Lockdown sends tribes in Valparai back to their roots

COIMBATORE: As the confinement excluded them from a semi-urban life that they have embraced with a little fear, it has put them back in the lap of nature and has given them their roots again.

Members of the more than 70 families belonging to the Kadar tribe, a food-gathering community that makes a living selling honey and other forest products, from the Nedungundram tribal settlement in Valparai, have now ventured deeper into the Reserve of Anamalai Tigers and stay for days. inside rock caves deep in the jungles due to blockage.

R Ravi, a resident of the settlement who moved to the tiger reserve along with his extended family and some clothing and some utensils, is camping with his family near a river that is at least five km from his settlement.

“Even before closing, we used to go deep into the forest and camp there for a few days. But now, almost all of us have started camping inside the forest. We cannot go to the city due to lack of transportation. We have decided to stay here for a few more days, ”said Ravi.

A typical day for the family begins with freshwater fishing for breakfast. Soon after, they go deeper into the forest to collect fruits and vegetables. After wandering through the woods until night, they return to their camp and spend a few hours around the outdoor fire to share their story during the day before spending their nights in rocky caves. Different families in the village would take turns venturing into the forest in different directions. We would walk around to collect food and honey, he said.

About 900 tribal families reside in the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve.

The tribals have imposed restrictions on the entry of strangers

Due to the Covid-19 scare, several tribes have imposed restrictions on foreigners entering their settlements.

The restrictions are in place in tribal settlements like Kallar, Kumathi, Erumaiparai, Keelpoonachi and Nazaruthu. About 900 tribal families reside in the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve.

“Although the district administration and volunteers continue to help us, we have become more self-sufficient than ever. We collect fish, crabs, vegetables and berries, said Ravi.

Another Kallar tribal resident, Rajeshwari, said her family has been teaching her children about the benefits of being close to nature and training them in arrows.

They are in school but they also need to learn about our culture and tradition, he said. Most of the tribes in Kallar are farmers who grow pepper. After their daily journey into the forest, they return home at night. The tribal rights activist said the blockade has brought tribes closer to nature.

The blockade, in a way, has helped tribes become more traditional and follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, said S Thanaraj, a tribal rights activist.