<SiteLock

Narikkoravar’s constitutional struggle for dignity and representation

 

NDMJ-NCDHR

It has been four and a half decades since the Narikoravan (a) Kuruvikaran community has been waging a constitutional struggle for Scheduled Tribe status.

Narikoravan is a nomadic tribe involved in the making of 'rudrasksha malai' and other such long chains, rosary beads which have been historically part of temple economies. Their products find great demand among pilgrims who travel to Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Pathanamthita, Kerala. Narikuravars are also itinerant sellers of plastic vessels and other daily utilities. Their population is not more than 30,000 in Tamil Nadu. They have no representation in any decision-making bodies. Presently, they are listed under Most Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu and among Other Backward Classes in the Central Government List.

narikkuravar

 For Narikuravars, it has been almost impossible to transcend their traditional occupation. Several first generation learners go back to their traditional occupation due to lack of facilities and difficulties embedded in claiming and furnishing their MBC/OBC status. The first generation learners from the community who are leading the movement articulate their demand in terms of better and meaningful access to modern facilities and educational infrastructure.

In 1965, the Lokur Committee1 recommended inclusion of Narikoravans (Kuruvikaran) in the list of Scheduled Tribes. The mandate of the 1965 committee was to examine the 'historical and scientific background' of tribes and caste groups to evaluate their social, economic and educational conditions. Clearly, the recommendation of the Committee was not implemented in the case of Narikuravars. The report points out that Narikorvans are a 'very backward tribe' with distinct customs.

Minister Letter

In the 1980s, M.G. Ramachandran, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu proposed to the Union Government to include Narikuravars in the ST list.

On 18th December 2013, the UPA government was forced to issue a bill2 (160/2013) to include the community in the ST list.

Lok Sabha Business

Prior to the issuance of this bill, Narikuravars convinced DMK president Karunanidhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha to write to the Central government.However, on 21st February 2014 when the bill was floored in the Lok Sabha none of the members supported the Bill. This led to its lapse.

Another letter

The community demanded the passage of the bill in the winter session of the Lok Sabha. Nearly 50 Narikuravar women, children and men, under the banner of Tamil Nadu Narikoravan (A) Kuruvikaran Welfare Federation (TNKWF), travelled to Delhi all the way from Tamil Nadu. For over two weeks (starting from the first week of December 2015) they lived in tiny lodge in Paharganj area of New Delhi to meet MPs and Union Ministers.They also staged a hunger strike on 4th December 2015 at Jantar Mantar. The Union government ensured that the bill would be enacted, without any delay.

 Narikkuravar2

After several rounds of dialogue with members of parliament and ministers; on 9th December 2015, Pon. Radhakrishnan, Minister of State for Road Transports, Highways and Shipping, Government of India, wrote a letter to Jual Oram, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, strongly recommending Narikuravar's case for ST status. In the letter, the Minister points out that Narikuravar Community is 'nomadic, extremely poor and one of the most vulnerable communities' in Tamil Nadu. More than 87% of this population is non-literate. The minister further states that the number of graduates in the community is hardly '0.02%' of the total population. It is in such a context that they demand ST status with the hope to improve their living conditions and representations.

handbill

However, the winter session of the Parliament failed to pass the Bill. The struggle of the community is still on. There is a need for greater awareness and support from civil society actors to ensure the passage of the Bill in the next session of the Parliament.

Narikkuravar5

~

Notes

[1]. While the definition of 'tribe' remains contested, the broad criterion for determining whether a community is 'tribal or not' as per the Lokur Committee Report are - spatial organization (separate and excluded existence), distinctive culture, 'primitive' traits, shyness of contact with community at large and socio-economic and educational backwardness.

[2]. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013.

~~~

Other Related Articles

Liberal narrative and Afghanistan
Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Vinith Kumar These last few weeks have been about the Taliban. But it hasn’t really been about them. The reports, the end of the war, the exit of the American forces, the tragic images from the... Read More...
Our self-respect was surely also self-determination - Understanding Dravidian politics in the times of Hindutva
Thursday, 12 August 2021
Vinith Kumar [This is part 1 of a series of essays on Dravidian politics today and its historical roots.] There are pessimists who say that there is no guarantee that victory will be followed by a... Read More...
The Reddy-BC combination and the prospects of Hindutva forces in Telangana: The Eatala Phenomenon
Saturday, 19 June 2021
  Prof K. Laxminarayana The official channel of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on 30th April aired the news of alleged encroachment upon assigned lands by Eatala Rajender's family for their... Read More...
Was Identity Politics Dead in Uttar Pradesh or was it camouflaged under the garb of developmental politics?
Monday, 14 June 2021
  Prof Vivek Kumar In 2019, Sudha Pai wrote, "The decade has witnessed weakening of identity politics and simultaneously revival of the BJP"1. Even a lay person can tell you how wrong she is if... Read More...
Assam Assembly Elections: The Hills Do Not Speak
Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Rakhee Naiding “Lama hemhishining jaya, lama slamma bo nangdu”(It is not enough we tread the path, we have to create them too)- A Dimasa saying Recently the Assam Assembly elections concluded,... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Assam Assembly Elections: The Hills Do Not Speak
Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Rakhee Naiding “Lama hemhishining jaya, lama slamma bo nangdu”(It is not enough we tread the path, we have to create them too)- A Dimasa saying Recently the Assam Assembly elections concluded,... Read More...
Was Identity Politics Dead in Uttar Pradesh or was it camouflaged under the garb of developmental politics?
Monday, 14 June 2021
  Prof Vivek Kumar In 2019, Sudha Pai wrote, "The decade has witnessed weakening of identity politics and simultaneously revival of the BJP"1. Even a lay person can tell you how wrong she is if... Read More...
How BJP ran TN without getting elected – the story before 2 May
Thursday, 13 May 2021
  Radhika Sudhakar  The story of Tamil Nadu election 2021, as the election itself drew close, was judged by non-brahmins in the state as one that was not going to be who the winner is - the... Read More...
Adivasis overcoming the Corona pandemic: An Adivasi perspective
Friday, 21 May 2021
Chevuri Sathish Kumar The Adivasis have resided in different geographical locations throughout India. This includes majorly tribes-dominated areas in Jharkhand, northeastern states and central India,... Read More...
Liberal narrative and Afghanistan
Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Vinith Kumar These last few weeks have been about the Taliban. But it hasn’t really been about them. The reports, the end of the war, the exit of the American forces, the tragic images from the... Read More...