Jai Bhim everyone,
Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNT) are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in India. They are commonly known as wandering communities because they move from one place to another in search of livelihood. Because of their wandering traditions, DNTs do not have any permanent residence and live their lives in the commons. By using nomadism as an excuse, states have kept them away from developmental benefits, or rather, when policies are designed they don’t even take into consideration the lifestyle of Nomadic communities. Humiliation, disrespect and an undignified life are their daily reality.
With the objective of establishing control over nomadic groups resisting the British Indian authorities, the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA), 1871 ostensibly labelled almost 200 tribal groups as “born criminals”. The Britishers viewed criminality through the lens of the pervasive caste system and thus interpreted crime as an inheritable occupation. After India’s independence, this brutal Act was repealed in 1952 but was replaced with the Habitual Offenders Act, 1952, which was a de facto continuation of the CTA, 1871. Despite being “De-notified,” these groups continue to face severe discrimination and ostracism. They are still perceived as inferior and as social outcasts by upper caste villagers, unduly harassed and stigmatized by the police and enforcement officials, and are ignored by the Indian State.
It’s been 75 years since the formation of India as a republic but nomadic and denotified communities, the vimukta jaati and janjaati, are still treated as criminals. In Indian villages, if any theft happens, the police directly target the NT and DNT communities and incarcerate them without investigation. Indian jails are filled with these innocent people struggling with fabricated cases against them. What happens to their families and especially children? These children live the lives of orphans even when their parents are alive. Most of them have to depend on begging or child labour for survival.
Sunita Bhosale, a prominent activist from Maharashtra is one of the members of the community who has been experiencing this harsh reality. From the very young of 13, she decided to fight against the stigma of criminality, historical injustice, casteism and daily atrocities. She is following the path of Dr Ambedkar and trying to bring the children from the communities into the flow of education. She has been working extensively for the last 8 years by admitting the NT and DNT children in schools. However during Covid lockdown, these families and children struggled for mere survival. Most of the children had to drop out from the school.
Sunita tai has now decided that she would instead build a hostel for these children from oppressed communities on her family land in Ambale village of Shirur taluka, Pune, to ensure that their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter could be fulfilled and they could focus on education. She is planning to admit these children in the nearby Zilha Parishad school. This hostel will cater to 100 children from the age of 6 to 18. Sunita tai has a small plot of land but she lacks money and shortage of other resources are also a hurdle in the way of her dream of building a home for these children. We appeal to all like-minded people to please come forward and support Sunita tai’s dream. Along with funding support, we expect support from engineers, architects, designers, teachers, psychologists and doctors from the anti caste communities. We need support in budgeting, planning and designing. Any kind of other help and new ideas related to construction are also welcome.
We are enclosing a form (at the end of this appeal) to join your hands and efforts. In this form, you can mention what type of support: monetary (and/or in planning, designing, executing and support in managing the hostel) you are willing to offer to realize this very pertinent and groundbreaking foundational work to increase the educational attainment of children of NT and DNT and other oppressed caste communities.
To know more you can contact Sunita Bhosale on this number: 9527238688, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arati Kade is a PhD scholar at University of Amsterdam.