A recent Newspaper report said that the French President planned to destroy 300 Roma & traveler settlements and send them away from the country, similarly the U.K. has plans to bulldoze its biggest Gipsy site in Essex. In fact the entire E.U. is hunting down those hapless nomads in bigger or smaller way ever since the first Gipsy arrived in Europe a 1000 years back
Do you know that kidnapping and killing a child in Europe during 1500-1700 period was not an offense as long as the child was a Gypsy
Similarly hunting down a man and killing him point blank was also not a criminal offense so far as the man was a Gypsy.
The Roma people were freely bought, sold or killed as one fancied.
Until 1867 the Gypsies were part of slave population in Europe, to say the least.
That was why late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi praised Roma people for their courage and resilience to stand and preserve their identity against such extreme persecution.
Even now wherever they are, they live in fear. In a school in Croatia 15 Roma kids were made to sit separate from others and taught them lessons 30 percent less than that taught to others. Reason: They did not know Croatian Language. (As the Roma clan is unable to mingle with the native people it is hard for them to learn the language properly)
However, In this particular case somehow the Roma filed a case in the court requesting orders to treat all children equally. It was in the year 2002. The case, as usual, dragged on. The local and regional court turned down the request. Then an appeal was filed in the European court for Human rights which in last March ordered in favor of the request. It is a rare thing for the Roma to have filed a case against the authorities of the country they live in and to have got a favorable verdict in the end. Even at this moment of triumph there was division of opinion among the clan as Some of them feared vengeance from the authorities. As said earlier, they live in perpetual fear.
Even though the Gypsies were present in Europe for the last 600 or so years they could not integrate with mainstream Europeans yet, why? Not entirely a question of race because many Asian nationals have migrated to Europe and hold now key positions.
The Gypsies are nomads. Rolling stones as they are, they gather little moss of interpersonal love and relationship outside their clan in the day to day life which is essential for integrating with a community. A Roma life style is different from all others. They appear before the society with their dance and magic and the children look upon them with awe and fear.( remember scenes from the famous novel “One hundred years of solitude” ) The elders keep them at bay from their family and especially children. The Gypsies in turn live exclusively away from the crowd. In such a situation there is little scope for assimilating with the mainstream.
In all of Europe they do not constitute more than 10 or 11 million. Their lack of opportunities for good education and jobs have stunted their systematic growth and channeled them into a mysterious life.
It is believed that the Gypsies originated in India along the Ganges delta some 1000 years back. (The recent DNA mapping has also proved their Indian origin) In those times work was scarce and time aplenty. So some of them set off from their native places and wandered all over the country showing whatever skill they knew. People paid them for their shows. Later many people found the business comfortable and lucrative and joined the clan.When India went under a bout of attacks by foreign nations the Gypsies left India to spread elsewhere including Europe.
The name Gypsy is rooted in the name Egypt when it was believed by some that they were from Egypt. The Roma has nothing to do with Rome. It is from their Romani dialect meaning an ‘individual ‘or so. The Romani dialect that Gypsies use is rich with Sanskrit and Hindi words. The Gypsy music would remind one of the Punjabi dance and music. Yes, the Gypsies have abundant birth marks in their dance, music and lifestyles to prove their Indian origin. The Gypsies know that they are Indian origin and are proud of their music which they claim has all the complexity of Indian music.
There are many famous personalities from Roma community. To name one Charlie Chaplin is said to be from them.
The late Indian Prime Minister Smt.Indira Gandhi said: “ I feel a kinship with Roma people. I have always admired their love of adventure, their closeness to nature and above all their fortitude and resilience.”
The Asian countries are tolerant of Gypsy community. They take them on their stride. The Israel has indeed a soft corner for them as they know more than any nation as to how it is to be without a nation of ones own. In fact the Gypsy-Jew camaraderie grew and strengthened when Hitler turned his evil ire against both the communities and sent them in the notorious concentration camps. In the holocaust nearly two million Roma people were perished in various camps. There is still court hearing going on the Roma claim of Gold Jewelry confiscated by the Germans when they were captured by Hitler's army.Generally the Gypsies are fond of gold Jewelry and as such the gold in German hands belonging to Roma must be significant.
The Gypsies are not made of the same stuff as Jews. They have not seriously raised voice for a land of their own though it may bring about a great difference in the quality of their lives, if such a thing could be achieved.
An Indian considers Gypsy as their kin. The word is familiar in India from early age as the kids see Gypsy dance imitated in schools on its annual day celebrations or from the real Gypsies themselves as they come for alms or food.
It is no wonder that Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu spokesman and Rabbi Jonathan prominent Jewish leader in U.S. were in the forefront to protest against the French Government move to evict Gypsies from their camps. They said that the European Parliament and other bodies are looking the other way to the deportations of Roma people ignoring their moral obligation to protect the minorities.
There are some campaign groups working for the welfare of Roma and travelers clan in Europe. They are doing good service to them. The ‘Dosta’ is one such group. They arrange various cultural and other activities for the awareness of both Roma and non Roma population in Europe.
May be things would improve for Roma clan in Europe soon.