B. Murmu and others. Some of Hul narratives have been translated and made available in India
(Manohar) in a book by colleagues Profs. Marine Carrin, Peter B. Anderson and Santosh Soren. Much
more needs to be done by you and us!
Joint past – Common Future?
Certain notions, values and work practices motivate u s :
One is Remembrance: of our ancestral past and as motivating force for discussing anew about the
past and our common future
A second is Reflection: over established dogmatic truths
A third is Repatriation of your cultural heritage based on rights-based management
One fourth: Solidarity in a joint struggle against unsustainable plundering of natural resources – often
done in collusion between state authorities and corporations – with disrespect for human dignity and
freedom. We need to pressure for a massive shift to long-term collaborative management, respecting ancestral pasts – and securing the dignity and livelihoods of future generations.
Thank you again and greetings!