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Pathbreakers urge tribal youth to fight the odds

Linguistic barrier a challenge for youngsters in pursuing academics

Anjali Bhaskaran had led too marginalised a life that she did not even dare to dream while studying.

Yet, she ended up achieving the commendable feat of becoming the first veterinary doctor from her tribal community Paniya.

“I didn’t know that I was studying to be a doctor till the second or third year of the course. But now, I love this profession and want to serve my community as a veterinary surgeon,” said Ms. Bhaskaran, a resident of a Paniya colony at Pulpally in Wayanad. She was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a gathering of tribal students here on Saturday. She was honoured at the function organised by Adi Shakti Summer School, a collective of Adivasi and Dalit youths under the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha.

The journey, though, was not easy for her, neither during her school days nor even after getting a job as a night vet at the veterinary hospital at Pulpally. “I faced severe discrimination at a government school where I studied up to Class VIII. It was after moving to the Model Residential School exclusively for tribal children that I overcome my inhibitions, thanks to the immense support of teachers there,” said Ms. Bhaskaran.

She continues to be looked down upon for her tribal background even by those who depend on her service as a vet. “No matter what we achieve, we continue to be judged by our background. That is exactly why I urge tribal youngsters to pursue education, which alone will help them fend off the discrimination just as I do now on the strength of my credentials as a veterinary doctor,” said Ms. Bhaskaran.

C. Manikandan, also from the Paniya community in Wayanad, knows a thing or two about the dignity that education bestows on a tribal youngster. He was the first MBA graduate from the community when he passed out back in 2013. Incidentally, both met at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University at Wayanad where Ms. Bhaskaran did the course and Mr. Manikandan remains a teaching assistant.

“There is hardly any dropout among youngsters in my tribal hamlet, and there are many who are doing postgraduation. Absence of parental support and the linguistic barrier because of our indigenous dialects remain the main challenges for the tribal youth in pursuing academics. Even educational institutions in Wayanad with significant tribal population are not tribal-friendly,” he said.

Mr. Manikandan is also scathing of the over-politicisation of tribal department offices and the projects being implemented with the sole focus on utilising funds and little thought for self-sufficiency of the tribal community. “Service delivery at these offices is often based on the political affiliation of the people approaching them,” he said.

Both have a similar message for their tribal brethren — remain steadfast in pursuing one’s dreams and never give up in the face of even the biggest of discrimination.

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