Pune: De-notified and nomadic tribes (DNTs), many of whom still don’t have identity cards, are still unaware of CAA, NRC and NPR (Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register). But activists and academicians from the tribes have begun an awareness drive asking them not to submit documents. They feel more than Muslims, DNTs will suffer the most if these acts are implemented.
Caste-based census of nomadic and de-notified tribes was last done during the British era in 1931. Hence, the exact population of DNTs is not known. It is estimated that DNTs would be 7% of the total population, according to a report submitted by the National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Seminomadic Tribes, headed by Balkrishna Renake in 2008. So, the total population of DNTs would be around 10-15 crore. There are over 150 De-notified Tribes and over 650 Nomadic Tribes in the country, as per the report.
Ravi Pawar, a youth in his 20s, in worn-out clothes and coloured hair, along with parents and two younger brothers, sells roses, balloons or other toys at traffic signals in Pune. He hails from the Pardhi from de-notified tribe. Sitting on a footpath near High Street Chowk in Baner, he said he does not have any kind of identity card -- Aadhar, Voter ID Card or ration card. “Nobody from my house has any card. Whatever cards my parents had, got burned in a fire in our slum six years ago,” he said.
Ravi and his brothers, who never been to school, have no idea about CAA, NRC or NPR. “I don’t have a bank account,” he added.
As per the Renake Commission report, 72% of NTs, DNTs and SNTs don’t have ration cards. A total of 48% de-notified and 60% nomadic kids don’t have birth certificates, 62 %nomadic and 49% de-notified don’t have caste certificates, and 89% de-notified and 98% nomadic persons don’t have their own land.
Meanwhile, Laxman Mane, who heads Bhatkya Vimukta Jati Sanghatana (Nomadic and De-notified Tribes Organisation), Maharashtra, has given a call to all DNTs across the state to not to show the documents. His organisation plans to hold meetings in each district, making people aware about CAA, NRC and NPR, and asking them not show documents.
“This is brahmin (upper caste) trick to bring back Manusmruti rule where lower castes like DNTs would be discriminated against. DNTs, who still struggle to get basic education and homes, will not be able to produce certificates before 1951. They will be sent to detention centres where they were before 1961 when India de-notified them. The combination of CAA, NRC and NPR will harm DNTs more than Muslims,” said Mane.
Santosh Pawar, another Pardhi man, who sells toys at University Chowk in Pune and stays at a slum in Karvenagar, said he has never voted and does not have any identity card or certificate apart from an Aadhar card. Santosh, whose hut is made of cloth and plastic in Vijapur in Karnataka, came to Pune as there was no work in his home state. His parents and wife have died. “I have only Aadhar card but I have forgotten that in my hut in Vijapur,” he said.
Vaishali Bhandwalkar, whose organisation Nirman, helps DNTs get various certificates, including ration cards and caste certificates, said: “Even now 20-30% of DNTs don’t have any kind of identity cards. Many people have voter’s ID cards just because politicians had helped them to get one. But DNTs who were nomadic had no land, and hence they don’t have any land certificates. The community is too poor to go to schools or banks or post offices. Hence, they cannot produce any of these proofs”, she added.
Bhandwalkar, too, believes that de-notified tribes will suffer the most. “There is confusion over what kind of identity cards need to be produced for CAA or NCR or NPR. But DNTs will suffer the most,” she added.
The same story extends to other tribes. As many as 14 out 35 families staying at Bhil Tribe hamlet at Alegoan Paga village in Shirur Taluka in Pune district don’t have any kind of identity card or certificates. Bhil is another de-notified tribe.
Indubai Gaikwad, whose granddaughters are married, said she had no identity card. “My grandparents had stayed at the same place in this village. Nobody from government had come to give me any card,” she added.
Sunita Bhosale, an activist who works for DNTs in rural Pune, said: “It’s the same story in all DNT hamlets across Pune. Almost every second village in Pune has one or two hamlets of DNTs. They have never been considered citizens of India.”
Balkrishna Renake, who headed the commission, said: “DNTs include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. DNTs population is mentioned in the 1931 Census and thus they are Indians. But they don’t have documents to prove it.”
“Though there is confusion about CAA and NRC, the government has begun process of NPR, for which the DNTs have to provide addresses and other information orally. But DNTs don’t have permanent addresses, houses or villages. How can they share this information? How can they give information of birth dates? They don’t have burial places as well,” said Renake.