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THE NOMADIC WITNESS
2019-2020, Extended metropolitan region of Delhi
PS Kavoori in his in classical study on nomadic communities from Rajasthan paints an excellent ethnographic description of the annual nomadic journeys of the Raika tribes from Western Rajasthan. Grounding his thesis in hydro-geography and seasonality, he claims how these tribes have to circulate in order to access feed and water for their livestock. A sedentary lifestyle is simply not possible in the Western Rajasthan as the landscape dries out for nine months of the year. The tribes belonging to the districts of Jalore, Pali, Jaisalmer, Sirohi, Jodhpur, Nagaur, and Barmer have thus traditionally migrated for these nine months to the irrigated agrarian ecologies up north.
They move with half a million cows, sheep and goats northward around the areas around Delhi devouring agriculture stubble, tree leaves and grasses in the landscape. The animal droppings have in turn helped retain the fertility of the land. The extensive use of fertilizers and rapid urbanization in the extended metropolitan region of Delhi which now runs in the figure of hundreds of kilometers hinders the movement of these tribes and it is increasingly becoming difficult for them to access feed for their livestock.
The native trails have been urbanized so to say! However, this conflict also presents opportunities for these communities in its wake. Many of the nomads who I have been interviewing, observing and photographing have altered their rhythms according to urbanization of the lands that they are circulating upon. Many of them have sedentarised on the 'urban fallows', the unoccupied lots of land in speculative cities that dot the region. They not only graze upon them, but also set up small communities that mirror the autonomy of the villages that they come from. These autonomous communities are often linked with the villages through networks and movement of people.
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