Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Born Criminals! Who?

Atrocities of human mind know no bound. It is really unfortunate to see that we humans have become sadists and thus derive some goddamn pleasure by inflicting pain upon others, be it on animals or on our fellow human beings. Else how could we, the self considered superior race can label the people of some other communities as Born Criminals?

India is surely a strange place where strangely a man’s value is judged by the caste he is born into. It does not matter how much of talent, caliber, and humanity you posses, what matters is your caste to decide your virtues.

As if the caste system was not enough, here, we have a large number of human communities, who belong to the lower ends of the caste hierarchy, labelled as Born Criminals.

These people belong to the Nomadic and De-notified Tribes of India. However, till date, barring only a handful, most of them lead a life where they are denied of every basic right and that includes Dignity too. 

But really, can criminality ever be a hereditary problem?

What was started by British government, visibly for their own benefits, we the Indians are successfully but stupidly carrying it with us as a legacy. Such a shame!

A li’l Google Search told me that British came up with the Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 because,

1) They have participated in the Revolt of 1857 and many tribal chiefs were labelled traitors who through their acts of rebellion caused constant trouble to the British Government. (Source: Wikipedia)

2) Their way of living did not fall under the British notion of civilized living. (Source: Wikipedia)

Cruel isn't it? But more than the British, we mainstream Indians are cruel who blindly believed that their own brothers and sisters are Born Criminals. No wonder that the infamous Divide & Rule policy actually worked on us. It did not take us much time to forget how they have been a part of us and how they had made our life easier and kept us entertained.

Today we have the easy access to modern means and amenities and the source of our entertainment too has gone hi-tech, but have we truly forgotten that there were days when we were dependent on them? Even today I can see many nomadic settlements over the pavements, where people go to buy cheap but reliable and sturdy utensils, tools, simple machines, home decor items,  and even BBQ Grillers. But the way they lead their lives is something very hard to imagine. Life on the move and over the pavements is very vulnerable and hard. They have nothing to make their lives even a wee-bit hygienic. It gives me shiver to think that how unsafe their women and children are, especially the young girls. 

We have snatched their livelihoods but have forgotten or better say have not cared to provide them an alternate option so that they can earn at least the bare minimum to feed and cover themselves up. It is disheartening to know that days after day they go without food. We should be ashamed that it is because of us that they have succumbed to stealing, begging, and even prostitution.

We can shout at the top of our voices discussing about how pathetic a certain tribe is where wives and daughters are thrown into prostitution by their own men. I remember reading a related article in a newspaper sometime back. Like everybody else I too was cursing the men without even bothering to look deep in to the matter. Is not it important to know why this is happening and how we can eradicate it?

Even after 67 years of independence, these people have not been accepted by us. Such is the plight that they are not even recognized by the government.

In Mittal Patel’s own words,

"More than four million nomads reside in Gujarat and approximately 60 million exist in the country. It was shocking to find there was no data or information available on them even in the government departments. Though the government is aware of certain communities, to avail of the benefits, people are supposed to submit a number of documents. These, unfortunately, they did not possess."

Mittal Patel, a young journalist, is no less than a God send to these unfortunate nomads and de-notified tribes. She has gone against the government, the bureaucracy, the caste system, and yes, of course a society that has many in-ethical values and norms deeply rooted in it.

It is because of her that today I know how badly these people have been treated by us for like ages. I was completely unaware of their life and their plight and I feel so ashamed of myself now. Had I not gone through her inspiring TedTalk I would have never known how millions of people in my own country are denied of their every right. What is more shocking and heart breaking is the fact that not only their livelihood has been snatched away from them but in reality, for the Government, they do not even exist. The only place however they exist is in police records that too for crimes they may or may not have committed. Such is their plight. Sigh!

It is Mittal Patel, the fearless and selfless young lady, who has gone against age old norms to provide many of them the thing called a Voter ID card. And you can imagine how difficult it must have been for her to do that because these nomads have no birth certificate, no ration card, no land deeds, nothing. Not a single piece of paper to prove they're part of the Indian population. And to top it there is our great bureaucracy and the caste mindset.

Deeply distressed by the plight of these nomads and de-notified tribes, she not only quit her job but formed her own NGO called Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch(VSSM) with the hope to make these outcast people a part of mainstream society. Today due to her sheer determination, grit, and her urge to give back to the society, she has managed to provide 20,000 people of the tribe with their own voter ID cards and respectful employments to nearly 5000. She and her team have also made education accessible to them by setting several schools in various parts of Gujarat. After years of oppression and neglect it is heartening to know that now they too can learn and dream and work towards a better future. A voter ID card- for many of us, is just another address proof because it’s seldom that we put it to its right use i.e to vote. But what it gives to these people is something priceless. Yes it gives them their identity of which they have been ruthlessly denied ever since.

Mittal and her NGO has successfully intervened and managed to save many girls/ women of the Saraniya community in Vadia village of Gujarat from the heinous clutches of flesh trade by arranging for their engagement and marriage. What could be more beautiful than to save these children and women from being crushed so brutally? Such in the mettle of this young lady that she has helped them to blossom into a flower in such a respectful manner.

Mittal is keeping her promise to give back to the society by working towards the betterment of it. But it is our turn now too to join her in her crusade. The very first step that we all have to take is to change our demented outlook which is nothing but narrow as well as shallow. The moment we accept that they too are a part of our mainstream society and start to give them their due respect, the next steps would not be impossible to achieve. What they deserve is respect and acceptance. I remember reading an article where it was written that The British government has never allowed Indians to eat mangoes in and around their vicinity because they abhorred the sight of a man squatting and enjoying his mango while the juice drips and soils all his hand till his elbow. For them it was an uncivilized act. So did we stop eating mangoes? No. Then why carry their perception here by calling these nomads with all such names and by ostracizing and denying them their rights? 

Lack of awareness is the mother of many such problems and atrocities. And no, ignorance is not a bliss always. Sometimes we need to stand up for humanity's sake. It is absolutely important & necessary to spread the awareness as much as possible. And in this era of social networking, this surely is a not a big deal. Education should be designed and imparted in such a way that it instills human values and compassion. One must learn to respect every other being. The Corporates must understand that they have a responsibility towards the society. And they mustn't ever turn their backs to the social and environmental responsibilities. During my summer internship in Parle, I got to know that they have tie-ups with several NGOs in order to do their wee-bit to give back to the society and the environment. Franklin Templeton, by arranging such TedTalks, tells me that it is doing its bit too towards the upliftment of the society. More and more Corporates must come out and join hands for the upliftment of mankind. They should learn to value and practice giving back to the society also.

Donations are a huge help but not all are comfortable with it due to various reasons. It's your choice to extend help via it. But let’s at least help them by buying their handicrafts. More and more associations should come up with cultural events to provide a platform for these people to perform and showcase their art, culture, dance, and music. This way we also can save/protect these age old traditions from getting extinct as well. After all they do make our country culturally rich. It would be a great help too if we all could work as volunteers at some point or the other. I am sure our li’l steps would cumulatively make a huge difference. I had volunteered myself as a teacher for Teach for India Campaign. And the happiness it has provided to me was immense. As I did my li’l bit to give back to the society, no matter how small the step was, I have felt my heart growing bigger and larger to accommodate more compassion in it.

By ignoring such a large part of our population we are doing no good towards the growth of our country as well. Just imagine how big a workforce it is and how much they can contribute towards the GDP of our country.

For long they have been suppressed, oppressed, and ostracized. They have been inflicted upon with highest degree of loathe and insult by being labelled as Born Criminals by us which even denied them their identity. We have snatched their everything and have denied them their right to be called an Indian Citizen as well. Still they are moving on with their nomadic lives with no expectation whatsoever. History stands as the sole witness how important their services have been to us. 

We are indebted to them and it is our time to pay back the debt. 

A little compassion, a little empathy and a whole lot of acceptance and respect would surely make a big difference in their lives. And in return our society would turn more beautiful. And when a society grows and develops holistically, can the World remain far behind? Goodness and Happiness spread leaps and bounds even with minimum efforts.

So the next time if you locate a Saraniya (knife sharpener), Kangsia (bangle sellers and traders), Nat and Nataniya (performers - bards, musicians, acrobats, dancers, fire-eaters and so on), Vansfoda (works with bamboo and sell bamboo products), Vadi (snake charmer), Madaris (work with monkeys), etc. Please do not cringe. They are not Born Criminals; No one is. To call someone a born criminal is an insult to humanity. Not to forget, it is because of us that they have succumbed to stealing, begging, and even prostitution. So if anyone rightly deserves to be called one, it is us, the skewed society. 

You can’t help them, fine, but do change your perception towards them. If you can do so, in a way you are helping Mittal and her NGO in her mission. 

I repeat Mittal’s words once again,

"We are indebted to them and it is our time to pay back the debt."

This post is written for “Idea Caravan” a joint initiative of Indiblogger and Franklin Templeton Investments (Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012). I am thankful to all of them for such a great initiative.

Direct YouTube link to Mittal Patel's Video:

After like ages, a group of Snake Charmers visited my colony. Needless to say we all were thrilled.


  1. Preeti this an eye opener post. Reading about the misery of those tribes I felt choked.Many more Mittals must come forward to fight for their cause.

    1. It was an eye opener for me too Ma'm. I too wish for more Mittals to come forward. Let me see how i myself can contribute too.

      Thank you Ma'm

  2. A thought provoking post Preeti !
    the soln U gave is tough but we can just hope for a better society with the help of god sent angels like Mittal
    I was also never aware that they are tagged as Born criminals :( Thanks for writing this piece !

    THIS LINE IS JUST PERFECT - The very first step that we all have to take is to change our demented outlook which is nothing but narrow as well as shallow

    I hope people take that first step....

    1. I so hope that too. Thanks for your valuable support, here as well as 'behind-the-scene' by providing the much needed push to write this up.

  3. A serious introspection of Indian society that I never dared to criticize, now , yes, I can say Its major time for some changes. Join them Preety, your future belong to that secular land which must be cleaned according to new times we all live.

    1. I know mom what you meant. the ugly side of India is exposed here. I hope i changes soon.

      Thank you.

  4. That's a strong post! All the best!

    P.S. I have nominated you for Sunshine Award! If it's not too much, can accept it! :)

    1. Thanks ME

      I am honored to be nominated. Thanks again. My apologies for missing from your blog. I would soon be there.

  5. Only a ruthless could label them such. Thanks for writing on this subject that I unaware about and introducing Mittal Patel. I too believe following her footstep will lead to the change of misery lives of nomads and tribes. I think the old generation is most influenced by the unwanted views on the low caste, keeping in mind with those very few, their perspective has been wrong on entire communities. Hope the education makes a significant change and promotes the equation of human being.

    1. i so hope the same Dear Jeevan.

      Thanks for your support.


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