The Bulandshahr gang rape has once again turned the spotlight on the nomadic tribe of Bawariyas. The socio-economic history of the tribe reveals how their sustained alienation from the rest of the population forced generations to turn into criminals.
The Bawariyas are natives of Rajasthan and have now spread to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand. A large presence of this tribe can be found in Muzzafarnagar’s Jhinjhana area where nearly 24 villages are occupied by its members. But only women and children are found in their homes as men roam across the States to make “quick money.”
Police officials who have worked for years cracking cases related to the Bawariyas say the tribe feels robbery, theft and dacoity are its traditional occupation.
“They have been committing these crimes for centuries and their modus operandi is similar as in the case of the recent gang rape. During nights, they waylay cars, steal in houses. Most important, they have a record of not sparing young women ,” said Ravindra Yadav, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch).
But it is almost impossible to believe that the Bawariyas have been criminals since their origin.
The Census of India 1881 described them as a “hunting community who derive their name from the word bawar or noose with which they snare wild animals.”
It also states that the Bawariyas are “much addicted to crime,” thieving comes easily to them and their “skill in tracking wild animals is notorious.”
The answer to why they had to resort to criminal activities can be found in B. Dutt’s journal Livelihood Strategies of a Nomadic Hunting Community of Eastern Rajasthan.
She states that two laws, one in colonial India and the other in independent India, have severely impacted the livelihoods of the Bawariyas.
“In British India, under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, over two hundred communities were declared ‘criminals’, the notion of ‘crime’ being used to help consolidate British rule over entire regions. The Bawariyas were one of these 200 communities,” she writes.
After Independence, this Act was repealed but another law, the Habitual Offenders Act (1953), was introduced.
In her study, Ms Dutt also observed that the social stigma attached to such communities since the days they were branded “criminal” continues. After de-notification of this tribe, the Bawariyas were put under the Scheduled Caste category. Branching out from the Rajput clan, the tribe has a population of about 2.35 lakh.
Inactive for 2 years
In Delhi, Bawariya gangs have been inactive for over two years now. Police surveillance suggests that these men mostly opt to live in areas like Burari and Timarpur and stay together in rented accommodation.