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Here is why varied tribes of India are marking separate Independence Day on August 31!

About 150 communities known as Vimukt Jati or denotified tribes (DNT's) were stated as the 'criminal tribes' by the British Government under the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA)

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Baiga Tribe. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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August 31, 2016: The entire nation was reborn to freedom and liberty on the historic day of August 15, 1947, as we achieved Independence and established India as a free country. Hardly considering the fact that not the whole nation was able to pursue its freedom and celebrate, we celebrate the day as our Independence day.

Therefore, like every consecutive year, this year too- August 15 was celebrated as the 70th Independence day of the nation but being least bothered with the lesser known fact, that a particular section in our society is differentiated from this celebration and cornered from the society.

About 150 communities known as Vimukt Jati or denotified tribes (DNT’s) were stated as the ‘criminal tribes’ by the British Government under the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) and they could only mark their Vimukti Diwas (Liberation Day) after waiting for five more years, on August 31, 1952. This happened only when the CTA was repealed across India.

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These communities are now ready to celebrate an additional Independence day in India and August 31, 2016, marks their 65 years of their liberation. Even though these communities are differentiated, today all of them will be standing together. While this can be called the largest gathering as this will be the day of celebration as well as protest. The event took place at the famous site of Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, reported a news portal.

Today these denotified tribes are free from the label of ‘criminal tribes’ but they still have to face the dishonour from the contemporary society. As they hold a history of hereditary criminals from their communities. These denotified tribes include roughly 20 million people that are scattered across the country, but the similar label of ‘Criminal tribes’ stated by the Criminal Tribes Act unites the vast population.

The law was enacted in the year 1871 that labelled these communities as criminals from birth.

The communities were restricted from basic rights and were supervised at every step on a daily basis. They were forced into labour settlements and penal colonies on the Andaman islands. All this disgrace could stop only after their denotification in the year 1952. At this time roughly 3.5 million people fall under the tag of ‘criminal tribes’ communities.

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Even though being free from stated as ‘Criminal tribes,’ these communities still face some or the other discrimination in the society, due to their history and association of some of the tribes in the criminal activities. Therefore, for a handful of people the whole tribe is disgraced and this has become a matter of concern. Apart from that, further, poverty and illiteracy pull them back.

Many of these tribes came together after the law was enacted in 1952. These tribes came to celebrate their ‘Vimukti Diwas’ or liberation day on August 31 by organising small celebration or local affairs.

As the time passed, the tribes gathered in large numbers for their demands to be heard. Though a lot is done in the society to support them, but these turned out to be shallow and volatile attempts which resulted in no conclusion.

These tribal communities are still differentiated in the contemporary Indian society and this year, 2016, marks their 65th Independence day. These tribes only demand liberty and acceptance from people around them.

prepared by Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu of NewsGram with inputs from various sources. Twitter: @jagpreet_ks9

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)