Rare feat: Irula tribal woman joins TN Bar Association

They helped her enrol for BA Economics at the Government Arts College in Coimbatore and, in 2014, to apply for LLB, a course that she really wanted to pursue for her people.

Published: 20th September 2022 05:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2022 03:41 PM   |  A+A-

M Kaliyammal

M Kaliyammal

Express News Service

COIMBATORE: When the Tamil Nadu Bar Association announced its latest enrolment list on August 30 this year, it was the end of an onerous journey for 30-year-old M Kaliyammal, an Irula tribal woman from Koppanari settlement in Coimbatore’s Anaikatti Hills.

After waging an uphill battle against the hurdles of having been born into one of the most backward communities, she became the first ever tribal woman from Anaikatti and the second ever from her community to wear the black robe.

Born to Maruthan and Aantichi, both coolie workers, education was never an easy pursuit for Kaliyammal. After completing her elementary schooling, up to Class 5, at the settlement, she went to the Government High School at Anaikatti, and had to walk 4 km to school daily till Class 10.

Later during her higher secondary schooling at the Seeliyur Government School near Tholampalayam, which is 18 km from her hamlet, the journey became even tougher. Money, too, would have been a barrier but for the support for several good Samaritans over the years. They helped her enrol for BA Economics at the Government Arts College in Coimbatore and, in 2014, to apply for LLB, a course that she really wanted to pursue for her people.

‘Students from tribal groups pursue law degree rarely’

“When I was in Class 7, an advocate often used to come to our hamlet and used to interact with us. He provided us with legal aid. It was then that I decided that I would pursue law to guide my people and get them basic rights,” Kaliyammal told TNIE. However, things became even tougher after her father got paralysed right after she joined LLB.

“He hasn’t gone to work since. I have also been suffering from seizures for many years. We survived with my mother’s wages and thanks to volunteers’ support,” she said. Kaliyammal thanked a nurse in her village, Jayalakshmi; volunteers Sampathkumar and AM Sudhagar; and teachers at the Government Arts College for their relentless support.

Lauding Kaliyammal for her enormous achievement, K Kalaiyarasan, secretary of the Coimbatore Bar Association, said, “Hardly one or two advocates from tribal communities are practising in Coimbatore.” N Thirumurthy, a tribal leader who works for the education of tribal people in Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts, said, “Very rarely do students from tribal communities pursue a law degree.

Before, I knew of only a person belonging to th Kurumba tribe from Nilgiris who became an advocate and a magistrate in the State. It is necessary that more people from tribal communities choose the career as it could help them get their people the basic rights.” Kaliyammal, who now plans to start practising either at the Coimbatore or Mettupalayam Court, aims to be such a beacon.


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  • R S Chakravarti

    Hope she and her father get good medical care.
    6 months ago reply
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