Chenchus ask for restoration of rights over forests

The primitive Chenchu tribals predominantly living in the forests of the Nallamala hill ranges have asked the government to conduct a ‘Chenchu Mahasabha’ or a ‘Chenchu Darbar’.

The ‘Chenchu Panduga’ that coincides with Mahashivaratri festival is a perfect time for such a meeting where officials can listen to the problems faced by the tribals and announce solutions, Chenchu Lokam, a non-governmental organisation has said.

At the previous Chenchu Panduga festivities at Bourapuram Chenchu hamlet during the last two years, the government had given many assurances but none had been implemented so far, the organisation said.

At least this year, the government should send its officials to the venue and conduct a meeting with the Chenchus who gather in large numbers at Bourapuram for Mahashivaratri celebrations, it said.

The Chenchu Panduga is held at the Shiva temple in Bourapuram located deep inside the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Nallamala forests. The hamlet falls in Appaipalli gram panchayat limits of Lingala mandal of Nagarkurnool district.

The Mahashivaratri celebrations are held at the Bouramma Gudi, also referred to as Sri Brahmaraba Mallikarjuna Swamy temple located next to a natural tank that is also a watering hole for wildlife, especially during the summer months.

This year, the Chenchu Panduga will begin on February 13 at 11 am. Chenchu Lokam honorary president Dr Dharmakari Ramkishan told Telangana Today that the Chenchu tribals who number about 50,000 in Telangana State and Andhra Pradesh, have no political voice as they are scattered across Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies.

It is at the Chenchu Panduga that most of the Chenchu tribals gather at Bourapuram which makes it an ideal venue for officials to hear them out.

“At the same time,” he said, “the Chenchu community is grateful to the government that has made the Chenchu Panduga possible by providing financial support, public transport, drinking water and other amenities for the large gathering over the past two years.”

At a meeting on Monday in Mannanur village in Amrabad mandal with Chenchu Lokam representatives, district Collector E Sridhar assured the group that the district administration will take steps soon to provide ambulance services and medical dispensary facilities for Chenchus.

“We are thankful that he also assured that steps will be taken to provide special education to school dropouts from the tribal community,” Dr Ramkishan said. He also said it was worrisome that Chenchus who have traditionally lived off the forest by foraging and hunting, are being displaced by non-tribals. This influx has adversely impacted the lives of the Chenchu communities and many of them have now ended up working as daily wagers.

“The government should take steps to ensure the Chenchus continue to enjoy their traditional rights over the forest that falls under the limits of their hamlets and forest produce. Their rights over the land that have been traditionally theirs should be restored,” he said.