Salem mountain that joined India in 1976

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    CHENNAI: Till 1976, 91 tribal villages in Kalvarayan mountain range in Salem were ‘ruled’by three tribal chieftains. The region was finally brought under the administrative control of Union of India during the Emergency.

    Information to this effect, obtained under the RTI Act from Villupuram district administration, has now been submitted to the Madras high court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a special development package for the backward region. The Kallakurichi division of Villupuram district forest office, responding to a PIL from advocate K R Tamizhmani, said: “Kalvarayan hill was being ruled by the following three jagirdhars (Poligars) – Sadaya Goundan, Kurumba Goundan and Arya Goundan. The hill was brought under the government control on June 25, 1976 by invoking slavery abolition legislation, 1963.”

    The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, before whom the PIL came up for hearing on Friday, ordered notices to the Union tribal welfare department and the state government.

    Tamizhmani said he came across the region and the issues dogging it only in 1991 when he visited a place called Karumandhurai. While studying the history of the region, he realized that till June 25, 1976 the area was “not part of India, as there was no presence of governance or any government till then”. The three jagirdhars were mini-rulers of the locality and they were not willing to recognise the government of India and abide by its statutes by handing over 105 villages under them, the PIL said.

    As per 1901 census, Sadaya Goundan had 40 villages with a population of 10,009, Kurumba Goundar had 40 villages with a population of 7,490 and Arya Goundan had 11 villages with 2,318 people. “In effect and substance, these three were the rulers and whatever they said had the force of law,” Tamizhmani said. The community had wedding tax, cultivation tax, registration of births and deaths, and everyone had to offer gifts to jagirdhar’s families during Pongal celebrations.

    Pointing out that the entire stretch covering more than 2,000sqkm did not have proper school, medical and transport facilities, the PIL said thousands of people, including school children and the elderly, were living in sub-human conditions. Elementary schools were three to five km away, while high schools are located 7-25km away, he said, adding, “educating a child beyond class V is an ordeal. This forces many to skip education.” Their rights to health, education, transport and employment have been completely denied, the PIL said, adding, “this is a clear case of infringement of the most valuable fundamental right – right to a decent living.”

    Tamizhmani suggested distribution of livestock to tribals, setting up a sago factory in the region, fruit processing units, roads with bus facilities, and promoting the area as tourist hotspot, to improve the living standard of people in the area.

    It wanted the court to direct the authorities to frame and implement a special scheme providing for these basic facilities to residents of Kalrayan, Periya Kalrayan and Chinna Kalrayan regions of Kalvarayan mountain ranges spread across Salem and Villupuram districts.

    Source: The Times of India