When 23 Kadar families had to flee their community in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, located in India’s Tamil Nadu state back in August, they told everyone who would listen that they desperately wanted to remain in the forest. During the night of August 11, the 90 or so members of the Kallar Kadar settlement had to flee because very heavy rains were causing landslides that threatened them. They moved to a nearby, but less steep, area and quickly started rebuilding.
The problem was that Forest Department officials had not given them permission to rebuild in the area which they had chosen. News stories in The Hindu and covered by this website reported that government officials ignored the arguments of the Kadar people, that they had never before left their forest homes and they would be completely helpless and mostly hopeless if they were forced to live outside it. Despite their pleas, they were forcibly resettled in an abandoned building on an old tea estate near the town of Valparai.
The newspaper sent the same reporter back to the Kallar Kadar community to see how they were doing. In his story last week, the reporter, Wilson Thomas, found them still languishing in the abandoned, dilapidated tea estate facility at Thaimudi, near Valparai. The community includes women, children and the elderly.
Mr. Thomas spoke with Sakthivel, the 50-year-old head of the community, who said that the Kadar families had not, as yet, come to accept their quarters. They felt like they were “living in a cage.” The reporter learned that no officials had visited them to check on their condition or examine the quarters they were living in. So much for the hopes for official concern expressed back in August.
Mr. Thomas checked with the Forest Department and received a bureaucratic run-around. He was told that they had not yet gotten instructions from officials in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve who had not been told by their superiors what to do with the Kadar community.
S. Thanraj, a prominent tribal rights advocate in Tamil Nadu, told Mr. Thomas that the issue is one of apathy on the part of Forest Department officials. Thanraj told him, “The residents continue to stay in the old quarters as they do not know how to get back to their forest settlement. The Forest Department should allow them to live in their settlement and accord them due rights under the Forest Rights Act [of 2006].”