Polls have no impact on miseries of Kabutaras

Elections come and go but the miseries of Kabutaras, a nomadic community turned settlers in Bundelkhand remains unchanged.

Datarnagar: Elections come and go
but the miseries of Kabutaras, a nomadic community turned
settlers in Bundelkhand remains unchanged.

With polls over in the region, the community that is
sparsely spread in the region straddling across Uttar Pradesh
and Madhya Pradesh, is back to its traditional hooch business
unconcerned by political divides.

As the date of counting for the recently concluded
Assembly elections near, it is time to make a kill for
Kabutaras, who are busy brewing what is called in common
parlance `Lahanga brand` or `Kanjad Whisky`. It is called so
because the hooch is brewed by women and the community is also
called Kanjad (nomadic).

In Datarnagar 8 kilometers away from Jhansi town,
villagers give blank looks when asked whether they ever
thought of contesting Assembly polls. They had never gone
beyond village pramukh elections.

In the cauldron of caste conflict that continues to
riddle the Hindi heartland, Kabutaras seem to have been left
out in edcuation and employment sectors and even a political
voice owing to their dispersed population and lack of

A novel "Alma Kabutari" by Hindi writer Maitreyi Pushpa
won the SAARC Literary Award 2006 for its poignant depiction
of the harsh realities of life in the community.

In the intriguing world of Kabutaras, women take the
lead role in the hooch business as the men prefer a subsidiary
role to avoid physical harassment by the police. Many Kabutara
women find themselves booked in police cases as such.

But a quest of change is sweeping the community now and
Datarnagar is a testimony to it.

Jainarayan, ex-Pramukh of the village says, "around 300
boys and girls go from the village to study in different
English medium schools of Jhansi. We could not study but our
children are. They will change our fate."

The same village, where the eight class pass Suniluma is
the only government servant, a peon, now sends 300 kids to
convent schools.

Villagers proudly name Narendra, who is the only LLB
degree holder in the village and Veer Singh, the only male

The Kabutara population is dispersed in Datarnagar,
Gursarayan, Garoutha, Charkhari and many other parts of
Bundelkhand straddling across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya

Realising that lack of education is a key hindrance in
their development, the financially well-off Kabutaras are now
investing hugely in educating their kids as the new generation
is eager to get rid from the tag of hoochmakers.

Elderly Sitabai, though tightlipped about her profession,
blurts out "we will prefer our children to branch out into
other fields and if possible take some job outside the

Villagers recall that it was then then Minister of
State for Home Balwant Nagesh Datar, who had made some efforts
for development of the community in 1953.

"This colony is named after him. During his time we
were provided a piece of land and the Kabutaras started living
permanently in a shift from the nomadic life," says the former
village Pramukh.

Dharmendra Kumar a local says the Jhansi DIG of Police
L V Antony D Kumar had also taken efforts to get Kabutara
youths in police when he was the SSP here a few years ago.

"Kumar had arranged for special trainings for the
youths of Kabutara privately so that they can qualify the
tests for the recruitment of constables," he recalls.

Kulpahad in Mahoba district is another such village.
Rahul Gandhi had addressed a rally here on January 19. But the
youth are not keen on politics.

"Here most of the youth work as labourers. They work
during the day and doze off as soon as they are home. Who is
bothered about all this," says Santosh Chaurasia.

Folklores have it Kabutaras are descendents of the famous
Rani Padmini of Rajasthan. Their legend has the queen, wife of
Chittor king Rawal Ratan Singh known in the annals for history
for her famous "Jouhar" act did not commit suicide along with
other women during the attack of Ala-ud-din Khilji but but
escaped along with a band of guerilla forces and entered enemy

During the British period, the Kabutaras were branded a
criminal tribe. Even after independence, they continued to
attain notoriety for crime mainly robbery which they peformed
with great brutalities.

They were classified as "criminal tribes" by the Criminal
Tribes Act, 1871, which was annulled when the tribes were
denotified in independent India.

They gradually gave up crime but as they had neither any
land nor any other asset, they took to hooch brewing, a
practice, which continues till date.

Interestingly, while on one hand, they remain hooked to
hooch, pilgrimmage is also a fad in the community. In
Kulpahaad Sajjam mukhiya had built a Shiva temple. Temples
also dot Datarnagar and many villagers have joined the Radha
Swami Satsang in Beas.

In Kulpahad village, an NGO Arunoday Sansthan has taken
some initiatives to help the community.

The district administration had also allotted small plots
of land to some families. But as long as the governmental
efforts are nothing more than a drop in the ocean, and a new
generation of Kabutaras take over, their destinies appear
linked to hooch brewing.