The appeal came even as an estimated 370 million indigenous people of the world celebrated the 10th anniversary of the UN declaration on Wednesday, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Stating that the UNDRIP was adopted by the General Assembly on September 13, 2007, by a majority of 144 states, including India, Dharmalingam Venugopal
, honorary president and founder of NDC, says, “Given the complexities in India, the government is yet to declare the list of indigenous communities in the country.”
Over 370 million indigenous people are estimated to be spread across 70 countries. Practising unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live, said the NDC letter.
The appeal also quotes the first Commissioner of Nilgiris, J.W.Breeks, who wrote the monumental work, ‘An Account of the Primitive Tribes and Monuments of the Nilgiris’ in 1873 that classified the Todas, Badagas, Kotas, Kurumbas and Irulas who inhabited the upper Nilgiris as ‘Hill tribes’. But he described the other tribes except the Badagas as ‘primitive tribes’ or ‘jungle race’ depending on their level of development.
However, while Todas, Kotas, Kurumbas and Irulas were included in the list of scheduled tribes in 1950, the Badagas were listed as backward class. In recent decades the government of Tamil Nadu had recommended inclusion of Badagas in the list of scheduled tribes.
Whatever be the economic classification of the five tribes it has been well established they were interlinked culturally for hundreds of years in an exceptional and exemplary manner and that the same relationship and harmony continues even to this day. And the Badagas need an ethnic status as an indigenous Nilgiri group, says Venugopal.