Day 29 (part 1): Throughout history, tribes were portrayed as savages

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Last night, we discussed everything we had learnt about the situation in Attapadi so far. Having understood both the tribal and government side of the story, we were now able to draw conclusions on how alienation of land propagated social exclusion that eventually led to abject poverty and absolute dissolution of tribal demography.

While displacement of aboriginal groups from their natural habitat began in the colonial era, it was during the fifties that it gained rapid momentum. Since most of the communities had lost their farms to the Attapadi Forest Reserve, the tribes soon started selling their land to settlers in hopes of saving their families from starvation. Gradually, they were introduced to the monetary system and became completely dependent on locals for survival.

Throughout history, tribes have been portrayed as savages who were subjugated by tyrants and forcefully initiated into a materialistic paradigm. In a bid to magnify revenue by levying taxes, the British resorted to harsh measures including threatening and taking severe action against recalcitrant tribal leaders and those in favour of the communities. While a section of their administration favoured a holistic approach with respect to nurturing tribal beliefs, spirituality and their lifestyle, many preferred brute force and military action to ascertain their power over helpless tribesmen.

Though several Kurumba families own lands, they are unable to make any profit from farming. A large portion of the land that the Attapadi tribes possess are rocky and infertile. Hence, most of the tribal people work as porters or construction workers today.

Based on a report released by the Planning Commission of India a few years ago, only 4% of the Kurumbas have access to high school within a 5 km radius. Many hamlets don’t even have navigable roads upto 8 km. Moreover, owing to their reluctance in consuming allopathic medicines, there were five deaths reported due to tuberculosis in the hamlets. Blind faith combined with remoteness and inaccessibility could eventually prove to be fatal for those residing in the hills.

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The literacy rate of the tribe is estimated at 32.36 but the number of girls dropping out of schools saw a major spike in the past one decade. Although, parents were made aware of the importance of education and how it could empower such marginalised communities by elevating their social, economic and cultural status, it was found that more than 143 children were not enrolled in schools. Some couldn’t afford to send them and others believed it was pointless to go to institutions that do not cater to tribal aesthetics or culture. For, they are taught to move ahead with time and leave behind everything they believed in; everything they stood for. Some feared the outcome. Some embraced it. Nonetheless, they all fought hard to grasp the last floating remnants of their identity that once defined who they are; that they once took great pride in…

(to be continued…)

Project ‘Rest of My family‘  is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.

Through ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….

Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502

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