26th Dec, 2019
Karnataka’s Koraga community is the Gold Award Winner of 2019 World Habitat Awards.
- Initiative: ‘Restoration of Dignity and Human Rights of Indigenous Tribal Community in Karnataka’.
- The transformative initiative supporting the Koraga people and nine other tribal communities in Karnataka has been named a Gold Award Winner for 2019 World Habitat Awards.
- Objective: The initiative helps Indigenous Tribal Community to access land for the first time.
- It has helped secure nearly 49,000 acres of forest land and 1,000 acres of agricultural land for tribal communities. Besides, 19,000 families have obtained grants to build houses
- Partners: Koraga Federation, Samagra Grameena Ashrama and ActionAid India.
- World Habitat: This award is given by World Habitat, a UK-based organization, in partnership with United Nation (UN)-Habitat, every year, in recognition of innovative, outstanding, and revolutionary ideas, projects, and programmes from across the world.
- Ending caste based oppression: The Action Aid initiative aims to break the cycle of caste?based oppression through social and economic empowerment.
- Access to government schemes: The main focus of the project is to support indigenous communities in accessing government schemes to which they are entitled.
- Enhanced access to state?sponsored nutrition programmes has improved food security and health among the Koraga community.
- More children attend school and have access to scholarships.
- Secured lands: Under the initiative, thousands of acres of land have been secured for tribal communities and have been given access to grants to build homes. This has acted as a foundation for them to rebuild their lives.
- Empowering women: More than 1,000 Koraga women have been supported to become self?sufficient. Many Koraga women now hold leadership positions within the community.
- Geographical presence: The Koragas are a tribal community found mainly in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala, South India. These areas in Karnataka, are together often referred to as Tulu Nadu.
- They are also found in small numbers in adjoining districts of Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and Kodagu.
- The Koragas numbered 16,071, according to the 2001 census of India.
- Way of life: The area in which Koragas live comprise mostly of agricultural land and forest. The tribe continue to make use of the forest produce—principally, bamboo and creepers—for the manufacture of baskets.
- Traditionally, they lived in structures made of leaves, called koppus and also dressed in leaves.
- Around at the beginning of 21st century, they started to live in simple free houses constructed and sanctioned by Government agencies.
- However, some of them continue to remain either homeless or live on government-owned lands.
- Practice of drum beating: Koraga people are known for drum beating (dollu or dolu beating) and it is one of their important cultural contributions. They used to beat dolu during events such as Kambala, village fairs or just for fun in their living places.
- Traditional belief was that Koraga drum-beating had special powers and that the sound of drum-beating drives away evil spirits.
- However, the practice declined as the drum beaters were looked down upon by society.
- Flute music and dance involving both men and women are also important parts of Koraga culture and are apparent at celebrations such as Bhoomi Habba (worshipping earth).
- Language: Koragas have their own language, classified as an independent Dravidian language, which is strongly influenced by Tulu, Kannada, Malayalam, languages commonly found in their area.
- Social Status: The 1901 census report noted the Koraga as a lowly tribe of basket-makers and labourers, some of whom were employed as scavengers. The Koraga tribal community suffered centuries of oppression under India’s historic caste system.
- In past they were claimed to be of Chandala origin, considered untouchables among Hindus.
- Presently, Koragas are classified by the Government of India as a Scheduled Tribe.
- The Koraga people are an educationally disadvantaged The first PhD to be awarded to a member of the community was reported in 2010.
- Practice of Ajalu: The Koraga people have been subjected to a practice known as Ajalu, which the Government of Karnataka defined as "differentiating Koraga people and persons belonging to other communities, treating them as inferior human beings, mixing hair, nails and other inedible obnoxious substances in the food and asking them to eat that food and to make them to run like buffaloes before the beginning of Kambala."
- Ajalu has been considered inhuman and was prohibited in 2000 by the Karnataka Koragas (Prohibition of Ajalu Practice) Act, 2000.
- Contravention of the Act is punishable by a term of imprisonment of between six months and five years, as well as a cash penalty.
- Nonetheless, Ajalu has been occasionally witnessed during Nemotsava or temple fairs at places such as Inna (Karkala) and Saligrama, Udupi, leading to Koraga people demanding action against the culprits and the police who failed to prevent it.
Note: Kambala is an annual buffalo race held in Karnataka.