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Badagas demand ST status

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boycott threat: Representatives of the Badaga community with social activist Padma Venkataraman in Udhagamandalam on Monday. —
boycott threat: Representatives of the Badaga community with social activist Padma Venkataraman in Udhagamandalam on Monday. —

Special Correspondent

Udhagamandalam: A meeting of the Badagas held under the aegis of the Nakkubetta Badagar Welfare Association and the Tribals Awareness Forum here on Monday resolved to boycott the coming general elections if the Badaga community was not included in the list of Scheduled Tribes and the general status of the Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituency and the Gudalur Assembly constituency were not restored.

Earlier addressing the meeting, the former president, Tribal Solidarity, H.N. Kalla Gowder, said that as early as 1931 the Badagas had been described as tribals in official records.

Pointing out that their claim for tribal status can be justified in a number of ways, he said that evidence to this effect had been submitted on a number of occasions to the Central Government. Regrettably, “for reasons best known to it, the government is sitting on the matter.” Averring, ‘tribal status is our birthright’, he said that until it was granted the Badagas will not rest.

The Nilgiris Parliamentary Constituency should remain in the general category and the Gudalur Assembly Constituency should not be brought under the reserved category. Stating, “we respect all communities,” he said at the same time we will not permit our rights to be trampled on. A signature campaign will be launched.”

The president, Tribal Solidarity, T.M. Kullan, said that for centuries the Badagas had resided in the Nilgiris and their dialect was one of the oldest.

The Udhagamandalam MLA, B. Gopalan, lamented that there was a misconception that the Badagas belonged to a well off community. Stating that the majority of the Badagas were poverty stricken, he said that many had been forced to leave the district in search of employment. Social activist Padma Venkataraman, who was the chief guest, said that the Badagas had several tribal traits. The president, Nakku Betta Badagar Welfare Association, A. Ranga Gowder, presided over the meeting. The head of the community, R. Iyyaru, also spoke.

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