Tribesmen’s freedom to enter the forest to collect herbal plants and other medicinal material should be protected by the law, Achappan Vaidyar, tribal healer from Wayanad, has said.
Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a national-level tribal healers’ workshop and an exhibition of tribal medicines on the campus of the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Kirtads) here on Friday, the octogenarian tribal healer said his community was finding it impossible to collect many inevitable medicinal ingredients as entry to the forest was restricted by authorities. Maintaining that they were not plunderers of forest, like many outsiders were, and wanted only a few inevitable medicinal plants to be collected from the woods, which they consider as their deity, the Vaidyar said centuries-old invaluable knowledge of tribal healing would be endangered if something was not done immediately in this direction. “Many of our men are persecuted for entering the forest to collect what they have been garnering from time immemorial,” he said adding that protecting the forest was their “responsibility and duty” more than anybody else’s.
The famed tribal healer, with a number of disciples spread across their tribe and with patients coming in search of him even from foreign countries, said that forest officials were not allowing their entry into the forest fearing that many of their (officials’) shady activities, including their furtive deals with tree fellers and forest looters, would come to light. “I know many cases of secret felling of trees that would cost lakhs of rupees from the very forest which the officials claim to be protecting,” said the veteran healer, who is also the chieftain and senior most member of the famous Ettillam family of the Kurichyar tribe at Palode in Mananthavady. Claiming that people with a variety of ailments, including asthma, sinusitis, and obesity were approaching him seeking remedy from one of the ancient healing methods of the country, the Vaidyar claimed that many high-profile officials, including judges and police officers, were his patients.
Observing that the ignorance of tribesmen was exploited by many people, he said the authorities should take measures to grant pension for tribal healers to enter the forest.
Achappan Vaidyar / Suresh Vaidyar (Son) contact Numbers:
04935 266 010, mobile 99 61 902 599