Tamil Nadu’s gypsies demand right to vote

March 25th, 2009 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu), March 25 (IANS) Over 100 tribals of Tamil Nadu’s Narikkorava (gypsy) community held a demonstration here Wednesday, demanding the right to vote, police said.
“This near illiterate gypsy tribe could not cast their votes so far due to their nomadic character, though they were issued ration cards 10 years ago. We are assuring them all help this time,” a police official said after persuading the tribals to give up their protest.

“We have a history going back thousands of years and are as much citizens of this nation as others. Yet, we have been marginalised, termed untouchables and (have) never voted. Now we want to assert our rights,” a spokesman of the group, Domba Raja, told IANS.

The state’s Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta said the poll panel will look into the community’s grievances.

“We are particular that nobody should be denied the right to vote and will take immediate action if representations from this group reaches us directly or the district administration,” Gupta told IANS on phone from Chennai.

The tribe’s origins are traced to European Roma gypsies and to several others from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa, according to accounts published by Edgar Thurston in 1909.

According to the police, most members of the tribe live in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala. They used to be trappers and hunters, but hunting has now been banned. One of their traditional handicarfts is the making of bead garlands.

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