Empowering the Siddi community
BEERANNA NAYAK MOGATA
The crowd at YTSS Sports Ground at Yellapur city in Uttara kannada district had swelled to more than 10,000. It was a historical conference under the auspices of Siddi Development Society (SDS), that had bought the tribal Siddi community into the city far away from their hamlets in the forest.
Originally belonging to Africa they are believed to have been brought to India as slaves some 400 years ago by the British, Portuguese and Arabs. They are located around Yellapur, Haliyal, Ankola, Joida, Mundagod and Sirsi taluks of Uttara Kannada and in Khanapur of Belgaum and Kalagatgi of Dharwad district. According to latest estimates there are around 3,700 Siddi families in the state with a total population of 17,000.
Surviving in an alien land, having lost their original language and culture, they have converted themselves as Hindu, Muslim and Christians. They are worshippers of Siddi Soora from where they derive their name from. Their language is a mixture of Siddi Konkani and Siddi Marathi. They also speak Kannada. Being socially and politically backward, their economic condition is pitiable as most of them depend on casual labour and forest products for their livelihood.
In an effort to improve their condition, the Union government on January 8, 2003 classified Siddis under the list of Scheduled Tribe.
The Conference was attended by several ministers, members of parliament, legislature and several other political, religious and social personalities. Some of the important decisions taken during the conference include providing homes for homeless Siddis, water facilities, education, employment opportunities, roads, electricity, mobile hospitals two acres of land to each Siddi family and the right to collect forest products.
It is hoped that proper implementation of the above mentioned policies would greatly benefit the Siddi community towards enhancing their social and economic status.