Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who are Arunthathiyer...

Who are Arunthathiyers

Arunthathiyars are Dalits, who are considered ‘untouchables’ in the caste-ridden Indian society. Pallar, Parayar and Arunthathiyar are the three major Dalit groups in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Among them, Arunthathiyar group is considered to be the lowest. There are 60 lakhs Arundhatiars in Tamilnadu out of which major people live in the districts of Western and southern Tamilnadu. They can be called Dalit among Dalits They are also identified with different names such as Sakkiliar, Mathari, Mathiga, Arunthathiyar and Pakadai in different places. The caste system forbade them from owning land and property for thousands of years. They are landless and are traditionally associated with the task of cleaning up the dead animals, scavenging the village, and work related to animal skin and leather. While such traditional work still continues in some villages, many have taken up jobs in the match making and fireworks industries in the target area. Many Arunthathiar children below 14 years are part of the unfortunate working force in these industries. Very poor living conditions, desperate search for a job with a decent wage, and constant harassment from moneylenders and landlords are part of day-to-day life of Arunthathiyars

Key Challenges faced by this community

Social: This community speaks a language which is Tamil and Telugu mixed. They are separated by the language they speak since Tamil is the foremost language in Tamilnadu. The children of Arunthathiyars are further separated since their parents do undignified work. The children are not sent to school because of the poor socio economic status of this community. They are deprived of basic necessities in life, education and childhood. Social exclusion like two glass system
[1], Forced to continue undignified work (Manual scavenging, shoe making etc.,).

Economical: When we look at the economic status of the Arunthathiyar community, only 10% of the population has a small piece of land. Majority of the people are work as bonded laborers and others work as scavengers, agricultural laborers etc. Most of these families are landless and they earn their living from main occupations such as agriculture labor work, cleaning toilets and public places, repairing the torn shoes, burning the dead bodies etc.,

Educational status: Only 1.75% people of this community are literates, while 98.16% are illiterates. Only 0.16% of the people have at least completed their 10th grade in education. The children are very rarely sent to school because of the poor socio economic status of the community. Children in the urban areas work as daily wagers at the hotels and other places like mechanic shed, garages etc., The status of the children after completion of the high school education is even more worst, there is no economical stability to continue their education after schooling.

Political: Among 44 Member of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), only 2 MLAS are Arunthathiyars. Dalits as a whole and the Arunthathiyars as a community have their own art as their spirit, as an inseparable part of their lives. But the practice of their art is an indignity heaped on them as it is a caste designated function more than a cultural expression. Arunthathiyar art forms have been the symbols of their existence as low caste people for ages. Today they are the symbols of their assertion.
[1] Separate glasses are used forArunthathiyer( Dalits) in tea shops in villages

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