Alternative Media and the Chhara Community

Introduction

Definition: “Media which provide alternatives to the mainstream media in a given context. They are small scaled and oriented towards specific communities especially disadvantaged groups. They are independent from state and market, horizontally structured and allow the facilitation of audience access and participation within the frame of democratization and multiplicity.”

Objectives: Here in this term paper I will discuss the need and power of alternative media by taking the case study of Chhara community. I will talk about how the Chhara community (which will be described later in this paper) had came up with the idea of using an alternative medium i.e. Buddhan Theatre and how this alternative medium turned out to be the mother of other alternative media like blogs, films, documentaries, social advertisements and novels etc.

I’ll talk briefly about every medium and its role and how the intelligent use of these media has changed their life and gave birth to a number other alternative media.

Before discussing Chhara community and the use of alternative media by it, I’ll first discuss the characteristics of alternative media and how is it different from the mainstream media.

Difference between Alternative and Mainstream Media

In India, the presence of alternative media is less than considerable and the people`s awareness of such media is even less. There is no clear understanding of the Alternative Media concept in our country. The problem is with the origin of these concepts. They come to us from the West, from feminism to affirmative action to art and kitsch to democracy to freedom of the press and so on. For instance, freedom of the press is described in the West as the right to tell the government to go to hell. Can there be a greater profanity inflicted on a profound concept? Outrageous and innocuous at the same time, this definition portrays government alone as the agency with an interest in suppressing information. Thereby we are suppressing a truth: the State is only one among several agencies that conceal information. This explains the need to delineate the contours of Alternative Media with a view to separate pretenders from genuine adherents.

The Alternative Media concept originally arose from mainstream media`s blackout of alternative opinion. It means more things than anti-establishment or underground press. Government leverage with information is minimal today compared to the control corporate mainstream media have over mass communication. It is the private sector that owns almost all information and broadcasting channels today. The network of private networks dwarfs the state information and broadcasting network in India. It is now acknowledged all over the world that the Indian media are the freest. Yet it is the free media that stifle alternative voices. Let me first define what are mainstream media. Those groups that monopolize the means to produce and circulate agenda-setting information and dominate the media scene can aptly be described as Mainstream Media. These groups have economic clout that helps them to own mass media as a means to further improve their economic base.

Mass Media are today part of economic theory. Advertisement expenditure is now an important item in determining cost of production.

About Mainstream Media, Noam Chomsky says, “They are the ones with the big resources; they set the framework in which everyone operates. Their audience is mostly privileged people, people who are wealthy or part of what is sometimes called the political class. They are basically managers of one sort or another. They can be political managers, business managers, university professors or other journalists who are involved in organizing the way people think and look at things. What they interact with and relate to are other major power centres; the government or other corporations or universities.”

Alternative media should be defined by rediscovering the purpose of mass communication. Mass media have an information mission they can disown only at the risk of losing the freedom they claim in the name of that mission. This mission cannot be jettisoned by citing commercial logic or such romantic terminology as compulsions of globalization or demands of the market place. Once you accept market logic, in countries like India you are keeping out of media inquiry millions of people who are not buyers of goods they advertise. Common people know what they want more than the editors pretend to know. One has only to read letters to the editor to find that common people know their country and its problems better than the tribe of columnists. Any medium, print or electronic or net, that refuses to acknowledge mass communication as a mission for the benefit of the common people forfeits its right to disseminate information and thus the right to be called media.

Today, we see mass media paying increasing homage to fashion parades, models, film and sports celebrities and the hyping of events like Abhishek, Aishwarya’s wedding controversies and Sachin`s Ferrari deserved tax exemption. Such misuse of freedom of expression is a violation of Article 19 (1) of the Constitution. It sounds logical that alternative media should train their guns more against mass media than the government. It is conceded that neither the government nor the mainstream media have much respect for public opinion. Parliament takes care of this inadequacy by being a watchdog of government performance and also a forum for public opinion.

However, discussing important economic and social issues like malnutrition, maternity deaths, waterborne diseases, bonded labour, status of women or street children alone does not make alternative media. Every one of these issues lends itself to several interpretations. You cannot claim “we are alternative media merely because we publish material not readily acceptable to mass media.

To deserve the Alternative Media label, the media need to accommodate the plurality of alternative views and not one or two that are acceptable to a section of the society. There are views on economy that do not readily fit into black and white slots of capitalist and Marxist excursus. Some media sporting the alternative label have a tendency not to suffer certain views gladly. Yet these views belong to vast sections of the society offering unorthodox solutions to problems facing the country. One must understand that people privileged in many material ways may not be privileged in terms of access to media. To deserve the Alternative Media label, alternative media must provide access to all those who clamor for it. Alternative Media in India continue to be a vertical pattern of interaction between the audiences and themselves, very much in the manner of mass media where the big guys tell the general masses what to think.

Denotified Tribes

In spite of India’s independence, criminal tribes were not freed from these settlements until 1952. This is when they were called DNTs. In fact, many DNT communities celebrate August 30, 1952, as their day of independence. The CTA was eventually repealed, but the State-level Habitual Offenders Act, 1952, replaced it and proved to be the CTA in another garb.

The so-called denotified tribes of India are among the lasting victims of British imperialism. Originally “notified” by the government as criminals in 1871, the DNTs should have enjoyed the freedom of independence that came to the rest of India’s people in 1947. Instead, they have languished as the most handicapped community in the nation, with health, literacy, and employment levels far below the average.

The British labelled them criminals because they pursued a nomadic way of life. The nomadic tribes traditionally carried important commodities such as salt and honey between the coasts and the inland forests. The British relied on these networks to establish their own trading relationships and to guide their armies through unknown regions. Indeed, these traders and transporters of goods were crucial informants for the new rulers, who benefited from tribal knowledge of flora and fauna, transportation and communication.

As railways and telegraphs were built in the 1850s such networks became redundant. The colonial authorities grew nervous about people who moved around, carrying intelligence they could not control directly. In the aftermath of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 these former allies were seen as potential enemies. In 1871, an Act was passed for “the notification of criminal tribes.” Hundreds of tribes that traditionally collected food from the forest became criminals with the stroke of a pen. When they could not be forcibly settled, they were sometimes shot on sight. Those who were settled were subjected to a pass system to control their movements and were rehabilitated through rigorous labor.

These criminal tribes were properly denotified in 1952 after India’s independence. But they were reclassified as habitual offenders in 1959. The stigma of the criminal label still follows them to this day. Many laws and regulations in various states prohibit certain communities of people from traveling; others must still register at police stations in the districts they pass through. This close association with authority makes nomadic tribes especially liable to suspicion when crimes actually occur. The percentage of DNTs in custody and under investigation is greatly disproportionate to their population.

Chhara Community

The Chhara community were indigenous and nomadic people of the Punjab region who were “notified” and settled by order of the British colonial government in the 1930s. At that time they were confined in a colony called Chharanagar and rehabilitated through industrial and agricultural labor. After independence they were released from the settlement, but many chose to remain, having essentially no resources or other means of livelihood and no retraining in useful skills.

The Chhara community was branded “born criminals” by the British and is one of 150 denotified and nomadic tribes (DNTs) in India. Now, its members live in Chharanagar, a poor urban settlement on the outskirts of Ahmedabad

People of Chhara community used to go to different places and perform different acts and songs in order to gather the crowd and during the performances they used to steal things from the audiences. But, they did not harm anybody and were not involved in big crimes like robbery, murder etc.

“THERE is a big difference between a thief and a robber,” explains Dakxin Bajrange Chhara. “A thief is one who skilfully distracts a victim and then pinches something of value. No physical harm is ever done. A robber could do anything to a victim including murder.” Chharas, he says, are seen as specialising in thieving.

Because of its “criminal” reputation, only Chharas normally entered Chharanagar until a few years ago. People came to buy arrack and left as soon as it was purchased, says Bajrange. Chharas produce home-brewed alcohol, which is bought in large quantities in the dry State of Gujarat. Most adult Chharas have seen the inside of jail. The police visit their area almost every day. Chharas are constantly harassed and picked up for questioning even if the crime concerned is committed at the other end of the city. In 1952, five years after independence, the Criminal Tribes Act of 1911 was finally repealed. Released from the forced labor camp which had been their prison for the past forty years, the Chhara were resettled on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in Chharanagar. Roughly three square miles, with a population of over twenty thousand, Chharanagar is primarily known for its home brewed liquor – illegal in the dry state of Gujarat.

Due to their history of nomadism and forced sedentization, social stigmas have developed about the Chharas that place them at considerable disadvantage in competing for jobs and education. They have become scapegoats and usual suspects for police, who are able to use Chharas for illegal purposes, such as brewing country liquor under threat of compulsion. This places Chharas in constant uneasy relation to authority and has resulted in an extremely high rate of incarceration. Youth find it very difficult to acquire and retain employment. Yet Chharas are highly motivated to excel at education, and Chharanagar boasts an impressive number of professionals. As they knew the art of acting and singing very well, they decided to use it constructively for their betterment. They had started with the budhhan theatre with the agenda of making the world aware of their truth that they are born actors not the criminals, and about the discrimination and brutality they are facing even today when they are living in an independent nation which promises equal rights to all its citizens. This attempt of awareness by Chharas eventually became very successful and they got acknowledged by different scholars, writers, film makers and the institutions etc. Various members of Chhara community got the chance to start new communication media like Roxy Gagdekar started his blog, Daxin who is an important part of Buddhan theatre made different documentaries and films etc. Besides the community members many other Internationally renound people like Keriem Friedman, Mahasweta Devi, Ganesh Devi etc also contributed in their own styles. In this way this Chhara movement became a huge one by the use different media other than the mainstream media.

Alternative Media

Budhan Theatre

In 1998, the writer and activist Mahashweta Devi won a case in the Supreme Court on behalf of Shyamoli Sabar, Budhan’s wife. This is when the emancipation of the DNTs truly began. Led by Mahashweta Devi, Lakshman Gaekwad and Ganesh Devy, a movement was born. The Budhan Theatre is a part of the liberation plan.

Budhan, who belonged to the Sabar community in the Purulia district of West Bengal, was killed in February 1998. When the Kheria Sabar Welfare Samiti and their leader, the noted Bangla writer Mahasveta Devi, arranged a post-mortem, it became clear that Budhan had died of a severe beating (rather than suicide) in police custody. The Samiti filed a case in the Calcutta High Court, and Mahasveta Devi went to Baroda to deliver the annual Verrier Elwin lecture at the Bhasha Research Centre. As a result of her speech on denotified tribals at this momentous time, she, Laxman Gaikwad and Ganesh Devi founded the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group and began a long journey though many states to meet DNTs in person. To keep their colleagues informed of developments, Ganesh Devi started a journal called Budhan.

In May of that year, they visited Chharanagar, Ahmedabad, a ghetto of Chhara DNTs, and asked them what it was that they needed most. They told them that we desperately wanted to read. Mahasveta Devi spent money from her own pocket and bought them books. “I think it was the first time in Chhara history that someone from outside had made such a gesture, said Gagdekar” and then they set up a library of revolutionary and cultural literature there. A group of young men and women associated themselves with the center and started to write and produce short plays relating to social reform. In July the Calcutta High Court decided the Budhan Sabar murder case, and Ganesh Devi printed the text of the verdict in Budhan. Their theatre group read the text and resolved to produce a play at their first national conference, which was ultimately attended by more than a thousand delegates including such scholars as Romila Thapar and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

The play made a profound impact on the audience, and the group subsequently performed it at major venues in New Delhi, Bhopal, Baroda, Pune and Bombay. Each time they did so, they modified parts of the script, so while the play was written by Dakshin Bajrange (and translated by Sonal Baxi), it can truly be said to come straight from the oral tradition of tribal theatre. It is not an imaginary perception of suffering; it is based on the lived, traumatic experience of being branded a criminal.

Budhan Theatre was founded on 31st August 1998 in commemoration of the day when India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, lifted the stigma of criminality from the settled tribes in 1952. A population of some 60 million of these “denotified tribes” can be found throughout India today. Since 1998, Budhan Theatre has performed street plays to raise awareness about the condition of such tribes. Their goal is to demonstrate that Chharas are not “born criminals,” they are humans with real emotions, capacities, and aspirations. Each of their productions has dramatized the events surrounding custodial deaths, abductions, beatings and torture of such tribes throughout the country. At present Budhan Theatre is reaching out to other similarly stigmatized communities and including their stories in its repertoire.

Nomadic and Denotified Tribes are well-versed culturally, but due to difficult living conditions they have lacked the opportunity to develop their cultural talent properly. According to theatrical director Dakxin Bajrange, himself a Chhara, these tribes have an innate and extraordinary talent for acting. While working with these tribes for many years he has found that their quality of facial expression, speech and gesture are unmatched by other communities. Traditional performers, their families have been acting for hundreds of years. Additionally, the youth now feel they are acting to change their lives, and in many real ways doing it to keep themselves alive. They are performing with what little they have — their bodies, their voices and their creative talent — to change their society so that they may have a future within it.

Achievements of Buddhan Theatre

The theatre group encourages children and adults to write and perform in plays. Children are also motivated to hone their musical skills. In a short video on this, a group of children are sitting on the street rhythmically playing a sound piece with bottles, tins, barrels and plastic cans. While the entire shot is captivating, what is even more interesting is that each of those “instruments” is used in alcohol making.

The Budhan Theatre of Chharanagar, is responsible for changing the face of a community. “It is much more than just a theatre troupe. They are also a conduit for social development within their community,” says P. Kerim Friedman, an academic and film-maker who made the documentary Hooch and Hamlet in Chharanagar. In the process of creating awareness about Chharas in the outside world, the theatre brought the outside world to Chharanagar. Young people inspired by performances have taken to acting professionally or have gained confidence while acting and later sought employment in professions other than thieving and brewing illicit alcohol. This confidence building has been the best reward for the theatre group, say Bajrange and Gagdekar.

Such has been the interest in theatre that two of Chharanagar’s boys have graduated from the National School of Drama, an incredible achievement for boys from “criminal” backgrounds. One of the few professions that many Chharas have taken to is law. There are close to 120 advocates in Chharanagar. Many others aspire to get regular jobs in company offices, retail or manufacturing. Theatre gives them the courage and confidence to approach these areas, say Bajrange and Gagdekar, whose ambitions for the community is boundless. The Budhan Theatre takes performances to other parts of Gujarat and has been invited to Mumbai and Delhi. Travel and exposure to other DNTs have been especially enlightening for the troupe. It has performed over 15 plays since it began and numerous skits; performed by adults and children. Additionally, Bajrange, assisted by theatre members, has made six films on DNTs.

“Apart from raising awareness about DNT issues, I can confidently say the Budhan Theatre has become a theatre for community development. It is singularly responsible for removing the shackles of discrimination and allowing the community to integrate itself into mainstream society,” says Bajrange. “I am often told ‘your performance is so realistic’. I say ‘yes, it’s because it comes from personal experience’.

Dakxin Bajrange

DaKxin Bajrange is an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, actor, director and activist from the Chhara community. He teaches theatre and film at the National Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, Gujarat and is a Fellow of Bhasha Research and Publication Centre in Baroda. He has produced cultural programs for the Information Department of Gujarat State; directed over 50 television programs for Tara Gujarati Channel; and directed eight documentaries on the earthquake in 2000 for the Gujarat government.

His independent documentaries include Fight for Survival (Jeevika 2005, South Asia Award), Bulldoze (2006), Thought for Development (2005), Actors are Born Here (2006), The Lost Water (2007) and his theatrical credits as Writer, Director and Actor include Budhan, Pinya Hari Kale Ki Maut (Death of Pinya Hari Kale), Encounter, Majhab Hameen Sikhata Aapas Mein Bair Rakhna, Bhoma, Khoj, Ulgulan, and Muje Mat Maro…Saab. He is currently working as Associate Director on a Gujarat film series with Rakesh Sharma. He is a founding member of the Budhan Theatre. He teaches street theatre to youth and from age 9 and up in Gujarat.

DaKxin has represented nomadic and denotified tribes of India at the United Nations and various universities of the U.S., including Georgetown, Princeton, Maryland Universities.

Films

Acting Like a Thief by Shashwati Talukdar and P. Kerim Friedman

It is a short film about the Budhan Theatre of Chharanagar. Starting with playwright Dakxin Bajrange discussing his arrest, the film brings us inside the lives of a dedicated group of young actors and their families as they discuss what it means to be a “born criminal” and how theatre changed their lives. http://fournineandahalf.com/actinglikeathief/watch/

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards

  • Amnesty International Film Festival, USA, 2006
  • Tri Continental Film Festival, India, 2006
  • Ms. Film Festival, 2006
  • South Side Film Festival, USA, 2006
  • Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival, USA, 2006
  • Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Ithaca, NY, 2007
  • Association for Asian Studies Conference, Boston, MA, 2007
  • International Asian Women’s Film Festival, New Delhi, India, 2007
  • International Ethnographic Film Festival of the Royal Anthropological Institute, UK, 2007
  • International Festival of Films on Tribal Art & Culture, India, 2008

Please Don’t Beat Me Sir

It is about a troupe of young Chhara actors using theater to fight police brutality and the stigma of criminality. The film is about a society in transition: the older generation did whatever it took to make ends meet, but they want a better life for their children. With social prejudice blocking all exits, for some young people, theater offers the only way out. From busy street corner protests to a climactic nerve-wracking performance in front of cadets at the Police Academy, Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! takes us inside the lives of these young people as they use theater to carve out a place for themselves in the world. http://dontbeatmesir.com

Vimukta

Its a Film by Chharas about Chharas

In a 16 days community video workshop on basic film making with the teenagers and youth of Budhan Theater, Caleb Johnston a research fellow from Canada, Dakxin Bajrange & Nishit Jadawala taught them some basics about story board, shooting in fields & some basic editing Technics. And finally at the end of the workshop they came out with a small 7 mins film named Vimukta which means ‘especially free’.

Few lines from Vimukta: “The police often harrass us. We face discrimination in schools. Our community is treated as a filthy basti (slum). We want to forget but someone always digs up the buried past. We are human beings just like many of you. We have lawyers, a journalist, teachers and artists in our community. We need acceptance to live life with dignity. We want to remind you that we rae not born criminals. Today we have this library. We are attending school. We want a college education. We want to be engineers. We want to be reporters.

We want to be pilots. We want to be scientists. One day, we will transform Chharanagar into Sranagar (Good Town). One day Chharanagar will be known as a town of artists. One day a chhara will be the president of India.

It tells us the story of chharas in their own words. And in the end it also tells us their desires and aim in life, how they want to see themselves in the future. This film gives us the gist of their whole social movement.

Social Campaign on You Tube

There is a social campaign designed to create a new social identity for the Charras. This campaign consists of several video advertisements which show how chharas are being discriminated by the people in different spheres of social world. This social campaign is a creation of Budhhan Theatre.

Here I will summarise only few advertisements.

Advertisement No 1 [Time: 1.03sec]

Like every other advertisement it also starts with the lines; “There are 192 denotified tribes in the country. 6 Million Indians are said to be ‘born Criminals’ Chharas are one of them.”

It shows a 7 or 8 year boy standing on the bench with his hands in the air and requesting his teacher to allow him to put his hands down as they are paining badly. But teacher says, you should have thought of it before stealing the book of other student, the boy said I didn’t steal anything as I was not present in the class during the interval and that you can confirm with the other teacher who had beaten me while I was eating tamarind. He also suggested her to check others bag also but she refused it by saying that there isn’t any chhara in the class besides you.

The video ends with the lines; “Catch the thief not the community. Give change a chance.”

Advertisement No 2 [Time: 1.00]

Starting is the same for every advertisement, only end changes according to the context.

This is a scene of job interview where a girl is sitting in front of the interviewer who is seeing her cerficates and got very impressed. But when he asks her name and came to know that she is from Chhara Nagar he immediately calls his peon to throw her out and order him to check around if she has stolen something from his office.

The video ends with the lines; “Equality begins with you. Give change a chance.”

The community used this medium (Youtube) to create awareness among people about the discrimination that they are facing in different spheres of life.

 Budhan School of Theatre Arts, Journalism and Media Studies

Since its inception before a decade ago, one of the primary objectives of Budhan Theatre was to prepare a breed of professionals in the field of communication. As theatre, journalism and media studies are the important aspect to prepare the students in the field of communication, the group has started a six months certificate course.

The school

The school is located in the Chharanagar library in Ahmedabad and currently the lectures have already in progress. The school is currently run by Budhan Theatre group, a part of the umbrella organisations of Bhasha Research and Publication Centre in Vadodara.

The students

There are currently 30 students who come for regular lectures in the school. All of them are either the residents of Chharanagar and/or from the nearby localities.

The Director

Currently, the post of director is vacant and is awaited for the right candidate from the community.

The Honorary director

Roxy Gagdekar, a full time journalist working in Ahmedabad and a member of Budhan Theatre is currently the honorary director of the school. He teaches the basics of journalism and the skills of reporting to the students.

The faculty

Other members of Budhan Theatre are teaching the basics of theatre and other aspects of communication to the students.

This school has emerged after the path breaking success of Buddhan Theatre with the aim to professionally train the community members so that they can do much better work for themselves as compared to what they are doing now.

Blogs

Roxy Gagdekar

He is a reporter at one of Gujarat’s leading newspapers, and also an excellent writer. He has started his own blog, where he writes about Chharangar, the activities of the Budhan Theatre, and even some short fiction he has written.

Kerim Friedman

P. Kerim Friedman is an assistant professor in the Department of Indigenous Cultures at National Dong Hwa University, where he teaches linguistic and visual anthropology. His research explores the relationship between language, ideology and political economy in Taiwan. He is a founding member of the group anthropology blog Savage Minds and a documentary filmmaker. His latest film is Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!. His roles in different films on Chharas are as follows:

  • Co-Producer, Director. “Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!”
  • Assistant Editor. “Mahashweta Devi: Witness, Advocate, Writer.” A half hour documentary by Shashwati Talukdar on the celebrated Indian writer and activist. 2001.
  • Co-Producer, Director. “Acting like a Thief.” With Shashwati Talukdar. A short (15min) documentary about a theater troupe in Gujarat, India. 2005.

Sambhav

Sambhav is a collective initiative taken up by the students of DA-IICT, Gandhinagar. Its website says; “It’s an attempt to contribute in bringing about a change in the existing iniquitous and unjust social order of the country. Sambhav stands for social transformation and is premised on the principles and values enshrined in the preamble to the constitution of our country”.

This Student group started teaching kids in maninagar where similar tribal communities exist. They also regularly visit to chharanagar and also invite them to their college for performances. A theatre group is being established in the college where daxin bajrange gives training, summer internships are also done in maninagar and chharanagar, and also at Bhasha Foundation which is the parent of Budhan Theatre. Also, they used an online petition to further their cause concerning the usurption of the Maninanagar DNT basti by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which was forwarded by Shyam Benegal. Beside all these efforts, these students have started their own newsletter which they use to convey the problems of Chharas to the concerned government/organisations. Initially the name of this news letter was Samvedna but now its name is Ulgulan.

Conclusion

Nomadic and Denotified Tribes are well-versed culturally, but due to difficult living conditions they have lacked the opportunity to develop their cultural talent properly. These tribal communities, due to their histpry of theiving people by distracting them through role-playing and performances, have an innate and extraordinary talent for acting.

Traditional performers, and their families have been acting for hundreds of years. Additionally, post Budhan Theatre, the youth now feel they are acting to change their lives, and in many real ways doing it to keep themselves alive. They are performing with what little they have — their bodies, their voices and their creative talent — to change their society so that they may have a future within it.

The success of Budhan lies in their simultaneous adoption of multiple forms of community media, all enriching and supproting each other. This community media mix strategy has proved extremely useful in propagating their message among all kinds of audiences, and has taken them places. Not only has it generated awareness about their issues and concerns, it has also motivated people to get actively involved in fighting for their cause.

What initially started off as local performances in Chharanagar and in other similarly stigmatised communities, due to the timely and judicious use of various community media, has now become an important movement that has attracted some of the leading thinkers and activists in the country, as well as the youth from prominent educational institutions in Ahmedabad and beyond. Budhan now has regular performances at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), the Dhirubhai Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT). It has its own website, twitter page, and youtube channels displaying its plays and films made on the community’s problems. It maintains a blog, a separate website for fundraising (Vimukta), a google group for friends and supporters, and also organsies regular screenings of the many films made on the Chharas and their fight for justice. Some of its members have went on to study theatre at the prestigious National School of Drama. Vimukta and Sambhav publish regular newsletter that are distributed among their respective student and adult communities, and also circulated via email. Budhan also has its own public library in Chharanagar, which is more than just a library: it functions as a community centre and an informal school as well. It has recently been expanaded to incorporate a theatre, journalism and media school and training academy as well. All this is in addition to regular community and college performances, as well as plays at other public places such as shopping malls and book stores in Ahmedabad.

This comprehensive community-media-based activism has not only created widespread awarenes about the community’s problems, it has also played a huge role in restricting police atrocities in the community. The theatre group is now famous and has friends in powerful places, which has generated some amount of fear and responsibility in the police, and has thus promoted the Budhan Theatre Group to become the centre of communal identity for the Chharas.

Bibliography

  • Devy, G. N., A nomad called thief: reflections on Adivasi silence, Orient Longman Publishers, 2006.
  • D’Souza, Dilip, Looking at India’s Denotified Tribes, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2001.
  • Devi Mahasweta, The Book of the Hunter, Seagull, 2002.
  • Gagdekar, Roxy, http://roxygagdekar.blogspot.com/, Last Accesed on 20/11/2010.
  • http://budhantheatre.org/, Last Accesed on 16/11/2010.
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About sadianasr

Road safety x digital, social, policy, media at SaveLife. AIR, Urban Justice, CAIR, ICGC, UNDP alum.

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