Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
One of the many tribes I met in Rajasthan – the Gadaliyas – the Blacksmiths.
I have posted some images and an informed article by another blogger on nomadic tribe follows.
“Years ago, when modes of transport were not so developed, nomadic and de-notified tribes played a key role. They supplied goods & essential services, provided entertainement to society and carried news about events, cultures and people from one place to another.
These constitute around 8% of the total population of India, majority amongst them are in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra.
In Gujarat population of NT-DNT’s is more than 4 million.
Out of the total 40 NT-DNT communities, 28 have been listed as nomadic while 12 are recognized as “de-notified”. The term ‘de-notified is used b’coz these communities were notified as “criminal Tribes” during pre-independence and in 1952 were “de-notified”.
At one time, these communities were well respected and recognized for their skills and services.
One group from NT-DNTs was engaged in entertainment like Bhawaiyya, Nat, Bhand, Bharathari, Turi, and were always welcomed by the villages, and were given place in the village temple for their residence.
When communities used to leave the village after a week or two, villagers used to offer money, donations towards their services.
During the king’s rule, these communities were given shelter by the ruler. Old documents cite examples of Village Panchayat allotting land for these communities.
Another group of NT-DNTs communities were providing various essential services to the society.
These were Vaansphoda, Kangasiya, Saraniya, Gadaliya, Vaghri, Salatghera, Chamtha, Raval etc. For example, iron tools/implements required by farmers in farming were supplied by Gadaliya, and Saraniya. Saraniya also use to sharpen the knives and axes. Gadaliya were also selling ox to farmers.
Kangasiya use to make ‘wooden comb’ and use to sell it in villages. Vaansphoda use to make large baskets out of bamboo, Ghantiya community use to make hand-mill of stone. In absence of modern tools, electronic equipments these services and service providers were of great importance to the society.
There are incidences cited in literature where in the mid of agriculture -season if farmer has lost his ox, Gadaliya-Vanzara had given an ox with oral promise of getting money once the crop is harvested. Villages never banned NTs to put their settlement –‘Danga’ outside village. Harmonious relations are seen between the village society and NTs during those days.
These communities living nomadic life for centuries want to settle down, but not much co-operation is seen from the villages.
During pre-independence time, De-notified communities were engaged by the ‘kingdom’ to create nuisance, and unrest in the neighboring states.
In 1871 British rule declared 200 such communities as ‘notified criminal’. A special act was framed by the British named Criminal Tribes Act 1871. As per this act, even newly born baby in notified criminal communities were considered as ‘criminal by birth’. Every adult member of Notified criminal communities was compelled to give her/his attendance in the nearest police stations. In some places they were imprisoned. Thus, these communities slowly were detached from the society. They had to face cruelty and injustice from police, administration and rulers. So much so that, India was independent in 1947, and Criminal tribes Act was abolished in 1952. The police watch from their settlements was removed. Communities were then termed as “De- notified”.
Today India has completed 60 years of its independence, still Dafer community has to go and give their details to the nearest police station before they make an agreement with the village for crop protection, which is their only occupation now. Police has found to be misusing this details and records. Many a times DNTs are charged forum-detected crimes. Police visits their settlement Danga as it is locally known as) for investigation, arrest the male members, female members are beaten up and Danga is put on fire. As on today, many such innocent DNTs are in jails.
In olden days, farmers use to give part of their produce, after harvesting season to NT-DNTS. It was considered as part of social responsibility and cost of the services provided by them. This tradition has vanished with time. Due to nomadic nature of life, children are left without education. Considerable population is still not settled and is not considered as part of village or city.
The situation repeats in context with many other communities like Saraniya, Kanagasiya and many others. There is no need of Saraniya community for sharpening the knives, as we prefer to purchase the new one in 5-10 rupees. Agriculture is mechanized leaving no requirement of Gadaliya supplying ox. We prefer to use plastic baskets and containers as they are cheap, handy and durable thus bamboo baskets are no more required or purchased. Plastic combs are available for Rs.2 onwards, so there is no place for Kangasiya to sell their wooden combs. We prefer to either buy ready-made flour or go the flour-mill with wheat. Thus occupation of making ‘hand-mill’ is irrelevant as on today. NT-DNTs lost their occupation. It is also a loss of skill, culture, history this community carry with them. But the worst part is, they were not given other options, skill, and opportunities to cope up with this loss.
Due to nomadic nature of life community didn’t get benefit of welfare schemes or development programmes as that of the mainstream society. During monsoon season NT-DNTs stay at one particular place, which remained fixed for years. But still communities do not get ‘Address’ as residence of that particular village. Thus they will not get residence proof, no ration cards, no voter’s id, no benefit of Public distribution system, Indira Awas housing scheme, no admission in the school and this goes on……
With no house………no education……. no ration cards…. No voting rights…….Nomadic and de-notified Tribes of invisible in the glamorous and most visible state like Gujarat.