Wednesday, February 23, 2011



Korku are the lesser known Tribe of Central India found mostly in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Since some years they have been in reckoning for their nutritional vulnerability as many of their children lay victim of severe malnutrition and deaths.
Their origin is shrouded in mystery. Since the time history was penned down they were found wandering in Forests of Satpura mountain ranges. British historians equated them with Munda tribe of Eastern India.
No record is found if they had a king or kingdom but were ruled by different dynasties ranging from Maurya to Mughal to Gonds. This infected original traditions, customs and even language of Korku.
Being ruled they till day have mostly remained agricultural labors and by and large a docile community. Literacy being depressingly low they never could have their own script and till day Korku language is transcribed in Devnagri script.
Very little has been written on Korku and their age old custom and tradition and goodness has been embedded in oral traditions. UNESCO has included Korku in its atlas of 196 "endangered" languages of India.
It was quite late in corridors of history that they started a settled life, that too being preferred by other communities as honest and hardworking farm hands. But they chose picturesque forest locations for their dwelling , the remnants of which are still seen despite so much of forest denudation.
Their oral tradition has many interesting elements that was not documented and handed down to present generation. It remains bereft of its past and colorful culture. This newsletter is a beginning to let the world know and come forward to save Korku...their children and their language….
This newsletter documents the Korku of Khalwa Block in Khandwa District of Madhya Pradesh in India.
Introduction to lesser known world of korku a tribe of central india now in reckoning for acute hunger and malnutrition and their language endangered as being preserved in oral traditions alone.
Korku in its own language is made up of two words: Koro and Ku . Koro means tribesman a Ku is plural : meaning a group of tribesman.
The oral traditions of Korku has many stories related to their creation. They believe that they were made of soil.
One folktale states that Ravana the demon King of Ceylon requested Mahadev ( Lord Shiva) to populate Hills of Satpura. Mahadev made idols of a man and a woman from red soil but was disrupted twice by Horses of Lord Indra. On third attempt he succeeded in creating first Korku man and woman. They fed on berries and yams and covered themselves with big leaves of Sal tree. After having multiplied and couple of centuries having passed by they invoked Mahadev to revisit them and provide them with their own grains. Mahadev blessed them with six grains namely Kodo, Kutki, Bhadli, Mandgi, Rala and Dhan. They still remains tribal millets but being attracted to newer crops they are bound to be extinct.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Food Security of Korku: the need of the Hour

Korkus of Khalwa are really hard pressed. For years they have been innocent victims of chronic household hunger. Their history since the time it was written ( by British Historians) show that they were wandering tribe : most probably migrated to Central India from South Eastern India especialy the present state of Jharkhand. Most of the anthropologists consider them at par with Munda Tribe. The language of Korku falls in the same category as that of Mundas: the Austro-Asiatic langauge group. The Korku wandered in the forests around the Satpura mountain and practised sifting agriculture. It meant that they didnot till the ground as they considerd it to be their mother and how one could plough a mother's breast. Later in 19th or beginning of 20th century they began a more or less settled life and the people of other communities preferred them to be hard working and honest farm hands. That's why since the days census in India was done Korku returned as agriculture labors. They chose picteresque forest sites for their residence and placed houses along the open streets and built with bamboo wattle work and mud. The contact with other communities gradually attarcted them to grow wheat and later soybean as cash crops. with the passage of time their traditional and nutritious crops (which their folk tales describe as unique and god given) dwindled too. Their food habits went a drastic change and micronutrients went out of their platters. Its intersting that Korku grow soybean but do not eat this protien rich food. That's why their women and children became most susceptible to anemia and malnouishment. Hundreds of children began to die at early age : before even completin their first or fifth birthday. Korku could still not relate it to lack of nutrition but considered it to be the curse of deities and over the years many rituals were developed to please gods or treat malnutriiton. Thye developed a term for malnutrition in their vocabulary. The issue of child survival loomed as demon before them. its true a mother concieved from half to a dozen times fearing how many would survive? Its ironical that the district's decadal population growth rate has slid below the state and national averages to a depressing low of 19%. What other factor than large number of child deaths among Korku can be held responsible for this.
The whole situation of hunger among Korku assuming deamouring proportion has to do with the governemnt food policy for them, discrepancies and corruptions in Food & Employment schemes, blaming the deaths of their children back on parents, distorted mindset for tribe at large, denial of developing hunger scenario something like Ethiopia and Chad at the vary heart of nation.
Just imagine how long a well off, well nourished average family will survive with access to just 20 kilograms of government given subsidized ration; with average daily income less than $2. How can we assume that they would be getting 2400 calories a day to just to survive! how can we assume their chidren or even mothers will survive.
Will we let them die ..... what difference it makes to us
or we will act...