Not a single parent of the whip-dancing children wants them to continue the profession. But the children are unable to pursue education for want of community certificates, says a study conducted by the Foundation for Human Rights and Development.

Society comprises two classes: those who have more food than appetite and those who have more appetite than food, goes a popular saying. Unfortunately, about 250 families residing at Sattaiyadi colony in Sakkimangalam village panchayat near here belong to the latter.

A majority of the residents in this colony are from ‘Sholiga’ community, a Telugu-speaking nomadic group of self-harming whip dancers who meander about public places seeking alms by arousing the sympathy of the people. They are accompanied by women and children playing the ‘urumi’ drums.

These nomads also conduct road shows to earn their livelihood. While dancing, they lash the whip on the floor creating a terrifying sound to attract people. In a ghastly act, the performers inflict cut injuries on their forearms and apply the blood spilling on bare-bodied children made to lie on the floor.

According to a recent study conducted by the Foundation for Human Rights and Development (FOHRD), a non-governmental organisation here, not a single parent of the community in the colony wants the children to continue the profession. But the children are unable to pursue higher education for want of community certificates.

"Many children here could not appear in the 10th standard examinations for want of community certificates. These adolescent boys and girls have become negative role models leading to large scale school dropouts. The courageous among them are learning to use the whip," says S. Syed Ahmed of FOHRD.

The district administration had allotted housing plots for this community in the colony in 1990 following efforts taken by their leader Ellappan, father of 14 children. He now wants the government to declare them Scheduled Tribes. But the process is getting delayed for want of sufficient documents to prove their caste status.

Joint family predominant

The study found that the joint family system is predominant among the community with an average household size of 11 persons. One household had as many as 33 members. Only a few youngsters took up other vocations such as construction work. The rest were addicted to liquor and gambling.

Lack of access to training programmes on skilled trades and poor sanitary conditions in the colony were the other problems faced by the 250 families, including a small population of ‘Bhoom Bhoom Mattukararkal’ (people who take decorated cows and seek alms or small changes by beating a drum) and fortune-tellers/palm-readers.

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