THE FIRST-EVER ALL INDIA CONFERENCE OF THE DENOTIFIED AND NOMADIC TRIBES, CELEBRATING THE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF THEIR SYMBOLIC LIBERATION, WAS ORGANISED BY THE ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS AND LITERATURE ON AUGUST 31, 2002. The Conference was inaugurated by Ms. Mahasweta Devi while Mr. V.R Singh, the former Prime Minister of India, was the Chief Guest. The other luminaries who spoke at the Conference included Mr. Laxman Gaikwad, Mr. Kamleshwar, Mr. Rajendra Yadav, Mr. Ramdas Athawale, M.P., Mr. Ranjit Naik, Dr. Jagdish Acharya, Mr. Ajit Rai, Mr. Devi Dayal and Ms. Ajeet Cour. The representatives of many marginalised communities and tribes also spoke at the Conference and shared their experiences with the audience

“Aboriginal tribes were once the rulers of this country. Yet, ironically, at some time in the past,

Ms.Ajeet Cour welcoming the Delegates.

To her left are Mr. V.P.Singh and Ms. Mahasweta Devi.

they were dubbed as habitual criminals and this tag sticks to them even today. Under the law, nobody can be held guilty unless charges against him are proved in a court of law. But, unfortunately, members of the denotified and nomadic tribes are branded as criminals from their very birth,” observed Mr. V. P. Singh,former Prime Minister of India, while addressing the gathering. He congratulated the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature for always extending their helping hand to the cause of these marginalized tribals, and for Drganizing this first-ever national conference of the denotified and nomadic tribes in the capital on such a comprehensive scale, and that too without funding from anywhere.

Inaugurating the one-day Conference, veteran writer Ms. Mahasweta Devi suggested that the denotified and nomadic tribes should enlist the cooperation of other scheduled castes and tribes to intensify their struggle.

Mr. Laxman Gaikwad, noted Marathi writer and President of Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Federation, emphasised that the people belonging to these tribes had ceaselessly fought for the country’s freedom and were not thieves. He made a fervent plea for extending the privilege that nad been given to the scheduled castes and tribes to these people to anable them to live with honour.

Satish Sansi of the Sansi community gave details of the police atrocities 3n these tribes and said that they should be allowed to live with dignity. Mr. Ramdas Athawale, MP, announced his party’s full support to the struggle launched by the denotified and nomadic tribes. Mr. Athawale called upon the people to take their struggle forward on the lines of Dr. <\mbedker’s ideology.

Joted writer Mr. Kamleshwar said that the struggle of the denotified and nomadic tribes is a sensitive struggle of the entire human society. He suggested that Dalit literature should be integrated with this struggle. Mr. Rajendra Yadav, noted writer and editor of Hans, said that the sxperiences of the Dalits are actually their points of strength. He also said that the time had come for this section of society to raise its united /oice.

Mr. Ranjit Naik, a prominent activist of the Banjara community, said that under the present exploitative system, which has prevailed for at east three thousand years, the Dalits have not been allowed to realise their potential. Ms. Ajeet Cour, noted writer, social activist and organiser of this historic conference, addressed the session. In her statement, she said :

A view of the audience at the Conference on Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Writers, Mediapersons, Scholars, and the affected tribals from different regions

“In 1871, the British government had declared some nomadic tribes as criminal, particularly those which lad participated in the First War of independence in 1857.

They were not rescued by jur new rulers even when he rest of the country had achieved independence. Even after Jawaharlal Mehru declared these tribes as ‘specially emancipated’, could anybody say that these tribes had been really liberated?”

she asked. She expressed the hope that all people engaged in the struggle of the marginalised sections of society and those who love justice would draw inspiration and strength from this Conference, and would come forward to lend their support to the cause.In the afternoon session, Mr. Nand Kishor Shukla representing All idia Kisan Sabha and All India Mazdoor Sabha spoke on the lirection and condition’ of the denotified and nomadic tribes. He said of le two classes which he represented, one was being deprived of land nd the other of livelihood.