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According to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, India has 705 ethnic groups, notified as Scheduled Tribes (as revealed in Census 2011). These tribes have a highly distinct lifestyle and culture, a legacy that the country needs to protect and preserve. The Ministry is now making a concerted effort to preserve and promote rich tribal cultural heritage as well to acknowledge the contribution of the tribal leaders in India’s struggle for Independence.

The central government has decided to set up Tribal Freedom Fighters’ Museum in 10 states in the country to ensure the legacy is not forgotten. These museums will also exhibit the rich tribal cultural heritage of the regions. The museums will come up in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Telangana.

Recently, the foundation stone of one such museum was laid in Manipur by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The museum is dedicated to the memory of Rani Gaidinliu, who fought to drive away the British from Manipur and nearby areas in the pre-Independence days. Gaidinliu from the Rongmei Naga tribe, was arrested in 1932 at the age of 16 years, and awarded life imprisonment. In 1937, Jawaharlal Nehru visited her in jail and gave her the title of ‘Rani’ (queen). She was released after India gained independence. The Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum is situated at Luangkao village in Manipur’s Tamenglong district.

According to a release from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, a decision has been taken to rename Mount Harriet, the third-highest island peak in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where Manipur’s Maharaja Kulchandra Singh and 22 other freedom fighters were imprisoned after the Anglo-Manipur war (1891). It is now known as Mt Manipur.

The central government has also declared November 15 as ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ which will be observed every year as a mark of homage to the tribal freedom fighters of the country. November 15 marks the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda, a tribal freedom fighter and religious leader who belonged to the Munda tribe.

Also Read: 5 Tribal Museums in India That You Must Visit

A separate release from the ministry also announced that to preserve and promote the country’s rich tribal cultural heritage and also to create awareness among others, a searchable digital repository viz Tribal Digital Document repository and Tribal Repository have been developed where all research papers, books, reports and documents, folks songs, photos/videos with their metadata are being uploaded. The tribal repository currently has more than 10,000 photographs, videos and publications which are mostly done by the Tribal Research Institutes across the country.

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