conservation biologist • environmental journalist • author
Grant by the University of Cologne, Germany
The forgotten People- the Bawarias
of Rajasthan

South Asia has the world's largest nomadic population. In India
alone, roughly 7 percent of the population is nomadic and consists
of about five hundred different communities (Malhotra 1982; Rao
and Casimir 2003a,b). Of these, nonpastoral nomads --referred to
as 'service nomads' (Hayden 1979) or 'peripatetics' (Berland 1986,
1992; Rao 1987)--comprise several hundred endogamous groups and
embrace a great variety of occupations (Misra et al. 1971; Malhotra
1974). The Bawarias are one such nonpastoral, nomadic community.
The Census of India 1881 described them as a 'hunting community
who derive their name from the word bawar or noose with which
they snare wild animals'. It further states that the Bawarias are
'much addicted to crime', that thieving comes easily to them and
that their 'skill in tracking wild animals is notorious'. (sic) This study,
the first of its kind with the Bawaria community, seeks to examine
how laws and changing times have affected their livelihood.


According to the 2003 survey done by the author, more than 70 per
cent of the tribe members had hunting as their main profession. In
the current generation, 80 per cent of the Bawaria in Alwar district
have taken to protecting agricultural fields against crop depredation
by animals like the nilgai (blue bull). The study shows that on an
average, more than 70 per cent of the Bawaria families interviewed
faced food shortage crises and 21 per cent of the families had
taken to hunting to tide over this crisis. Their insecurity also arises
from the fact that though they are entitled to land, very few have
actually been able to get it from the government. The study shows
that 65 per cent of the Bawaria have reported harassment by the
administration and 46 per cent have at one time or the other been
in jail. After the episode in Sariska, several members from this
community were reportedly picked up by forest officials and the
police for interrogation and faced harassment and intimidation by
the authorities simply because of the label of belonging to a hunting
community. Bahar Dutt, who has worked with this tribe, suggests
that Project Tiger needs to find ways of using the skills of these local
Bawaria to turn them into the frontline defenders of the forests and
protected areas, rather than see them as antagonists.


Conservation Biologist
Environment Journalist