Reformation and Rehabilitation of Yerukala: A Nomadic-De-notified Tribe in Andhra Pradesh

Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India, 65(2) : (285-306), 2016

Reformation and Rehabilitation of Yerukala: A Nomadic-De-notified Tribe in Andhra Pradesh

Malli Gandhi
Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, Regional Institute of Education NCERT, Mysore, Karnataka

Abstract
For longer periods in history, tribes had little or no intercourse with people in the plains areas and were uninfluenced by the so called civilizing influences. The relative isolation led to their backwardness as the agents of development deployed by the mainstream state could not penetrate into the deeper forest regions. The situation underwent a change with the advent of the British who saw great opportunity of exploiting the forest wealth by intruding into the private spaces hitherto inhabited by adivasis. To avoid the problem posed by tribes, the British government passed the first Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 under the pretext of controlling the rate of crime. Under the Act, several tribes were declared criminal and settlements were started where tribesmen and women were lodged. The task of their management was entrusted to voluntary agencies such as Salvation Army, Chief Anjuman Islamia, Arya Samaj etc. In addition, the government too at some places was directly involved in organizing reformatory settlements. Settlements were classified under agricultural, industrial, reformatory and penal settlements. Yerukalas and Katheras are two ex-criminal tribes of Andhra Pradesh. These two groups are stigmatised as dacoits, burglars, pilferers, thieves and railway wagon breakers. Stuartpuram is one of the settlements established in 1914 by the colonial government. It was an agricultural settlement put under the management of Salvation Army. The organisation executed monumental development programmes for the benefit and welfare of the settlers. They included agriculture, education, health and vocational training activities. Salvation Army enjoyed judicial powers while managing the settlement. Basic approach to change and reform of the settlers adopted by the organisation was religious in nature which as such had some inbuilt limitations. The Salvation Army was active for almost four decades before the tribal welfare department took over the settlement after independence. The organization continues its religio-social work till date. The second major attempt at reforming and mainstreaming inhabitants of Stuartpuram settlement was initiated in the year 1974 by a group of secular and a religious humanists from the Atheist Centre, Vijayawada. Criminal reformation is three dimensional process involving different kinds of actors and characters: criminals themselves, the state machinery including police/government officials and finally society at large. Of these variables, surrounding society plays a major role, either to accept or deny reformed criminals into mainstream ways of life. When this variable is in place, rest of the variables follow the suit. Samskar (NGO) represented this important social variable in the process of social reform and rehabilitation of members of Stuartpuram colony. The organisation executed its work in five phases through a strategy known as Three Generation Approach. Major emphasis of social reformers during the process had been on social integration and area development through 3G Approach. Social reform experiments in a DNT colony hint at one important historical lesson that traditional approaches to the problem of despised social heritage has reduced scope for reform of diehard avocations of hardened criminals. On the other, humanist and democratic interventions provide enough social space for bringing about the desired change.

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