In the nation that proudly brags of Unity in Diversity among thousand of cultures some are more overlooked than others. The Bagri is one such caste. In addition to being termed as a scheduled tribe, it’s also declared a denotified one (a tribe addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences) according to the criminal tribes act of 1971. A label which has tempered with their development for decades and continues to hinder their growth still.
According to their traditions, The Bagri arose with the intermarriage of Kshatriya class of prominent Gujjar, Rajput and Jatt communities. They are now are now mostly settled in the original abode of these communities namely Rajasthan (Gujjar and Rajputs) and Punjab (Jatts) and all over Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh it is spread all over the state with different names like Bagari, bagariya, bahagari and baioriyaz according to Dr Raja Ram Singh. After the partition a substantial population also moved to Pakistan eventually settling there or in Afghanistan even.
Most of the Bagris traditionally raise livestock as the source of livelihood with some getting involved in the handicraft businesses and even fewer engaging in manual labor.The Bagri are divided into a number of sub-divisions, the main ones being the Chunarias, who are cultivators, the Datanias who sell twig toothbrushes, the Vedus who sell gourd, Salaat, who are stonemasons, and the remaining clans being landless agriculture workers. Their minor sub-divisions include the Mori, Bajania, Kakodia, Bamcha and Pomla.
Important traditions of Bagris include always wearing a sacred thread and marrying among themselves. They also believe in removing their dead cattle with their own hands as said by Mr.R. V. Russell who is Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces in Indian Civil Services.
The social lives among the Bagris is dominated by a strict caste system still.Most castes have certain occupations that all its members follow. As usual,some castes are considered better or higher than others and intermingling between lower and higher classes is minimal and frowned upon. They also have an effective caste council which also acts as an quasi-judicial body settling disputes between communities.
Monogamy and exogamy is practiced in Bagri culture. Unlike most of Indian cultures, widows and divorcees are allowed to remarry but this is with a peculiar feature. If a widow refuses the brother-in-law’s proposal she must pay compensation.
The religious beliefs of Bagri caste is mostly influenced by Hinduism and worship a lot of Hindu God and Goddesses. But almost all Bagris also practice ethnic religion, their ancient traditions and religions. In particular, they are animists, meaning that they believe that objects, plants, and animals have spirits according to Eric Holmlund.
The Bagris face a lot of discrimination and seen in a bad light because their ancestors were bandits and robbers. This is interferes with their employment opportunities evident by the fact that only handful among the approximate 2 million own land. This alone show the neglect that the government has shown them and how much they need to helped.
We need to remember that true unity will only be when we grow, taking all cultures together