International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrated in the Nilgiris

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated at the Tribal Resources Centre in Udhagamandalam on Wednesday. Organised by the Southern Regional Centre of the Anthropological Survey of India, the eco-development committees in Wenlock Downs Shooting Medu, Avalanche and Cairn Hill, as well as the Nilgiri Primitive Tribal People’s Federation, the event was attended by top officials from the forest department as well as the district police, including Srinivas R Reddy, Field Director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and District Superintendent of Police, Murali Rambha.

More than 100 people from the indigenous communities living in the Nilgiris – the Kotas, Irulas, Kurumbas, Paniyas, Todas and Kattunaickers attended the event, and cultural performances including dances by all the communities were staged.

Speaking to The Hindu, Northay Kuttan, President of the Nilgiri Primitive Tribal People’s Federation, said that the event would help bridge the gap that exists between the government machinery and the indigenous people in the Nilgiris. He added that though things were moving in a positive direction, the most pressing issue that needed to be addressed among tribal communities is the recognition of their land rights.

“The government and the bureaucracy is still largely ignorant about the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, about community and individual rights, and this has led to the FRA not being implemented,” said Mr. Kuttan, highlighting how the Paniyas in Gudalur and Pandalur taluks claim rights to ancestral lands that are currently in the hands of private landholders.

Need for solidarity

District Superintendent of Police Murali Rambha said that the day emphasised the need for solidarity among tribal communities, and said that there had been a sea change in the means by which the government, police and district administration was interacting with tribals.

“Over the last few years, officials have been trying to seek out and find about the problems faced by the indigenous people in the Nilgiris in an effort to solve them,” he said, adding that the construction of the Tribal Resources Centre itself is a sign that the government is trying to reach out and build a better relationship with them.

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Photo source: DFID via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: ©DFID

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