India’s denotified tribes demand a life of dignity

Denotified tribes of India DTI on wikipedia.

Published on OneWorld South Asia, by Manasi Singh, 20 August 2009.

Living in precarious conditions, India’s denotified and nomadic tribes are subject to maltreatment and abuse by all and sundry. Highlighting their inhuman existence, a convention held in the national capital brought together many of these floating communities to demand basic rights of food and shelter from the government.

New Delhi: They have no address, no landholdings, no citizenship documents – in fact, no identity proof of the usual sort available to other citizens. Their children remain out of school and the women struggle for dignity.  

Even after 62 years of independence, a large section of the country’s denotified tribes (DNTs) and communities continue to remain out of the census list, as they are not registered as primary residents. The last community-wise census of these tribes was done during the colonial rule in 1931.

Since then, only projections have been used to arrive at an estimate of their population. While some of these communities are classified as Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), others do not find mention in any of these categories.

To highlight the peculiar problems faced by these invisible communities and suggest measures to integrate them into the mainstream, a national convention was organised in New Delhi earlier this week by Lokdhara, a national alliance of denotified and nomadic tribes.

Banished: …

…Balkrishna Renke, ex-chairman of the Commission said: “It has been a year-and-a-half since the report was submitted, but no concrete action has been taken. These communities are still living a life of uncertainty. It’s a matter of great shame. This convention is an attempt to organise them on a common platform like this and urgently demand their right to dignity, water, health and education.”

“Illiteracy and lack of awareness have kept them away from the political arena”He pointed out that human rights of these communities were frequently violated and they remained the most marginalised, neglected, scattered and excluded from the society. Lack of identity and residential proofs do not allow them to come under the purview of various poverty alleviation programmes of the government.

Expressing discontent over benefits of development not reaching them, Jile Singh from Punjab said that even after over six decades of independence, the state of these communities has not seen any marked improvement. With no representation in Parliament, their demands often fail to gain a centre stage.

“Illiteracy and lack of awareness have kept them away from the political arena so far, therefore we demand that the government must urgently provide for their housing, education and skill development,” said Pallavi Renke. (full text).

Links:

Denotified Tribes on Shashwati Talukdar;

Branded by Law: Looking at Indias Denotified Tribes;

Badge of All Their Tribes;

National Commission for denotified, Nomadic & Semi-nomadic Tribes (Govt. of India) Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment;

Watch this video: Acting like a Thief, 15.13 min;

Chhara tribe, Chharanagar, Ahmedabad.

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