Today is an important day for Gypsies, also known as Romani (estimated population 6-11 million worldwide). A group of academics, government advisers and gypsy representatives are meeting in Strasbourg to discuss the next steps in a pan-European project entitled “The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005 to 2015”. The Independent describes Gypsies/Roma as “Europe’s most persecuted minority that has become the subject of increasingly draconian laws.” (Photo above shows Romanies evicted from their homes in Paris.)
“Now President Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy would have us believe that the Roma community as a group represents a security threat so grave that it demands the removal of its members en masse. One is reminded of the Criminal Tribes Act passed by the British in India in 1871, which stigmatised 161 communities there as ‘born criminals’. A recent study concluded that the Act was a result of ‘profound ignorance of India’s social structure and cultural institutions.”
In 1885 the United States outlawed the entry of the Roma. The persecution of the Romanies reached a peak during World War II. In 1935, the Nuremberg laws stripped the Romani people living in Nazi Germany of their citizenship, after which they were subjected to violence, imprisonment in concentration camps and later genocide in extermination camps. More here…
The Independent continues: “Gypsies have been at the margin of European affairs ever since they arrived from India nearly a millennium ago. They have no claims on territory, have never started a war, are far from homogeneous and have produced few figures who bulk large in our history books. In the past they were usually in motion, trundling around the edges of European history, earning a living in the nooks and crannies of society, fortune telling, basket weaving, horse trading, dealing in scrap metal.
“They might be seen as people of doubtful honesty, capable of sly tricks, or seductively wild, depending on circumstance, but whatever they were it was of fleeting importance. They had their world, we, the gaje (non-Romanies), had ours…”
“‘The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005 to 2015’, according to its authors, is to ‘improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma’. The next phase will see Romanies stepping forward in museums and other institutions in Britain, Greece, Germany and Slovenia and talking about their culture, ‘getting people to talk to them and get to know them, to get rid of some of the fear,’ as one of the organisers puts it…
Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.)
Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department’s SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi.
In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF’s Eco-tourism policy.
He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on “Development Journalism” to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years.
In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India — West Bengal and Orissa.
Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia.
Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there.
He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation.
And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.