Cultural Mapping of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities

Internal, DNTX

Denotified and Nomadic Tribes/Communities (DNTs) are the most marginalized social groups in Indian society. A total of 126, presently estimated to be 150, tribes/communities, were labelled and listed as 'Criminal Tribes' by the colonial British government through various legislations, beginning with the 'Criminal Tribes Act' of 1871. On the recommendations of various statutory bodies appointed by the Government of India after independence, the 'Criminal Tribes Act' was repealed in 1952. However, the apprehension that their free movement may cause 'nuisance' led to the enactment of the ' Habitual Offender Act' under which these communities continued to be under a highly 'biased’ surveillance until very recently. The stereotypes and stigma engrained in the general view, for nearly five decades after independence, denied these communities access to any meaningful citizenship rights and they had practically no access to land, education, livelihood, healthcare, and human rights.

On the appeal of DNT Rights Action Group, the Government of India appointed the National Commission for the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities in 2005. In order to advice this commission, a study has been brought out, under the guidance of Dr. Ganesh Devy, to provide information related to the cultural expressions such as language, performance traditions, art forms, music, dance, and festivals of these communities. To study and analyse the intangible heritage components of these communities, and their co-relation to their livelihoods, this project was undertaken by Prof. Devy and the Dharwad Chapter of INTACH. The communities studied include the Lambada, Seharia, Banjara, Gondhali, Doombari, Potraj, Nathpanthi, Nandi, Pardhi, Ghisadi-Lohar, Bahuroopi, and Vasudev.