My research addresses the impact of Indian independence in 1947 upon the ‘ex-criminal tribes’ – those who were notified under the colonial Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which sought to combat the perceived hereditary criminality of certain, often marginal and nomadic, communities. This punitive legislation was largely aimed at restricting the movement of the notified communities through an assortment of supervisory measures, including hazri (roll call), a passport system, and internment within agricultural, industrial or reformatory settlements. Although the latter decades of colonial rule saw a gradual relaxation of the Act, by independence it was estimated 3.5 million individuals still fell within its scope.
The Criminal Tribes Act was eventually repealed on 31st August 1952 as it was considered abhorrent to the principles of the newly-independent nation, as embodied in the ambitious and socially-conscious Constitution of 1950. Yet, the vimukta jatis (liberated communities) remain largely excluded from civil society and their experience of the freedom promised by the Act's repeal has been negotiated and incomplete. This delayed and contested independence is the result of replacement legislation (Habitual Offenders Acts, 1952-), ineffective rehabilitation polices, and incoherent inclusion within the reservations system of post-colonial India. Focusing on north-western (primarily Punjab) India from the 1940s to the present day, the project traces how their de-notification as 'criminal tribes' was intimately linked to the emergence of the independent Indian nation, and how it was this process which has shaped the development of the 'De-notified and Nomadic Tribe' as a distinct legal and political identity.
I completed my BA History degree at the University of Exeter where I was awarded First Class Honours. It was for my undergraduate dissertation that I first studied the Criminal Tribes Act and its legacy in independent India. Subsequently I completed an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge for which I was awarded a Distinction. I am currently in the second year of my PhD.