Tamil Nadu is home to about thirty-six different indigenous tribes, one of which is the Kuruman tribe. The Kuruman tribe is also known as the Kurumba tribe, who inhabit the foothills of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. Dr. Sampath, talks about the life and condition of the Kuruman tribe, in the following article
“The Kurumans are primarily located in the Coimbatore and Dharmapuri districts of southern India. There are also small communities of Kurumba in parts of the Salamand and North Arcot districts, as well as in adjacent sections of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. They speak a Dravidian language that is called Southern Kannada” (Kuruman in India people group profile | Joshua Project). The Kurumans are usually shepherds and wool weavers.
The Kurumans historically practiced sorcery and other forms of divination. They were looked down upon and degraded for such practices and others like shaving off their heads, inscribing tattoos on their bodies, piercing their nose and ears, etc. The Kurumans were hunters and gatherers, who gradually settled and started cultivating small pieces of land. A substantial population of this tribe has been inhabiting the forest areas and are facing challenges to their survival because of deforestation, displacement and migration. Economically, they are among the poorest section of the society. Educational barriers are one of the major challenges that the Kurumans face. The Kurumans follow the patrilinear structure. They worship the Veerathira guardian God. During processions, the practice of breaking coconuts on their heads is followed as a religious practice.
As has been stated above, access to education is a major problem among the Kurumans. An important reason behind this is their economic conditions and the difficulty in acquiring caste community certificates. The Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, is inhabited by around forty-five thousand Kurumans. However, only less than a thousand people have caste community certificates. Wool weaving and cattle rearing, as occupations have declined due to the onslaught of capitalism, neoliberalism and privatization, hence the Kurumans have been pushed further into poverty. Therefore, it becomes important for the government to take steps in order to ensure a regular income to them and access to education.
The Kurumans are one of the most deprived sections of the society. Socially, they have been looked down upon, discriminated against and oppressed for their different and unique way of life. Economically, they have been deprived of educational opportunities and proper job opportunities. They have been pushed out of their homes in the name of development which has worsened their socio-economic status. It is important therefore to improve their living conditions and to ensure rights to them.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.