The term ‘criminal tribe’ was introduced by the British in the legal system. It was definitely a racial profiling or clubbing of communities. It is not strange therefore most of the ‘criminal tribes’ were either Dalits, OBCs or aadivasis. Based on crime committed by one or two individuals, an entire community was placed as criminal tribe by the law which was like Manu’s law where communities used to get punished on the basis of their caste identities.
Though independent India denotified these tribes but the police manuals in India continue to behave on the basis of the old British pattern. Therefore whenever any incident happen rather than blaming the individuals, the police name the tribe as has committed the crime which is rather dangerous. How many times police mention the entire Brahmins, Thakurs, Jats or any other caste Hindu community as rapists, dacoits, murderers if one or two of their members are caught in such an act.In the modern times, we say, communities can not be blamed for individual acts.
The horrific and brutal rape of mother daughter duo on the Noida-Lucknow highway is reminder of the fact that women are not safe in india as they can not walk independently out of their choice. It is not an issue of Akhilesh Yadav or somebody else. Obviously, we think police should be everywhere to protect people which will never be possible as long as police is serving the political masters and still learn the feudal casteiest tricks to investigate the matter.
Immediately after the incident the police came to the conclusion that it was the Bawaria community’s work who are also called as ‘Kachcha baniyandhari giroh’. I am quite surprised as why communities are termed as like that. Stories are planted that the Bawarias ‘consider’ looting, raping, killing, dacoity as their ‘traditional’ work and they have been ‘criminal’ for centuries. This is th most atrocious argument against a community. They were definitely a hunting community and later went out of job as ‘forests’ became out of bound for people. Not for them, there were communities like Mushahars too who lost their habitats. There are so many nomadic communities and their life and work pattern was more modern than any other communities. Women enjoyed much more freedom in these communities. We have seen Banzaras, Nats and all of them face such charges. None of these communities are welcome in our villages.
Question is if they still believe in that thieving or looting is the ‘best’ option for them then we must understand that as a state India has failed to reach its most marginalised people. Who would love to steal and go for a kill when they know well that they will ultimately get killed. Why has the state of India not taken any specific initiative to empower them. Normally people say crime are not committed out of choice but out of a compelling need. Only those could be criminals out of choice whose actions of crime are not termed as crime like the Gaurakshaks of today or any gang masquerading as political one, beating up people and try to impose their ‘masculinity’ on an unwanted subject.
During the British period even the Gujjars were put into criminal tribe and they used to be blamed as ‘animal thieves’. Since Gujjars were ‘pashupalaks’, if any cows or buffalos got stolen from the family of a caste Hindu, the first thing that the police would do is, to look for Gujjaars in the locality and put them behind the bar without any proof. Mushahar faced the same. But today, the things are not the same and changed.
Why is this that the nomadic communities have not been rehabilitated or brought into mainstream of the nation. Its not about changing their’ culture’ but I cant believe and not ready to believe that an entire community could be blamed for theft or looting.
Frankly speaking all the nomads are the worst victims of the segregation based on caste. They are not accepted. Their women are considered cheap and sexually assaulted by the dominant communities. They are considered to be ‘easily available’. For their work, they dont get the money. I narrated the story a Nat and how they live. Even the children are compel to beg because we do not have left anything for them.
When communities are not accepted as larger part of society what will they do ? Whey they don’t get the minimum work to survive and a land to live and not allowed to live on land they legally buy, what do you accept. It is exclusion that compel many of them do commit crime but you cant blame an entire community for that. It is time we change our mindset that crime committed by a few individuals could be declared as crime by a community. Every day there are rapes, murders, loot and dacoity but how many of them are done by the Bawarias as a community ? In Delhi police used to arrest Sansis for many crimes which they never committed just on the basis of their ‘age old’ racist manual. It is time to change them.
We oppose profiling of people on the airport and security set up. But it is based on the same concept that if a few people of a community act on certain things then the entire community must be behaving in that way which is racist view of understanding a problem. Nomadic tribes are maltreated in India and have rarely been acceptable. They have been engaged in different work. It is time government take massive level honorable rehabilitation work of them along with education and other work so that they consider themselves part of society. India has not become a nation yet as we still live in segregation and isolation which compel people to commit crime. We are not defending any crime. We are not justifying any act here. My only point is don’t blame the entire community with the crime of a few thugs and criminals because criminals are everywhere and in each society and they must be brought to book. Obviously, the state’s police and law enforcing forces can not escape from the blame of not able to protect people.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com