My World

Just a place for my thoughts and views…..

True Survivors – People of Chharanagar

with 16 comments

Theatre has become the part of their life. Be it protests or be it their anger or be it creating awareness in society – theatre is the medium they use for raising their voices and communicate it to the mainstream society. These are the Chharas – the denotified tribes(DNTs) of Chharanagar, Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India. This community was labeled as a “criminal tribe” by the British during their rule. But even after 60 years of independence, not much has changed for them and they are still living with the stigma of Criminal tribes. No jobs, no respect, constant surveillance by the police, imprisonment without any explanation, outcasted by the society – This is the life of the people of Chhara tribe. These people are infamous for stealing petty things and production of liquor.
The Budhan Theatre Group, started by some members of the community, has influenced their life to a great extent. Daxin Chhara, who leads the Theatre Group, believes that development has many forms. It is different for a village, a city or a community like theirs. He strongly said that education can’t be taken as a form of development for their community. Transformation of people is the best measure of the development of the Chhara community.
Every Chhara wants to be educated and many of them are graduates but no one wants to employ them because of their reputation. There are many Chhara advocates but studying law was no help to them as no one takes their case to them. When these people are denied education and employment they take resort to means like stealing or making liquors for feeding themselves and their children. Some Chharas tried to be different and became vendors selling goods like snacks etc but due to the constant police harassment they had to leave these jobs. They are not allowed to sell their goods outside Chharanagar. Daxin Bhai quotes “Aadmi subah bhookha uth sakta hai lekin raat ko bhookha so nahin sakta“(A man can wake up hungry in the morning but can’t sleep hungry). Now when they are not allowed to do decent jobs, they are forced to do stealing. This is where the Budhan Theatre has made a difference. They perform street plays to raise awareness about the conditions of their community and other such communities. It is an important activity for the development of Chharas as they are even able to generate income through this. Because of the efforts of the Budhan Theatre group their voice has been heard by many and many people have come forward to help and support them. Many youngsters have left doing illegal things and joined the group. Even the children of the community are involved in street plays and are more aware of their rights than a child of their age in the mainstream society. They performed two street plays recently in our institute – one on RTI and the other on the child marriage. As told by Daxin Bhai they had prepared the street play on child marriage themselves without any help. They were inspired to make this play because of a 13-yr old friend of theirs getting married. They have gained a great confidence which could be seen while their performance.
The Budhan Theatre’s latest effort is a documentary named “BullDozer” depicting a settlement of a nomadic tribe bulldozed by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation , resulting into the death of two children. Through this documentary they have tried to expose the traumas through which they have to go. This documentary will be released soon.
The Budhan Theatre is not working only for their Chhara community but they are also trying to expose the problems of other DNTs in other parts of the country. They have made a documentary “The Lost Water” on the conditions of the people extracting salt for their living in the Little Rann of Kuchh. This corner of Gujarat is a vast desert landscape cracked dry by the sun. Nothing grows here and the water is undrinkable. The people there has to work in the soaring high temperatures of 49degree Celsius to the low temperature of 0degree Celsius. Because of the constant contact with the salt, they suffer from skin diseases, eye problems and there are no health facilities provided there. You will be surprised to know that the salt for which we pay 10Rs/kg, these worker gets around only 10-14paise wage per kg of salt they extract. These people are just being exploited.
The Budhan Theatre is doing a commendable job of trying to break the vicious circle of prejudice and crime in the Chhara community. They have proved through their talent that they are not born criminals but born performers. The theatre, with the help of NGOs and some students, is also involved in maintaining libraries where they have computers donated by some people, informal education of kids. It is very important to concentrate on the development of the Chhara kids because they are the future hopes who can break the stigma. To some extent they have succeded as two of the residents of the community has got admission into National School of Drama. But still a lot has to be done.
You can help the Budhan Theatre by buying their first documentary movie “BullDozer“(Rs. 300). This money would be used for the sustenance of the Theatre Group. For more info on Chharas, Budhan Theatre visit Roxy Gagdekar’s blog, who leads the Budhan Theatre Group with Daxin Chhara. For an article by Tehelka on this community click here

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Written by Priyanka Varma

February 6, 2007 at 9:19 am

16 Responses

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  1. very informative, learnt a lot abt the Chharas….well written.

    abhay

    February 7, 2007 at 7:12 pm

  2. Dear Priyanka,
    Very informative article. Thaanks to raise the voice of Chharas.
    You can have more information on Budhan theatre and Chharas on http://www.budhantheatre.org, roxygagdekar.blogspot.com and http://groups.google.com/group/friends-of-budhan-theatre?hl=en

    Thanks.
    Roxy

    Roxy Gagdekar

    February 8, 2007 at 6:37 am

  3. @ thanx abhay..atleast the purpose of writing abt them is getting fulfilled..

    @roxy : thanx sir…I hope that more and more ppl get to know about the Chharas and their struggles and their efforts to expose the problems faced by the DNTs through my blog …

    priyankavarma

    February 8, 2007 at 5:19 pm

  4. […] previous post on the other DNT tribe of Chharanagar can be read here. Filed under: Society […]

  5. […] can read more on the documentary, Budhan Theatre and Chharanagar on my previous post here. Read about the recent demolition in Maninagar by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s […]

  6. Hi Priyanka, very informative post on Chharas…Today very few ppl in our country know abt these ppl frm the denotified tribes..U shud keep writing abt them, so that we have more ppl supporting their cause !!

    Shruti

    April 1, 2007 at 1:12 pm

  7. Hi;
    i am kashyap kodekar . i belong to chhara community.i am tennis player and coach at L.D.ARTS College and complete low.
    Thank you give me imformation my community.

    Kashyap K Kodekar

    June 28, 2007 at 4:14 pm

  8. i complete law .

    Kashyap K Kodekar

    June 28, 2007 at 4:16 pm

  9. i am sunil tamaichi.i belong to chhara community.i am social worker.thank you give me imformation my community.

    sunil tamaichi

    July 11, 2007 at 7:35 am

    • We need sunil tamaichi contact number we are making a tv show for national television. We are looking for people who worked for the communal harmony during gujrat riot. My number is 07827305207

      Kaushal

      February 19, 2014 at 6:48 am

  10. i respect you,

    kashyap r kodekar

    July 16, 2007 at 5:22 pm

  11. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

    Idetrorce

    December 16, 2007 at 5:31 am

  12. Hello, I’m doing a research project about Budhan Theater and the responsibility of the directors in Budhan Theater Productions. I was wondering if you had any important tips for me?

    Hannah

    September 24, 2010 at 5:05 am

    • Hi Hannah,

      Are you in touch with Dakxin Bhai and Roxy Gagdekar of Budhan Theater. They would be able to give you the best inputs.

      Thanks

      priyankavarma

      September 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

      • I’m not, but do you know how I can get in touch with either of them?

        Hannah

        September 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  13. […] I mostly grew up at my hometown in Patna before I moved out for my engineering to Gandhinagar in Gujarat. That was the first time when I was out in a different culture and environment. I loved those four years of stay in Gujarat and exploring the city of Ahmedabad. I was not a city blogger during that time but I took my time out exploring the city and relishing the cuisine. I bunked my classes to savour Gujarati thali and some basundi (Oh I am feeling nostalgic and its making my mouth water) at our favourite local joints. I with my classmates also got involved in the social issues of the denotified tribes of Chharanagar. […]


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