Badaga Migration – the myth and the MISTAKE
The Professor who corrected the colonial blunder about Badaga migration !!!
Ethnography is the study of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences. Ever since, British rule in 1800, foreign Ethnographers have been studying the native people of Nilgiris.
Ethnographic and general accounts of Nilgiris and its people began with Evans Macpherson (1820) followed by James Hough (1829), Henry Harkness (1832), Bernhard Schmid (1837), Harry Congreve(1847), Richard Burton (1851), Rev.Metz (1856), John Shrott (1868), William Marshall (1873), Breeks (1873), Grigg (1880), Edgar Thurston and Natesa Sastri (1898), Francis (1906) and Rivers (1908). This was followed by local writers and later by Western scholars from America, Germany, UK and so on.
They wrote about the different communities on the Nilgiris including the Badagas. They had their different viewpoints. But they had one common view. That is, Badagas migrated from Karnataka some 300 or 500 or 800 years ago. Every writer repeated this religiously as if it was a God given truth. Many Badaga scholars and elders have questioned this conclusion over the years.
But where is the evidence?
Gareth Davey is UK scholar with a Ph.D in Anthropology and Psychology. He has authored several books and articles on varied subjects and has done extensive work in Asia. In 2018 he wrote a book, ‘Quality of Life and Well Being in an Indian Ethnic Community: The Case of Badagas’.
He reviewed all the literature written about the Badagas over the past 200 years and raised a simple, basic question- Where is the evidence to show Badagas migrated from Karnataka? The hundreds of books written till then had only one evidence- some Badagas told they came from Mysore. Who were they? On what basis they said that? Did they show any evidence? Nothing was known.
Now, Prof. Davey asks how so many scholars from so many countries repeated the same claim in their books without looking for any evidence- anthropological, archeological, and historical or any other source. No scholar, Indian or Western, has come forward with any evidence.
The problem, Prof. Davey, is that all these scholars seemed to have made up their mind about Badaga migration even before studying or researching the Badagas.
Prof. Davey categorically states, “Badagas have been misrepresented in the literature with a migrant identity. Grammatical homogeneity of Badagu and the language of Kotas, Kurumbas and Todas might indicate they have always resided in the Nilgiri hills. Also genetic studies show Badagas share similarities with other indigenous people of Nilgiris.
In summary, separation of Badagas from other people based on history and migration seems unfounded”. It is poetic justice that it has taken a UK scholar to undo the injustice of a 200 year old Colonial Blunder !!!
– Venugopal Dharmalingam (Nilgiri Documentation Centre)