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In Photos: Lost Legacy of Gujarat’s African-Origin Siddi Tribe

A community of African origin is living deep inside the Gir forest in Gujarat.

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Some 12 kilometres away from the town of Talala, in Somnath district of Gujarat, goes a small road to a village called Jambur, bordering the dense forests of Gir. The village is marked by a small signboard at the end of the lane that reads “Jambur gram panchayat aapka swagat karta hai” (Jambur gram panchayat welcomes you). The village gives you a feel of being in Africa, thanks to the African origin of the villagers, who now speak fluent Gujarati. The community is called Siddhi Badhshah.

While most of the community members cannot explain their origin, 52-year-old Parmar Hashim said that they are descendants of Jamalluddin Yakut, who was a confidante and love interest of Razia Sultan, who ruled Delhi in the 12th century.

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A few other people, however, tell a different version of their origin. According to a few old women, they are the descendants of Africans that the Nawab of Junagad brought to the Gir forest to hunt lions.

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While the village lacks the most basic facilities, the youth work as security guards, auto-drivers, or vegetable vendors.

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Apart from manual labour, young girls in the village also take up jobs like embroidering sarees. While one saree needs around four days of hard work, the payment for each saree is a meagre Rs 100.

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While most of the villagers are Muslims, they are categorised as scheduled castes. Most of them, however, say that the scheduled caste status never helped them get any jobs. They marry within their community. Many claim that they are good at sports due to their African origin, but don’t get enough opportunities.

If Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle can do wonders for their respective countries, we can too. We are talented and we want to put it to good use. We can do a lot if we are suppported well.
Aslam, 23
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Are our politicians listening?

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