ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Our Own or the Enemy?

Another member of the denotified tribes was lynched to death in Maharashtra; how long will this continue?

For nearly 140 years, India’s nomadic and denotified tribes (NDTs) have carried the burden of being targeted as criminals, first by the colonial administration, and later, by the Indian law and order machinery. Incidents of members of these tribes being lynched or severely injured by mobs who suspect them of robbery have been common over the past few decades all over India. To a long line of such lynchings in Maharashtra comes news of another one in the Bhoom taluka of Osmanabad district in late December. Teenager Rakesh Pawar, a Padhi, was beaten to death and his mother and brother severely injured by a mob of 11 in Ulup village on suspicion of robbery. The Padhi family had come to a temple nearby to perform the last rites of a member of the family and a robbery in the vicinity around that time led to villagers attacking them. Maharashtra has an estimated five million members of NDTs. Not surprisingly, no political party has commented on Pawar’s death and neither has any NDT organisation come out strongly against it. This is somewhat surprising since the movement of the “bhatkya vimukta jaati”, as they are known, is considered to be the most active in Maharashtra.

Since a majority of the 150 million who belong to NDTs in India (nearly 1,500 nomadic and semi-nomadic and 198 denotified tribes) lack official documentation due to their itinerant and marginalised lifestyle, they are not considered a strong voters’ lobby. While there are a number of tribe-wise associations, there is no cohesive leadership that speaks on behalf of the NDTs collectively. Admittedly, leading a cohesive movement of the NDTs would be an extremely difficult task. In Maharashtra, it is perhaps the Banjara community among the NDTs that is the best organised.

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