Rajangam: "I will tell you about the tragedy of the Indian tribal nomads"

(from interris.it) – My name is Rajangam. I live in the city of Madurai, in the south of Tamil Nadu, in India. There are many nomadic tribal communities in Tamil Nadu and India. I am among them: I belong to the nomadic tribal community of fortune tellers (in Tamil li chiamiamo GuduGuduppaikarargal), one of the most segregated in India ". Thus begins the appeal of Rajangam, Indian teacher and social activist of 48 years. Rajangam was born into a very poor nomad family. Unique of his many brothers, he was able to study and free himself from the destiny of becoming a kind of fortune teller like all the members of his nomadic tribe. In fact, in India there is a caste system officially abolished in 1950. But in practice it is still very present in society, even between institutions, as an Italian volunteer told In Terris.

The help of the Indian Church
Rajangam was able to become an elementary school teacher (too expensive for a person belonging to the nomadic caste, like him) thanks to the help given to him by the then Archbishop of Madurai, mons. Arockiasamy and the Auxiliary Bishop and current Archbishop of Madurai, Mons. Antony Pappusamy. "It was truly an opportunity sent by God that I immediately seized", recounts. Madurai is a city of almost 1 millions of inhabitants in the Federated State of Tamil Nadu, in the extreme southeast of the Indian peninsula. Thanks to the funding of the Rajangam Catholic Church - which is Catholic like his whole family - he took his primary school diploma thus redeeming himself from the system that obliged him to the same fate as his father and grandfather. Once he became a master, he did not escape to the city leaving the nomad camp, but he chose to help others in his own situation.

The creation of Tent society
He thus founded in 2003 a humanitarian organization called TENT society. The goal is "to educate and empower nomads to guarantee their human rights". Even his wife - who belongs to his own nomadic community - studied and joined him in the great redemption project of the nomadic people. "The TENT Society started helping nomadic tribal communities along with some volunteers", tells In Terris Rajangam. "In these years, I got in touch with other activists or important people of India thanks to seminars and conferences organized in the interest of the nomadic tribes. One of these special people is Father Renato Rosso, a missionary born in Alba who has been following the nomadic populations of India and Bangladesh for years. Thanks to him, Tent has found support and aid from both Ruah onlus founded by Father Rosso, and by the Pope John XXIII Community Association (ApgXXIII) founded by Don Oreste Benzi.

The society of inequalities
There are still many forms of social inequality in India today, political, cheap, access to school and essential services such as health. “According to our constitution - explains Rajangam - we are a secular country, but in reality inequalities are everywhere and are related to both caste, both to the religion of belonging. For example, all this with a Hindu Indian gets from the state, land, concessions and so on, it risks losing them if it converts to Christianity. Discrimination that Muslims and other religious minorities in the country also experience. For this reason, come Tent society, we decided to help everyone, regardless of belief and social origin, with special attention to the population of the nomadic tribes ".

The condition of nomadic tribes
But what are the real living conditions of the nomadic tribes in India, outside the political proclamations of the Indian Prime Minister Nerenda Modi? "They are really dramatic", spiega Rajangam. “They do not enjoy any fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. The British Act of 1871 who criminalized them during colonialism is still valid. Dismissed from their traditional lands in the name of development, these ancient tribes were forced to wander in order to survive, thus becoming nomads. But nomads in India are considered the lowest rung of Indian society and hierarchy because they don't even have a piece of land. Because of this centennial discrimination, Indian nomadic tribes lag behind in all development indicators. Nomads are considered the lowest group in society and are treated as such. They aren't even counted in the country's poverty statistics because, being nomads, they have no residence. They are ultimately invisible to the state too, who doesn't care at all ".

Coronavirus and poverty
In this already dramatic scenario, the spread of COVID- 19 has brought tribal communities to their knees, also economically. "The lockdown - says Rajangam - lasted longer than 100 days preventing the poor from earning a day. Aid announced by the government does not reach them because most of them do not have the required documents, being a nomad. At the moment, thousands of families are totally without food and survive only thanks to the help of some NGOs and some good Samaritans. But most are literally starving!”. In these dramatic circumstances, the Tent society is trying to send aid from abroad.

Rajangam's appeal
From here, Rajangam's appeal to donate. “My appeal is for you Italians - he says - so that you want to support financially about 1000 families, at least 5000 people. Donations (here the link to the Tent society website) they will be used to purchase and supply them with dry rations and other basic goods necessary for their survival at least until November. This would immensely mitigate their suffering. Once food safety is ensured, in fact, health problems can be solved locally. We need everyone to solve this situation - concludes Rajangam - a real tragedy of the invisible ".

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