The endogamous marriage system practiced by members of Toto tribe in West Bengal may lead to the extinction of their clan since the children are reportedly born with several genetic defects.
Members of the Toto tribe, who happen to belong to the most isolated indigenous communities in the country, are slowly becoming extinct due to their endogamous system of marriage.
A good number of these families reside at Totopara, a village in the north Bengal region near the Indo-Bhutan border.
Their conventional system lets conjugal relationship between cousins and such practices have created problems in their society since the children are born with deformities.
A majority of the children born out of the prevailing wedlock among the Totos are prone to genetic disease of Thalassemia, in which blood is not manufactured by the bonemarrow, forcing the affected persons to undergo periodical transfusions every fortnight for the rest of their lives so as to survive.
The wise among the Toto tribals are concerned about their declining numbers and they have lent a serious thought to their traditional endogamous marriage custom.
"The rituals are one of the most unique types which we have inherited from our ancestors. The way of marriage is also a peculiar. Though we practice the Hindu religious faith, our way of giving offerings and the marriage life are different from the conventional ones. We don't have casteism and dowry system prevalent in our society. We suppose an early marriage life is ideal, which we call living together and this helps our couples to know each other more properly before the final bonding. We are married within our families, especially among our cousins. But for a while, we have noticed that the off-springs of these couples after marriage are affected with the deadly disease of Thalassemia due to some genetic problems. We want to stop this tradition so as to come out of this predicament," said Dhaniram Toto, chief of the Totopara village.
The Totos are generally divided into 13 other various downstream clans and they reside in the regions of north West Bengal bordering with Bhutan and Assam.
2010-03-10 / ANI