India is celebrated as the world’s largest and one of its most participatory democracies. However, freedom for India’s Denotified Tribes (DNTs) meant something very different to that of other Indian citizens. These communities were subject to the only experiment in human history to define entire peoples as hereditary criminals. In 1871, the British colonial government in India inaugurated the Criminal Tribes Act.

By independence the Act had been amended 3 times and had defined around 130 communities – ‘Criminal Tribes’ – totalling about 12-13 million across India, as ‘habitually criminal’ and ‘addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences’.

In the 1940s, the provincial governments of Bombay and Madras passed ‘Habitual Offenders’ legislation. This was incorporated into a general Habitual Offender’s Act following independence. Yet many of India’s DNTs continue to be subject to systematic police surveillance and control. Following independence they were not fully ‘rehabilitated’, released only slowly from ‘settlements’ and have generally not benefitted from the post-colonial state’s projects of welfare for disadvantaged communities.
This project, which has so far produced a documentary film , explores what happened to India’s DNTs when India gained independence by focussing on two specific communities in western India. It is currently being developed further to explore the relationship between nomadism among DNTs in India and broader patterns of nomadism, the arts and performance across Europe.

The project has been supported by The British Academy and by Cultural and Creative Industries Exchange (Ignite), University of Leeds

  • Dakxinkumar Bajrange
  • Nomad Movies Pvt Ltd
  • The University of Leeds, UK
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    History, Human Rights, Ethnography, Anthropology, Visual Anthropology, Arts, Thetare, Denotified, Nomadic tribes
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 1 minute
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2014
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • University of Ottowa, Canada (8th, March 2014),
    University of Ottawa
    March 8, 2014
    Canada Screening
  • University of Toronto, Canada
    University of Toronto
    March 10, 2014
    Toronto Premiere
  • York University, Toronto, Canada
    York University
    March 11, 2014
    York Premiere
  • Queens University, Kingston, Canada
    Queens University
    March 12, 2014
    Queens premiere
  • Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
    Georgetown University
    March 17, 2014
  • Temple University, Philadelphia
    March 20, 2014
  • Steven institute of technology, New Jersey
    New Jersey
    March 23, 2014
    New jersey premiere
  • Ball State University, Muncie
    April 1, 2014
    Muncie Premiere
  • University of Washington, Seattle
    April 17, 2014
  • Phillycam, Philadelphia Community Access Media

    May 18, 2014
    Access media
  • University of Leeds , UK
    University of leeds
    October 7, 2014
    University of leeds
  • Cambridge University
    Cambridge University
    October 10, 2014
    Cambridge University
  • Edinburgh University
    Edinburgh University
    October 11, 2014
    Edinburgh University
  • Oxford University
    Oxford University
    October 17, 2014
    Oxford University
  • School of Orinetal and African Studies (SOAS), Univeristy of London
    University of London
    October 18, 2014
    University of London
  • Women Studies Department, University of Pune
    University of Pune
    November 10, 2014
    University of pune
  • 'Samvaad' - Tribal Conclave organized by Tata Steel Rural Development Society
    'Samvaad' - Tribal Conclave
    November 18, 2014
    'Samvaad' - Tribal Conclave
  • Pearl Academy, Jaipur
    March 31, 2015
    Pearl Academy
Director Biography - Dakxinkumar Bajrange

Dakxinkumar Bajrange is an award winning filmmaker, playwright, director and an activist from the Chhara De-notified Tribes of Ahmedabad in the western part of India. He is a recipient of Ford Foundation International Fellowship (2010-11) for a Masters Degree in ‘Theatre and Global Development’ at the University of Leeds, England and recently his book ‘Budhan Bolta Hai’ (Budhan Speaks) is got first prize for Mahatma Gandhi Best Creative Writing on Human rights by National Human rights Commission (NHRC) for 2010-11. He is also a recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Arts Fellowship (2004-05) and Bhasha Fellowship (2002-03) to study art forms of nomadic and de-notified communities in Gujarat. Currently, he works at Budhan Theatre as a director, which is a community theatre group of the Chhara de-notified tribe of Gujarat and also works as freelance filmmaker and Theatre educator. For more information please visit: .

As a Filmmaker, he directed 70 fiction and non-fiction films on various development and political issues of India. His films are widely screened in Film Festivals and universities in India and abroad. He is the winner of South Asia documentary film award Jeevika-2005 for his film ‘Fight for Survival’. His most recent film is on De-notified Tribes of India entitled ‘Birth 1871’ which recently screened in 11 USA and Canadian universities and 5 UK universities. From 2008 to 2010, He has worked as an Associate Director with renowned Documentary Filmmaker Mr. Rakesh Sharma on his three films on political issues of Gujarat (1) Chet’ta Rejo (2) Khedu Mora Re (3) Kesariyo Kono. Bajrange also runs his film company called Nomad Movies (p) Ltd which provides production and post-production facilities to make fiction and non-fiction films. For more info, please visit,

He has written and Directed 11 plays and Supervised 41 Theatre Productions of Budhan Theatre and performed more than 700 shows in different part of India. He has conducted number of theatre Workshops for community development in marginalized communities, schools, colleges and institutions, trained more than 300 Actors and founded number of Theatre Groups. He has co-ordinated and organized Gujarat’s biggest community theatre festival called ‘Ahmedabad Theatre Festival’ (ATF) in 2012

Mr. Bajrange is author of two books ‘Budhan Bolta Hai’ (2010)’ in Hindi and the play ‘Budhan’, in Hindi and English published by Bhasha Research and Publication Centre. Shortly, ‘Budhan Bolta Hai’s Marathi translated books will be published by Ranade Publication, Pune. His academic publications have appeared in Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography, Liffey Press Ireland, Seminar India, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Penguin India, Malayalam Manorama, Budhan News Letter, Padmagandha Publication. He has also presented papers in many reputed national and international conferences in India, USA, UK and gave talks on Theatre and community development including United Nations in 2007.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Birth1871 is first well-researched documentary film on India's De-notified Tribes who are treated as 'Criminal Tribes' by Indian society and legal and judiciary system. The researcher of the film Prof. William Gould took one year to collect lots of data and archives that shows in-depth history of these tribes in India, particularly, an injustice happened with them during pre and post independence. 'Birth1871' is deeply inspired by the theatre group called Budhan Theatre that is a theatre group of Chhara De-notified Tribe of Gujarat State. Since 17 years, the group is raising their voice again injustice and social prejudices about DNTs in general and Chharas in particular. The film discusses in detail about how these tribes are living lives with stigma of criminality and how theatre group is trying to encounter with colonial historical stigma through arts and culture. The film is meant to distribute in the DNT communities in India so people can be well aware about their history and their contemporary situation in changing political arena of India.

The film is my one of the most ambitious project I wanted to make since many years. Now a days, the film is contributing in raising important questions about constitutional guarantee of DNTs in social and political movement of De-notified tribe. Apart of just documentation, its helping to the communities to understand their history from different perspectives and contributing in dialog for their rights.