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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Plight Of The De-notified Tribes : Part I

“I was raped by four persons including the Patil (village chief) of the village on my wedding night…my husband was severely beaten up & tied to a tree by ropes...we were crying, shouting…”, Jayashri Bhosale a woman of the Paardhi tribe in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra was telling me. Later, the next day her husband Kasturya & Jayashri went to the police station to file a complaint but there again…instead of filing her complaint, she was molested again by the police…again in front of her husband and when he tried to resist, he was booked under attempt to kill and was arrested…
Jayashri tried to plead her plight in the court and she told the judge that she was first gang-raped and later molested by the police but her complaint is not registered. She couldn’t afford a lawyer as he too had an eye on her flesh but even the judge did not listen to her cries & begging for justice… witnesses, evidences everything was managed and now Kasturya is serving a seven year term in Jail…
Their only fault was that they were born in the wrong tribe…something which was beyond their control. The Paardhi tribe was notified as one of the “Criminal Tribes” by the British way back in the 1871. Actually, Paardhis were an extremely brave tribe serving as the frontline soldiers with the kingdoms of the Peshwas, the Rajputs and the rulers of the central India. After losing the battle of the 1857, many of these tribes associated with the earlier Kingdoms had to disappear and take shelter in the Jungles. Many were arrested and hanged by the British and the rest were declared as “Criminal Tribes” through a notification. The arrested women & children were kept in concentration or settlement camps under vigilance. The “Criminal Tribes” were not allowed to be in any village for more than 72 hours and the village chiefs were ordered to report of their existence, possessions and movements to the Police.
So, throughout the Independence Movement which was stretched over a period of the next 90 years, these notified “Criminal Tribes” remained deprived of the basic rights, education, and any livelihood earning opportunities and most importantly remained deprived of the social acceptance. They had to wander in the jungles, depend on herbal medication (in which they became an expert) and live on the hunting of animals. And whenever they tried to cross the limits of their forced exile, they were beaten up, arrested, jailed or at times even killed by the so called civilized society but they kept on increasing in numbers for the lack of any family planning awareness or facilities available.
Today, they are estimated to be more than 12 crores plus in population spread across the country…this is nearly equal to the population of the United Kingdom but for us in India, they do not exist in the census, they do not exist in the voters list, they don’t have residence proofs, they can’t have ration cards, they do not get admissions in schools, they don’t have birth certificates and they don’t get death certificates also…but they still feel proud to be Indians and often their children are named like “congresshya”, “Tilak”, “Shivaji”, “Bharat”, “Laxmi”…
To be continued…

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