Fellow Since 2002
This profile was prepared when K.A. Thomas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Fr. Thomas is working to reverse the sequence of neglect, decay, and rebellion that has stymied the peace and prosperity of Northeast India's minorities. He is helping the Misingwho number one million and live in eight districts of the plains of Upper Assamto resist the social pressures of their region and to find positive, peaceful solutions to the many problems they face. Working with young people, intellectuals, traditional leaders, village women, and school dropouts, Fr. Thomas helps Misings develop a stake in public life through community-building exercises. The goal is to root the Misings in their rich traditions and cultural ethos so that they are not threatened by other cultures in the region. While galvanizing this community toward action, Fr. Thomas is also showing the church and other social organizations a new way of working. Stepping out of the traditional mode of community service through schools, which mostly benefit the elite, Fr. Thomas is demonstrating a model of engaging the poorest of the poor. By inspiring other dynamic priests and liberal individuals to follow this model in other communities, Fr. Thomas hopes to replicate his idea beyond the Mising tribe and reach out to other marginalized groups. Once there are a sufficient number of individuals who have demonstrated the success and feasibility of organizing poor communities on the symbols of their own culture, the church will likely take notice of this working model.