Brief History

The Piramalai Kallar Tribe of Tamilnadu is one of the most ancient aboriginals of India. Unfortunately due to social exclusion of Piramalai Kallar, there are lots of misconception and myth about the tribal characters of the Piramalai Kallar. However, the recent discovery of the DNA of a Piramalai Kallar matching with the aboriginals of the Africa and Australia by Prof Pitchappan, Department of geography, Madurai Kamarajar University, has pulverized all the misconceptions about the origins of the Piramalai Kallar. The discovery of DNA Loci CM130 in one Virumandi of Jothimanigam village near Usilampatti, Madurai District, has been established beyond reasonable doubt that Piramalai Kallar is certainly one of the most ancient, indigenous, primitive aboriginals. As it happened with other Tribes of India, the invaders of India forced the aboriginals to move into forest and settle there and some of them remained nomadic tribes and one such tribe is the Piramalai Kallar.

As with any other tribes, initially, they were hunters and food gatherers and during that period itself they had developed various skills of defence and offence such as Valaithadi which is similar to the Boomerang of the Australian aboriginal. Though Piramalai Kallars were living in plains, they were highly freedom loving and independent, they never subjected themselves to the rule of any kingdoms or governments. During the 3rd and fourth century itself, the Piramalai Kallars started semi-settled life and had a mixed pastoral-agro economy. However, they have been mostly engaged as paid warriors, military generals by the then rulers of the land and during peace time, they have been engaged in the work of Kaval (a traditional police system with main focuses on to protect the property and people of a village/regions i.e. Kudi Kaval/thisai Kaval) and spy works for intelligence information gathering from the enemy territories. This indigenous group settled in the foot hills of the outer western gates and evolved their own social, political and economic institutions. Though due to cultural diffusion, assimilation and interaction with other communities some of the features of the mainstream Hindu Cultures were also integrated into their system, the core culture of the Piramalai Kallars were preserved and practiced in letter and spirit till date. The core culture of the Piramalai Kallars in Kinship, Marriage system, political organization of “Nadus�?, Panchayats and administration of Justice including criminal, civil and matrimonial disputes and religious practices such as division of labour during the social gathering and festivals, worshiping original tribal God/Goddesses, are all akin to the tribal rituals and practices and the same has been preserved despite the onslaught of Bramanisation, Sanskirtisation. The layout and structure of the temples Piramalai Kallars are unique which are 100 per cent in tune with the primitive tribes of India especially Gond tribes of central India and Chota Nagpur regions.

Whenever, the outsiders tried to subjugate the Piramalai Kallars, they rebelled against them and successfully retained their original socio-political-economic structure. However, the Piramalai Kallars were having active relationship with the Kingdoms upto the 18th centuries and mostly the Piramalai Kallars were used as reserved standing subsidiary army during war time and during peace as Kavalkarers/guards/spies etc. As a result, they did not integrate with the main stream societies, though they had evolved robust social institutions, they could not keep pace with rapid advancement of modern civilization and technical advancement mainly due to total absence of organized education system and as a result they became socially, economically and educationally backward.

While being so after the establishment of East Indian Company's governance in the southern part of Tamilnadu, in the Madura Regions, the Piramalai Kallars proved to be insurmountable adversary of the Britishers in the entire length and breadth of the world. Though, the Britishers had superior fire power through their advanced guns and artilleries, the Piramalai Kallar could provided stiff resistance through their traditional weapon of livelihood (for hunting) i.e. Valaithadi. However, due to superior Army power, the company for the first time invaded into the exclusive territory of the Piramalai Kallar and first thing they did, was, they had collected about 11000 ‘Valaithadi' of the Piramalai Kallars and burned ‘Valaithadi' on the same day. However, each and every individual of the Piramalai Kallar both the men and women are an independent Army on their own strength and they held the value of freedom more than their life. In fact this core value of independent living is as age old as human civilization, this value is ingrained into the DNA of each Piramalai Kallar, in spite of invasion of tumultuous modernization, westernization and globalization into their territory also, even today “each individual of the Piramalai Kallar function as independent republic�? and they never ever accept any form of superior and inferior treatment on any account.

Therefore, the Piramalai Kallars proved to be real threat to the British governance both during the company's and Queen's rules. Similarly some of the tribes of the North India had also put forth stiff resistance to the British Rule, and all the three main governance technique of Britishers viz. Suppression, Carrot and Stick Policy and Divide and Rule failed in controlling them, hence, the Britishers decided to apply the most draconian law a European Invention viz. Criminal Tribes Act to suppress these valiant, independent primitive tribes by branding them as criminal tribes which gave absolute power to the police and to snatch away all the fundamental rights of the people and treat such human beings as beast.

The British branded a number of marginalized population groups (‘tribals') innately criminal and made elaborate arrangements for their surveillance. This sat well with the larger strategy of imperial governance - the policy of keeping the subject population segregated and sequestrated into various strata. When the Bill was introduced in 1871 by �?. V. Stephens, stress was laid on ethno-logical theories of caste which linked profession, upbringing and back ground. The Act entailed registration of all members of noti�?ed ‘tribes' (irrespective of their criminal precedents) and imposition of restrictions on their movements. In the course of subsequent amendments of the Act, penalties were increased and provisions were made for taking tribal boys (from four to eighteen years old) away from their parents. In 1908, special ‘settlements' were constructed for the noti�?ed tribes where they had to perform hard labour. In 1936, Nehru denounced the whole system as ‘monstrous' and after independence, in 1949, the Committee appointed by the government found the system violating the spirit of the Indian constitution. With the repeal of the Act in 1952, 2,300,000 tribals were decriminalized. The Piramalai kallar is one of such decriminalized tribes.

There are number of theories about why the CT Act was imposed on these Tribes. Only some of the theories are submitted for better appreciation of the historical injustice suffered by the Piramalai Kallar:-

i) Caste and Hereditary theory - As T.V. Stephens, a British official of the time, said while introducing the Bill that became the Act: “... people from time immemorial have been pursuing the caste system defined job-positions: weaving, carpentry and such were hereditary jobs. So there must have been hereditary criminals also who pursued their forefathers' profession.�? Though this theory was supported by the schools of sociological and psychological schools of crimes, it is certainly cannot withstand the logical test because the caste system evolved mainly on the purity and pollution principle based various criteria such as food eating, etc. and certainly no society shall entirely depend on totally deviant way of life that too generation after generation and a host of valid criticism makes this theory as misconception.

ii) Religious theory - The very same author had also put forth the theory that these people practice crime as their religion and share their bounty with their all mighty and this theory also met with similar criticism as that of caste theory.

iii) Genetic theory - there are people who have attributed the crime to the very instincts of these tribe but this is not the case with every individuals of these tribes.

iv) Livelihood theory - Stephen Fuchs is exponent of this theory and according to him as these tribes are deprived of their livelihood due to deforestation and destruction of the traditional industries by the colonial rule, they were forced to take deviant rout for survival. Though this theory explained the cause for the presence of such deviant behavior but failed to account for branding the entire community as criminal tribes. v) Physiological/Gait theory - there are people who describe the crime of stealing to the very physiological features of these communities which makes them adept in stealing because of their special sneaking gait, it is not possible to descry them. The incidence of stealing the jewellary worn by the Rani of Thirumalai Naicker from her body while she was asleep in the highly fortified Palace at Madurai and the incidence of Ramoshies Tribes of Maharashtra penetrating the Mughal Forts without descry during Sivaji military campaign are cited as examples. This theory also cannot be generalized for the entire populous.

vi) Deterrence theory - The CT Act was imposed on these voiceless aboriginal tribes to suppress the other people by demonstrating that if the British paramountacy is challenge their community also be branded as criminals and consequently socially ostracize. vii) Reformatory theory - One of the objects of the CT Act is to reform this dangerous criminal community though compulsory reforms such as education and employment but this theory do not explain the extreme forms of excess of the imperial forces.

viii) Hard Labour theory - In the various large scale mining and plantation works , hard labour were badly needed to accelerate the economic exploitation of the country and thus the britisher target these marital races and forced them to work as forced and bonded labours in those projects. ix) Stiff Resistance theory - as these tribes put stiff resistance to expand British control over their territory through their guerilla warfare methods, it was decided to invoke this draconian law.

x) Administrative theory - as allegedly these tribes were a menace to the rest of the society and it was impossible to maintain law and order in these regions and the police men power also very limited, it was decided to invoke this draconian law for establishing settlement and surveillance and total restriction on their movements.

xi) Reinforcement theory - as the Britishers branded these tribes as criminals and the same was reinforced by the rest of the society, these tribes became criminals and the CT Act was imposed with vigor thus the vicious circle of brand-behavior started and thus generation of these criminal tribes was engineered by the British.

xii) European Theory - the practice of branding entire community as criminal is purely a European practice and Britishers applied the same to enhance their control over the alien subjects.

Besides these dozen theories, there are number of sociological, psychological, political, economical, geographical and karmic explanation for the imposition of the CT Act but one can safely concluded after studying the History of Piramalai Kallar is concerned, this branding of them as criminal tribe is ‘imaginary, invented and imposed and they are the victims of state and intellectual terrorism.

Thus the Criminal Tribe Act 1871 was enacted and implemented in the first phase in Northern Indian and after amendment in the year 1911, the said act was for the first time imposed on the Piramalai Kallars of Madura regions in the year 1914 only against the known dacoits (KD) of Keelakuilkudi Village but the Police could not succeed in subjugating the rebellious Piramalai Kallars and as a result for the first time the said Act was imposed on the entire Piramalai Kallar Community in the years 1919. Under the said act the police have been given absolute power to curtail the human rights of the entire community as per their whims and fancies. As per the said act all the persons of the community must register under the CT Act and all of the male members should sleep only at police station every day during 6 PM to 6AM and during day time also they are not permitted to visit their near and dear without passport from the government officers and the police were given absolute power to arrest any Piramalai Kallar for any reasons or without reason and dispose him the way they like.