No community certificate, children in TN's Keelamathur forced to join nomadic parents in street plays

S Babu, another member from the community, said, "We are forced to take up the traditional means of livelihood. If the government issues us community certificate, we can move on to other professions."
Street performers at Keelamathur village in Perambalur district | Express
Street performers at Keelamathur village in Perambalur district | Express

PERAMBALUR: Already worried over the curtains falling down soon on their profession of entertaining the masses, a section of nomadic street performers residing at Keelamathur in the district complain of a delay in issuance of community certificate for their children. This forced 10 children from the community to discontinue studies after Class 10 this year alone and join the adults in the dance and acrobatic performances, they added.

Members of the 80-families-strong community residing in the panchayat under Alathur block for the past five decades or so have been travelling to various districts like Ariyalur, Tiruchy, Madurai, Cuddalore and Chennai to eke out a living by performing dance and acrobatics in public places. R Raju (62), one such street performer from Keelamathur, said, "Now people do not like our performances like before due to cinema theatres and mobile phones. Only if we perform rope-walks on the streets and roads every day do we get food. When we leave home for performances, we would return only after a month or even three months later. Until then we sleep in our vehicles. While people provide us with rice and clothes sometimes, it is now difficult to earn even Rs 300 a day."

"To change our situation, we send our children to school instead of taking them along for work. Our children's education still gets affected due to the non-availability of community certificate," he added. While expressing ignorance of their ancestral roots and their caste identity, Raju said some from their community residing at places like Malaiyappa Nagar and Ramalinga Nagar were issued the community certificate.

The several petitions submitted with the collectorate seeking the same for others as well, however, yielded no result, he added. S Babu (25), another member from the community, said, "Seven years ago, I was forced to discontinue education after Class 10 owing to the non-availability of the community certificate. Many like me suffer the same situation. We wanted to pursue higher studies and change our lifestyle but couldn’t. Now we are forced to take up the traditional means of livelihood. If the government issues us community certificate, we can move on to other professions."

Revenue officials said community certificate is usually insisted upon in schools as students can avail of various benefits like scholarship. They are also vital during public examinations, they added. When contacted, Collector K Karpagam told TNIE that action will be taken after verifying the caste identity of the street performers. Alathur Tahsildar P Sathyamoorthy said some of the street performers who have been issued the certificate were identified as from the "Domra" and denotified communities. "After verification we will take action on issuance of the community certificate to others," he added.

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