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Siddi community of India : a case study

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photo credits: www.scoopwhoop.com

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.

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Plight of Pakistani Schools in Militancy-hit Tribal Regions

What will be the future of the youth in the absence of schools and education centers in a militancy-hit Pakistan?

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militancy in pakistan
A man travels on a vehicle laden with his family's belongings on the outskirts of Peshawar in an attempt to flee from the insurgency-hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. VOA
  • Insurgency in Pakistan has destroyed most of the public infrastructure, including education institutions
  • Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school
  • Over 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been damaged or fully destroyed by the insurgency in Pakistan

Pakistan, September 4, 2017 : Years of militancy and counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region have destroyed much of the infrastructure, including education centers, in the area.

More than 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is adjacent to the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have reportedly been damaged or fully destroyed by the decade long insurgency, according to Pakistan government estimates.

While the Pakistani government claims to have rehabilitated around 900 schools, hundreds of schools have not been rebuilt or rehabilitated in FATA.

Experts say the government should take immediate steps to rebuild the destroyed schools in the tribal region.

“Several factors adversely affected education institutions in the tribal region. One factor is the Taliban who destroyed schools and education institutions, particular girls’ schools,” A.H. Nayyar, a Pakistan-based educationist, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Unless the schools are fully rehabilitated, it would be extremely difficult to give hope to the youth in the region.”

“It is important to open the doors of education for tribal youth so that they get the sense that they could achieve a lot in their life, like other citizens, particularly the girls; the government must rehabilitate their schools, utilizing all available resources,” Nayyar said.

Some tribesmen are returning home after more than one million were displaced by Pakistani military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in parts of FATA. According to U.N. estimates, about 95,000 families fled to nearby cities within Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Khost province.

Pakistan’s Army says many areas have been cleared in recent counterinsurgency operations, and it is slowly allowing the displaced tribesmen to return to their home.

U.S. military commanders until recently considered the North Waziristan region in FATA as the “epicenter” of international terrorism. The region has for years served as a training ground for Taliban and other militants groups.

During the past several years, insurgent groups, including TTP, have repeatedly targeted education institutions and schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA region, depriving its younger generation of acquiring education.

Nearly 58 percent of the children between the ages of five and 16 are not in school in Pakhtunkhwa, according to Dawn, a local English language daily. Besides the militancy, extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure are also blamed for the lack of schooling.

Recent statistics by Alif Ailan, an education advocacy organization in Pakistan, show 48 percent of primary and secondary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operate without adequate physical infrastructure.

Pakistan is 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in secondary education targets, according to a recent United Nations report. The literacy rate in poor rural areas stands at 14 percent for females and 64 percent for males. Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school. (VOA)

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Rapist Ram Rahim Case: What Draws Millions of Indians towards Self Styled Godmen Even after their Conviction in Rape to Fraud and Murder Charges

There are an estimated three thousand big and small "deras" headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where "godmen" are popular

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Rapist Ram Rahim
Unidentified persons sit outside the store belonging to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, after it was closed down by authorities near Sonipat, India, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers
  • Ram Rahim, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity
  • Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed

Sep 02, 2014: Quirky spiritualism? Solace? The assurance of food and healthcare? What draws millions of Indians towards gurus whose allure has not dimmed even after some high-profile “godmen” landed behind bars in recent years for crimes ranging from rape to fraud and murder?

The latest guru to be discredited is 50-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers. The judge who ruled in the case said he acted “like a wild beast.”

Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013.
Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013. VOA
At least two more gurus who once had big followings are in jail. Asaram Bapu is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl and Sant Rampal is accused of committing murder.

Scholars say the growing clout of Indian gurus is fueled by poverty, illiteracy and the failure of government to meet such basic needs as education and healthcare.

Also Read: Quick View on Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Case: 20 Years of Imprisonment enough for a Rapist in India? 

The power of ‘deras’

Rahim Singh’s sprawling 75-acre campus in Sirsa town did not offer itself as just a spiritual center. It ran schools, colleges, a hospital and virtually functioned as a parallel administration. The “godman” boasted of ridding thousands of drug and alcohol addiction.

“These ‘deras’ [facilities] have somehow managed to give this impression that there is a world altogether different,” said Sukhdev Singh Sohal, history professor at Guru Nanak Dev University in Punjab state.

He said they offer an escape route in a country where blind faith is part of the culture. “They go there, they see that infrastructure and they get infatuated. How they are exploited, they are not aware in the long run.”

There are an estimated three thousand big and small “deras” headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where “godmen” are popular. Not all are under a cloud. Many do charitable work and offer spiritual sustenance. And in a country where traditional religion has long marginalized the lower castes, they also offer a sense of community and equality.

But increasingly many gurus are tapping into India’s illiterate millions to build a mass following, with some even offering magical powers of healing.

Komal Ghodiwal, who works as a housemaid in Gurugram, has twice traveled with her alcoholic husband to a guru in Rajasthan state. She can barely explain what he does but is convinced that his supernatural powers help her husband get rid of his addiction, at least temporarily.

“He stays away from drinking for a year, but then he starts again,” she said.

The illiterate woman, who donates about $25 at a temple where the guru presides during each visit, does not know where else to go. There are no government-run addiction centers close to where she works. She said many in her slum go to him believing he can cure sick people or help childless couples.

FILE - Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh's debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015.
FILE – Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh’s debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015. VOA

“The spiritual component of these “deras” is very wonky and people are looking for some kind of a superman who will solve their problems,” said M. Rajivlochan, history professor at Punjab University. “In the case of Baba Rahim, he posed himself as that superman, dressing weirdly, demonstrating that he could do close to everything.”

Rahim Singh, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity because he was not just a cult leader. He made films, he was a singer, he dressed flamboyantly and lived opulently. And although the rape charges against him surfaced 15 years ago, they did little to diminish the faith among his followers.

FILE - An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie 'Jattu Engineer' in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017.
FILE – An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017. VOA

The larger-than-life image of gurus like Rahim Singh is reinforced by political leaders cutting across party lines who pay them obeisance and sometimes make donations to these centers hoping to plug into a voter bloc during elections. Several ministers had visited Rahim Singh. Some legislators even defended him after his conviction, saying he had done good work.

The rich are not immune from the culture. Several high profile gurus count the wealthy among their followers.

Also Read: Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram: Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen? 

Political clout

With their political clout, the gurus also escape close financial scrutiny, making it difficult to assess how some accumulate vast wealth.

Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed. Such emotions led his followers to go on a rampage after his conviction. The rioting killed 38 people as government buildings and vehicles were set on fire.

Still, his flock might slowly disperse, given the massive coverage he received on national television, the sealing of his centers, and the swirl of murky stories since his conviction. Among them, stories that he made 400 men undergo castration “to come closer to god.”

But the phenomenon of the “godman” is not about to go away. “There is no end,” said Professor Sohal. “Such tragic things would happen time and again and they [the devotees] think that God is there to rectify them.” (VOA)

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Rajasthan Government stamps 1.5 Lakhs Houses with ‘I am Poor’ to take benefits from Centre

Rajasthan government's decision to stamp 1.5L houses with sign 'I am poor' in order to avail food subsidy has sparked a controversy

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'I am poor and receive ration from NFSA'
Sign outside BPL houses. Twitter
  • The government in Rajasthan stamped 1.5L BPL households with stamps ‘I am poor’ in order to avail food subsidies
  • Rajasthan government has been under attack for failing to fix its public distribution system
  • This decision has sparked controversies as the people feel humiliated 

Rajasthan, June 23, 2017: In a shocking incident, 1.5L houses in Rajasthan’s Dausa district were stamped with a message ‘I am poor, receive ration’. The decision to do this was taken so as to receive food assistance from the government. The stamp also included the full names of the people.

Local reports are flooding in alleging the Rajasthan government of this humiliating act. While the Rajasthan government believes that this step was necessary so that food assistance to BPL households is swifter and to eliminate rich families and middlemen, critics and opposition say, it is publicly shaming the poor.

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‘I am poor and receive ration from Nation Food Security Act’ is the message that is to be put up. Furthermore, any household that refuses to comply with this act will not be entitled to the benefits, said the state government.

According to ANI, 70 percent families in Dausa district currently benefit from the welfare scheme. The houses marked are particularly in Sikrai and Bandikui tehsils. These BPL households mainly comprise of the backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other minorities.

There is a possibility that this is a clear cut case of class profiling. Needless to say, the people are not happy. Families are disappointed in the government and believe that the program was unnecessary for a few kilograms of wheat.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394