In a first for the Siddi community in Karnataka, the state government has nominated Shantarama Budna Siddi as a Member of the Legislative Council. For the ethnic minority, this represents an opportunity to influence lawmaking in the state.
Shantharama is one of the five the government has nominated to the position. He was nominated by Vajubhai Vala.
Shantharama Budna becomes an MLC
On Wednesday, Governor Vajubhai Vala nominated five candidates including Shantharama Budna Siddi to the Legislative Council. The others were – CP Yogeshwar and HP Vishwanath who are former ministers, former MLC Bharati Shetty and another BJP worker, Talawar Sabanna.
The Legislative Council is a legislative arm of the state government that is comprised of those who well-versed with the on-ground realities of the state to take charge and influence lawmaking. This was inherently meant to be a democratic, and influential arm of the state so as to represent the people in the law.
However, one can argue that like entering most arms of the government, and the politics have remained the domain of the ones most talked about, communities that have local power and representation. Against this backdrop, ethnic minorities have struggled to make their presence felt whether it be in the state or the country.
Why is this a historic move for the Siddi community?
Shantharama Siddi's nomination is therefore crucial, as the Siddi community has remained a lesser-known tribal group in Karnataka with a history going back 400 years. The 55-year-old grew up in the Uttara Kannada district, in the forests of Hitlalli. A man with an inclination towards social service, he is also the first graduate from his community with a BA degree.
The nominated MLC told The Hindu about his nomination, "I did not understand it fully. I thought someone may be playing a prank. I went home for lunch. It was then that my wife and I started getting calls continuously, congratulating me for the nomination."
Shantharama Budna has so far been working for the welfare of tribal communities in the state so far, in getting them access to resources working with the Vanavasi Kalyan Prakalpa (VKP) the tribal welfare wing of the RSS.
The Siddi community in Karnataka
The Siddi community are an ethnic group that originates from Southeast Africa. They were brought to India as slaves under the Portuguese merchants from the 16th CE. With their own unique culture, Siddis have existed on the periphery of modern society. Even as they've assimilated into Indian culture, the majority of whom practice Hinduism and those in Karnataka speak Konkani, Kannada and Marathi.
Those who fled Goa resided in the forests of Karnataka and began cultivation and becoming some of the earliest settlers in these parts of the state. The Siddis are a 50,000 strong community recognised as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in the country.