The Siddi tribe living in the hilly district of Uttara Kannada in Karnataka are gearing up for another round of celebrations. These descendants of people brought from East Africa as labourers, who believe that US president Barack Obama shares their genetic roots, are planning a gala celebration to mark Obama’s return as the US president for a second term.
When Obama was first elected President in 2008, the Siddis had approached the external affairs ministry to give them permission to send a cask of honey drawn from the forests of Uttara Kannada district to Obama. “We had even handcrafted a cask out of rose wood, but the official procedures were too complicated for us to follow-up. We finally decided to hold a sports meet to rejoice in the election of Barack Obama,” said Siddi leader Diyog Bastiyon, who received the Valmiki award for 2012 instituted by the state government.
The community leaders are planning another bash this time as well. “There will be sports, music, dancing, food and cultural activities,” Bastiyon said.
“We were brought to India by merchants from East Africa to work as labourers, but being physically strong we were also trained as soldiers by various rulers of the west coast and the interior Karnataka region,” said Mohan Siddi, one of the post-graduates from the tribe.
With expertise in fighting in hilly terrain, the Siddis are said to have trained the army of Maratha ruler Shivaji.
Siddis can be found in six taluks of Uttara Kannada, including Ankola, Haliyal, Yellapur, Joida, Mundgod, and Sirsi, as well as in Dharwad district. Maharashtra and Gujarat too have some Siddis, and they are also found in Pakistan.
“The theme song of the People’s Party of Pakistan is a Siddi song,” said KSN Chikkerur, ADGP in charge of the Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcements