The Keystone Foundation in Kotagiri, Nilgiris, have issued a statement taking “strong objections to the false accusation and allegations” made against the organisations, by local political parties and individuals.
The statement comes in the wake of an interview given by Professor Paul Hockings, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Illinois, who made the assertion that a population of Badagas, the largest ethnic group in the Nilgiris migrated to the hill district from Mysore around four centuries ago, and that they had associations with the indigenous communities in the Nilgiris.
In a statement, the Foundation said that it is “an eco-development group working for three decades in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve with tribal communities. Our work has brought national and international awards, and recognition to the district and to the cause of sustainable development in the mountains. We are not in the real estate business as the reports falsely state,” they said.
Mr. Hockings was in the Nilgiris to attend the NilgiriScapes conference, a conference to discuss an environmentally sustainable future for the Nilgiris.
“Among the many speakers were several national and global scholars, including Professor Paul Hockings. The views expressed by him are his personal views and not those of the Foundation. We have not hosted him on the Foundation premises,” the organisation said.
“We would like to emphasise that Keystone Foundation has never used anybody to tarnish the image of the Badagas as reported in the media. Keystone is not working against the long pending plea of the Badagas for inclusion of the community in the ST list as alleged, as an organisation we are in no way connected to this demand, or process, in any way through any electronic medium or otherwise,” they added.
They added that the question of Scheduled Tribe status is not in their mandate, nor do they have the authority or influence to do so.
“There are many pieces of misinformation which has been deliberately written to malign us and cause unwarranted tensions amongst the local communities. We take strong objections to the false accusation and allegations made against Keystone Foundation to malign our 30 years of hard work and credibility,” they said.