The Nomad Liberty Movement, a collective of researchers, lawyers, professors, etc, from the Nomadic and Denotified Tribes, has organised a set of lectures in August to celebrate the third Vimukta Month. Atul Dhakne, a medical practitioner and founder of an NGO, delivered the inaugural lecture in the series on Saturday, August 6, on the topic of ‘Exclusion of Nomadic Communities from Medical Education.’
The month of August is important for the Nomadic and Denotified Tribes for more than one reason. The Criminal Tribes Act, which was enacted by the British government in the 19th century and which had criminalised entire communities by designating them as habitual criminals, was repealed post independence. And it was on the historic day of August 31, 1952 that the communities that had previously been ‘notified’ as criminal tribes under the act, were ‘denotified.’
The month of August also marks the birth anniversary of renowned Marathi writer and shahir Anna Bhau Sathe. Sathe, according to the concept note prepared by Disha Wadekar and Arati Kade at the time of first Vimukta Month, was “among the first to depict the social realities of these [nomadic and denotified] tribes through his novels, plays, and short stories. The rejected lives of Barbadya Kanjari, Yenku Makadwala, Gilwar, and Yemu have taken centre stage in his writings.”
It was on the birth centenary of Sathe in 2020 that the idea of Vimukta Month was conceptualised and put into action. While explaining the need for a special month for Nomadic and Denotified Tribes, Wadekar and Kade wrote in their note, “There is a need for greater sensitization and awareness among state agencies to ensure that they carry the mandate of law without any prejudice and discrimination. For this reason, the government has appointed several commissions and committees for the development of the DNTs; however, their plight remains unchanged. As their concerns are still unheard, a wider, more inclusive discourse is required to generate awareness and plan strategies to resolve their issues.”
Stating that people who come forward from the Nomadic and Denotified Tribes have to struggle a lot for their own platform, Deepa Pawar, who is the founder of Anubhuti Trust, said, “We look at this month as a month of intellectual revolution.”
Pawar also stresses the need for an organised activity led by individuals coming from the Nomadic and Denotified Tribes, keeping the principles of Phule-Shahu-Ambedkarite as well as feminist and progressive ideology at the centre. She looks at Vimukta Month as NT-DNT individuals’ platform for themselves, which will centre their lived experience, struggles and professional expertise.
Disha Wadekar, lawyer and co-founder of CEDE, further explained the reasoning for starting the Vimukta Month. She said, “Vimukta Month was also started to counter the cultural slavery imposed on Nomadic and Denotified communities by the Hindu religion. One of the first sessions we organised was on ‘Why we are not Hindus.’ Our work is firmly grounded in Phule-Ambedkarite ideology and we believe that it is this ideology alone that can emancipate our people.”
The other speakers in this year’s lecture series are Nikita Sonavane, Anil Dongre and Waman Gavai, who will speak on various issues concerning the Nomadic and Denotified Tribes in the upcoming weeks. The Nomad Liberty Movement has also planned a shahiri jalsa later in the month.
The collective describes its goal as bringing the issues of Nomadic and Denotified Tribes to the forefront to create a discourse in the mainstream in order to form a society based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. Narayan Bhosale, Swarnamala Maske, Amol Shingade, Ashwini Labade, Deepali Wighe, and Komal Devkate are some of the other people associated with the initiative.