Senior Leaders

... in Ghosaldanga and Bishnubati

The present "senior leaders" have from the very beginning  shaped village development and do influential work in the various  leadership committees in the organizations of the two villages. Among them  are Sona Murmu and Boro Baski, two villagers who were the very first in their villages to enjoy a school education.

In the following, certain influential leading members will be introduced.

Boro Baski

Boro Baski, Head of RSV-school

The educational career of Boro Baski, the present head teacher of the Santal school Rolf Schoembs Vidyashram (RSV), can with certainty be called remarkable. He was born in Bishnubati in 1968 and grew up there, until at the age of 10 years he was sent to a Christian boarding school near Calcutta in order to gain an education. However, he left school early without passing his qualifying exams – a ‘dropout’, as he wrote later. Returning home to the village of his birth he worked - following the example of his parents - as a farm labourer in the fields in and around Bishnubati, occasionally being employed as a day labourer on building sites in the immediate vicinity.

His life changed decisively when he met Martin Kämpchen, who advised and helped him to continue with his studies. In 1988 he passed his school leaving exams and went on to study at the Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan, West Bengal. It was here that he gained the degree of Bachelor of Social Work (in 1993), followed by his Master’s degree in Social Work in 1995. In the year 2011 he completed his Ph.D. Boro Baski is thus the first Santal from his village Bishnubati to successfully complete his school and university education.

Immediately after taking up his studies again Boro Baski became actively engaged in the development of the Santal villages.  Encouraged by the example of Ghosaldanga he began the work of village development in Bishnubati in 1987. His first project was to establish a kindergarten and an evening school; in 1997 he founded the association Bishnubati Adibasi Marshal Sangha (BAMS).

At university he was particularly inspired by the educational theories of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, which he studied intensively with a view to applying them in his village development work.  Together with Gokul Hansda he conceived and founded the private elementary school Rolf Schoembs Vidyashram (RSV) in the year 1995, where he worked as a teacher for many years before becoming head teacher of the school in 2010. From the establishment of the GBAT Foundation he has served on its Board of Trustees as a member.

Boro Baski strives to make the Santal culture known outside the immediate area.  He was sent to the Woodbrooke College in Birmingham, UK, at the beginning of the planning and development stage of the RSV with a view to extending his studies. He took part in various programmes during which Santal groups travelled through India, Bangladesh, Germany, Austria and England to introduce the local inhabitants to the Santal culture by means of spoken presentation, song, dance and theatre. In India Boro Baski has published several books and leaflets, and has also written essays in Indian and international journals about the values, culture and present problems of the Santal   (see Bibliography).

Boro Baski is married to Asha Baski, a teacher at a school in Bandel. The couple have two daughters and live in Bandel, near Calcutta.

Sona Murmu

Sona Murmu, Secretary of GASS

Sona Murmu was one of the first in the middle of the 1980s to build up village development work together with Martin Kämpchen in Ghosaldanga, at first very gradually and frequently against the opposition of his family and other inhabitants of the village. His first project was the development of an evening school, where he supervised the younger schoolchildren when they were doing their homework.  The problem was that after one or two years the children tended to leave the state-run elementary school because they could not keep up with work in class. As the children spoke Santali at home they were strongly disadvantaged at the state school where Bengali was the language of instruction.

After the establishment and development of the evening school in Ghosaldanga, Sona motivated the villagers to take on more self-help projects. Among these were the planting of trees in the course of several years and also the provision of medical aid. In weekly meetings he encouraged the entire population of the village to participate in such projects.

Since 1989, when the Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha (GASS) was set up, Sona Murmu has been its managing secretary. After the foundation of the Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adabasi Trust (GBAT) in 2002 he became a member of the Board of Trustees. Sona is also a member of all committees concerned with the organization of village development work, such as the Finance Committee, the Council and the Managing Committee of Ghosaldanga.

Village development in Ghosaldanga remains a focal point of Sona Murmu’s work, but today he also has other tasks.  He supervises not only the hostels for boys and girls, but also the organic garden, which are both facilities on the campus of the RSV. In addition he is responsible for the salaries of employees and for the awarding of grants to schoolgirls and schoolboys. He also oversees the real estate and movables of the Sangha.

He often takes over special functions such as looking after guests both from India and abroad. Frequently he has travelled all over India with Santal groups with a view to presenting their  Santal culture. In addition he has visited Germany three times with the Ghosaldanga-Bishnubati team to present the Santal village culture there.

Sona Murmu is married to Leena Murmu, who worked as a medical assistant in Ghosaldanga and Bishnubati for many years.  Now Leena is employed by the state government of West Bengal and Rampurhat. The couple lives in a house on the road from Ghosaldanga to Santiniketan.

Gokul Hansda

Gokul Hansda, President of GBAT

Gokul Hansda ist a Santali from Dansara, a village near Santiniketan. He studied at the Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan, where he received his Master's degree in Social Work.

During his studies at university he got to know the villages Ghosaldanga and Bishnubati through his fellow-student Boro Baski and became involved in the work there. Immediately after gaining his degree he began working professionally along with Boro Baski in the villages. Together with his fellow-student from college days he founded the Rolf Schoembs Vidyashram(RSV), a private school for Santal children from  the surrounding Santal villages. Up to 2010 Gokul Hansda was the principal of this school.

After the setting up of the Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adibasi Trust (GBAT) in 2003 he became its chairman and has remained in this position to the present day. As of  the year 2010 he was employed by the state as an elementary school teacher. He is still a member of the Finance Committee and the Council and is actively engaged in the projects of the village organisations.

Gokul Hansda is especially interested in nurturing the artistic traditions of the Santal people, i.e. music, dance and theatre. He has established his own theatre group, in which boys and girls from Ghosaldanga and Bishnubati also participate. In this project he is supported and assisted by his wife Deepali, who has won several awards for acting. Gokul Hansda has already visited Europe four times with Santal culture groups and gained prominence there as a dancer and singer.

He lives with his wife and daughter in Santiniketan.

Snehadri Chakraborti

Snehadri Chakraborti, überwacht Finanzen

Snehadri Chakraborti was born into a Hindu family in Calcutta. He studied engineering and today is a civil engineer employed by the Visva Bharati University in Satiniketan. For many years he has worked as a volunteer in the self-help organisations of the two Santal villages. He supervises the finances and spending of the organisations GBAT, GASS and BAMS and does the accounting for presentation to the state government. He is a member of several important committees, for example the Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adibasi Trust (GBAT), the Council and the Finance Committee.

As a civil engineer Snehadri Chakraborti  also oversees the planning of new building projects, their  execution and financial processing and also the upkeep of the buildings.  His knowledge of and experience in application and permission for building work  in the offices of the state government and indeed with reference to all bureaucratic undertakings is immensely valuable.

Twice he has represented the interests of village development on travels in Germany, Austria and England; in addition he has accompanied cultural Santal groups on their journeys through India.

Snehadri Chakraborti lives with his wife, a teacher, and their two daughters in their own house in Santiniketan.

Monotosh Das

Monotosh Das

Monotosh Das, a Hindu from the town of Bolpur, went to the Ramakrishna Mission in Narendrapur, near Calcutta after leaving school at the end of year 11. There he was trained as an electrician for one year.

Shortly afterwards he was employed by the Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha (GASS) and carried out valuable practical work in Ghosaldanga, Bishnubati and in the RSV. His practical abilities have always been a great help to the village organisations.
When the organic garden in the RSV was laid out he took responsibility from the word go for the work there.  Now he supervises the horticultural work and has assumed responsibility for the marketing of the garden produce.

As a trained electrician he takes care of the electricity  networks, being especially responsible for the functioning  of the photovoltaic installations.

Monotosh Das lives with his wife and son in Bhubandanga, Bolpur.