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SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
REPORTS ON PAGES 12 & 13
Padma Shri awardee
Prof Tommy Koh
has been building
bridges of friendship
and India for years
“India has so
much to offer
I want to
to visit India.”
PAGES 14 & 15
101 designed elephants at first
Elephant Parade India
POLITICIANS, celebrities, artists and
designers came together at the
Gateway of India in Mumbai, where a
stunning display of 101 elephant
artworks had been assembled to
celebrate the launch of the first
Elephant Parade India (right).
The elephants will be paraded
across the city in a series of public art
exhibitions and simultaneously be
sold at an online auction.
Said parade ambassador Poonam
Mahajan: “Through this initiative we
would like to raise significant funds to
help India’s 101 corridors for
elephants, and build the crucial rescue
centres around the forests.”
Odisha launches Khushi to
provide free sanitary pads
THE Odisha government has launched
a scheme called Khushi to provide free
sanitary pads to 17 lakh female
students across the state.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik
launched the free sanitary napkin
scheme for students from classes six to
12 in all the government and
Besides that, “the government has
decided to provide the sanitary
napkins at a subsidised price to
women in rural areas,” said Health
Minister Pratap Jena.
Himachal takes e-steps to
provide food subsidy items
THE Food, Civil Supplies and
Consumer Affairs Department in
Himachal Pradesh has taken several
e-initiatives to provide essential items
at subsidised rates to over 70 lakh
consumers. It is offering this to those
residing in remote areas as well.
The consumers can also submit
their feedback through a smartphone
app, besides registering complaints.
A toll-free number 1967 has also
been launched for consumers to lodge
complaints regarding the quality of
New app, website to help Kerala
THE Central Marine Fisheries
Research Institute has introduced a
multi-vendor e-commerce website and
a mobile app named Marine Fish
Sales. This will help fisherfolk sell
their products online directly to the
The initiative eliminates the
middlemen, who take away a sizeable
share of the fishermen and fish
Customers can place their order
after choosing the fish, either cleaned
or raw, from respective farmers or
fishermen groups. The institute will
monitor the vendor profiles, order
status and sales.
Strict action for Delhi
establishments who sell liquor to
those below 25
THE Delhi government has issued a
warning to shops selling liquors
including hotels, clubs, bars and pubs
against the selling and serving of
alcohol to customers who are below
the age of 25.
If they do not abide by the rule,
they will face strict action including
the cancellation of its liquor licence.
The establishments are to ask for an
identification card which shows the
customer’s age to ascertain that he or
is she is not under age before selling
Haryana, UP to work together to
improve law and order
THE chief ministers of Haryana and
Uttar Pradesh have decided to work
together to improve the law and order
situation in both states by taking steps
to check illegal mining and resolving
common issues affecting the people of
the two neighbouring states.
A government spokesman said the
directors general of police from both
states will meet every three months.
The two states will also work together
to construct a bridge on the Yamuna
river near Hasanpur in the Palwal
district of Haryana.
Dogs introduced to Bengal
sanctuaries to track down
FOUR sniffer dogs from Belgium have
been roped in to sniff out poachers
from wildlife parks in Bengal.
They have been deployed in
Jaldapara and Gorumara national
parks, Buxa Tiger Reserve and
Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.
West Bengal Forest Minister Binay
Krishna Barman said the Belgian
Malinois dogs have “made tracking
and prevention of poaching easier” as
they trace carcasses of animals killed
by poachers and track down the
The dogs, which also check vehicles
for wildlife smuggling, start their
patrol at 6.30am and end at 7.30pm.
Mixed reactions to female
athletes’ attire change
THE official apparel (left) for Indian
athletes participating in the
Commonwealth Games was unveiled
during an event in Delhi.
For the first time, Indian women
will wear trousers and a blazer instead
of a traditional sari at the opening
ceremony in Australia.
Women’s hockey captain Rani
Rampal told AFP she “loves” the new
“It is nice. (From) time to time,
there should be changes. Girls always
used to wear a sari at the games, but
this time it will be different, and I love
it,” said Ms Rampal.
While many others welcomed the
idea, badminton ace P. V. Sindhu and
wrestler Sakshi Malik prefer the sari.
“We always feel happy and proud
when we wear a sari during the
opening ceremonies,” Ms Malik told
the Mail Today newspaper.
HE Gir National Park is the
abode of the majestic Asiatic
lions, where you can see a
pride of them feasting on their kill in
the wild. But on a visit to the area
you can also learn about the Siddis, a
little known tribe of African origin.
Ashif, a guide for the jeep safari
in Gir, is a friendly youngster, eager
to answer questions in fluent Hindi,
and breaking into chaste Gujarati ev-
ery now and then with the driver.
Driving through Talala, a little
town in the Junagadh district of west-
ern Gujarat, it was hard to miss the
marked difference in physical fea-
tures of some of the people on the
A group of school-going girls
with their curly hair in braids, con-
firmed that they belonged to the
Siddi tribe and pointed out others —
women in saris, young men on bikes
or lounging near shops — as belong-
ing to their tribe as well.
If it was the difference in appear-
ance that first made them stand out,
it was the extent of assimilation with
the local culture that was even more
But Ashif, who then confirmed
that he too belonged to the tribe,
said: “Why should it be surprising?
We have been here for centuries.”
And it’s true. The Siddis are be-
lieved to the descendants of the
Bantu people of East Africa. Accord-
ing to the 1931 Census, they were
brought to India by the Portugese to-
wards the end of the 17th century,
possibly as slaves.
Some believe they were brought
by the Arabs even earlier, dating
back to the 7th century. When slav-
ery was abolished, they fled into the
jungles, fearing re-capture and tor-
An isolated and reclusive commu-
nity, the Siddis can also be found in
Karnataka, Maharashtra and
But most of their main popula-
tion, estimated to be 50,000-60,000
is concentrated in Junagadh district.
They are mostly practising Muslims,
although those in Karnataka are
Ashif said the Siddis follow a way
of life that is a mosaic of their roots
and of the place which they have
called home for the last few cen-
The community’s folk dance,
Dhamal, is performed by men with
their bodies and faces painted, mov-
ing energetically to drum beats.
The acrobatic moves, the style
and the rhythm clearly point to
Artistes performing Dhamal are
usually viewed with awe at dance fes-
tivals in India and abroad. The com-
munity’s dance troupes also give per-
formances for tourists in and around
The Siddi community is mainly
agriculture-dependent, although it
is hard to find many landowners.
Most of them work as labourers in
the fields instead. Largely ignored
by the government and little known
by their fellow countrymen, their so-
cio-economic condition is poor.
Those who migrate to bigger
towns or cities find odd jobs. Others,
like Ashif, or Juje Jackie Harnod-
kar, who has a government job in
Mumbai, are relatively better off.
“Even then, finding acceptance
among our fellow countrymen is
difficult,” Juje said. “I often face
racist comments from fellow pas-
sengers on the train and on the
road. I have to keep reinforcing my
Indianness. This is why most of us
prefer staying away from the cities
and closer to nature.”
Juje is a former athlete whose
life took a turn when, in 1989, he
was selected under the Special
Area Games Scheme of the Sports
Authority of India (SAI).
The programme, which took off
in 1987, aimed at scouting for and
training members of the Siddi com-
munity to represent India as ath-
letes in the international arena.
If one were to go back in history,
one would find many young, enthu-
siastic athletes from the commu-
nity, like Kamala Babu Siddi, who
was the national record holder in
the junior girls pentathlon, who per-
formed very well in international
competitions. But in 1993 the
scheme was suddenly stopped.
Two years ago things started
looking up again, as SAI revived
the scheme for the community. For-
mer Siddi athletes are at the helm
of affairs, training younger mem-
bers with passion.
An Olympic medal for India in
2024 is possible, Juje said, confi-
dent that sports would pave the
way for acceptance of this small
community in the country they
have called their home for cen-
Indo-Asian News Service
little-known African tribe
perform for tourists
The Siddi’s have lived in the country for centuries and
have embraced Indian culture but still struggle to find acceptance
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