‘Malai Vedan’ Community’s Struggle for Scheduled Caste Community Certificates Continues
Leaders of the CPI(M) and TNTA leading the protest if the Malai Vedan community members in front of the District Collector office, Dindigul
The members of the ‘Malai Vedan’ community, a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in the Dindigul district, have been struggling for the past 60 years. First, they fought to get the name of their community included in the list of STs which materialised in 1976. But even now, obtaining a community certificate remains a huge challenge.
Tamil Nadu Malai Vedan Welfare Association claims that ST certificates were issued to below 10 people each in 1993 and 2013. The members of the community laid siege to the District Collector’s Office in Dindigul on November 27 demanding immediate action on the pending requests for the community certificates.
The community is accusing continuous neglect from the revenue officials in issuing community certificates, citing enquiry of their ancestral roots and lack of proof.
The protest was called off after the district collector assured to issue the certificates to 32 applicants, awaiting the community certificates for pursuing education and seeking employment within one month and assured of quick response to the applicants.
MALAI VEDAN COMMUNITY INCLUDED IN 1976
The Malai Vedan community, one of the 36 tribal groups in Tamil Nadu, settled in the plains of the unified Madurai district during the regime of Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore princely state, a century ago from the Idukki district as per the rural folklore. Once hunters in the western ghats, the community shifted to agriculture for their survival.
As per the Census, 2011 the community has a population of around 7,500 primarily spread across the Madurai, Dindigul, Theni and Nilgiris districts. In the Dindigul districts, the community is spread across 28 villages in Pazhani and Dindigul revenue divisions. The association claims that the population could be at least thrice that of the government estimates.
The lack of awareness among the community came to the fore when few people found out that the name of the Malai Vedan community itself is missing in the government records. They began their struggle to establish that such a community existed in the state and had to prove that they are tribals.
“After continuous struggles, from 1964, through the intervention of the leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], the community was included in the ST list through The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Amendment) Orders, 1976”, said K Deivendiran, a member of the community from Batlagundu of Dindigul district to Newsclick.
The President of India provided assent to the bill on September 18, 1976, and it was published in the gazette on July 27, 1977, bringing the amendment into force. The government of Tamil Nadu followed suit and published the notification on November 2, 1977.
NEGLECT CONTINUED DESPITE THE AMENDMENT
The members of the community continued to face neglect as the authorities refused to accept their requests on recording the community name in revenue records. No member of the community was able to receive any of the benefits entitled to by the constitution even then.
The social welfare department of the government of Tamil Nadu had to issue another government order on June 23, 1984, to direct the officials to adopt the list of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as per the amendment made in 1976.
“But, even after the publication in the gazette, most of the officials refused to even accept the name of the community. The CPI(M) again took initiatives to ensure the intervention of the state government”, Deivendiran told NewsClick.
The struggle continued despite such moves and the state human rights commission was approached to bring an end to the suffering faced. Deveindiran claimed that this could be the first instance of the human rights commission being approached for community certificates.
Deivendiran said, “The commission approved the demand of the Malai Vedan community to provide the ST certificate and the Madras High Court too upheld the verdict. But still, obtaining the certificate remains a huge challenge”.
‘WILL RESOLVE ISSUE IN ONE MONTH’
Distressed over the inordinate delay in obtaining community certificates, the association of the Mali Vedan community, led by the Tamil Nadu Tribals Association (TNTA) held a siege protest on November 27 in the Dindigul district.
“Most people could not pursue higher education and get jobs due to the lack of the community certificate. This is limiting the development of the tribe for the past several decades”, said Saravanan, state general secretary of the TNTA to Newsclick.
The protestors, including women and school students during the protest. Lunch was cooked and served at the protest site.
The officials are accused of denying the certificates citing a lack of proof to establish the relationship with those who already availed of the community certificates. Saravanan accused the administration of holding on to technical issues to deny certificates.
“Even the six primitive tribal groups (PTGS) are unable to enjoy the reservation benefits due to administrative apathy. The government should ensure such hurdles are removed to improve the social status of tribals across the state”, he added.
During the protest, the district collector assured ensure the quick disposal of applications from the members of the Malai Vedan community. “At the first phase, the collector has assured to issue certificates to 9 applicants in one week and another 23 in 30 days time. The officials have promised to simplify the process”, Saravanan added.
The protest was called off after the assurance, but the TNTA has warned of stronger struggles if the promises are not fulfilled.
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