Denotified but Pardhis still face institutionalised prejudice

Stigmatisation and poverty had forced most Pardhis (members of a denotified tribe) to migrate to Mumbai city but a new study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) concludes that they have not been able to shed the tag of criminals and they routinely face harassment, detention and humiliation at the hands of police. Denotified communities are social groups branded "criminal tribes" by the British government in India and later "denotified" by the Indian government.

According to TISS, the acute fragmentation of nomadic and denotified groups, their vast spread across the state, inability to access health, education, water, sanitation and public distribution system make them "highly vulnerable" to poverty and exclusion. The report Status of Pardhis in Mumbai city says though it focuses on urban poverty among Pardhis, the findings will be indicative of the nature of problems faced by members of other nomadic, denotified groups in urban areas.

It notes that lack of assets and occupational mobility, poverty, search for better employment opportunities and experience of routine harassment by police and villagers pushed Pardhis to migrate to Mumbai. "In case of many denotified and nomadic groups, there is an institutionalised prejudice against entire communities that brands them as criminals and this holds true for Pardhis. Our study reveals that they are routinely picked up by the police on account of suspicion and without preliminary investigation that is otherwise required to arrive at reasonable satisfaction to make an arrest," says Mayank Sinha, principal author of the study from TISS Centre for Criminology and Justice.

"There have been cases of combing operations in which police have rounded up adult and teenage members of Pardhi community at night for making collective inquiries about crimes committed in the area or elsewhere. According to Pardhis, these acts of the police constitute ethnic discrimination."

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