Siddi community of India : a case study

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by Shriya Katoch

  • About Siddi community of India:
  • They were brought in as slaves by the Arab.
  • They have preserved 70% of their gene pool through Endogamy.
  • They have faced severe poverty and have been alienated by society .

Siddi: Where are they from?

Siddi is a tribe living in Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad .Many members of the Siddi community have migrated to Pakistan during the partition .In India, Karnataka has the largest concentration of Siddi. According to estimates there are around 3,700 Siddi families in the state with a total population of 18,000. Other Siddi populations in the sub-continent include around 10,000 in Gujarat and 12,000 in Hyderabad. A few hundreds are also found in Lucknow, Delhi and Kolkata.. They are known to have East African roots .It is believed that between 16th and 19th century Siddi were brought in India by the Arabs as slaves .

What is their social standing?

They were extremely talented in the art of battleship and between the 18th and 19th century , some Siddi usurped their rulers and settled in the depths of the forest in Karnataka .Even after living in India for centuries they are still not accepted in the Indian society .
Outcasted, they have distanced themselves by establishing independent societies .They are considered to be lower than untouchables .
In terms of social structure they are at the bottom of the pile .

They are regarded as encroachers .Many Siddi dream of returning back to their native country Africa but they do not have the financial means to do so .Shunned and forgotten they dream of returning to the land of their forefathers where they believe they will finally have a sense of belonging.
However ,in actuality the Siddi have diffused themselves in our society to such an extent that they are treated as foreigners in their own homeland as well.
Even though they have adapted to our society ,they have still withheld their own cultural roots.They have adapted to the local custom but still preserve parts of their strong African culture .Infact according to DNA testing the average Siddi is 70% Sub Saharan African .It is truly remarkable that they have retained 70% of their genes after residing in a country ,with a population of 1 billion, for 200 years .
Endogamy has played a crucial role in preserving the gene pool .

Siddi are victims of abject poverty. After inhabiting the country for more than 1000 centuries ,they still face social ,political and economic injustice.The government has attempted to improve their situation . On January 8 ,2003, the union government brought Siddi under the list of scheduled tribes in order to empower them constitutionally. Further, policies were also endorsed by parliament. It is hoped that proper implementation of these policies would result in an enhanced social and economic status of the Siddi community .However the Siddi population argue that when they don’t have enough financial support to enroll in a college how can they claim the seats ?
Due to such unrealistic reservations ,most Siddi are restricted to work as farm labourers for the entirety of their life until their children resume the same work.Many Siddi women work as maids in the neighbouring cities .

Despite living in such harsh conditions it is known that when a child dies a mother wails for days to ensure that the child be born again as a siddi and not in any other caste.

Siddi are mainly Roman Catholics ,with a minority practicing Islam and Hinduism instead.Even though they practise such diverse religions ,they inter marry between different religions.

Siddi are branded as incapable of intellectual endeavours only talented in the field of music and sports .

Even after facing such cruel conditions it is hoped that the Siddi will rise through the abyss ,empowered.

Shriya Katoch multitasks as an Engineering student , an avid reader ,a guitar player and a death note fan.