Nomadic and De-notified Tribes of GUJARAT-(INDIA)NT-DNT Communities have given their services to the society for generations. When road and transport was not developed, nomadic and de-notified communities provided services, entertained the society and also supplied necessary commodities. To quote specifically Kangasiya community used to sell bangles, while Saraniya use to sharpen the knives and swords, while Vadi and Nat community used to entertain society by their performance.
The population of nomadic and de-notified tribes is estimated to around 8% of the total population. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are some of the states with high population of NT-DNTs. De-notified tribes are have nomadic life style, however, 200 nomadic communities were identified separately during British rule, in 1871, after being notified as ‘criminal communities’. After independence in 1952, these communities were de-notified and thus identified as DNTs.
Nomadic Communities of Gujarat: Bajaniya, Bhand, Kotwaliya, Turi, Garudi, Kathodi, Madari, Naath, Bharathari, Vitoliya, Vaadi, Vansphoda, Marwadi Vaghri, Oad, Raval, Shirligar, Saraniya, Vanzara Shinagvala, Vanzara Kangasiyala, Jogi, Bhopa, Gadaliya, Kangasiya, Ghantiya, Bhavaiyya, Bava-Bairagi, Garo & Pardhi
De-notified Communities are: Dafer, Vaghri, Sandhi, Miyana, Chhara, Vagher, Theba, Mey, Chunvaliya Koli, Koli (form Rapar block of Kutch), Bafan, Hingora
Their population is estimated to be 40 lakhs mainly concentrated in Saurastra and North Gujarat region.
In olden days, de-notified communities were engaged by king to create nuisance in neighborhood states. Later on, kind used to invade neighborhood kingdom and used to get support from discontented people of the state. During British period, de-notified communities (then were considered as notified) was asked to give their attendance to nearest police station every day. At times, these communities were prohibited from migrating from village to village. Due to which, these communities were isolated from rest of the society. The strong social stigma of being criminal was attached with these communities during British rule. After independence, their nature of livelihood changed, however even today, DNTs hardly have any acceptance in larger society. The stories of atrocities from the police will runs into pages. Many of the community members from DNTs are being punished only because of their belonging to DNT.
Other nomadic communities use to serve the society, provide services or entertainment. Society in turn used to give grains, food, clothing, shelter etc. It was interdependent relations. The communities use to reside besides the villages for 8 months, and used to return to their native place during monsoon. The communities engaged in performing art, singing, etc were given support from king. The write-up used to carry the news and happenings of one place to another through sings, and dramas. The community was given due recognition and return from the society. Their temporary stay near any village was not miserable as of today.
Vaansphonda community makes pots/bowls out of bamboo. These were essential in agricultural work. In return community used to get grains from the farmers. Gadaliya used to trade bullock. There are mentions in old write-ups about Gadaliya helping farmers by giving bullock on credit in cases of emergencies. There are no mentions of any conflicts for giving permission for putting temporary settlements near any villages. This shows that strong interdependency and bond of these communities with larger society.
With time, new means of communication, transport and entertainment evolved making these community irrelevant. Today with TV, video, and internet there is hardly any copes for Nat community, Bhawaiyya community to perform. There were legal prohibition on snake-charmers for keeping snakes for their performances. Though snake charmers do not keep any snake for more than 8 months. They don’t kill it or take out its poison. They understand snakes the most. However these relations were not recognized. It was seen as if snake-charmers harm snakes. Thus, with modernization, livelihood scopes and opportunities for nomadic communities were shrunk.
With steel and plastic industries growth, the services like polishing vessels, making combs, sharpening knives were turn irreverent and non-viable. Modenr menas of communication and transport made things so easy that there were not scopes for traditional means and methods and communities too. Mega-malls culture, where clothes, hardware, software, grocery, and cosmetics all underneath the earth can be bought below one roof has left hardly any scopes for retail commodity sellers.
Due to lack of stability, literacy rate remained very low, which in turn resulted into very narrow scopes for alternative livelihood. There were not major policies or efforts done by the state after independence to make these communities stable. Thus they were omitted out of all developmental and welfare schemes and programmes that were implemented in the revenue villages. The communities still resides in Settlements (‘Danagas’), very far form the revenue village boundaries.
Housing: For generations, communities never demanded for permanent space to get settle. They used to migrate from village to village. Thus traditionally this large part of the population never had any entitlements on piece of land. These communities mostly depend on common properties like wasteland, village side land, grazing land etc. Thus today they do not have any place where they can even make their make-shift house or a mud house. Today the rights are recognized by piece of paper and records. Nomadic communities never claimed for their traditional customary or even user rights on common land. In fact, these are the communities who have taken least from the society for centuries. Ironically, these are the communities denied of their smallest share. With every development plan of roads, four track highways, airport, malls, or resident societies the ‘illegal settlements’ (are they really?) of the nomadic and de-notified communities is being displaced.