I have received your letter, dated nill and noted the contents of your misguided feelings with absolutely wrong notions. Any way I would like to reply the same as below, being president of AIBSS, representing 6 Crore Banjaras of the country (including Uttar Pradesh Banjaras).
The issue raised by you, in your letter, is plaguing Uttar Pradesh Banjaras (a microscopic minority of Banjaras) for the past 55 years, without any historical, anthropological, social studies and scientific base. But they are all with a false ego and notions, that we are pure Rajputs, Kshatriyas and Thakurs etc. Hence you are saying that you do not want to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes of the Constitution of India. Anyway to bring the real picture and ground realities before the people of Nation’s Banjaras, as well as readers of “Bharat Banjara” a bilingual fornightly organ of AIBSS, I have decided to publish your letter, as it is in “Bharat Banjara” . Also publish this reply letter, for the benefit of vast majority Banjaras of the country, particularly for the benefit of Banjaras of U.P. Therefore, I have reproduced your letter as it is (though it is with faulty English), but also I have published the corrected version of your letter, so as to make our reader understand what exactly you wanted to convey on the subject matter. Because through these publications I want to collect the correct public opinions and and people’s reactions on your letter and also on my analytical reply.
Since I took over as President of AIBSS on 10.05.1998, I have extensively toured in all the 26 states, Union Territories and 5 Mega Cities (namely Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Indore and Mumbai), where Banjara population exists, covering a distance of about 2 Lac KM., by Air, Road, and Railway. In this period of my tenure of four years and three months as a President, I could gather, throughout the countrythat 99 % of Banjaras (including UP Banjaras) have not objected for including Banjaras of the left off (balance) States, in the list of Scheduled Tribes of the Constitution of India. Because this is a fundamental right of Banjaras and such weaker sections to be in the list of S.T. of Constitution of India, as they posses all the criterias of Tribes. As per the aspirations of our people and it has also been resolved in every State conference and General Body meetings of AIBSS to approach Government of India, respective State Governments and such concerned authorities to put all out efforts to get the inclusion of Banjaras, as Main Tribe, along with its 31 synonyms and 12 subcastes in the list of S.T. in the Constitution of India. Therefore, AIBSS is working tirelessly to achieve these objectives. As such I cannot go against the interest and aspirations of our people, 6 Crore of them, whom I represent as a President of AIBSS.
Perhaps you might not be having the knowledge, that because of the special Constitutional reservations, Karnataka State Banjaras have benefited in a big way, in socio-economic, educational and political fields. Karnataka State Banjara had reached very high levels in education, employment and in politics in these 55 years of Independence of India. Karnataka Banjaras are very much ahead of UP and other Northern State Banjaras. Since Northern State Banjaras do not have any Constitutional privileges and protections for the last 55 years of Independence, they have remained educationally and economically very weak.
For your knowledge I would like to give some statistics that in Karnataka, there are nearly 2000 Doctors and 3000 Engineers, about 15 IAS officers (retired as well as presently serving). There are nothing less than 10,00 School Teachers, Professors, among them there are 10 Ph.D. holders of various subjects. There is also one Dr. Thakar Naik, who became Dean of Mysore Medical (one of the oldest medical colleges of Old Mysore State). This medical college was started by the then Mysore Maharaja and nearly for 70 years it was headed only by upper castes. There were 6 Members of Representative Assembly (MRAs) of the then Old Mysore State (for 20 years, in the then Mysore State). There was one Late Shri L. R. Naik became Trade Commissioner of Karnataka State, in London and later on he became M.P. There was a Karnataka Cabinet Minister and KPCC President in the form of Late Shri K.T.Rathod. As on date there is one Minister of State in Karnataka. Since Independence of the country Karnataka State always had 3 to 5 MLAs in every Legislative Assembly Constituted. There were also ministers in every cabinet formation in the state. This could be possible only because, Karnataka State Banjaras/Lambanis were in Depressed Class List, right from Mysore Maharaja’s time i.e. since 1930s. Mysore Maharaja gave special benefits to the Depressed Classes his State. Banjaras/ Lambanis were one amongst them.
After Independence and formation of Karnataka State Banjaras/Lambanis were brought in the list of Scheduled Castes. Therefore they made the rapid progress, since Independence of the country, due to special reservations and and benefits given to them in the Constitution, as Scheduled Caste. Because of socio-economic, educational, political development and reaching to high position in administration by Karnataka Banjaras, they are enjoying good social status among all other population of upper caste and rich people. Nobody dare to look down or ill-treat them by being in S.C. list. Similarly other communities, which are in scheduled castes list, also enjoy the same status and respect, socially and politically.
Then coming to Andhra Pradesh, Banjaras being in Scheduled Tribes List of the Constitution Of India, they have also developed second to Karnataka State. Because of Scheduled Tribes status, they have special reservations and Constitutional privileges in socio-economic and political fields. Today you can see hundreds of Medical and Engineering Graduates, Professors and Scholars in Banjara Community. Since Independence, in every election of Legislative Assembly, one can see 3 to 5 MLAs getting elected in every Assembly of the State. Shri G. Swami Naik and Chandulal Ajmera (Vadatiya) were Member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh. Similarly there has been always one minister in any cabinet formed in Andhra Pradesh. I personally (Ranjit Naik) got benefit of S.T. and could prsue my studies in Mumbai, as Bechelor of Architect, as early as in 1956. Today I have become, leading private practicing Architect in Mumbai, which has very high competition in Mumbai mostly from rich upper castes. Because of which I have economically and socially improved and have become resourcefull. Also became enlightened, hence I could head All India Banjara Seva Sangh and serve the Banjaras of the country.
Then coming to Maharashtra State, which stands third in the country, in the field of education and employment next to Andhra Pradesh. But Maharashtra stands first in the field of politics. Because Maharashtra had a special benefit and reservation of 4 percent at state level, as denotified Tribes, which was brought during the regime of Late Shri V. P. Naik, as Chief Minister. Because of this previlege and benefit given to Banjaras of Maharashtra, they have made quite good progress in education, social and economical fields.
At the same time do not forget that Late Shri V. p. Naik proudly used to call himself, Banjara and a De-Notified Tribe’s Man. Even then he governed Maharashtra State, nearly 12 years, as Chief Minister and another 12 year as Agriculture and Revenue Minister etc. He was the one of the best and well respected leader and most successful Chief Minister of Maharashtra State. Nobody looked him down, because he called himself a Banjara or De-notified Tribe (Ex-Criminal Tribe). Even today Mumbai’s upper castes and rich class people remember him, like any other upper castes leader of the state and talk very high about his rule, administration and leadership, as chief Minister of Maharashtra.
It is my personal experience, in Mumbai, that I proudly tell my rich class and upper caste clients that I am a Banjara by caste, even then they give me respect and treatment, and have taken my services as Architect to build their ‘Vaastus’ and Crores of Rupees complexes on my advises. In my experience of 40 years as practicing architect, in Mumbai I never felt or experienced caste or class discriminations in Mumbai.
Therefore friends, since the time Banjaras lost their traditional and centuries old vocation of transportation (“Ladeni”), on pack bullocks , mules and camels after British conquered and ruled India, for nearly 150 years, our socio-economic position became very weak. Rather we became paupers. It is a historical fact that we resorted to petty criminalities for survival. How can we deny that, because of which Britishers categorized us as ‘Criminal Tribes’ and did put us in the list of Criminal Tribes as per Criminal Tribes Act (C.T. Act) of 1871. Our forefathers did suffer humiliation and torture under ‘Criminal Tribes Act 1871’, for 130 years. UP Banjaras are not exceptions to that. You can see in Criminal Tribes Act Notification list that Banjaras are one of the communities with many other communities, which have been listed as Criminal Tribe.
Momentarily for argument sake if I agree with you that Banjaras are pure Rajputs, can any Rajput, Thakur and Kshatriya of Rajasthan or UP will do any ‘Roti’, ‘Beti’ (Food and Matrimony) “Vyavahar” (dealings) with Banjaras? Do these real and original Thakurs, Kshatriyas and Rajputs accept Banjaras as their clan and offer their daughter in the marriage to Banjara boys? Can they eat in the same ‘Thali’ (Plate)? Therefore young friend, I say that it is only a false notion, unproductive and destructive Ego-Hang-ups like you and few Banjara misguided people suffer from such complexes. Also these are unrealistic ego hang-ups, inspite of the fact that Rajputs, Thakurs, Kshartriyas do not accept Banjaras as part of their clan, even 1 percent on par with them. Will that suffix and affix of Rajputs, Thakurs and Kshatriyas, can lead us anywhere in socio-economic, educational and political development? Unless and otherwise Banjaras take shelter and benefit under special constitutional protections as SCs and ST, we can never improve and develop. We are too weak in all respects and handicapped, to compete with other upper castes and classes. Not even with OBCs. Hence we cannot stand on our own legs and rise with our meager resources and strength. So we need Creeches, like handicapped persons, in the form of Constitutional protections. One can see with open eyes, the progress made by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra States Banjaras, because of constitutional privileges and protections, which they had for the last 55 years. Now they are enjoying very good reputation because of their socio-economic, educational and political developments and status. Not because they falsely and notionally called themselves as Rajputs, Thakur and Kshatriyas.
No doubt Banjaras originated from Rajasthan and they speak Banjara Boli (dialect), akin to Rajasthan Boli, with ad-mixture of Hindi and Gujarati vocabulary. Naturally Banjaras have adopted the surnames of Rajputs, like Rathods, Pamahar, Yadavs, Chouhans, Turis and Mushals etc. If you go to Rajasthan, the Rajput surnames are even found amongst Muslims, SCs and OBCs. Because of State/regional language and social influences on them. Similarly if you go to Andhra Pradesh, many urbanized or assimilated Banjara adds to their names the surnames like Reddy, Aiah, Appa and Rao. So also in Karnataka they add to their names the surnames Appa and Rao, like upper caste people. That does not mean, Banjaras of these States belong to Reddy, Appa, Aiah and Rao communities. It is nothing but foolishness to have such unproductive and false ego hang-ups and complexes. Except in U.P. (that too few of them), no other state Banjara have these types foolish and of false notions, ego hang-ups and complexes.
Therefore young friend, come to ground reality and realize that we are weak, lame, economically backward, socially looked down, and politically nowhere in Northern India, in comparison Southern Banjaras. Therefore we have no other alternative than taking Constitutional special privileges, which is our fundamental right, as we have all characteristics of Tribes. Most importantly we have been in the list of Criminal Tribes for the past 130 years. Are you going to wipe off this historical fact? So we Northern India Banjaras have improve in all sphere of life, like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra Banjaras have done, as such let us take the shelter of Constitutional protection.
Is it a crime to share political power along with ruling upper castes? Remember Bharat Ratna Shri Baba Saheb Ambedkar has advised to all weaker sections of India to capture the power at any cost. Without which we cannot progress speedily, at the mercy of upper castes and classes. One can see the impact of BSP rule in U.P. under the leadership of Kanshiram Ji and Ms. Mayawati. So young friend, if do not understand the changed times, then U.P. Banjaras will remain remain eternally behind all other States. Because of Prof. Pritam Singh Nirmal and his type of creed, in U.P., have already done enough damage to U.P. Banjaras, with their foolish ego hang-ups, false complexes, they have destroyed whole community in U.P. State, due to their misguided notions and false egoistic approaches. They are only so called educated (only Lettered) leaders, without any following and positive contribution to the community. We want to pose a question to Prof. Pritam Singh Nirmal, What is his contribution towards the socio-economic and educational development in U.P. Banjaras, in his lifespan of 75 years except improving himself and his family members (self-centered)? This negative and destructive approach of Shri Pritam Singh Nirmal has been doing since 1953, i.e. First Conference of All India Banjara Seva Sangh, at Digras, District Yevatmal, Maharashtra. So U.P. State Banjaras have remained so poor and illiterate, inspite of 55 years Independence. Because of these one or two selfish, self-centered and false egoist leaders do not fall prey to such rank selfish and foolish people and keep U.P. Banjaras perpetually backward and illiterate and poor.
With these statements of my opinion and on behalf of AIBSS, I pray God to put some reasoning and good sense in you and other misguided young friends and realize the ground realities of life and fall in main stream of Banjaras of Southern States. Thanking you,
ALL INDIA BANJARA SEVA SANGH (AIBSS)
SANT SHREE SEVADAS MAHARAJ MEMORIAL TRUST, SEVAGAD