2020, yr of the pandemic: For a first-generation tribal school pupil in TN, getting an ST certificates has been hardest take a look at


Dhanalakshmi, an Irula pupil, was getting ready to review agricultural sciences, however official apathy in direction of granting her a group certificates stands in the way in which of her aspirations

Editor’s be aware: In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak upended lives and livelihoods in myriad methods. The novel coronavirus threw up new and unprecedented challenges, particularly for individuals from marginalised sections of society. In a multi-part series, Firstpost explores how people from completely different walks of life lived by way of the yr of the pandemic. This is an element eight of the sequence.

Read half 1 of the sequence here, half 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here and part 7 right here.


For Villupuram-based journalist Krithika Srinivasan, 2020 was a yr of many realisations. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it dawned on her that challenges of reportage from a small district throughout such a scenario would improve manifold. Over the primary few months, she realised that it may nonetheless be accomplished. Most importantly, she realised by the top of 2020 that it doesn’t matter what a journalist does to convey to gentle wrongdoing, there may be solely a lot that may come out of it within the face of caste hegemony and authorities apathy. Even when it includes one thing as easy, but as necessary as entry to schooling for a first-generation tribal pupil.

Journalism occurred to Krithika whereas she was pursuing her dream of being a filmmaker. Her world modified colors rapidly, when she moved from Chennai to Villupuram, on her first reporting gig. Within days of transferring to Villupuram, it dawned on her that the foremost challenge that essentially the most marginalised tribes, be it Irulas or Kattunayakans, face in Villupuram is to get a group certificates.

Villupuram-based journalist Krithika Srinivasan. Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

Why is a group certificates necessary for college students from marginalised Scheduled Tribe communities?

Roja, a primary technology PhD pupil learning at Loyola College says {that a} group certificates for her is extra necessary than every other certificates of id. “This is 100 times more important than my degree certificate,” she explains. Despite ending her education with excessive marks, Roja needed to wrestle with school admission as a result of her software for grant of this certificates wasn’t being processed in any respect. After Roja, her mom and Irula chief Kalyani went from pillar to publish, Roja needed to lastly be a part of school by way of the ‘other caste’ class. This meant she had no entry to scholarships or hostel amenities accessible to tribal college students, one thing she wanted to outlive and to assist her household.

Krithika Srinivasan with Irula residents of Jakkampettai, 24 of whom acquired group certificates from Tindivanam sub-collector following her reportage on the state of their hamlet. Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

While she studied, her mom visited the tehsildar’s workplace virtually on a regular basis for a yr, after which she was in a position to procure the certificates. Only then was she in a position to apply for the scholarship that she is eligible for. “It was also because the principal of that college empathised with me. This doesn’t happen usually,” mentioned Roja.

That college students like Roja face these points routinely was one thing Krithika had documented a lot earlier than she moved to Villupuram. In 2016, whereas she was interning with National Campaign on on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Krithika had compiled a complete docket profiling tons of of scholars going through such points throughout Tamil Nadu. “So when I chanced upon Dhanalakshmi’s case, through the Irula Tribal Rights Association, I knew what I was getting into,” says Krithika.

Dhanalakshmi, from T Parangini village in Vannur Taluk, is the primary individual from her household to go previous tenth commonplace, similar to Roja. She carried out very well in her board exams and was getting ready to review agricultural sciences, when she confronted the identical roadblocks that Roja confronted. “But in the case of Dhanalakshmi, she decided not to go about it quietly. She decided to be loud about it,” says Krithika, who by then had began to report on Dhanalakshmi’s struggle with the federal government for a group certificates.

The first step that Dhanalakshmi took was to submit a petition with 14 documents (together with photocopies of group certificates supplied to 10 of her relations) to the involved Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), all supporting proof that she is Irula and that her contemporary software for a group certificates needs to be processed instantly. She had already utilized for the certificates twice, in 2016 and 2020, however they have been nonetheless pending. One of the principle causes for urgency was that the deadline for making use of to the graduate diploma that Dhanalakshmi was interested by was lower than a number of months away. She needed to apply for the diploma by 31 August. As the times glided by, there was no motion from the a part of the RDO.

When Krithika investigated why that is the case, she realized that the difficulty of a group certificates wasn’t simply concerning the individual making use of for it. It was about who else had a stake within the progress that a person may attain, on accessing schooling by way of that certificates. “Within Dhanalakshmi’s village, the dominant Vanniyars were vehemently opposed to her being granted an Irula certificate. It wasn’t only that there was casteism, it was also that Irula’s were performing rituals in the local temple. That these Irulas, who had entered their temple will now be classified as Scheduled Tribes was a matter of shame for Vanniyars. And this is why they have been opposing and stalling issuance of certificates to Irula’s,” says Krithika.

On one event, when Dhanalakshmi went to the RDO’s workplace, the identical Vanniyars informed her that she ought to as an alternative apply for a BC certificates, since her household had temple rights and it might be insulting to them if she have been categorized as ST. “Would you all marry into our family if we got a BC certificate?” she requested them. “They didn’t let her go. In fact, they physically assaulted her for daring to ask such a question,” recollects Krithika.

Unfazed with authorities apathy and dominant caste rage, Dhanalakshmi organised a sit-in protest on the RDO workplace on 13 August, with extra Irula college students like her, who’re struggling to get a group certificates. By now, Krithika’s stories on Dhanalakshmi and her actions towards the RDO have been being shared broadly throughout Tamil Nadu. Activists and political leaders urged the District Collector Annadurai to not compromise on the difficulty, because it concerned the schooling of a pupil.

“As far as I saw, there was a teenager who just wanted to study. That is all she told me, that she wanted to study, especially because her sisters couldn’t,” says Krithika. Both of Dhanalakshmis’s sisters needed to reduce their desires of pursuing a university schooling quick as they too obtained embroiled on this group certificates enterprise. Since they couldn’t get it in the identical yr after they completed their education, their household obtained them married. This is a technique during which this impacts tribal lady college students particularly. “The RDO could have fast tracked this process, and helped her out. This is what is expected of him, to help students like her. But all these people took affront to the fact that Dhanalakshmi was openly questioning them and challenging them,” says Krithika.

RDO Rajendran in the meantime constituted an anthropological crew to analyze if Dhanalakshmi was in truth Irula and introduced {that a} certificates can be issued to her solely after they ship their findings. “The usual process for issuance of a community certificate is to apply at the Tehsildar’s office. The Tehsildar is supposed to visit and check, after which the certificate is issued. This normally takes 15 days,” says retired IAS officer and former Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare secretary Christodas Gandhi. He provides that there are district vigilance committees set as much as look into particular instances of wrongdoing.

“Dhanalakshmi put so much effort into highlighting this issue. Many from her community started looking at her like a leader. But on 31 August, the last date for her to apply for a degree, RDO Rajendran sent Dhanalakshmi a report that she won’t be issued a community certificate as the anthropological team had concluded that she isn’t Irula,” says Krithika. This was regardless of all of the paperwork submitted by Dhanalakshmi, similar to Irula certificates that her relations possess and a patta doc of her father, classifying him as ‘Hindu-Irula’.

Dhanalakshmi couldn’t do a lot about her school diploma after this. She had no group certificates to submit, which is a prerequisite even in faculties now. Dhanalakshmi’s helplessness and the truth that all of the reportage led to nothing pushed Krithika into melancholy. Her psychological well being took a beating and he or she went right into a shell herself.

What is that this investigation course of that tribal college students are put by way of?

Krithika Srinivasan with Bhuvaneshwari, a primary technology Irula pupil who acquired a group certificates after Krithika’s reportage. Bhuvaneshwari wasn’t allowed into college as a result of she had no certificates. Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

Christodas Gandhi explains that group certificates have been misused by individuals from different castes, whereas colluding with officers from the federal government who issued these certificates. This was rampant within the 1980’s, following which the Supreme Court issued pointers to be adopted whereas issuing group certificates to individuals from tribal communities.

Why ought to tribal college students bear the brunt of wrongdoing by dominant castes and the federal government?

While a number of processes have been put into place to make issuance of certificates stringent, those who have been truly affected by this have been individuals from tribal communities themselves, particularly college students similar to Dhanalakshmi. “The process of trying to undo the wrongdoings related to fake certificates has actually resulted in making life miserable for us,” says Roja. The report given to Dhanalakshmi mentioned that she wasn’t conscious of sure historical customs particular to Irulas and that it couldn’t be established by way of her lifestyle if she was Irula. The method during which these anthropological groups conduct their investigations has been referred to as to query by many ST activists. Most of those groups comprise non-tribals, who’ve a bookish, dated understanding of what being tribal is. That many tribal households not lead their lives in the way in which the federal government defines their conventional roles is misplaced on them, says an ST activist, on the situation of anonymity. All of this solely leads to tribal communities not with the ability to avail fundamental rights that they’re constitutionally entitled to, after they wish to.

This is in-fact one of many foremost grievances of many ST communities for the time being. “Every time I meet a person from the ST community in Villupuram, two minutes into the conversation, they say ‘We’ve not yet got our community certificate ma.’ On the other hand, the ones who misused the law haven’t been prosecuted. The ones with fake certificates still continue to use them to avail benefits, unquestioned,” Krithika mentioned.

After sitting it out for a month, Dhanalakhsmi submitted a reply to the RDO’s report and has demanded that she be issued any certificates, in order that she will be able to go forward and apply to a authorities school a minimum of within the coming yr. This reply was filed in October. She additionally submitted a letter to the Collector, bringing to note the delay and her ‘community-less’ standing and that she has misplaced a yr, pursuing her proper to an schooling. They are but to reply.

Dhanalakshmi, whereas chatting with this reporter and Krithika in December mentioned that she hopes to pursue the identical agricultural sciences diploma subsequent yr. If she is lastly issued a group certificates, that’s. Meanwhile, she has enrolled at a personal school for a level, the place she has been informed to submit her group certificates as quickly as attainable. RDO Rajendran refused to talk to this reporter, regardless of a number of makes an attempt for a gathering and phone-calls.

“We have to make our reporting even more rigorous”

For Krithika, Dhanalakshmi’s story is an indication of what she has in retailer for the years to return. That a 17 yr previous, a primary technology economically, socially and educationally marginalised pupil was pushed to despair by an unsympathetic authorities, solely makes her resolve to maintain reporting on how marginalised communities aren’t given their fundamental rights stronger.

“We’ve to break the rigidness of this system with continuous reportage. We cannot stop doing our journalism because we are putting the names of these officers on record. If not this year, then next year, or five or ten years from now, at some point this system will have to make way for change,” she mentioned.

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