India: Photo story – Marginalised Sidi community rebuilds a lost cultural identity
Descended from African slaves, India's Sidi community struggles with a conflict of identity. They are unable to pinpoint their country of origin, yet are also marginalised from Indian society as a result of the nation's discriminatory caste system.
Earlier this month, Minority Rights Group welcomed Sidi activist Mohan into our London office to speak about his personal experiences as a member of an ethnic minority in India. He revealed how untouchability affects every aspect of his life, from being barred from the temple in spite of his Hindu faith, to being verbally abused on public transport for his dark skin.
Despite protestations from his parents to maintain the status quo, Mohan decided at a young age that he needed to confront the injustice his community was facing. Realising that the path to liberation lay through education, he is now the first Siddi in India to graduate from University and continues to further his studies in Mumbai. He has also spent his years in rural Sidi communities, encouraging young people to get as much out of education as possible.
Mohan is also passionate about reclaiming his community's lost cultural practices. Excluded from Indian traditions and out of touch with their African roots, Siddis have started to develop their own unique customs:
‘We want to go back to our religion. We have lost our language, but music and dance we still have. We are unique, we have our own culture which is rich, and we don’t need to pay any money for that’, said Mohan. ‘Then people will look at us in a special way and that will give us self-respect.’
The photos below, provided by Mohan, provide a glimpse of the everyday life of India’s Sidi community and their efforts to recreate a lost culture.
Click on image for larger view