Ambiguous Citizenship: The Siddis of Uttara Kannada, India

Mark Sebastian Pinto (
Departamento de Ciência Política e Políticas Públicas, Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas, ISCTE-IUL
December, 2017


The Siddis (African-Indians) of Uttara Kannada, in India are believed to have been brought to Goa, Daman and Diu by the Portuguese during the years of the slave trade. The Siddi community is now largely concentrated in Uttara Kannada district, neighboring Goa.This thesis is a study of this community of African-Indians. It describes and discusses, mostly in aspects related to the Scheduled Tribe status, the problem of reservations, education, language and occupation of the Siddis. Issues of citizenship and national belonging, social and political agency inevitably impose themselves to the analysis. This study attempts to understand how the Siddis have been living in obscurity for nearly five centuries. In India's complex hierarchy of castes and tribes, the Siddis are classified as a tribe or adivasis. In 2003, the Siddis of Uttara Kannada were granted the much coveted (in the Indian context) Scheduled Tribe status, which provides them reservations and representation to a large extent. The concession and enforcement of the Scheduled Tribe status has been contentious and fraught with controversy. While well intention-ed, most of the schemes are flawed and not properly enforced which leaves the Siddis in a difficult predicament.