The group of tribal families live primarily in the heavily forested mountains of the Idukki District of the state where they subsist on gathering and hunting. They earn some money by selling produce they gather from the forest interior, but they have been living mostly isolated from the rest of the state.
A local promoter for the scheduled tribes, P.G. Prema, contacted the Kerala State Election Commission to obtain voting rights for the people. However, of the 31 Malapandaram who were then registered to vote, 14 were unable to do so on election day, Tuesday last week, because they were foraging in the forest. But the remaining 17 did vote, a historic first.
Before going to the polling places, the voters changed out of their traditional clothing and got dressed in more acceptable casual clothes. The article includes a charming photo of eight adults holding their fingers in the air after having just voted at one of the polling places. Their faces are wreathed in smiles that show their joy at having just cast their ballots.
Several news stories from 2014 about the Indian national elections that year indicated that another peaceful society of South India, the Paliyans, were similarly very pleased to be able to vote. The discrimination that they suffer from the Tamils, the majority in the state of Tamil Nadu, only encouraged them to vote. However, the Kadar, another peaceful society of the mountains of South India, boycotted the voting that year because they felt that the candidates had ignored their concerns about a large dam proposed for the Chalakudy River.
The reporter for the 2014 story indicated that the politicians sought out the people on the appointed election days, offering them money, snacks, and tea. They also offered to provide transportation to the polling places. The Paliyans said that they would not take the money and they would vote as they preferred.