Last of the Singing Halakkis: Padmasri Sukri Bomma Gowda

By Vijoo Krishnan ( Joint Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha)

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“There’s a song in every action, everything and in every person”

Padmasri Sukri Bomma Gowda, the legendary folk singer is the most prominent of the singing Halakkis and undoubtedly the leader of a troop of four tribal women “who are fighting by singing songs to save their culture from disappearing in the hope that someday, they are loud enough to be heard by the world”.

The diminutive lady is filled with boundless energy. She kept chatting with me all through the speeches of other speakers at the 4th District Conference of Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha affiliated to AIKS at Ankola Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka. She began by gently scolding organizers for not having sent a vehicle early morning and complained that she had draped herself in the saree and worn her bead necklaces and was ready to join the procession. The unique manner of draping the saree and the heavy bead necklaces are distinct features of the Halakkis. She expressed dismay that she could only reach after the procession in time for the inauguration of the Conference.

The barefooted grandma belonging to the Halakki Tribe often referred to as the aboriginals of Northern Karnataka asserted that when she went to Delhi to receive the Padmasri she asked the Prime Minister to confer Scheduled Tribe status to her Tribe and end years of discrimination and neglect. The wait for her Tribe as well as Kunbis, Kumbri Maratha, Gowli and others for recognition seems unending. Ironically some of these Tribes are conferred ST status just across the border in Goa.

Sukri Ajji as she is known to all has been regularly participating in struggles for land rights and enthralling audiences with songs of struggle. In her inspiring speech, she chided people who take opportunist positions and forget land struggle for political gains. She assured that she would be a part of struggles till victory. Not hiding her earlier inclination towards the BJP she evidently was unhappy over the betrayal of farmers by the Modi government and for not doing anything to accord ST status to the Halakkis.

Her songs have inspired generations and were her weapons against oppression. She sang a song on land struggles at my request, invited me to her village asking me to join in her singing. She called for unity of all interested genuinely in land rights for the landless and assured she would walk shoulder to shoulder in such struggle.

(Featured Image courtesy: http://www.untold.in)

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