Tragedy of Tribals in Telangana – need for a different view

By: Soonya

Today’s mood seems to be for transferring power from pro-coastal districts to those who fought and stood by the identity issues of Telangana.

Let’s hope that those who fought for Telangana will form the government or have significant influence on the new government of Telangana state.

Among many issues that KCR has been promising he spoke about 3 for tribals in Telangana

1. Making hamlets of Lambadas (Thandas) as panchayats
2. Making tribal hamlets of Tribals of Telangana into panchayats
3. Taking the current reservation for educational institutions and government jobs to 12%

The moot question is who is a tribal?

Are Lambada’s tribals? They were known as nomadic tribes, but in the last 4-5 decades they seem to have settled down around the peripheries of many villages in Telangana.

In a way their hamlets are outside the realm of villages just like the so called ‘Harijan vadas’ or colonies in a village.

There is a view that true tribals are those who live off the forests and today we call them Primitive Tribal Groups or PTGs.

The major tribes that live either in hilly forests, hills or wooded plains near the forests are the following:

1. Gonds in Utnoor area and surrounding areas in Adilabad, and to a smaller extent Kollams
2. Koyas in Eturunagaram
3. Koyas in Khammam, Bhadrachalam region
4. Chenchu’s in Nallamalai forests, abutting Mahbubnagar/Kurnool/Prakasham areas

It is a well-known fact that the Lambada community has primarily enjoyed all the benefits of reservations.

You rarely see a Gondi, or a Koya MLA or an educated person or a government job holder from among the PTGs.

The question is how come?

TRS and other progressive Telangana vaadis, must answer this question and demand that there are separate categorization of the so-called PTG’s and ensure that their right to education and jobs and land is NOT FORGOTTEN.

Otherwise the voice-less PTGs will once again get cheated. And we may see an agitation akin to the Madiga agitation for sub-categorization within the SC reservations.

I am privity to a quasi government educational system and in my decade of observation I did not see one Gondi, one Kollam, one Koya or one Chenchu claiming a seat in a PG course which was in mid 80’-mid 90’s.

I was always baffled at this phenomenon. Students belonging to Lambada community cornered all of the seats reserved for tribals. Some of the students became Assistant Professors and probably are moving to become Associate Professors and Professors.

I have nothing against the Lambada’s but the question that begs is, if there is reservation for tribals you must see at least a smattering of other tribes, PTGs in educational institutions, government jobs and probably in private companies as well.

Obviously something went wrong or is going wrong.

The new government of Telangana must right the wrong.

Unfortunately, most of the PTG’s have been sandwiched between some extremist groups’ and police’s violence.

Peace must return to all those hamlets. Development must visit them. Their rights must be protected as any other citizen of India.

Since they are called Adivasis or original inhabitants they must be taken care of with a special focus, special budget.

To get a sense of the injustice done to the PTG’s one can read the transcript of JM Girglani in Warangal. I present the link here:

After June 2nd, we have none to blame for the plight of tribals in Telangana except ourselves. I do hope all sections of T vaadis give a critical thought to the issue.

The tribals have been at loggerheads with plains people since Ramayana and Mahabharata (whatever their historicity) and the situation doesn’t seem to be different in our 6-decade-old independent democracy. We from the plains should stop seeing the forests as potential for minerals and ores alone at cost of livelihoods and their unique life styles. While all efforts must be made so that they accrue all the benefits of a modern society.

In my view, a true democracy is where minority sections or weak sections have a voice and can participate in the development. Let us give deep thought and call for action to remedy the tragedy of tribals in Telangana.

There are enough laws, but no political will and honesty in dealing with the PTGs so far. Let us hope the situation changes in the new state.

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