Nomadic Tribes and Denotified Nomadic Tribes (NT/DNT) communities have been historically deprived, discriminated against and under-represented. Although attempts have been made for their upliftment, significant change is yet to be seen. The community needs to bring about their revolution, not just socio-politically or economically, but also intellectually. With this intention in mind, Anubhuti held the first of its kind intellectual training session with NT-DNT community members in Thane district on 29th November, 2020. 

The main objective of the session was to familiarize the ground level NT/DNT persons of concepts such as gender rights, mental justice, sexual violence and rights, social security, leadership etc. in context of disasters. Deepa Pawar, herself from the Gadiya Lohar NT community, was the module maker and trainer for this session. This being the first ever such intellectual discussion, was facilitated through various games and exercises. Over 40 people participated in the event, who came from Kulgaon (Badlapur) and Forest Naka (Ambarnath). The activities encouraged also participants to think over their unaddressed emotional issues and other stressors in life. They were made aware of the importance of finding the right way to express both positive and negative emotions and thoughts.

Similar training session was held on 20th December for NT/DNT Community members residing in Aptewadi (Badlapur), Circus ground (Ambernath) and Vaidu Vasti (Vithalwadi). The workshop received astonishing response as the participants came in huge numbers. This overwhelming attendance was also a feedback for our last session – about which the earlier participants had shared with their counterparts in other communities. The hall was filled to the brim within minutes and we had to arrange for extra chairs and food as more than 100 people attended this full-day training workshop.

“During the lockdown it was people from among us who took leadership and started helping each other. No one from outside came to help. We should support these persons who take initiative and take care of us at every emergency,” said a community woman, emphasizing the importance of grassroot leadership especially during disasters – that are unfortunately a regular occurrence for ground communities. 

Recognizing this and with deep respect for their resilient ground leadership, Anubhuti had carried out relief activities in collaboration with them during lockdown, and had planned to continue this collaboration. Today this has developed to the extent that we are organizing the first ever intellectual discussions and training among NT-DNTs in Thane District, and perhaps entire Maharashtra. A volunteer who is an activist in her area and has seen various such events in progressive circles, was amazed when she saw the participants arriving for this particular workshop. In her own words:

“In the beginning a few women and ASHA workers arrived, and I thought it would be the usual kind of workshop I am used to, with selected stakeholders from the community. But I suddenly saw two tempos filled with men who were workers and labourers. It felt like a wave had arrived for intellectual discussions. This is the first time in my life that I had seen men with saffron-red handkerchiefs around their necks, stepping down from tempos with symbols of gods/goddesses on them (which they use for moving around as they live a nomadic life), arriving for this kind of an event. In fact, the registration forms were almost entirely filled with thumb impressions in place of signatures, with a few well educated youth among them too. The best moment was when this entire crowd chanted the Preamble of the Indian Constitution – this was truly the beginning of a wave of intellectual revolution.”

Diksha, Volunteer from Ambivali

“When will our people’s mindset change? They keep telling youth to get educated, but forget that girls are also youth. I feel very bad when I see young girls still getting married at a young age, while girls from other communities are progressing, going to college,” said a young man during feedback round. Another youth asked, “Our traditional occupations don’t pay much, but other jobs we take up are also of labourers and such other. Should we continue traditional occupations or get into other jobs?”

These and other questions raised during the discussion will be addressed in upcoming meetings that youth are already planning.