Members of the “semi-nomadic” Kalbelia community of performers: Having nowhere to go – Rajasthan

Sunny Sebastian, The Hindu, JAIPUR, August 12, 2011

Social activists and policy planners got together here the other day to listen to the woes of the Kalbelia community, better known by the folk dance form named after it, at a jan sunwai or public hearing. A nomadic community, also referred to as saperas or snake charmers, jogis and nats – going by their respective modes of livelihood – which over a period has turned “semi-nomadic” with a “nowhere to go” predicament now, has no takers in Rajasthan and elsewhere as they don’t count numerically and for the same reason politically.

It was during a month-long dharna early this year by Soochana Aur Rozgar Adhikar Ahbiyan activists here that the Kalbelias had surfaced, perhaps for the first time, at a public forum, along with other nomadic tribes of the region, to vent their grievances. In Rajasthan, the concentration of Kalbelia population is in Barmer, Pali, Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara and Udaipur districts.

They were in their hundreds at the Udyog Maidan near Statue Circle here this past Tuesday – some with their snakes and beens (the wind instrument) and the women in their dancing attires. They were brought together by the Kalbelia Adhikar Manch. A distinguished panel which included Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, Communist Party of India leader Annie Raja, Planning Commission member Narendra Jhadav, former Bihar Chief Secretary K. B. Saxena and social activists Kavita Srivastava and Nisha Siddu first listened to them and later addressed them.

A study carried out in 55 Kalbelia settlements in Barmer district revealed that 81 per cent of them had to beg for subsistence and 86 per cent of them do not have any caste certificate to avail of the benefits offered by various government schemes. It was found that 95 per cent of the families lived outside the villages and 42 per cent of them did not have a place to bury their dead. The community continues to be a victim of untouchability as 72 per cent of those surveyed talked about barbers refusing to cut their hair. Eighty per cent of the Kalbelia families were found to be landless.

The Kalbelias, once listed among the “criminal tribes” by the British, continue to be treated by the police with suspicion. In July, a 36-year-old Shyamlal under Kelwa police station of Rajsamand district committed suicide after police used third degree methods to inquire about his brother-in-law who was charged with some offence. Now the community is demanding registration of a case against the sub-inspector of Kelwa and compensation to the family. […]

The Kalbelias are a deprived lot. They have no place to stay and even their dead are most often deprived of a proper repose. Their deras are away from the villages and they live in sub-human conditions,” said Ms. Roy, who later joined a delegation which submitted a memorandum to the Rajasthan Chief Minister.

Source: Activists lend voice to abandoned dancing tribe – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Fri Jun 28 2013 16:04:21 GMT+0200 (CEST)

A call for harnessing the potential of Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes for national development: “India’s labour force must be liberated from an abhorrent colonial doctrine (‘criminality by birth’)” – Report and Recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group | “Adivasi”, “Tribals” and “Denotified tribes” (classifications in different states) >>

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