Udhagamandalam: Having spent a good part of the past nine days with tribals in various parts of the Nilgiris district, a group of 11 undergraduate students comprising six boys and five girls from the Pune-based Foundation for Liberal and Management Education (FLAME) packed their bags with mixed feelings on Monday.
The students pursuing Business and Liberal Education were here in connection with a ‘Discover India' Project of their institution.
The objective of the project was to experience the rich socio-cultural heritage of the Nilgiri tribes. Focus was also on finding out to what extent urbanisation had affected them. Split into groups, the students visited Toda and Kota habitations like Muthanad mund, Bikkapathi mund, Sholur Kokkal, Pudhu Kotagiri and Tiruchigadi and other tribal settlements.
Speaking to ‘The Hindu' here on Monday, the group leader Ujjwal Kumar said, “some of what we saw and heard related to what we had read and visualised but many other things which we observed and experienced surprised and worried us.”
When asked to elaborate, he said, “it is the duty of all sections of the society, particularly the tribals themselves, to protect and preserve their rich and hoary culture.”
“At the same time it is the duty of all to ensure that the culture is not flaunted for commercial gains.
While tribal culture should be showcased properly to the people, the tribals should always be conscious of the fact that their culture is their identity. No one can survive without an identity,” he added. Stating that they were elated to come across tribals who conversed in English, Mr. Kumar said that they were dejected to see many tribals living in pathetic conditions. It reflected the lopsided development of tribals in the Nilgiris, he sad.
Some members of the group will visit the Nilgiris again to see “whether we are heading in the right direction,” he added.