Budhan Theatre

Theatre Budhan’s mission is to bring about social change by raising awareness of the historical plight of Denotified Tribes, notably the Chhara community, which has faced physical, social, and psychological struggle through its stigmatization as criminal. Their aim is to do this by utilizing the talents of the Chharas as natural performers to conduct expressionist theatre that emphasizes these unique issues. Highlighting the countless challenges faced by the Chhara community and spreading creativity throughout India, the company hopes to debunk stigmas about De-notified Tribes and ultimately attain constitutional recognition by the independent government of India. Budhan Theatre was founded by Dr. Ganesh Devy, a literary critic, linguistic, and tribal activist, based in Baroda. He continues to inspire Chhara youth in the rights-based movement through arts and literature. He is guiding the social movement for the constitutional guarantee of De-notified and Nomadic Tribes.


Birth 1871 – A documentary film


In 1871 the colonial government in India officially defined 192 ethnic groups as ‘Criminal Tribes’ – communities later reclassified as ‘Denotified Tribes’ (DNTs) in 1952, following India’s independence. However, with the subsequent passage of the ‘Habitual Offenders Act’, these tribes were again subject to the state’s scrutiny. Human rights violations against DNTs (numbering around 60 million) are one of the most challenging issues in India today, yet their lives are poorly documented. The first of its kind, combines historical research with film documentary to produce a subject driven textual history and film output, exploring two tribes’ experience of India’s changing state structures. The film will explore processes of ‘criminalization’ and how DNTs combat social stigma through the Theatre arts, which is being their community development. The film will unearth experiences of enforced state rehabilitation, ‘settlement’, and community assertion in two transitional periods of 1946-1953 and 1978-2000s.

Under constant state scrutiny, DNTs of India feels that they are considered as ‘Second Class Citizens’ of India and this most deprived section of Indian Social cupboard still lacking constitutional guarantee from India’s state and federal governments. History is still haunting them and depriving them from their development and human rights.The film raises question of citizenship of India’s Nomad and Denotified TribesIndia is commonly celebrated as the world’s largest and one of its most participatory democracies. The Constitution of India, the outcome of an epic transition from colonial rule, theoretically protects the civic and political rights of all citizens. This notion of group hereditary criminality, which has created India’s DNTs today, has never been found in any other part of the world. Despite, in theory, being defunct in the context of popular sovereignty after 1947, it is still responsible for the creation of the countries most excluded social pariahs. This film explores what happened to these communities as India gained political independence, and why in this most successful and complex democracy, freedom for DNTs had very different and contingent meanings.