Government officials have recently gone out of their way to be friendly and helpful to the residents of a Paliyan village in the forest of South India. A news story in The Hindu on October 5 provided details.
The setting for the story is the village of Kalaimaan Nagar, located near the Karuppanadhi Dam in the Tenkasi District of Tamil Nadu. That district was created late last year out of the Tirunelveli District. When district officials drove on a primitive road into the village some months ago to check on the community, they found that the Paliyans, having heard of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, had abandoned their homes and moved deeper into the forest to escape it.
The chief executive of the district, Collector G.K. Arun Sundar Thayalan, was appalled by the dilapidated condition of their dwellings. He ordered the construction of 22 new “green” houses for the community and he said that the old buildings must be removed. The residents are temporarily housed in a Public Works Department building until the construction is finished. Kalaimaan Nagar has 22 Paliyan families with 137 people, 74 of whom are males and 63 females.
On Monday last week, the residents suddenly became tense. Two police vehicles had driven into the village. Nothing unusual had happened that they were aware of so they were alarmed. They relaxed when they saw the district Superintendent of Police, Seguma Singh, and his wife Dhanalakshmi emerge from one of the vehicles, smiling broadly.
“We have come to meet you, especially your children,” the SP told the people. The primary purpose of the visit was to distribute to the tribal people gifts that had been gathered by the Officers Wives’ Association of the Indian Police Service (IPSOWA). The police chief and his wife distributed blankets and groceries to members of the community who had gathered around. If the gifts bring happiness to the people, Ms. Dhanalakshmi said, “it is the happiest moment for all of us.”
With a seemingly endless stream of bad news in the American press about cops doing horrible things to Black people, it is refreshing to read in a leading Indian newspaper about the positive things that some police in India are doing for poor, minority citizens such as the Paliyans.