Vinay K Kumar & Mahesha J
As with indigenous groups the world over, India’s Adivasi communities, such as the Soliga of Karnataka, have historically used fire as part of their forest management strategies, until laws classified it as a ‘criminal’ offense. Mahesha and Vinay’s fellowship project will be aimed at understanding and documenting the practices and knowledge associated with “Taragu Benki”, a traditional practice of litter fire used by the Soligas, to support oral knowledge of the same.
Vinay, an engineer by training transitioned into many job roles within social organizations and schools before finding his way new path through the Coexistence Fellowship. In the past 2-3 years, Vinay immersed himself in studying the traditional fire practices of the Soliga Adivasi community in the Biligiri Rangana Hills.
Mahesha hails from the BRT Tiger Reserve area and identifies as a Soliga. Initially a trained microbiologist, he shifted from the corporate world to address the economic challenges of his community during the pandemic. As the CEO of the Biligiri Soligas Producer Company, he supported local farmers. His interest in the challenges caused by invasive lantana eventually led him to take on the role of a program coordinator at Shola Trust before the fellowship.