Tamil Nadu

Highlighting marginalisation of tribal communities in Gudalur through art and storytelling

Engal Vanathin Kanavu

Engal Vanathin Kanavu  

From the cutting down of forests to the criminalisation of adivasis and their way of life, Engal Vanathin Kanavu shines a light on what they have endured

Displacement, marginalisation and a lost sense of connection with the land are just some of the themes touched upon in an illustrated book that seeks to shine a light on what tribal communities in Gudalur have been subjected to over the last century.

The book, titled Engal Vanathin Kanavu (Our Forest Dreams), tells the tale of a young woman, Medhi, who has a waking dream of an untouched forest, where the tribal communities that inhabit Gudalur and Pandalur live in peace and harmony with the environment, without the meddling of the police, the forest department, encroachers or corporations running the large tea estates in the region. Medhi discusses her dream with her grandmother, Ajji, who then tells her granddaughter the story of how Gudalur’s landscape has changed since the arrival of the British and right through post-Independence India. Using stories of the communities’ links with the forests, Ajji details the marginalisation of primitive tribal groups in the region for more than a hundred years.

“From the cutting down of forests to make way for plantations by the British, followed by our own governments displacing and criminalising adivasis and their way of life, to speaking about the loss of our religions, the book seeks to tell the story of what we have lost over the last century,” says Sobha Madhan, a local tribal rights activist and a member of the Nilgiris Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ Federation in Gudalur, who came up with the idea for the book.

Ms. Madhan says the main purpose of the book is to educate local communities about their traditional ways of life, their dependence and inextricable links with the forest, and what can be done to reclaim some semblance of rights to the land.

“The most significant portion of the book is meant for educating people about the Forest Rights Act and how local communities can, and need to, mobilise themselves to claim land under the Act,” says Ms. Madhan, adding that the book’s conversational tone and comic-like design structure were incorporated on purpose to grab the attention of young people from these communities and to ensure that people who cannot read can still understand the message through art and illustrations.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 3:11:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/highlighting-marginalisation-of-tribal-communities-in-gudalur-through-art-and-storytelling/article30071107.ece

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