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Roaming their World: The Roma

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By Annesha Das Gupta

You have heard of them. You have formed an opinion of your very own about them. Then you forgot them.

To you, they are the nomads, the ‘Gypsies’. They are in numerous tales ‘deceiving’ people, holder of amazing powers a tribe of mystic beings.

Aren’t they, though? Well, not.

They are actually known as the Roma or Romani. And no, they are not what the larger part of the world has made of them. They are people just like you and I, they have a history that remained unwritten for centuries, their cultures ignored and their agonies, forgotten.

However, according to Mark D Knudsen, to give it a more academic touch, the Roma never exhibited any of the typical nomadic behavior. They were coerced to move from one region to another throughout their entire historical timeline, either because of banishment, flight, trade or else the maintenance of social and familial structures.

Unfortunately, even in the contemporary era much has not changed for them.

So how are they now? What is their history? And who in actuality are they?

Chronology of Migration of Gypsies or The Roma from India to the world
Chronology of Migration of Gypsies or The Roma from India to the world

Let’s read on.

Who are the Roma?

The Roma or Romani are the people who according to the majority of historians and archeologists, originated from the northwestern regions of India; particularly Rajasthan, current Haryana, and Punjab.

They speak a mixed variation of languages which has influenced the Romani dialects, sometimes known as Para-Roman.

They are currently spread across many parts of the world especially in the Balkan Peninsula and other countries of Europe. And they comprise the largest ethnic minority in the latter one.

Historically, romanis have been misunderstood everywhere and thus subjected to a lot of prejudices. A noticeable example can be found in the epic Persian poem of Shahnameh. It goes that the Sasanian king, Bahram V Gor, upon learning at the end of his reign that the poor of his kingdom cannot afford to listen to music, he requested the king of India to send him ten thousand Luris, men and women who play lute. After they came to his empire, the king gifted them an ox each, a donkey and a donkey-load of wheat. He wanted them to have a life of a farmer and that they entertain the poor for free. Unfortunately, the luris ate up the oxen and the wheat. This angered the king and he banished the tribe forever.

Such fables elucidate how painful a life the Roma had to endure and how stereotyped their image has been.

In different parts of the world they are known by different names; such as Manus in France, Tatara in Sweden and Gypsies in the UK, which bore a negative connotation for them. They were given the name of ‘Gypsy’ in the 16th century as there was a wide-spread misconception that the group originated from Egypt.

Linking the Roma: India to Europe

  • India

As stated by Knudsen in his blog, Roma History, in the 11th century, India had several smaller kingdoms in Northern India where the Gujjars and the Rajput confederations used to rule. These were primarily feudal societies comprising of warriors, landowner castes, and the commoners. The Roma were then believed to be known as Domba which means human and gradually evolved into the names known today as Rom (man) and Romni (woman). They, as claimed by a lot of historians, belonged to the lower castes who used to hold the occupations of the peasantry, mainly caring for animals, training horses, craftsmen – makers of weapons.

It is worth noticing as well that in Sanskrit Doma means ‘man of low caste living by singing and music’. Thus confirming their presence, in the pages, of Shahnameh.

They were granted the status of warrior class mercenaries by the Hindus and were recruited into the army who were sent westwards to fight off the Islamic military expansions. And during this time, they were captured by Mahmud of Ghazna as slaves. The Sultan got hold over 500,000 Roma from the regions of Punjab and Sindh during his raids to India which continued for almost 17 years.

The atrocities committed, can be illustrated by what has been claimed recently by the historians: The Muslim conquerors took the Roma and forced them to march across the heavy mountain terrains of Central Asia- thus calling the ranges as the Hindu Kush or the slaughter of Hindus.

The Roma got their freedom even if it was scarce by joining one of the Arabic emirates known as the ‘Rum-Seldchuks’ after the breakup of the Ghaznadian dynasty. They escaped slavery by changing their religion to that of Islam as the Muslims did not take Islamic slaves.

Later the emirate was invaded by Ottoman I creating his empire and that was the last stop for Romas before moving on to Europe.

  • Europe

Romani or Gypsies, as they were called was not very popular there. In most of the European countries, Romani were considered as unwanted emigrants. They were believed to be barbarians and totally untrustworthy. Such were the image of them that they were usually chased out of the places if they were seen traveling around in their mobile homes. It is well-known that they were outlawed in Denmark from 1554 to 1736.

Some DNA evidence also suggests that a few of them arrived in Europe in the mid 11th century due to the Viking enslavement or liaisons with Varangians as found in the skeletons of Norwich.

A chronicler for a Parisian journal described them as shabbily dressed and reported that the Church forced them to leave the town as it was believed that they practiced palm-reading and fortune-telling.

Earlier in 1510, Switzerland ordered for their execution and similar laws were also established in Britain. Whereas in Sweden large masses were deported outside the country to its colonies in 1538.

Historical Amnesia: Romani Holocaust

According to historian Ian Hancock, a Romani scholar, linguist and political advocate, German Wehrmacht swept into the Balkans on its quest to conquer Eastern Europe and imposed Hilter’s genocidal policies of Aryan racial impurity on them.

The Romani genocide or Romani Holocaust, also named as ‘O Porajmos’ or ‘the devouring’ was an attempt by the Nazi troops to annihilate the Romani of Europe during the Second World War. Both Romani and Jews were executed as “enemies of the raced-based state” under the Nuremberg laws.

Estimated death tolls of the Romani people ranged from 220,000 to 1,500,000 during the whole period of the Nazi rule.

When the Nazis were defeated in 1945, the world came to know about the heinous acts that were performed against the Jews. But the Romani and the Sinti went unmentioned despite the fact that they went through the similar fate of being brutally treated, of exploiting them as slave laborers and being murdered in the gas chambers.

Unfortunately, it was as late as 2nd August 1981 that West Germany finally agreed to recognize the genocide of the Roma.

The Roma and their presence: The Present

The international Day of the Roma is celebrated in the honor of the first international meeting of Romani representations which took place on 8th April 1971 near London.

The international anthem of the Roma was adopted in 1990. It is known as ‘Gelem Gelem’ which was composed and written by a Romany musician and politician named Zarko Jovanovic who now lives in Paris but originally was from Beograd. It should also be known that the anthem of Czech and Sloval Romanies is named ‘Chajori Romani’ and was composed in the concentration camp of Auschwitz.

Whereas the Romani flag consists of two strips, the lower green strip symbolizes the unity of the Roma with nature while the upper blue one with the heaven. The wheel in the centre, suggest the migratory image of the Romanies and has its roots in the Indian red chakra wheel.

Coming to India again – Though the Roma now mainly belong to Islam or Christianity, their social behavior is strictly regulated by Hindu Purity Laws. Also to further connect them with India, one should know that the mitochondrial DNA (the genetic formulation in Indians), is found in about 30% of the population.

In 1782, Rudiger found a massive amount of similarities, between the Romani language and Hindustani.

The Roma who take pride of their roots in India wanted the world to recognize them as one of the official Indian diasporas.

In a recent event held at New Delhi, Joval Damjonvoic, president of World Roma Organization said that they are the indigenous people of India. Roma are traced by many scholars to India; they use the same words as those by the Indians and want the country to accept them as their diaspora and give them a nationality.

The World Bank also took the effort to integrating the Roma youth, who comprised 10-20% of the new labor in Eastern European countries into the mainstream discourse by addressing their social and economic conditions. And in this, they partnered with foundations like UNDP, UNICEF, and REF.

There has been the inauguration of a Romanian studies summer institute at the Central European University and the establishment of the European Roma Institute.

Still there remain the incidents of sterilization of Roma women and the attack on seven Roma families in Ukraine all over in the same weekend. Also, there has been a continuous deportation of the community from slums in Paris which left most of them homeless.

All these points exclaim that there needs much to be done to build a more Roma inclusive world so that people can voice their opinion and start to take a stand for the rights of the Roma.

After all, they are just like us, just like any other human being who has right to live.

Read More-www.newsgram.com/we-romas-would-like-to-be-treated-as-indian-diaspora

www.newsgram.com/roma-people-and-their-indian-connection

www.newsgram.com/history-roma-peoples-flag/

Image-eucentral.co.uk

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Asia Cup : India Emerge Champions for third time, Beat Malaysia in Asia Cup Hockey Championship

India emerged victorious for the third time

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(representational Image) India vs Malaysia Hockey Match wikimedia

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the final on Sunday to win the Asia Cup hockey championship for the third time.

Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) scored for India. Shahril Saabah (50th minute) scored the reducer for Malaysia. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.