As the State gears up for local body polls, political parties have started focussing on tribal people in Wayanad district, a major tribal-populated area in the State.
The Left Democratic Front, United Democratic Front, and the National Democratic Alliance are eyeing tribal communities, which constitute around 19% of the population and can influence the outcome in a significant number of seats.
According to a recent survey, the tribal population of Wayanad consists of 11 tribes and accounts for 1,51,443 people of the total population of 8,17,429.
The tribal population comprises 69,116 Paniyas, followed by 25,266 Kurichyas, and 20,983 Mulla Kurumas.
The Kurichyas and Mulla Kurumas, more socially and economically advanced among the tribes, are able to dictate their stance and act as a pressure group, thanks to the comparatively higher literacy rate and standards of living among the tribes. Moreover, most of the contestants are from either of the sects.
However, tribal sects such as Paniyas, Kattunayakkas, Oorali Kurumas and Adiyas are still in an ‘identity crisis’ owing to the their plight and low illiteracy rate. Hence, political parties focus on them, especially the Paniyas, during elections.
Earlier, colony pidutham (influencing voters in a tribal colony providing money or liquor ) was a usual scene, but with more tribespeople becoming politicly aware after agitations for land, the practice has disappeared in tribal hamlets. The stringent steps adopted by the Election Commission have also helped to eradicate the practice.
Lack of facilities
According to the Tribal Development Department, more than 3,000 tribal families are landless and 5,000 families homeless. Hundreds of tribal families in remote areas of the district are still deprived of basic amenities such as roads, drinking water, and electricity connection. These issues will be highlighted once again during the elections.
Candidates of independent tribal organisations such as the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha are not contesting this time, M. Geethanandan, State coordinator of the organisation, said. “However we are planning to support tribal candidates who will contest independently,” he said.