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30 Oct 2020, Edition - 1935, Friday

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Coimbatore

Big day for the Badagas of the Nilgiris

D.Radhakrishnan

Udhagamandalam: The Badaga community – the largest single ethnic group in the Blue
Mountains dominated the news in this hill station on Friday.

The development followed a meeting arranged between some senior members of the community and the Nilgiris Collector Ms.J.Innocent
Divya to announce that the Badagas have been included in the UN World’s Indigenous People’s Data Base.

In a statement issued on the occasion, the Indigenous Badagar Alliance pointed out that the Badagas,the largest indigenous social group in the Nilgiris,have been included in the Data Base of World Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations Mountain Partnership.

The inscription on the Badagas says “Traditionally buffalo herders,recently there is a strong trend back to farming with particular attention to organic farming”.On the Badaga language the inscription says “Badaga language (Badaga) is part of the Dravidian
language family.One of world’s primary language families spoken by over 200 million in south, central and north India”.

The Mountain Partnership is a United Nations Alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain peoples and protecting mountain environments around the World.

Founded in 2002,it has more than 400 members including International organisations,major private sector organisations and NGOs and 60
governments including India.The Mountain Partnership is currently preparing an international Data Base of indigenous peoples and a detailed Global map to identify 1.who are the indigenous and local mountain communities and 2.where do the communities live.

Indigenous Mountain Peoples are defined by the UN on the following criteria.1.How long they have been living in the specific territory.2.Their cultural distinctiveness, including exclusive language, social organisation, religion and spiritual values,modes of production,laws and institutions. 3.Self identification, as well as
recognition by other groups, or by state authorities,as a distinct community, and 4.an history of struggle and exploitation.5.Their
continued inhabitation,at least part of the year,on a mountain.6.Their continued use of traditional food systems around mountain eco systems and 7.Their clear connection to a particular mountain or range.

Based on these criteria,the Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC),a local
research body with nearly four decades of work, submitted the case of the Badagas of Nilgiris for inclusion in the World’s Indigenous
Peoples Data Base with all necessary supporting evidence and documents.

The UN MP has accepted the application of the NDC and included the Badaga community in the Data Base of Worlds Indigenous Peoples.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) has already included the Badaga language as “Definitely Endangered” in the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

Majority of the indigenous peoples live in the mountains.

The United Nations has recognised that the involvement of in digenous peoples and local communities is essential for sustainable mountain development.

Speaking on the occasion Ms.Divya observed that the tag given by the United Nations to the Badagas was a great international recognition.The specific mention of the community reverting to its organic farming methods was something to be particularly proud of.She added that it was a day to rejoice.

NDC Director Mr.Dharmalingam Venugopal explained the effort that had gone into getting the United Nations MP to study the origin,progress and life style of the Badagas.

Community elders including Mr.Ayyaru commended the contribution of Mr.Venugopal and said that the recognition set at rest a number of speculations surrounding the Badaga community.

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