Thursday, May 29, 2008

Amaresh Mishra opens my third eye and piques my sixth sense

(Update - On Amaresh Mishra's theories about the Mumbai terrorist attacks, see here.)

In an article by Amaresh Mishra, this opened my third eye and piqued my sixth sense-
Gujjar turbulence owed a lot to their nomadic status and the British attempt to settle them as peaceful land revenue paying peasantry. During the Mughal era, Gujjars were known for their entrepreneurial role — they not only exchanged milk and other commodities but also guarded the trade routes of North India. The colonial-British State, keen to turn every rural element into a peasant, did not understand the community’s entrepreneurial role. So after 1857, the British classified the Gujjars (and around 150 other Indian communities) as ‘criminal tribes’ through the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. In this move, communities that had fought for Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857 were openly targeted. Several other forces like the Pardhis of Vidarbha and the Dhangars and the Ramoshi-Berads of Maharashtra and Karnataka also suffered. Most of them were warrior-nomads or warrior-hunters of the Mughal and Maratha era. During the colonial era, basic human rights were denied to these communities. They were literally given an ‘anti-social’ tag. Their position became worse than that of many Dalit communities in the country.

Let me reprise -according to Mishra, the British promulgated the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871

1) to turn every rural element into a peasant

2) to target communities that had fought for Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857

3) for no other reason, since none is mentioned.

I wonder if there might just possibly have been some other reason, some teenie-weenie fact that some of these tribes actually had a history of being involved in crime over generations-
Each gang developed its own specialty. The Kabutri Nats, famed for their beautiful women, operated as dancing troupes: while the women danced, the men and children frisked the audience. The Bauriahs became confidence men: disguised as sadus (holy men), they duped pious Hindus into parting with their hoarded valuables. The Barwars specialized in brazen daylight thievery, expelled members who stooped to night operations. The nomadic Panjaros rustled cattle. The Harnis forced their women into prostitution and rolled the customers; when the heat was on, they usually beat it disguised as fakirs, often taking a leper along to scare off the curious.

The Ramoosics, also panderers, had a side interest in a bungalow-protection racket. The Bhamptas were railroad thieves. Their favorite trick, best performed on a crowded train, was to frighten a baby, slide to the floor to comfort it, and meanwhile slit open the baggage of the other passengers. The Kolis impersonated cops: descending on a village, they would arrest the village constable on some phony charge, then strip the village. Other groups became counterfeiters, moonshiners, muggers. Children learned crime at their mother's knee. Some tribes pressed a silver rupee, fastened to a piece of string, into a newborn child's throat, where it would form a pocket which, when the child grew up, provided a hiding place for stolen coins and jewels.

And was revenge the only or even the most dominant motive of those eeevil Firangs*(from the same link)-
How to Reform Them? The British liquidated the Thugs, a group of professional murderers who contributed a word to the English language. But the others they decided to recognize as a sort of criminal caste. Under the Criminal Tribes Act (1871), the more notorious groups were segregated in special settlements. All their members had to register at the age of 14, whether or not they had been personally guilty of a crime, faced special penalties, much more severe than those for ordinary offenders.

Later, criminal tribesmen were given a chance to reform. Many settlements were placed in the care of the Salvation Army, various missions and philanthropic organizations. Children were sent to school, taught useful trades.
Me, I am rubbing my eyes furiously. Surely those children eating imperialists could never hold such ideals as reform, sending children to school and teaching the 'criminal tribes' useful trades in their dead cold hearts(oh wait, they had no hearts)? Surely, Mishraji, that cannot be true. I must read it again just to believe that I have read it-
Later, criminal tribesmen were given a chance to reform. Many settlements were placed in the care of the Salvation Army, various missions and philanthropic organizations. Children were sent to school, taught useful trades.

This work was carried on after India became independent. Last week(in 1952-ed.) the state of Uttar Pradesh, following the example of Bombay and Madras, repealed the Criminal Tribes Act, thus freeing all but a small percentage of India's criminal tribesmen from their semi-prison existence.

The authorities were under no illusion that they had abolished the tribes' preference for ancestral occupations; but with the stigma of hereditary crime removed, they hoped to convince the tribes eventually that crime does not pay.

Whaaaatt's that again!!! But wasn't it only the very naughty racist imperialist British who were convinced of "the tribes' preference for (criminal)ancestral occupations"? No wonder then that the independent Indian state passed a very similar law-
In a retrograde step, in 1959, new laws in the form of the Habitual Offenders Act were introduced in various states. Even whilst eschewing branding people of certain communities ‘born criminals’, these Acts retained many of the provisions of the Criminal Tribes Act such as registration, restrictions on movement, and incarceration in ‘corrective settlements’ earmarked for ‘habitual offenders’. The bias against nomads lingered, as is apparent in the way the Acts enjoined the government to look at whether a person’s occupation was “conducive to an honest and settled way of life… not merely a pretence for the purpose of facilitating commission of offences,” while exercising its power to restrict the movement of the person. The police routinely used theHabitual Offenders Act against members of nomadic and denotified communities.

And how dare top Indian politicians speak of cracking down on the 'criminal tribes', even decades later? What are they, as racist as the British or do they hold a grudge against those who carried water for Bahadur Shah Zafar? Hasn't Mishraji told them that there is no such thing as the 'criminal tribes'?-
Bansi Lal orders crackdown on `criminal' tribes

Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal has ordered a crackdown on the `criminal' tribes - the Bawarias, Pardis and Sansis. During a visit to the sector-17, Gurgaon residence of Sudhir and Kiran Lal, the couple who were clubbed to death by suspected Bawaria assailants four days ago, Bansi Lal ordered that these criminal tribes be flushed out of Haryana.
What?! "criminal tribes be flushed out"! Just like the eeeeeeeeeeeeevil Englanders used to do? No, that cannot be true in free India fifty years after independence!

Ok, enough of sarcasm. Now the conclusion-
This is what our media and 'scholars' do everyday -rewrite history to suit their pre-determined narratives.

(For those who think my sense of time has gone bonkers-how could Amaresh Mishra, whose book came out in 2008 have gone back in time to 1999,the date of the above article, and lectured Bansi Lal: to them I say -
Mishraji is carrying such a weight of history on his patriotic shoulders enlightening us all that he bloody well should have figured out how!)

Note 1-
Amaresh Misra is the author of War of Civilisations: India AD 1857 in which he claims that the British killed 10 million in 10 years(has a jingle like ring to it) after 1857 out of revenge. This astonishing claim is disputed by many experts, including this lady here who asks-
How have historians missed these tens of millions of Indians killed? Which regiments did the killing? Where are the War Office orders authorising the killings? Where are these operations found in the various regimental histories/ histories of the British Army in India?
Note 2-
Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 may be read here(pdf).

A sample of Mishraji's powerful intellect-
He(Amaresh Mishra) blamed terrorism in India on the growing Indo-Israel relationship and India’s pro-West policies.

(emphasis mine)

*The colorful Indian language translator-
firangi - White skinned foreigner, often a term of derision among anti-colonial, subaltern study types