The man who lived with the tribes

Maske left his home 20 years ago to live and learn about the original inhabitants

Maske, 45, started his journey from his hometown Ponda in Goa on June 5, 1991. He will be back in Ponda after he completes his visit to Sullia, Shimoga and Sagar, on foot, of course.

A diploma holder in electrical engineering, Maske has travelled all over India by foot and has visited 289 primitive tribes and many other non-primitive tribes. He says he started his version of the Long March “to study the socio-economic condition of tribals in the country.”

The tribes he has visited range from Apatani in Arunachal Pradesh to the Koragas in Kasargod. He has been the guest of vanishing tribes such as the Onges, Jarawas, the Great Andamanis and the Sentinelis in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, to which he travelled by ship, the only time he did not walk. He has also met the Dondis, Maliyas, Bhils, and Gonds in Maharashtra, and the Chenchus in Andhra Pradesh. He has stayed with a tribe from a few days up to three months.

Before visiting a tribal settlement inside dense forest, Maske takes the help of forest officers. After studying the condition prevailing among the tribals, he prepares a note on the development in the settlement, especially the infrastructure, and passes it on to the district collectors (deputy commissioners).

Koragas in Kasargod, says Maske, live in a more pathetic condition than their cousins in Dakshina Kannada. However, primitive tribes in Odisha and Chhattisgarh live in miserable condition. Such is the poverty in Kalhandi, Koraput and Malkangiri of Odisha,  that the tribals are ready to marry off their daughters to anyone for as little as Rs 400. Only two states-Punjab and Haryana-have no primitive tribes.

Robbed five times in Odisha and twice in Uttar Pradesh, Maske feels that Sikkim is the most peaceful state in the country. “People in Sikkim villages do not lock their houses to this day.” Maske says the Chola Naikars in Nilambur taluk of Mallapuram district in Kerala is the only tribe still living in caves.  

In Kozhimala of Idukki in Kerala, he found Mannan tribe is ruled by a king with three ministers, collecting revenue in the form of goods. Among the Chenchus of Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, a boy wanting to get married has to commit a crime and get jailed.

The Hakki Pikki community of H D Kote taluk in Mysore has a unique custom of naming the child. The first word that comes to the mind of a man informed that his wife has delivered, is the name the child will bear. Hence, these community members have names like Post Office and Deluxe Express, he says.

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