The Author is an M.Com, MBA (Finance), gold medallist and PhD in Finance, working as Manager in Karnataka State Industrial Investment & Development Corporation Limited( KSIIDC), Bangalore.
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The history of the Banjara community goes back to about 500 years. It is ethnic nomadic sect, which has rich and cultural heritage. However, due to migrations, from place to place, region to region, they have lost their origin. As riddle goes, as “Rolling stones gathers no mass” They could not create wealth; they could not hold land and properties. Anyhow, some governments have recognized the socio-economic backwardness of the community, their contribution in pre-independence and post-independence of India, and offered constitutional relieves in the form of reservation in certain states. However, it is yet to reach the needy people. Therefore, a detailed study has been done to through a light on socio-economic issues in the Banjara community. Strategic suggestions have also been made here.
1. HISTORY OF BANJARA/GYPSY ACROSS THE GLOBE
The Banjara, Romani or Gypsy communities have its own beautiful history and cultural heritage on the globe. About 60 million Banjaras of India and about 40 million Romani / Gypsies of the world are living and have glorious history on the earth . Now, we know that the Romani Gypsies, Lambanis and Banjara’s history is the same brotherhood; we must give hand by hand and defend each other in India and all over the world . The framework of indo-Romany historical and cultural research project should be laid down on the following axis and horizons like origin, religion, rituals, mythology, music, social psychology, profession, cultural exchanges etc. For almost five hundred years after they appeared in Europe in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, Europeans were asking that where they romanis had come from. By then, the Roma people had almost forgotten their origin, in North-central India although some Roma did tell Italians who asked them in the Italians City states in the 15th century. Romani gypsies asked themselves that how do we know that when we left India? Europeans scholars often maintain they left different times as mush as 500 years ago. The romani language is a sister language of a group of Sanskrit based languages such as Rajasthani, Hindi, Gujarathi, Bengali, etc., thus there is no doubt that the ancestors left India in the 11th century. Now the deep concern is that the Romani language, culture and heritage is rapidly extinguishing in European countries. These romani gypsies are treated as harijans of Europeans who mostly settled in Hungary and other regions. Therefore, Roma must write Romani history and it is to be hoped that the young generation of Roma today in many countries who are becoming educated to be collectively pursue their origins and history until the non-roma mythology is demolished and the true story of the Roma is established.
If we scan the history, we the Banjaras have served many princely States and Rulers in the sub-continent. It is evident that before the independence and post independence of India, the community had engaged in trading and transportation of food grains, arms and ammunitions and essential commodities from one region to another. On review of profound literatures, we find many understandings on development of banjara community. However, there is no change in basic instinct. Before the independence, there were no sufficient transportation facilities in India like trains, roads, automobiles etc., the established societies have had to depend upon the Banjara communities itself for supply of goods through pack bullocks, mules and camels, bullock carts etc., to do the honorable social work, they were moving from place to place day in and day out to reach out all corners of the country for supply of the essential commodities. Due to non-availability of instant shelters, they moved nearby villages or hill stations, remote areas etc. Over a period, they tried to settle down wherever they are.
Another historical fact is that we were the people who fled deep in the forest and the mountainous areas and in river valley to resist the forcefully conversion by alien religions during Moghul period. Shering(1974) says that the lambanis are sellers of firewood, carriers and dealers of grains, salt and cattle. Thus it became a biggest nomadic ethnic group across the country carrying same language, traditions, costumes mindsets, etc.,. However, subsequently, the British came for trade through East India company, entered the rich nation and looted natural recourses gradually, they neglected the meritorious service of banjaras. This community became a potential competitor in their trade and commerce. So British banned the movement of Banjara caravans, in the 19th century by enactment of Criminal Tribes Act 1871. In due course of time, they treated us under the Act and ruined the age-old vocational trade and transportation system by replacing trains and automobiles in the country. In the life and history of the Banjaras of the country, there was bad patch of a period of about 150 years, a down fall and virtual destruction during the Brithish Trade and Raj. This stigma brought under the purview of Criminal Tribes Act 1871 till 1952. Therefore they were looked down in the eyes of the general society as criminals. We the so-called ex-criminal, De-notified and nomadic tribes also fought for the independence of the nation and the very same people are now denied the benefits of the Independent India.
With the coming of British rulers in India as Scholars, officials, traders and so on, they found out the honesty and praiseworthy character of the Lambanis as transporters of goods at he time of both peace and war. During the peacetime, lambanis traded with general population in grain, salt, coconut, spices and so on . When the Moghul army invaded southern India it had to face severe difficulties due to bad communications and lack of transport. In this respect Banjaras were of great help to them. With their pack bullocks they could move fast and could quickly supply rations and other necessaries to the army . Another views is that after the demise of Ranapratapsingh, the banjara community people moved from north India to southern parts like, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhyapradesh and Karnataka, they migrated through the traditional business of transportation of arms, ammunitions, foods and essential commodities to the war groups and general public. Hence we may find these ethnic groups in said parts of states.
In Indian tribes, banjara-lambani community has its own cultural heritage, history and traditions. However, due to influence of western cultrate or urban culture, it is loosing its foot in the society . Once upon a time, in Karnatakak, Maharashtra, and Andhra pradesh, the banjara community is nomadic ethic tribes migrated and settled in wherever, they moved in and accustomed to nearby rural life. The speciality of the community is that though they are living among the related state’s culture, they don’t give up their traditional culture .
2. SOCIO-ECONOMIC ISSUES OF BANJARA
India is a union of welfare states. It becomes the duty of government to uplift thee needy, downtrodden and exploited sections of the community. Banjaras are aboriginals of this land. Hence should they be uplifted, protected and removed from the present distress. As per the 1991 census , Karnataka state has a population of 4,49,77,201. Out of which, 73,79,279 are scheduled caste (16.38%). And 8,23,505 people are Lambanis/Banjaras representing at 11.17% of SC/ST. But it is roughly estimated that we may be more than 25 lakhs in the state. Because our community is nomadic, working and young people move in search of jobs from place to place. Only age-old parents are available in tandas at the time census. Hence there is no proper assessment either by 2001 census or from the Justice Sadashiva committee report. In almost all districts of Karnataka, Lambanis have settled down in tandas isolated from towns and villages. The Constitution of India does not differentiate between rights of men and women. However, due to our own inherent issues like low literacy rate and income in banjara women, living in remote areas or tandas, economic problems, the custom of female infanticide is rising. This cruel demeaning system should be stopped and women have responsibility to avoid this animal instinct. In all these 60 years of independent India, our misfortunate fate is that no proper cognizance has been taken by any of the governments either at State or Central level. Only at the time of elections, they will search for our tandas for vote banks and disappear till the next elections. In almost all depiction of cultural heritage of India, the pose of Banjara woman will stand first. But it is regrettable to note that in case of non-development and exploitations she is the first.
It is proud to note that in a memorandum dated 31.1.2004 submitted to AICC president, it has been requested to advise the government of India for creating a THIRD SCHEDULE, in the Constitution of India, specially for these 150 and odd De-notified and Nomadic Tribes of India to modifying Article 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India. Second major demand of AIBSS is that to help us in getting Banjara language to be included in 8th Schedule of Constitution of India. When Tulu, Persian and Panjabi language have considered for due recognition, why not ours as GORE BOLI (Banjara language) which is spoken by 6 crores Banjara (31 synonyms and 12 sub-castes) in 26 states and 5 mega cities be included in the 8th schedule of the constitution . Thanks to late Ranjit Naik who made it reality to reach the central government. However, the result is yet take shape. We have to unitedly follow force the respective governments for speedy implementations.
A landmark report of L.G. Havanur for Backward Class Commission in 1975 has dealt with in detail about the nomadic and criminal tribes. The Lambanis also has a place in the report. Whatever provisions and recommendations were made for the upliftment of nomadic and criminal by Havanur has reached the Lambanis . It is known to every one that banjaraas are backward educationally, economically and socially. Union and state governments have rightly considered their sacrifice in the independence of India, their contribution to the nation, have noticed their poor socio-economic conditions across the nation and provided many facilities to improve our standards. We must utilize these facilities properly. But shall we expect these facilities permanently? Where is guarantee that these constitutional perks are available in future? There is a demand (cry) from many quarters that banjara community must be removed or expelled from the list of scheduled caste, as they are not untouchables. If we see the real economic conditions of banjara people in tandas, it is worst then reality. It is worst than untouchables even after 60 years of independence. Many youths in tandas are engaged in unlawful and criminal activities due to non-availability of proper education, employment opportunities. Therefore it is inevitable that we must cultivate the habit of improving ourselves and learn to stand on our own legs. For this every one of the samaaj especially those who have already utilized these facilities had have become economically sound, must contribute for the uplift of those who have remained illiterate and poor. Towards this, we must build strong organizations; we must improve the standards of poor and illiterates. These organizations must work for the uplift of the society. The formation of associations is good sign of development, organizations at all regional level, but I see a large number of sanghas and organizations where the funds obtained from governments and public are misused fro the benefit of self-centered and selfish individuals. These must be stopped. It is highly appreciated that student associations and banjarainfo.com in Dharwad has invited many eminent research scholars, policy makers, stakeholder and organizing a national level seminar to address the issues of banjaras on its own. I wish to state that we must hold conferences and seminars at district, state and national level to awaken the people. We must explain the and teach the ignorant lot of our people about the facilities available from various government. Educated and knowledgeable elders, officers, youths, and politicians must come forward for these purpose, and raise necessary funds. Every one must contribute funds for these propose. Many of us have got benefits in the name of the community and have become affordable. It is responsibility of everyone of the community to contribute for the upliftment of the community. However, it is regrettable to state that many such persons, who are vastly benefited, hesitate to contribute for such good purposes. My sincere request to one all is to work towards this goal of upliftment of our poor and backward community.
3. THE WAY FORWARD
We find that Lambanis are backward and rehabilitation and reformation are required. No doubt the government is already trying to rehabilitate and reform lambanis, However, it is felt that this improvement is reaching only a few and large sections of the population of lambanis are still backward. Alcoholism and preparation of illicit liquor trade taken up by the Lambanis has led them to feuds , quarrels and criminal activities. It is the urgent need and duty of the government and social service agencies to improve the really poor , weaker and backward people of the community. All thandas and hamlets to be treated as revenue villages so that they can get the benefits of government schemes for the development of infrastructure facilities. Most of the Lambanis are not getting benefits from SC/ST Development Corporation. The government should set up a separate Banjara Thanda Development Corporation. Encourage through educational facilities to reach the girls of Banjara. To develop the cottage industry for banjara community. To give reservation based on the population of banjara. Due to urbanization, the rich cultural heritage, language, traditional costumes are extinguishing. To preserve it, government should support by way of market creation, brand equity, fiscal incentives to set up the units etc.,
To encourage and bring awareness of adult education in all lambani thandas so that they can come forward to the mainstream of the economic development in society. To trace out most backward tandas and try to implement special schemes for educational and socio-economic developments. Most of the sangas and associations are centered at Districts and Mega cities. To set up sanghas, associations or self help groups at rural levels and they should be coordinated and networked to district, mega cities to capital cities so that they can disseminate the educational, socio-political awareness. Try to get the government schemes to reach rural areas and tandas. As in the line of taluk panchayat, zilla panchayat, Gor panchayat should be established in every tandas so that they can strive for overall socio-economic issues in their respective habitations. And they should get prominent and significant places in Taluk / zilla Panchayat of State. They should be trained for respective jobs .
Jadhav P R (1996) has suggested in his book “Banjara and Gypsy” that the Banjara needs a better friend in the form of Godman. They should join social clubs, like youth clubs, Rotary, Lion and NGOs. The fact of banjara suffering is well known to these clubs. But they never participate to elevate them. The world is pouring the funds, through IMF and World Bank for such social activities. But where it percolates is the mystery. The big industrial houses have an opportunity to adopt each tandas who can be benefited in turn to get a big labour forces rather than wandering in search of them. In his opinion, Tatas, Birlas and Bajaj can take a challenging job of rehabilitation of lambani tandas. In scarcity of labour force, they can better train them and get cheaper and quality human resource. It gives two-way actions, in the eyes of government, a social justice and recognition and better human resource development. Each department of the government can take up the meaningful rehabilitation package of such tandas in multi directional training. We have number of medical houses, hospitals and well-known doctors, who just earn money and keep idle. They can open their clinics, which can be operated once in fortnight in tandas. Every section of social clubs can bring colour to the lifetime wandering, suffered community, so that they can be better assets to the nation. The fashion designers have a tremendous market potentiality, in the line of sophisticated embroidery works. They can establish their centres and train the banjara women. The manner in which they want the patterns. Theses houses are unnecessarily breaking their head head for human recourse development, leaving treasure, dumped unnoticed in tandas. The boig bottling houses, instead of raiding tandas for petty issue can mobilize products from them along with the name of rehabilitation. These suggestions are yet reach in the minds of policy makers, government and stakeholders etc.,
In view of the above, the government of Karnataka has announced to set up a separate Banjara Development corporation. However, it is yet to pick up with many more suggestions. To support the government initiatives, the Karnataka Banjara Employees Cultural and Welfare Association, Bangalore along with other associations of banjara community were gathered on 2.11.2008 at Bangalore to debate and offered various suggestions. The following some of the pointes were emerged:
1. To set up the Karnataka Banjara Tanda Development Corporation with authorized capital of Rs.50 crores (existing Rs.5 crores). 2. With the main objectives of overall development of tandas like socio-economic, educational, cultural and to provide infrastructure facilities such as roads, communication facilities, libraries, hostels, drainage, water supply, dwelling units, community halls, health centers etc., 3. To provide civil amenities like drinking water, electricity, street lights, sanitations and to facilitate food and civil supplies etc., 4. To provide basic facility or quality educations at tandas. 5. To provide infrastructure facilities for self-employment purpose, vocational trainings at tandas. 6. To provide land records to land less houses owners property rights. To provide rights of property of goamaal, government lands, unauthorized slums of banjaras ets., 7. To convert all tandas into revenue villages. 8. To preserve the traditional costumes of banjara and to provide investments, create market and employ the rural women in the activities in tandas. 9. To provide financial incentives, grants for those wants to engage in development of language, literature, history, cultural heritage etc., 10. To eradicate unlawful activities, bad habitts in tandas. 11. To stop the migration to other states and mega cities and create the job opportunities. 12. To facilitate small and cottage industry.
It may be noticed that the most banjara populated districts of north Karnataka are basically industrious and hardworking people migrating to neighbouring states like Maharashtra (Mumbai, Pune) Andhra Pradesh, Goa etc., it is due to non availability of employment, jobs and works in Karnataka respective regions. Hence Government should trace out the problems, create the job opportunities in these districts, educational facilities for children so that the exodus (brain drain) can be stopped, infrastructure development can be improved in the backward region of the State. For various government schemes, the people of Banjaras should support, cooperate and avail the benefits for educational and socio-economic development. Let us wait and hope for better and bright tomorrow.
Jai Bharat Banjara, Jai Sevalal!
Note: [This article is the extract of paper presented at National level seminar on “Present Status and future challenges of Banjara Community” held on 16.11.2008 at Dharwad, Karnataka, India] Most of the suggestions have been considered by Government of Karnataka and implemented by the BJP Government in Karnataka. REFERENCES: *Late Sri Ranjit Naik, Past President, All India Banjara Seva Sangh, (AIBSS), A Souvenir of 50 years, submitted Smt.Sonia Ghandhi, on 31.1.2004 at Digras, Maharaastra, pp.1-23. *Vania de Gila-Kochanowski, President, et conseiller culture de Romano Yekhipe France (RYF), pp. 101. *Shering M.A, “Hindu Tribes and Castes” Vol. III, Cosmo publications, New Delhi. 1974. *Dr. M.Krishnamurthy, (2000) “Crimes and Customs among the Lambanis in Chitradurga District” a PhD thesis published by Laxmi Krishnamurthy, Dharwad, pp.41. *Kamala Manohar Rao (1950), “The Mythological Origin and Clan System of the Banjaras of Hydarabad”, Man in Inda, Vol. XXX, Ranchi, pp.17-22. *Dr. D.B.Naik, “Budakattina lambani Janapada kathegalu” Banjara Prakashan, Gulbarga. *Dr. Harilal Pawar, Director, Prasaranga, Karnataka University Dharwad. *Dr. N.Raju Naik (2006), “Political Awareness among the Lambanis : A study” published by Atmajyothi Prakashan, S.K.Layout Bangalore – 56, pp 81. *Dr. M.Krishnamurthy, (2000) “Crimes and Customs among the Lambanis in Chitradurga District” a PhD thesis published by Laxmi Krishnamurthy, Dharwad, pp 191. *Dr. N.Raju Naik (2006), “Political Awareness among the Lambanis : A study” a PhD thesis of Bangalore University published by Atmajyothi Prakashan, S.K.Layout Bangalore – 56, pp 330-332. *PR Jadhav (1996) “Banjara and Gypsy” – A key note, published by Bewel Trust, Bangalore, pp 86-87. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------