On occasion of the 70th Vimukt Din of NT-DNT communities, Anubhuti had organized a full day Thane District Level Conference on 28th August: “Youth Intersectional Lens for Social Justice of Vimukt communities”. Actual Vimukt Din is celebrated by Nomadic & Denotified Tribes across India on 31st August, when in 1952, these communities were finally rid of the highly unjust and false ‘criminal’ tag with repealing of the Criminal Tribes Act 1871.

We had expected about 100 participants, which was easily surpassed! Almost 140 NT-DNT and other Bahujan community youth, leaders, and professionals such as professors and lawyers came together for a full day of deliberations on specific nomadic issues in context of Constitutional Justice and Human Rights.

It was the perfect occasion for the launch of our report “Toilet for Tents” – based on our community-led audit of toilets from perspective of NT-DNT communities. All the youth and community leaders – who had formed the research team (led all aspects from research design, tools, data collection to analysis and advocacy) were present by whose hands the report was launched. Community leaders Ganesh Salunkhe, Bhimrao Engole, Basavraj Rathod, Prabhakar Shinde, Vinod Pawar, Bhaskar Shinde, and Uttam Chaudhari were present. Other than them, leaders Bharat Pawar, Dilip Salunkhe, Babu Dukare, Kiran Singh, Chhaban Shinde, Yogesh Pawar, Rakhi Chavhan, Anil Jadhav, Maina Koli, Sanjay Sakte, and Sanjay Tambe could not make it and were really missed. Similarly Youth leaders Harshali Gangurde, Ankita Kamble, Ashwini Padghan, Santosh Athavale, Buddhabhushan Dhawale, Akash Jadhav, Rahim Pinjari were also present, while Apeksha Deshmukh was missed.

The report will be used very soon for advocacy meetings with decision-makers.

Anubhuti strongly believes in expertise derived from lived experiences, and this was on full display among the speakers at our Full-Day Conference on occasion of NT-DNT Vimukt Din. The morning panel consisted of NT-DNT professionals: Adv Darshan Ingole a practicing lawyer, activist, counsellor and trainer with a wide range of experience in the criminal justice system, and Avinash Pawar an Assistant Professor, and currently pursuing his PhD on the very relevant topic of Social Movements of NT-DNTs in Maharashtra. They gave a very succinct understanding of the legal and historical background of NT-DNTs – listened to raptly by the maximum NT-DNT & Bahujan audience including community leaders, youth and women.

The afternoon panel consisted of youth leaders Shital Devre from the Dhangar community, Asmita Rathod and Parmeshwar Rathod from the Banjara community, Ashok Bhosale from the Nathpanthi Davri Gosavi community and Vyankatesh Dasari from the Vaidu community. They are all studying, working, earning, struggling against the injustices of their community’s histories and present. Each of them spoke of the different intersections of being a NT youth – of homelessness and land rights, of growing up in an Ashram Shala away from their families being their only chance at education, the loneliness and great responsibility of being one of the few educated among their peers, of their passion of trying to organize their peers and the next generation, of being married at such a young age but continuing their journey as activists, and of great pride and sensitivity about their community’s struggles. Their clear articulation and honest words touched every heart in the audience – inspiring more to come forward and share.

I am listening to my sathis (companions/friends) on stage and feel so proud to see them here today. I too wished to share my journey hearing them. I am the youngest of four siblings. My parents, and all older brothers work as labourers or other physical jobs. One by one, all of them had to drop out of school. I was the only hope, and I had no choice but to excel, if our family was not to be lost completely from intellectual development. I could never afford to not do well. My father, having worked so hard all his life, lost finally to alcohol. I still scored well – 92% in class 10. I wanted to do my graduation but could only do a Diploma despite high marks. I have always struggled with what I feel about my reality at home, the extreme difference between my peers in higher education and my community.. but today, I realize that I feel pride for my family and community.. for everything we have achieved and not achieved, for our history, our struggles, our efforts..

– Parmeshwar, Banjara youth leader

We are indebted to these leaders and those in the audience for their honest, heartfelt, incisive articulations of the past, the present, and what they need for the future.

Just because I am a Murali, it is expected that my daughter will be too. But I refuse this expectation. We know that this work is not bad, it is a profession, but in over 30 years of working, I have seen the harassment in men’s eyes. I don’t want this for my daughter. Instead, what is happening here today, in this hall, this is where I wish her to be. This is where she will shine.

– Sita tai, inspired by the honest words of the Youth Panel

The whole event was youth-led including logistics, anchoring, and heart-touching cultural performances.

Songs and dances were put up by the Badlache Parv Kala Manch – Anubhuti mentored youth cultural activism group.

Also, there were insightful youth expressions such as ‘Continuous Poster-making’ – a group of youth artists depicted the discussions taking place at the conference through art. Additionally, beautiful collages created by NT-DNT youth at an earlier workshop depicting their rich cultures and occupations were also put up for display.

Slogans of ‘Hum Sanvidhanwadi’ resounded through the venue as the day came to an end. Youth led reading of the Indian Constitution’s Preamble. Finally, books were given to each youth – on the life, work, ideology of various progressive Indian leaders, activists and reformers.

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