Who Are Chharas?

 

Historically, Chharas comprised a group of nomadic people in India.  When the British attempted to maintain the colonial regime in India, they utilized theories of crime being hereditary to undermine these nomadic communities as criminal.  In 1871, the Criminal Tribes Act made legal the enforcement of restriction and harsh punishment for members of criminal tribes, punishments quite distinct from other non-criminal tribe members.  In 1959, the Habitual Offenders Act replaced the CTA, and while there was discussion of rehabilitative processes for tribes known as criminal, this act only further allowed police the opportunity to identify these groups, target them, and further marginalize them.  This act remains in practice today, and so, rather than have any protection by the government, there is no guarantee that members of these groups, known as Denotified Tribes (DNTs) will receive jobs or education, often forcing them into illegal practices, i.e liquor brewing in the dry state of Gujarat.  The theory that people can inherit innate criminality has withstood the test of time and despite the revocation of the CTA, formerly nomadic peoples and current DNTs are considered criminal by nature and have been unofficially deemed second-class citizens.  The formerly nomadic Chharas are known by other names throughout the country, including Sansis, Kanjar, Kanjarbhat, and Adodiyas.

Born Actors, NOT Born Criminals

 

While no evidence supports any shred of truth that people can be born criminals, there is evidence that other abilities and talents are innate.  For the Chhara community, the innate talents lie in the ability to perform.  Naturally, Chhara people are recognized as excellent actors, singers, dancers, and expressionists.  They are widely known for their street performances, which highlights their ability to use only their bodies for displaying their creativity.  It is this natural ability to create and express that Budhan Theatre harnesses and emphasizes, in hopes of replacing the unfounded notion that it is crime, rather than artistic talent,  that comes naturally to the Chhara people.