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Colonial Act still haunts denotified tribes: expert

Seminar throws light on ‘historical disadvantage’

Photo: G. Moorthy

UNJUST ACT: Meena Radhakrishna, Director (Research), National Commission for Denotified Tribes, speaking at a seminar in Madurai Kamaraj University, on Wednesday. —

MADURAI: The repealed colonial legislation, Criminal Tribes Act, still haunted the denotified communities in India and around six crore people were waiting to regain their honourable place, Meena Radhakrishna, Director (Research), National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, said here on Wednesday.

She said that even though the Act was repealed after independence, people belonging to nearly 200 communities still carried a ‘historical disadvantage’ and suffered extreme backwardness which had worsened due to police harassment and administrative apathy.

Dr. Meena was addressing the inaugural function of a national seminar on “the impact of Criminal Tribes Act on the society; yesterday, today and the days to come,” organised by Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Chair at Madurai Kamaraj University.

Stating that criminal tribes were unfortunately made synonymous with crimes because of the perception given by the British, she said that communities such as Piramalai Kallars were brutally suppressed though they had fought for their genuine rights.

The original Act came into being in 1871, was subsequently amended in 1911 and finally repealed in 1948 after representations from various sections and struggles, she said. According to her, police harassment and attitude of general public were making things worse for denotified tribes across the country and instances of child labour, forced prostitution/women trafficking were the fallout of unjust treatment.

Focused research

K. Surendran, organiser of the seminar, said that focused research should be taken up by scholars and academicians to come out with more literature on the issue of oppression and suppression.

“The Criminal Tribes Act is a liability on six crore people. Feudal interests and British machinations led to isolation of certain communities in districts including Dindigul, Madurai and Ramanathapuram,” he pointed out.

Mr. Surendran announced that annual seminars will be conducted in the university under the auspices of Thevar Chair.

K.V. Jeyaraj, Professor of Modern History and Director of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Chair, said that it was time to take steps for empowerment of denotified tribes.

He urged the Chief Minister to provide exclusive reservation for them and also announce welfare measures.

R. Kathiresan, Syndicate member, spoke on the socio-economic conditions of denotified tribes and how actions against the law of justice were taken.

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