It was nothing short of making the impossible possible. The bringing together of various groups of nomadic tribes like the Nari Koravars, Paliyars, Kaatu Naickers, Sholigars, astrologers, palmists, whip dancers, leather puppet showmen circus performers and many itinerant occupational category people to organize a conference was indeed a daunting task.
The first conference of Tamil Nadu Nomads Federation 2010 held here at Gandhi Museum on Sunday was an event which epitomised how a group of tribesmen were long neglected not only by the State but also the civil society as the speakers stated that it was a conference organised by “us” as neither the civil societal institution nor the State “came to help us reclaim our rights”.
The different nomadic and semi nomadic tribesmen represented their forms of occupation by wearing their traditional garb and carrying whip, ‘jhattiwar,' ‘urumi melam' and decorated bulls and were performing all through the rally which started and Tamukkam grounds and reached Gandhi Museum, the venue for the conference.
C.Kamaraj, District Collector, said that education is the only means to combat the oppression faced by these tribes. Citing earlier instances of how the administration issued ration cards, house pattas and various other benefits to the nomads, he said that a survey would soon be done in Madurai and benefits delivered.
He also said that the administration was contemplating on supporting the tribesmen in Sakkimangalam where they were enagaged in making household products for decorative purposes. Self Help Groups which could be asked to procure them for sales.
R.Maheswari, secretary, The Empowerment Centre of Nomads and Tribes (TENT), Madurai, said that the condition of the nomads was worse than that of any other marginalised section and recalled the suffering and humiliation she faced during her younger days.
“During my childhood, I begged on the streets. When children of my age were going to school, for children like us schools were a distant dream.” Somehow, I overcame all the obstacles and we have formed this organisation which would fight till everyone in the community get education.
C.Sathyanarayanan, Director, Tribal Research Centre, Nilgiris, said that the Government in 2005 appointed a National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic tribes to study various developmental aspects of these Tribes. However the recommendations of the Commission have not been implemented.
The demands of the nomadic tribes include establishment of a welfare board, to issue community certificates, to provide 5 per cent reservation for them in education and employment. They also demanded that the State, keeping in mind the itinerant status of the tribesmen, should issue mobile voter identity and mobile ration cards. The other demands were to conduct a survey and create a categorical status of Nomadic Tribe (NT) which shall hence be referred in the Government records. Leaders of various nomadic tribe and semi-nomadic tribe association and social activists took part in the conference.