C Vinod, a member of the Cholanaikkan tribe, has made history by becoming the first member of his community to become a research student. He is also the first member of his community to gain higher education. He is pursuing a PhD in Economics under Professor PK Baby at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). Vinod has an MPhil in Applied Economics from the same department. He is currently focusing on the Cholanaikkan and Kattunaikan communities. Vinod is the son of Mannalla Chellan and Vijaya, who are from Karulai’s Mancheeri Colony in the Nilambur Taluk of Malappuram district.
The Cholanaikkan community is one of the oldest ethnic groups in Asia, and possibly the last cave-dwelling community in South Asia. They are a reclusive community that rarely interacts with mainstream community, even though the dynamic is slowly changing. Almost 20 years ago, a team of researchers and forest officers under the leadership of KIRTADS (Kerala Institute for Research Training and Development Studies) Director N Viswanathan Nair went into the forest to impart education to the youngsters in the community. While they faced initial troubles, the team walked out of the forest with a few children — Vinod being one of them.
He finished his High School education with first-class from Indira Gandhi Memorial High School. Despite his achievement, he returned to his community and joined his family in collecting forest resources. However, forest officers and teachers visited his home and pulled him back into the world of education. He finished his Higher Secondary with good grades and got his Economics degree from Sri Vivekananda College.