Desh ke Bashinde? Nats and the politics of double name


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AS 1 told you, I am anxious that some kind of enquiry should be made in regard to jugglers, acrobats, nats and like people who wander about our cities and villages…

– Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi.1

THEY say they live in the shadow of Andheria Mod. From the outside, Andheria Mod looks totally nondescript. As the name itself suggests Andheria Mod, the dark corner, is made of a distinct world of shadows, where Delhi’s khanabadosh (nomads) live but refuse to belong. Here, they are more generally called Nats. They squat on Chattarpur pahadi, hidden behind the expansive encroachment of the Chattarpur temple complex. The pahadi (hillock) is an oblong spot. With two parallel histories, two testimonies. One of Nats’ present, the other of their past. Some fragments unfold as I try to translate the complex world of Nats into the idea of ‘a country of our own’.

But, first let me tell you how to reach Chattarpur pahadi. Via Andheria Mod, which lies on the outer side of Vasant Kunj, which opens into the pahadi. From Andheria Mod if you turn towards Qutab Minar, there’s a small road on the right that takes you to the pahadi – a short cut, rather than a drive all the way around the Chattarpur temple complex. It’s almost like two alternative spaces within the space of Chattarpur. But, there’s an ambiguity about the exact location of where the Nats live. Some say they live near Andheria Mod. Some say they live on Chattarpur pahadi.

Let me elaborate a little more. Andheria Mod forms an intersection that connects Vasant Kunj with Chattarpur and Mehrauli. Two spaces with two different histories. Chattarpur, the sacred bhoomi (land) for middle class Hindus, and Mehrauli, a monumentalized history of India’s ‘medieval’ past.2

Let me add another story. Not very long ago Andheria Mod was just a village on the Mehrauli-Chattarpur road, en route to Indira Gandhi’s farmhouse in Mehrauli. On 28 October and 1 November 1975, many shops and residential structures were demolished here, so that ‘Sanjay Gandhi’s rapid transit to his mother’s farm-house was not hampered in any way.’3 Besides, Sanjay Gandhi found these structures to be an ‘eyesore’. Amid these different histories lies the marginal of the marginalized Chattarpur pahadi – the home of Nats, who are made homeless every day.


I often walk up to the pahadi circled by kikar (acacia) trees and ber (jujube) shrubs. On the way I meet Sikh families squatting outside their one-room quarters. These Sikhs came as refugees in the aftermath of the 1984 genocide or ‘kand’, as they say. They fled from Rajasthan, from Alwar to be precise. They speak Rajasthani, not Punjabi.

Then comes the Nat colony. You can’t get in at night. The dogs won’t let you. But I did sneak into the pahadi one night. I was mesmerized by the light – quiet moon on top, sort of youngish and mellow. Encircled by the garbage heaps, I could barely peep into the quarters, but I could look down upon the Mehrauli road covered with swanky cars. I was intrigued by the mystery of Nat colony, the name speaks so many histories. In the daytime small children run after chickens and pigs and rattle the buffaloes by touching their tails. Some traces of pastoralism I glimpsed; a mare and a goat huddled in the congested space where around 1000 Nats live. One day a young girl came up to me to show me around. I was taken to Khalid’s house who gave me tea. I told him I was interested in Nats.

Khalid worked as a driver. He introduced me to many members of the Nat community– drivers, domestic workers and sweepers. They work mostly in Vasant Kunj, DDA’s proud child of the ’80s, and a shining contrast to the stench of open drains and the squalor that define the Nat existence. Some Nats just hang around there as sarfiras (vagabonds) and badmash (rogues). Many play the dhol, damru, drum. Many call themselves simply mazdoors (manual labourers), and engage in cleaning drains, carrying loads of burden, and doing masonry work. All say that they are Muslims.

But, these were not the Nats I had known in my own historical understanding. Their present in Chattarpur pahadi disturbed my sense of their history that I had secretly collected and nurtured in my memory and notebooks. The contradictions, silences and ambiguities in Nats’ narratives disturbed my sense of a country of ‘our own’.


I looked up my scattered notes. I found that the Nats were the pride and prejudice of colonial anthropologists. They were both romanticized and criminalized in their writing. European ethnologists, according to H.H. Risley, set out to discover their connection with the gypsies in Europe by two methods – philology and ethnography or anthropology. While Grierson through The Linguistic Survey worked with various dialects, Risley along with the writing of the Manual of Ethnography undertook ethnographic and anthropometric tests to identify the ‘real gypsies’ in India. Risley started the examination of tattoo marks to work out the affinities of Indian (Nats, Kanjars, Bedias, Doms) and European gypsies.4 The Natnis were put under surveillance, for they wore tattoos.5

‘Nats are the real gipsy types’, in the words of William Crooke, ‘with the short stature, black skin, and keen black eyes of the Dravidian. The typical name for such people is Nat, ‘dancer’, or bazigar, ‘performer’ in northern India.’6 They made ‘boxes out of hide, horn combs, little baskets of grass or reed’7 Women practised the arts of tattooing of girls, ‘cupping, dentistry in the form of pretending to extract worms from carious teeth, and palmistry.’8 They wandered through the villages carrying herbs, dried skins of birds and the smaller animals, which were used in ‘compounding charms and preparing amulets.’


John Staples Harriot, whose pioneering work on the ‘Gypsy lore’ traced the ‘progress of gypsies from India through Persia’, wrote, ‘The Nat tribe have no regular house or habitation, but live in small and low matted sheds, which they remove and carry about on a little bullock or ass, and roam at pleasure from one part of the country to another.9 Further, ‘They [Nats] are commonly esteemed rogues: that is, Nat-khat; the latter being a familiar popular term to signify any one sly, underhand, or roguish.’10 In the language of ethnologists, Nats were dancers, acrobats, makers of combs, conjurers, jugglers, snake-charmers, tattooers, pilferers, musicians, thimble-riggers, quack doctors, herbalists and musicians. They played the drum, acted as mimics, practised ‘surgery and physic in a small way’, and were not ‘free from the suspicion of sorcery.’11 They were skilled in ‘gymnastic exercises, such as wrestling and single-stick; the use of the Lezam and Mugdar; and in performing the Dand, or gymnastic prostrations; beside music, dancing, treading a rope, tumbling in all its varieties, playing with balls, swallowing a sword, and a great variety of other feats.’12 About three-quarters of them returned themselves as Hindus (in Punjab), most of the rest as Muslims.13 Denzil Ibbetson wrote, ‘They mostly marry by phera [Hindu rites], and burn the dead; but they are real outcasts, keeping many dogs with which they hunt and eat the vermin of the jungles.’14


Often in European writings the Nats were said to have traced their origin from Marwar in Rajasthan. The Muslim Nats were believed to ‘prostitute their unmarried, but not married women.’15 A ‘disreputable Mussal-man Nat’ however was known to have prostituted his wife. The Natni, in the colonial imagination, was both a pigeon and a prostitute; a kabutari and randi. R.V. Russell waxed eloquent, ‘The Nat women are sometimes known as kabutari or pigeon either because their acrobatic feats are like the flight of the tumbler pigeon or on account of the flirting manner with which they attract their male customers.’16

Numbering 126428 all over India in the Census of 1911,17 the Nats resisted the colonial policy of territorial ‘settlement’ and were seen as suspect much before the advent of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Yet, ambiguities remain in the colonial narratives of crime, criminality and criminal groups.18


One day I asked Khalid, ‘Par yeh (Nat log) karte kya hain?’ (‘But, what do they [Nat people] do?’). He replied sharply, ‘Kya karte hain? … Bas chori karte hain aur dhol bajate hain.’ ‘Well, what do they do? They steal and play the drum.’ It was clear after many conversations that Khalid didn’t see himself as a Nat. He claimed he was a Mewati. Khalid then told me that Nats have multiple referents: fakirs, khatis, and so on. They are not devout Muslims, for they drink too much, dance too much and indulge in cross-dressing and gambling. Many smoke the ganja (cannabis).


One day as I walked into Nat colony, I met the pradhan (chief). ‘My name is Madan,’ he said. After many probings and silences he disclosed that his other name was Abdul Majid. ‘To aap logo ke do naam hote hain?’ (‘So, you people have two names?’), I asked. ‘Haan double naam’ (‘Yes, double name’), replied Madan along with other Nats sitting with him. Madan then said sharply, ‘Yeh naam do kya ho gaya, yeh hume…[pause] maarkaat se naam idhar udhar ho gaye [laughter]. Double naam ho gaye [pause]… Chakkar yeh hua…’ (‘Why has the name become double? Well, we… because of the carnage the name shuttled two and fro… Became double name. This was the problem’).

Khalid later laughingly informed me that these people have ‘double-double naam’. Madan/Abdul Majid (Madan/Majid) added, ‘Yeh sansaal-wala-ladai hui thi’ (‘This battle of sansaal-wala had occurred’).

What was the battle of ‘sansaal?’, I wondered. Madan/Majid explained, ‘This was the battle of ‘Hindu-Mussalman.’ A young, beautiful Natni, Vimla/Billa clarified that ‘sansaal’ means ‘san saintalees’, i.e. 1947. After that ‘battle of ’47’ the Nats started using ‘double names’: one Muslim, one Hindu.

Hum badi Nat19 hain’ (‘We are Badi Nats’) continued Madan/Majid. ‘Yeh gana bajana hume se hi chala hai. Nat, Mirasi seHum kalakaar vese parampara se hi hain ji. Hum apne khel kood tamasha karte rahe. Hum raja maharajo ke bhi khel kood karte the… Hathi, oont gaadi, yeh koodana, khel lagana to yeh hum kaam karte the … aurten nahi karti thi, hum to admi hi karte the… Voh rassi wale [Nat] alag hote hai. Voh naare hote hain’ (‘This singing and playing started because of us. Because of Nat, Mirasi… We are artistes by tradition. We used to do acrobatics and plays. We also performed for kings and monarchs. Elephant and camel carriage – all of this we used to do…Women did not do this, only men did so…Those Nats who did tightrope walking are different. They are called naare’).

Then he said, ‘We keep moving. Now we are trapped in one place… We know the peedhis (generations) of Thakurs and Raos. Hum bhat hain, kavish hain… (We are bards and the best of poets). We sing dohas (couplets) in praise of Raos and Thakurs. Hum raj Nat hain (We are royal Nats). We would be offered six months’ food supplies in one day in return for our services as bhats.’


Madan/Majid continued, ‘Hum Hindustan ke nagrik hain… parampara se… Hum khanabadosh nahin hain. Hum dilli ke bashinde hain (We are citizens of India… by tradition. We are not nomads. We are citizens of Delhi). Khanabadosh se hamara koi sambandh nahi. Hum ab to schedule caste hain. We have no relation with nomads. We fall in the scheduled caste category.’ Madan/Majid was contradicted by a younger Nat man confidently, ‘We are actually in the ‘general’ [category], not in the lower. We are Mussalmans.’ Was Madan/Majid claiming a scheduled caste status in the face of denial of state-driven action for his community?

Khalid later said, ‘Nats are natkhat (mischievous). Nat ka bacha kabhi na sacha (A Nat’s child is never honest)…Voh sab kuchh hain. They are everything. But they never tell you who they are – they can be Mussalman, Hindu… But, in reality they are simply Nat.’ My other informants told me that the Nats of Nat colony are khanabadosh; they were also camel-jumpers, tightrope walkers and rope dancers. Why was Madan/Majid then trying to selectively remember and forget his pasts?


Some historians have argued that Nats as Kalawants had been associated with the musical traditions of the Mughal court.20 But, they were notified as a ‘criminal tribe’21 during colonial rule in what are today’s Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and became a ‘denotified tribe’ once the Criminal Tribes Act was annulled in 1952.22 However, confusion remains about their categorization in different states in India. Their histories of the past and present remain provisional, just like their names.

In independent India, Nats became a ‘denotified tribe’ without any substantive citizenship rights. And only confessedly, desh ke nagrik or bashinde?

‘We come from Narnaul,’ Madan/Majid further informed me. ‘What a grand city it was,’ he added. This forgotten city lies to the south-west of Delhi at a distance of about 84 miles. Its name was ‘Nahar Naul’, meaning ‘the forest of tigers’ or ‘Nar Naul’, a beautiful woman. It was reputed to be a ‘blessed place’ from which the whole world (’aalmi), the whole country benefited. According to Latif’s Safarnama written in 1607, it was an unparalleled place on earth (chashm afrida chuneen gai na deeda). It was here that Shah Quli Khan (a Mughal noble during Akbar’s reign) built a Bagh-e-Aram, a garden of paradise.23 Among its myriad of monuments is the Chor Gumbad, constructed by Jamal Khan, an Afghan, which for long remained a hideout and a haven for thieves, vagrants and other subalterns.


But Narnaul is not on the souvenir of Indian history. What becomes history is also on the strength of what is excised from it.

Narnaul’s history was reshaped by the bureaucratic remapping of the colonial state. After hanging the Nawab of Jhajjar in 1857, the British gifted Narnaul to the Maharaja of Patiala. As a part of the princely state, Narnaul faced the worst possible state violence in 1947. Entire families of Muslims were wiped out, admitted Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, the Congress nationalist; the lion’s share was looted by the military itself.24 An eyewitness account of Narnaul reveals the systematic measures taken by the military and police, who were assisted by Sikh refugees, to wipe out the Muslims.25

Outcast Delhi26: Madan/Majid’s family along with other Nat families fled from the ravaged Narnaul.27 Some went to Pakistan, many were killed, and some came to Delhi to its ‘outcast’ spaces. But independent India’s official memory stored in the district gazetteer simply says: ‘In 1947, [a] large number of Muslims migrated to Pakistan and 3,945 displaced persons were resettled in the district.’28 What could be more revealing and concealing than this official statement, which refers to Muslims’ ‘migration’ to Pakistan in 1947, and not to their killing and violent dislocation?

Abdul Majid became Madan because of Partition. 1947, a historic moment which unfurled the flag of India’s independence, had silenced the Nat. Azadi (independence) crushed Nats’ fluidity, reducing them to a mere occupational category of mazdoors.

Nehru’s comment on Nats is a testimony of nationalist anxiety, ignorance and fantasy.

When Nats fled Narnaul in 1947, there was little to look forward to. But many ran to Delhi, to ‘outcast Delhi’.


The sensuous Natnis laughed when I asked their names. They wore pictorial tattoos on their arms and legs and walked like dancers.29 One young woman said her name was Phoolo. I told her that I had just met another Phoolo, alias Phoolmati. A chorus of laughter followed. I was surrounded by women who were laughing at the absurdity of names. ‘Apni pasand ke naam rakhe hue hain (These are the names of our choice)’, I was informed. Phoolo then said that her other name was Vimla, and her husband, who was from Mewat, had two names, the Hindu Kamal, and the Muslim Kamaluddin. Phoolo/Vimla had yet another name Billa. Her parents were ‘Mussalman’ Nats, she said, who came from the village of Jaunti near Jhajjar, where they worked as agricultural labourers. In return for reaping the mustard harvest of an acre of land, they would get grains. They moved to Delhi after their land was grabbed. She added, ‘Our buzurg (elders) were attached to the world of kala (art) and sangeet (music). Now we wash utensils in kothis (houses).’

Nations fix identities to fit in. Have the Nats lost something in the statist process of their immobilization?


Then I met Billo. Billo’s ancestors came to Delhi from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan after Partition. She confirmed that 1947 changed their lives and names. Billo’s other name is Basanti. Her family first came to Shadipur, then moved to Chattarpur pahadi. Billo now cleans houses in Vasant Kunj. Her life is a performance, a performance of life. According to her, she rejects the repressive identity of Nats as thieves, chor, and embraces the creative, of the dancer, nata. For Billo, the country is just a space. She was originally a Rangrez (from the Muslim community of dyers), but has adopted a Nat identity. She has no dreams to belong to a country of ‘our own’. Her country is her Nat colony, where her song is. India or Pakistan are marginal entities in her imagination, but she has to claim India when asked of her affiliations and loyalties.

Khalid tells me, ‘I would go to Pakistan as a child with my grandparents, as they sold paan (betel leaf) in a place near Kirachi (Karachi). Now that business is over. They don’t go there anymore… My mother has a copy [passport] to go to Pakistan… We were asked by parle taraf wale log (people from the other side) to come to Pakistan. Once my nana ki behen (grandfather’s sister) was arrested for bringing silver from Pakistan…I loved my trips to a place near Kirachi. It used to be enveloped in fog in winters. For the first and last time I ate ducks’ eggs there.’


Repressed, yet subversive, is what Phoolo would like to think of herself as. Phoolmati, aged sixty, came from the village of Sampla near Rohtak to settle down in Nat colony. She has a double name: Phoolo and Fatima. She said that, ‘Our ancestors went from house to house begging for food. We no longer do work as Nats. I live in a jhuggi (tenement).’ The Nat in the past, she told me, was essentially a performer. ‘Dholak bajana, harmonia bajate the, baja aur sang karte the. Jese koi nachne gaane ka kaam karte the [voice thickens]. Ajkal nahi karte us kaam ko. Ab to mehnat mazdoori ka hi kaam karte hain.’ (‘Nats used to play the drum, harmonium and perform the swang [popular dance drama with mimicry]. They used to work as musicians and dancers. Now they don’t do this kind of work anymore. Now they only do manual work as labourers’).

Time pass karte hain …’ (‘Just time pass’).

Phoolmati, popularly known as Phoolo, used to collect the garbage, and dump it in the garbage heaps that lie on the ‘other side’ of clean Vasant Kunj. Now she feels drained. She lives in the everyday, pestering her son Kalle/ Shaukat to bring ganja from Raghubir Nagar near Punjabi Bagh. ‘Selling ganja is her only job. She sells a pudia (tiny pouch) for 100 rupees which she gets for 50 rupees. She is doing this for her pet (stomach) and is going against qanun (law)’, Khalid cheerfully informed me.

Phoolo has no country. She has shed her Nat identity. She has lost her dance. ‘Pakistan is just another place, like India,’ she told me smoking a bidi. …After a pause, she said, ‘Whatever is earned is frittered away. The badmash grab the money of those who earn. The policemen do the same. ‘Yahan ki police to bahut gandi hai. (The police here [of Mehrauli] is notorious).’

The state for Phoolo is embodied in the policemen, who come every day to intimidate, asking for their ‘monthly’.30Unko rishwat chahiye (They want bribes).’ The policemen see the Nats as baahar ke log (outsiders). So do the neighbouring Gujar villagers, who consider themselves as yahin ke base hue, the ‘real settlers’. I wondered if the police would dare to take rishwat from the assertive Jat and Gujar ‘settlers’ of the Chattarpur area. The ghost of Partition is resurrected in Nat colony every day.

The Nats don’t belong, can’t belong. They are turned into mere tenants in ‘our country’. They are seen as outsiders. Baahar ke log.


The Nat is a polysemic concept, open to multiple meanings and appropriations. I wonder why does the word Nat resonate as a melodic phrase in many Indian ragas: like Chhayanat, Nat Kamod, Shuddha Nat, Nat Bhairav? The Nat and Natni appear in the folk and modern theatre, and act as sutradhars (anchors). The ultimate realization of Nat as an idea may be found in the cosmic dance of Shiva – the Nat raj.


Yet, the civilizing discourse of ‘our country’ has no space for the Natni and Nat. Their tamasha (spectacle) is slowly waning from the landscape of memory and history. The stories of dislocation and vulnerability that unfold in Nat colony disturb the idea of a democratic, free country. There’s something exclusionary about post-colonial imagining of the nation, country, citizenry and belongingness. ‘Our’ country does not want to own Nats, and Nats don’t want to own the country either. There’s no desperation to belong. They don’t crave for an audience. They dance for themselves, and don’t get oppressed by the invasion of commercial entertainment with its myriad technicolour nets.

In her own playful and sensuous style, Saira/Kanta, Billo’s married daughter, revealed her resilient spirit: ‘We don’t like bidis anymore. I prefer a Gold Flake cigarette’. She asked for my help to text her boyfriend in Meerut from her mobile phone. Her daughter, Pooja/Shama, laughs with her and her friends. The harshness of life does not hamper the spirit and sensuality of such extraordinary women. Their resistance to patriarchy through sexual freedom and sense of humour poses a challenge to middle class notions of morality, marriage and stereotypes of sexuality. These women don’t take marriage seriously, and laugh away their sorrows and the grinding existence of everyday life. The state has extinguished their movement, but their wandering spirit is not dead.

My mind wandered. Standing on the pahadi, I gazed out at the hazy blue sky. I thought Nats could never become Manganiyars, the commercial success story of a pastoral community from Rajasthan making it big in the West and now being celebrated as the pride of India in Delhi’s Purana Qila. However, in remote parts of Bhojpuri region of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Nats continue to perform the epic of Alha [and Udal] on a ‘part-time basis’.31


The Nats live on the fringes of dispersed locations. The cultural market of entertainment has replaced and dislocated them. There is something in our state that silences the oral, the performative and spontaneous. The Nats have been silenced in multiple ways. The state has forced them to conform to an essentialized Indian identity via pehchan patra (identity card). As many Nats say in unison, ‘Hum Hindustan ke bashinde hain.’ But, there’s more in this plain statement which works like an official confession for the consumption of the agents and legitimate citizens of the country. And yet, Nats defy such statist definitions and stable truths that constitute a country’s claim to legitimacy. They take their double names lightly.

The daily instability, chaos and humour in the Nat way of life makes me wonder: What’s a country? For whom? And for what? I’ve no answers. But I do find in the lives of Billo/Basanti, Phoolo/Fatima, Saira/Kanta, Vimla/Billa, Pooja/Shama some liberatory moments precisely because they know how to escape and resist the country’s stifling baggage of belonging. They know how to live without property. They know how to disturb the boundaries of middle class morality and patriarchy. They wander, live and dance like khanabadosh.

I hope you will now know the way to Nat colony on Chattarpur pahadi in New Delhi.


* Desh ke Bashinde (The country’s citizens).

** This is a shorter version of my larger essay on the Nats. I am grateful to Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Radhika Singha, M.K. Raina and Partho Datta for suggestions and insights.

Nonica Datta’s latest work is Violence, Martyrdom and Partition: A Daughter’s Testimony, Oxford University Press, 2010.



1. Jawaharlal Nehru, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. 30, 1 September-17 November 1955, New Delhi, 2002, p. 210.

2. Chattarpur road is dotted with temples on both sides, including one of the biggest temples, Shree Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir (1974), popularly known as Chattarpur temple spreading over nearly 60 acres with 20 temples. Several other imposing temples and maths (monasteries) constitute the temple complex on Chattarpur road. Mehrauli, which lies on the other side, comes under UNESCO’s World Heritage site with the 12th-century Qutab Minar. Near the complex are many other historical and cultural sites, including the shrine of 13th-century Chishti saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, the venue for the annual festival of Phoolwalon-ki-sair, Moti Masjid (1709), Balban’s tomb (d. 1286), Jamali Kamali mosque (1528), and Adham Khan’s (c.1562) tomb among others.

3. ‘Shah Commission’s Findings-V, The Wrecking of Delhi’, Economic and Political Weekly, 24 June 1978, p. 1021.

4. H.H. Risley, A.T. Sinclair, ‘The Origin of the Gypsies’, Man, Vol. 2, 1902, pp. 180-182.

5. Clare Anderson, Legible Bodies: Race, Criminality and Colonialism in South Asia (Oxford, 2004), p. 74; For a nuanced account of tattooing, see Radhika Singha, ‘Settle, Mobilize, Verify: Identification Practices in Colonial India’, Studies in History, 16, 2, 2000, pp. 151-198.

6. W. Crooke, Natives of Northern India (New Delhi, 1995 repr), p. 144

7. Ibid., p. 145.

8. Ibid.

9. John Staples Harriot, ‘Observations on the Oriental Origin of the Romnichal, or Tribe Miscalled Gypsey and Bohemian’, Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2(1), 1829, p. 530.

10. Ibid.

11. H.A. Rose and Denzil Ibbetson, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Vol. 3, New Delhi, 1997 repr., p. 164.

12. Harriot, ‘Observations’, pp. 530-532.

13. Denzil Ibbetson, Punjab Castes, Lahore, 1916, p. 285.

14. Ibid.

15. Rose and Ibbetson, Glossary of the Tribes, p. 164.

16. R. V. Russell, The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, Pt. II, New Delhi, 1993 repr., p. 287.

17. G.A. Grierson, The Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. 11, Delhi, 1990 repr., p. 121.

18.Radhika Singha’s insightful work complicates the legal discourse of ‘criminal tribes’. For instance, the complexity and ambiguity of the colonial discourse is obvious in the ways in which the second judge criticized the orders given by the Agra Magistrate for banishing a whole tribe of Nats beyond the Jamuna, an act ‘of the same value as would be the order from a London Magistrate to put all Italian Opera Dancers and foreign singers across the water.’ Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India, Delhi, 1998, p. 199.

19. ‘In the Dehli and Hissar divisions the word used for Bazigar is Badi.’ Denzil Ibbetson, Punjab Castes, p. 285.

20. Lakshmi Subramanian, ‘Faith and the Musician: "Ustads" in Modern India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 11 November 2006.

21. D.N. Majumdar, Races and Cultures of India, Bombay, 1961, p. 148.

22. Personal communication with Meena Radhakrishna, who was deputed in 2007-2008 as Director (Research), National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

23. Haryana District Gazetteers: Mahendragarh, 1988, Chandigarh, p. 333.

24. Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, 1945-50, Vol. 1, Ahmedabad, 1971, p. 50.

25. Statement of Sardar Ehtishamul Haq Khan, who was posted as District Magistrate, Narnaul District in 1947, Seminar 420, August 1994, p. 49.

26. By ‘outcast Delhi’ I mean those marginalized spaces in Delhi which are loathed by the rich and powerful as symbolizing disease, squalor, immorality, poverty and criminality. I owe the metaphor, ‘outcast Delhi’ to Gareth Stedman Jones, Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship Between Classes in Victorian Society, Oxford, 1971.

27. Most of the ‘Muslim evacuees’ were ‘manual labourers and artisans’, Haryana District, p. 84.

28. Ibid., p. 59.

29. On Natni being feared for tattoing and pilfering in satirical songs, see Catherine Servan-Schreiber, ‘Tellers of Tales, Sellers of Tales: Bhojpuri Peddlers in Northern India’, C. Markovits, J.Pouchepadass, Sanjay Subrahmanyam (eds.), Society and Circulation: Mobile People and Itinerant Cultures in South Asia 1750-1950, Delhi, 2003, p. 290.

30. On Nats’ disturbing relationship with the police and sarkar (state), see Rangeya Raghav, Kab Tak Pukaru, Delhi, 2009 repr.

31. E.O. Henry, ‘Social Structure and Music: Correlating Musical Genres and Social Categories in Bhojpuri-Speaking Areas’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 1988, pp. 222-223.