I came to know about the Adivasis of Gudalur based on an account from my daughter who visited them last December as a part of her school trip. Gudalur Valley situated in the tri-junction of the three South Indian States of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka is the home of over 25000 Adivasis for many centuries. Five different tribes viz. Paniyas, Bettakurumbas, Mullukurumbas, Kattunaickens and Irulas were inhabiting this forested valley. Alienated from their own land by big Tea Estates, migrants from the plains and by Government authorities, these Adivasis fought back by organising themselves into a strong political force. They were able to assert their political and social rights, to revive their cultural art forms and to join the mainstream society as equal partners with dignity.
Why do the Adivasis need our help?
This one personally appeals to me as it is in line with my own values. All these Adivasi communities were living in symbiotic relationship with the forests, of whose flora and fauna they had an intimate knowledge. Their religious worldview was one of considering themselves as part of the total ecosystem and not as superior beings with an exploitative attitude towards bountiful natural resources. The concept of property or of accumulation beyond simple needs was alien to them. The different tribal communities are presently at different socio-economic levels. By examining the livelihood patterns and culture of some of these tribal ethnic groups over a period of time, it becomes clear how development and modernization have affected their lives. There is a lot we can learn from them. The more I learn about them, the more I am reminded of the movie Avataar which left a lasting impression on me. Our current disconnect from nature (there is now a term for it and it is called Nature Deficit Disorder) and our lack of deep understanding of the our own dependency on this relationship is actually doing us deep harm. There are very few communities left with a deep understanding of this symbiotic relationship and the Adivasis are one such community that we cannot afford to lose.
So what I am doing about it?
Not a lot but I am trying to do my bit for ACCORD by cycling to Gudalur from Bangalore (300+ kms) to raise awareness and well as funds. ACCORD (Action for Community Organisation, Rehabilitation and Development) was born in November 1985 out of the realization that the Adivasis of the Gudalur Valley were being cheated and exploited and might soon disappear off the face of the earth. Their vision is to help the Adivasi community of the Gudalur Valley in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu to take control of their own lives. In March 1986 out of a small office in Thorapally, Gudalur, they began the battle for Adivasi rights. We started with the central belief that Adivasis had to retrieve the ancestral lands taken away from them by force and deceit. ACCORD believed firmly that Adivasis had a genius of their own and that if people could regain their dignity, pride and self esteem, they could once more take charge of their own lives. And I agree with this assessment completely.
How can you help?
You can help by helping me raise funds for this mission on behalf of ACCORD. I have taken it upon myself to raise atleast Rs. 1,00,000 for this. If you connect with why I am doing this, please do you bit by contributing here. ACCORD is using the fundraising platform from RangDe for this. I look forward to your contribution. Every contribution however small, counts.