I had written the following post in way back in 2016 – Wg Cdr Bellie Jayaprakash
Who are Badagas and what is their origin?
Badagas have been living in the Nilgiris [Naakku Betta – four mountains] for many, many centuries. Their origin, like that of Todas, Kothas or Kurumas, is still a mystery. With very distinct customs, culture and traditions, not to forget the language, what we know about Badagas is far less than what we do not know. But there is absolutely no doubt that, in my mind, that we are an indigenous tribe of the Nilgiris
Many, even among the Badagas, feel that calling ourselves as Tribal is demeaning. I equate these people with those who considered it below dignity to call themselves as Indians. I am a proud Indian and a proud Badaga. Both are ‘accidents’ of birth. Happy ones, at that.
Now, why do we need the status of ST? Is it only for the economic benefits that come with it?
If you compare with other tribes like Todas, Kothas and Kurumas in the Nilgiris, Badagas are far ahead in almost all the social factors. About two hundred years ago, all the hill tribes of the Nilgiris, were, more or or less on the same ‘plane’. The drastic changes have occurred only in the last hundred odd years when education was given the top priority by this community and girl child was given importance, even if it was not an equal one.
Even poor and daily wage earning Badagas ensure, at least a majority of them, that their wards get educated that too in an English medium school.
The ST status is required not to compare/compete with other tribes but to get the best of education in prime institutes like IITs. Basically being intelligent, Badagas can easily get admissions with some ‘push’, available to ‘STs’. Same would be true for clearing the UPSC examinations. Had there been this ST status granted earlier, there could have been a dozen or so Badaga IAS officers by now.
Secondly, Nilgiris is the only place which Badagas can claim to be their native place. The Nilgiris (district) has only one parliamentary constituency and alas, that one is RESERVED. Meaning Badagas cannot contest as long as this ‘reservation’ remains. Effectively putting a stop to the political ambition of the natives of the land. ST status eliminates this anomaly.
With the tea leaf prices crashing to all time low, Badagas have lost the main source of their economic independence. Added to this is the difficulties in farming or growing vegetables and other cash crops due to the ‘free roaming’ Bisons, elusive wild boars and destructive monkeys. With no industries worth the name located in the Nilgiris, educated Badaga Youth has to seek jobs in the plains. I know of many Badagas who have sold their small land holdings and settled in the plains.
Not that all the Badagas are in highly paid jobs. Many work on daily wage basis. Even in the plains like Coimbatore or Tripur, many work as servers in hotels or as Nurses/aayas in hospitals.
So, ST status helps economically too.
Todas may not have fully benefited with the ST status economically, basically due to the fact that, majority of the community has been addicted to the liquor. The free flow of ‘daaru/drinks’ is the biggest curse for the mountain people. Unfortunately, the State Government has chosen to turn a blind eye and a generation has been destroyed. Though, Badagas too are ‘very liberal‘ with liquor, luckily there are many ‘teetotalers’ as a balancing factor.
ST status, in my opinion, will help the Badagas economically, educationally and politically and will definitely help in preserving the traditions and culture, the most noteworthy being the famous Badaga hospitality.
There are a few devoted and dedicated Badagas who share the view that their Community should come under ST – Scheduled Tribe for many reasons.
They have carried out a relentless campaign to achieve the same. Lead by the energetic Prof.Kulla Gowder, for whom age is just a number.
Now, this group BADAGAS FOR ST is being guided by the future hope of Badagas Ganesh Ramalingam
A delegation of seven Badagas belonging to this great movement recently visited New Delhi to press the case for ST status for Badagas and met concerned Ministery officials cum Sign off Authorities – The Registrar General of India, Tribal Secretary of India, National Commission for Schduled Tribes.
I thank Ganesh Ramalingam for sending the following Status Report.
Badagas ST Status – A Brief of the Journey till now
Ganesh Ramalingam who is spear heading the movement:
Many Badagas are under the mistaken impression that if they are brought under the “Scheduled Tribe”, it is a degrading step. I do not think so. Badagas are one of the ‘ORIGINAL’ tribes of the Nilgiris along with Todas, Kothas and Kurumas.
The enormous improvements achieved by Badagas in all social factors, in spite of many impediments, should make us feel proud. This success is attributed to one SINGLE factor. Education. For that we must remember with gratitude the pioneer, visionary and philanthropist Rao Bahadur [Hubbathalai Jogi Gowder] Bellie Gowder who built the first FREE School in 1920s for Badagas – along with free hostel accommodation & Food in Hubbathalai and his son Rao Bahadur HB Ari Gowder who fore-saw that in educating a girl, indeed we are educating a family and hence insisted on education for girls and encouraged it fully.
To know more about Rao Bahadur Bellie Gowder, considered the undisputed Nakku Betta Leader during his days, go to http://badaga-general.blogspot.com/2011/11/rao-bahadur-h-j-bellie-gowder.html
இந்தியர் என்று எழுந்து நிற்போம் , படகர் என்று நிமிர்ந்து நிற்போம்