Friday, July 19, 2013

Tribes, Crime & Punishment

A Japanese friend stumped me with a question today morning.

Nemoto-san's PhD thesis was on Neo-Buddhists in India. His friends in Nagpur sent him a list of a list of students who belong to a school managed by local Buddhists. This list had three categories - ST, SC, NT and VJNT. The first two, of course, stood for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. But what about NT and VJNT?

"If NT meant "Nomadic Tribes, and if VJ is 'Vimukta Jati', what is the difference," he asked, "between NT and VJNT or NT and NT of VJNT?"  -- I did not have the slightest idea!

Thanks to the Gods of WWW, here is what I found -

For starters, the Indian Constitution is the longest written constitution in the world, containing 444 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 118 amendments. Schedules are lists in the Constitution that categorize and tabulate bureaucratic activity and policy of the Government. Among the Schedules, The Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution (Article 244(1)) provides for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (areas and tribes needing special protection due to disadvantageous conditions). Under this, we have Nomadic Tribes (NTs) and De-notified Tribes (DNTs).

VJ (Vimukta Jati) was the Hindi translation of Denotified Tribes (DNTs). These were the tribes that were originally listed under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, under the British Colonial Regime. After Independence, this Act was repealed in 1952. Also, under Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India, certain tribes were classified as Scheduled Tribes and were provided with constitutional safeguards under Article 342 (2) on a national basis.

So what about VJNT? Well,  Marashtra seems to have just created this new acronym which basically combines VJs and NTs (just as "SC-ST", but without the hyphen).

In the midst of all these acronyms and numbered constitutional provisions, one often misses the underlying human folly.

Call them "Criminal Tribes" of DNT's but the very idea rests on the absurd notion that a person can be born a criminal. The Denotified and Nomadic tribes make up about 60 million of India’s population (UN 2006). There are 313 Nomadic Tribes and 198 De-notified Tribes. If you belong to any of these tribes, chances are that you will be carged with theft, robbery or murder, even if there isn't a figment of proof. Between 1979 and 1982, forty-two DNTs of the Lodha community were mob-lynched without suspicion of crime but based on their tribal identity. Police have yet to take any action on any of the cases.

I hope the Buddhist school in Nagpur has good reasons for keeping a record of the tribal antecedants of its students.



* Zee News (18 Sep'12): Maharashtra Government to spend Rs 10 crores for nomadic tribal dwellings -
* Rathod, Motiraj (2000): Denotified and Nomadic Tribes of Maharashtra, URL --
* Maharashtra OBC Network --

* Report of the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2006) --

* UNDP Q&A on Constitutional Provisions for Reservation in Services:

* Provisions of the Indian Constitution having a bearing on Education --

Colonial Act still haunts denotified tribes: expert --

* Maharashtra OBC Network --

D'Souza, Dilip (): Branded by Law: Looking at India's Denotified Tribes, URL --

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