Caught between AP, Odisha: identity crisis for tribals of Kotia group of villages

4,000 tribal people on hilltop hamlets are caught between A.P. and Odisha

April 06, 2019 10:53 pm | Updated April 07, 2019 07:55 am IST

He has two names with separate voter ID and ration cards. His name is Muthyalu Marri in Andhra Pradesh and Mutal Mari in Odisha government records.

About 60 years old, he belongs to Poraja tribe and ekes out a living by resorting to podu (also known as shifting) cultivation. Like him, there are over 4,000 tribal people living in hilltop hamlets.

Meet Gemmila Ambri, another senior citizen, who is very candid in admitting the identity crisis faced by them though happy over availing themselves of ration and other benefits from both the States. "This village is Dhulipadar in Odisha and Dhulibhadra in Andhra Pradesh records. Sometimes we are seen as second class citizens by officials visiting from Odisha and Andhra Pradesh for availing ourselves of benefits from the two States," he points out.

Poraja, Domb, Jataba Dora and few other tribal groups live in 21 tiny villages very often termed as Kotia group of villages. They are facing identity crisis ever since the area turned into an inter-State dispute.

Jurisdiction claims

With claims over jurisdiction by Odisha and Andhra Pradesh and trading of charges of intrusion into one’s area without permission, both the States have extended various benefits such as ration, houses, roads and healthcare to them. Odisha stepped up efforts since past two years to counter Andhra Pradesh’s efforts to assert over the villages.

The dispute that was referred to the Supreme Court arose ever since united State of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1953. The confrontation between the two States reached a flashpoint with Andhra Pradesh holding Janmabhoomi meetings last year and deputing the Vizianagaram Collector and some top officials, and Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from Odisha, visiting the area to interact with the tribal people last year.

Overlap of constituency

Come elections, politicians from both the States prevail upon the people here to cast their franchise to candidates contesting from their respective areas. While Kotia group of villages come under Salur Assembly constituency and Araku Lok Sabha seat of Andhra Pradesh, they are part of Pottangi Assembly and Koraput Lok Sabha constituencies of Odisha.

All the villages are reportedly under the influence of Left Wing Extremists. Incidents of violence are being reported now and then. Parts of Koraput district are described as hotbed for Maoists after a lull in their activity in North Andhra.

In the census held in Odisha in 1951, the tribal people were shown as part of the State. Mr. Pradhan said Odisha since it was formed in 1936 had been treating the people of the villages as theirs. The dispute arose only after Andhra Pradesh staked its claim since 1960s and it has still remained unresolved.

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