Meet Shantharam, India’s first legislator from African-origin Siddi community
Shantharam Budna Siddi, along with four others, was nominated to the Karnataka Legislative Council by Governor Vajubhai Vala on Wednesday. The interesting bit about Siddi’s appointment is the fact that he becomes the country’s first legislator from Karnataka’s Siddi community which traces its roots to Africa. Siddi serves as the state secretary of the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, a tribal welfare initiative of the RSS. He hails from North Kannada district and is also the first graduate from the community.
Siddi believes his community’s roots go back to Africa, somewhere in Mozambique and Kenya. He says members from his community were brought to India by the Portuguese as slaves, news agency PTI reported. After the Portuguese left India, the community took refuge in the deep forests of Western Ghats.
“We are found only in Mumbai, Goa and the Western Ghats of Karnataka,” Siddi told PTI.
He said the people of his community speak a language that is unique - a mix Konkani-Marathi. Siddi is happy on his recent appointment and said the post comes with huge responsibilities.
“I am not thinking of the Siddi community alone, I am equally concerned about the entire tribal community of the state,” Siddi said
“There are many communities like Dhangar Gawli, Kunbi, Halakki Vokkaliga...all live like tribes but are not scheduled as tribes. Our demand to the Centre through the state will be that they should also be categorised as tribals,” Siddi added.
(With inputs from PTI)