Dr Richa Singh is a teacher of Sociology for M.A. classes at Indira Gandhi National Open University. HOD, Department of Social Work and Registrar, International ROMA Cultural University. Associate, Research Foundation International, affiliated to UNO. Taught UG & PG students at CCS University, Meerut. She is Associate Editor of “Sabhyata Sanskriti” Monthly Magazine (English & Hindi), “Contemporary Social Sciences” (English Quarterly Journal), “Encyclopedia, Social Sciences” (Hindi). She has contributed a number of Research Papers to various Social Science Journals. Organized National and International Conferences. Conducted workshops on Roma, Tribals and Women studies. She lives in Delhi (India)
International Roma Conference Held In New Delhi – A Report
– Dr. Richa Singh
A three-day International Roma Conference, along -with a cultural festival (12-14, Feb. 2016) was held in Azad Bhawan, New Delhi. The event was organised jointly by Indian Council for Cultural Relation (ICCR), Govt. of India and Antar-rashtriya Sahyog Parishad-ARSP (a NGO engaged in promoting international cooperation), New Delhi
The Conference was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs, Govt.of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj. She admired the Roma and other scholars who have re-written the forgotten history of Roma community and its link with India. She said, “I am very happy to meet the Roma delegates. You are the children of India who migrated and lived in challenging circumstances in foreign lands for centuries. Yet you maintained your Indian identity. A strong 20 million population of your community, spread over more than 30 countries encompassing West Asia, Europe, America and Australia to Foreign Cultures. You are an example of peaceful co-existence in challenging foreign conditions and are indeed the first flag bearers of the Indian culture overseas. We in India are proud of you. Your Baro Than (India) once again welcomes you an open heart.” The conference was enriched by Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, a renowned Indologist. He presented the key-note address and said– “Our hearts travel with the roving caravans of Roma brothers and sisters. They have trod a path of romance across Asia and Europe for millenia, which has left its traces in the words they picked up in their wandering. Like the Silk Route, they represent the ancient Steel Route. For centuries itinerant smiths had carried the tempered steel of Pushkalavati in the Northwest of ancient India to Classical Europe. The Roma have been steel-smiths of Europe, besides singers, dancers, and fortune-tellers.”
The Guest of Honour was Mr. Jovan Damjanovic, President of World Roma Organization, Rromanipen, the former Minister of Serbia Republic and a popular Roma leader. He said- “Roma people are an Indian nation, the autochthonous territory of Southeastern and Western Europe, but also in other parts of world, with all attributes that make them a special national entity. Roma have their history, culture, religion, tradition, literature, language, way of living, nutrition, mentality and national heritage in one word. Roma have their history, their presence and their future, just like other nations in Europe.” ICCR released a souvenir on this occasion. A Special Number of ‘Pravasi Sansar” in Hindi published by Mr. Rakesh Pandey was also released.
The initiative of organizing this International Roma Conference was taken by Dr. S S Shashi, President, International Research Foundation Delhi and Mr. Dev Bhardwaj, Director, India Inter-continental Cultural Association Chandigarh. and they helped the organizers with full support directly or indirectly.
Many papers were presented by eminent Roma scholars, namely Mr. Jovan Damjanovic (Serbia), Dr. Bajram Haliti (Serbia), Dr. Lilyana Kovacheva (Bulgaria), Dr. Trajko Petrovski (Macedonia), Dr. Marcel Courthiade (France), Ms Maja Familic (Serbia), Mr. Ram Schobesberger (Austria), Mr. Zlatomir Jovanovic (Serbia), Mr. Zelijko Markowitschka (Austria), Mr. Petko Asenov (Bulgaria), Ms. Anka Andonova Dalipovski (Croatia), Mr. Valery Novoselsky (Isreal) and Prof. Gheorghe Sarau (Romania) etc. They explained various Roma issues across the world and emphasized the need of recognizing them as the largest Indian Diaspora.
The Indian Scholars who spoke on this occasion were- Shri Shashank, Former Foreign Secretary and President, ARSP, Ambassador (Retd.) R. Dayakar, Chairman, Diaspora Affairs Committee, ARSP, Shri Narayan Kumar, Honorary Director, ARSP, Mr. Shyam Parande, Secretary General ARSP and the Chief Coordinator of the Conference, Amb. Malay Mishra, Dr Shashi Bala, Academic Coordinator and Joint – Secreatry, ARSP, Ms. Mona Kaushik (NRI), Mr. Suresh Pillai (NRI), Dr. Nidhi Trehan, Prof. Nirmala Sharma, Mr. Surendra Narain Mathur, Mr. Rajesh Gogna Prof. Gopal Arora, Dr. Nalini Pathania, Dr. (Principal) Kuldip Kaur Dhaliwal, Janardhan Singh Pathania and Dev Bhardwaj. Dr Shyam Singh Shashi’s paper on Roma in the context of Banjara nomadic Communities was presented by Mr. Zameer Anwar, as he could not attend the conference due to his open heart surgery.
A delegation of some Roma Scholars from abroad led by Mr. Shyama Parande met the Minister of Human Resource Development Mrs. Smriti Irani. They discussed with her various issues concerning Roma people. Dr. Sham Singh Shashi deputed some Faculty Members of Research Foundation, IGNOU, IRCU Study Centres’ namely- Dr. Sudha Tyagi (History), Dr. S.K. Mishra (English), Dr. Richa Singh (Sociology), Dr. A. K. Singh and Dr. Mamta (Hindi Lit). Among the volunteers- scholars who made the conference a great success, were- Mrs. Sangita Mishra, Mrs.Sapna Nanda, Mrs. Laxmi Joshi, Mrs.Suman Lata, Imran, Shankar Pratap, Vishal, Vikash, Jyoti Shaili, Vasundhara Rekha, Neelam, Nutan & others.
Later, the President, WROR, Mr. Jovan Damjanovic along-with about 25 Roma delegates paid a visit to ailing Dr. Shashi at his residence in New Delhi and honoured him with a Plaque for his life-long Research and Writings. The President, WROR distributed Certificates of Appreciation to Dr. Richa Singh, Zameer and other Associate- scholars. Mr .Jovan Damjanovic was also honoured with the ‘International Research Foundation Fellowship Award’. AAFT Director, Mr Sandeep Marwah received a letter of Appreciation for his future research on Roma Culture from him. Some book of Dr. Shyam Singh Shashi were presented to all the scholars.
More than 15 Roma Artists including Anette Ramona, Tuula Akerlund, Valfrid Akerlund, Patrik Bonnet, Gina Rubik, artists of Earth Wheel Sky Band, Serbia led by Olah Vince and many more participated in this International Roma Conference and Cultural Festival. They enthralled the spectators with their splendid performances. It is not a hyperbole to say that these artists emblazed the conference by their dances, songs, music and choirs. The three days from 12 to 14 February 2016, in ICCR Bhawan, New Delhi were memorable because of such mesmerizing cultural performances.
The foreign delagates and performing artists were later taken to Jaipur, Agra and Meerut also by ARSP where cultural performances and discussions were held with local gathering. Roma were seen busy in making huge shopping at Jaipur and Agra showing their great interest in Indian wares and costumes.
Incidentally, The first International Roma conference in Delhi (2001) was organized by Dr. S. S. Shashi, President, Research Foundation, in collaboration with Hindu Heritage Pratishthan, Modi Foundation and Ministry of Culture in which 33 scholars from Europe participated and met the then Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They also visited Hardwar, Rishikesh, Chandigarh, and Kurukshetra. Mr. Dev Bhardwaj, Director IICA, Chandigarh organized a memorable conference and cultural programme at Chandigarh on this occassion. Roma delegates also visited Mr. W. R. Rishi’s Romano Kher (a Roma Musuem) in Chandigarh.
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental – Spring 2016)