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Last Updated : Jul 24, 2020 05:57 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Who is Shantharam Siddi, India's first legislator from African-origin Siddi community

Siddi said that his community traces its roots to somewhere in Mozambique and Kenya. The Portuguese had trafficked them as slaves to India along the coasts of Western Ghats.

Image: @bharathshetty_y/Twitter
Image: @bharathshetty_y/Twitter

On July 22, Shantharam Budna Siddi became India's first legislator belonging to Karnataka's Siddi community, which traces its origins to Africa.

Siddi, who is the state secretary of the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was nominated to the Karnataka Legislative Council by Governor Vajubhai Vala along with four others.

Apart from being the first legislator from his community, he had another first to his credit – he is, according to reports, also the first graduate from the Siddi community, and hails from North Kannada.

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While speaking to news agency PTI, Siddi said that his community traces its roots to somewhere in Mozambique and Kenya. The Portuguese had trafficked them as slaves to India along the coasts of Western Ghats.

While the Portuguese left after India got independence,  the Siddi community started dwelling in the deep forests of the Western Ghats.

"We are found only in Mumbai, Goa and the Western Ghats of Karnataka," Siddi said, adding that though he has no information regarding the roots or the village his ancestors belonged to, yet the community has managed to save their language, he said.

This language, Siddi said, is a mixture of Konkani-Marathi, and is yet "unique", as it has some words, which belong neither to Konkani nor Marathi, nor even Sanskrit.

Regarding his appointment as the lawmaker, Siddi said that it's not just about the Siddi community that he is thinking. "... I am equally concerned about the entire tribal community of the state," he said.

"I didn't expect to be chosen. We are working for people and I'll do the same in future. There are many backward communities in coastal Karnataka and other places which need to be recognised, I'll work for them and also educate them," Siddi told news agency ANI.

There are 54 tribal communities and all of them confront different challenges, said Siddi, adding that there was a need to address it collectively at the different levels of administration.

Siddi is equally concerned about many other communities who are living in subhuman conditions but have not been categorised as tribals.

His goal, Siddi said, is to incorporate them all in the list of tribals to avail them government benefits.

"There are many communities like Dhangar Gawli, Kunbi, Halakki Vokkaliga... all live like tribes but are not scheduled as tribes.  Our demand to the Centre through the state will be that they should also be categorised as tribals," Siddi said.
First Published on Jul 24, 2020 05:57 pm
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