Chapter of History that will never be taught to us,let alone discussed,maybe the educationists feel it’s not very important!
The persecution of Roma Gypsy/Romani people in Europe is an ongoing continuous pogrom that unfortunately does not find mention in the mainstream media of our country.
The Romani/Roma Gypsy are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym “Gypsies” (or “Gipsies”), which many Romani people consider a racial slur due to its connotations of illegality and irregularity. Other exonyms are Ashkali and Sinti.
It’s interesting to see the reaction of European countries on the migration of Syrian Refugees to their countries, while Greece, Italy and Malta are by now frustrated but helplessly welcome / host refugees, countries like Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Romania & Croatia don’t really know how to deal with the ever growing tide of Refugees on their borders.
Equally strange are reactions from Germany, Austria, Spain and Iceland that seem to be welcoming refugees, the dead silence from countries like UK & France is also cryptic that’s what seems to be as of now!
The only vocal reactions have come from two countries Hungary and Denmark.
Hungary, that has expressed its displeasure openly against Syrian Refuges along with hordes of lay offs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq and Africa camping on its border with Serbia & also against the European Union that so far has no policy on Syrian Refugees!
The other country is Denmark that has openly issued a warning to Syrian Refugees asking them to back off & not take the trouble to arrive on its borders.
While Europeans across countries debate on the presence of Syrian Refugees & continued arrivals many forget or ignore similar migration / expulsions from Europe during the 1930s and that continued till World War II was that of the European Gypsies who along with the Jews were expelled & exterminated in large numbers.
Since most of us are aware of Jewish expulsion of the 1930s under Nazi controlled Germany and occupied territories under the Reich, not much is known about the Gypsies of Europe who faced and continue to face discrimination & expulsion to this day.
After reading what happened to the Gypsies also known as Roma in Europe, one wonders what’s so different about the Syrians ( and Afghans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Iraqis & African’s ) that is making the Europeans react!
Why so much hostility for the Roma?
Roma Gypsy & India connection
Roma, the largest ethnic minority in Eastern Europe, are perhaps the region’s most misunderstood, most persecuted, and maligned minority. Since their migration from India approximately six hundred years ago, Roma have suffered economic, political and cultural discrimination at the hands of both communist and capitalist and both democratic and totalitarian societies.
The post-1989 transition in Eastern Europe has created a huge ethnic underclass consisting of over 5 million Roma who by every statistical indicator – political, social, and economic (literacy, income, life span, infant mortality, diet, representation in government, access to health care and legal aid, education, employment) have the lowest status of any ethnic group in Eastern Europe.
This phenomenon presents a formidable barrier to building a unified political movement. Furthermore, Roma are a unique people in Europe in that they are a diaspora people with no claimed homeland. Although India is their place of origin, they do not adhere to a notion of homeland, nor do they wish to establish an independent state.
Linguistic evidence reveals that Roma are originally from northern India and that they migrated out of the area sometime between 800-950 AD. Romani, the Rom language, is descended from Sanskrit and closely related to Hindi.
Today Romani exists in many dialects, reflecting the paths of Rom dispersion. Some Rom groups, however, do not presently communicate in Romani, although it is likely that they did at an earlier time.
Roma have always been bilingual and in many cases are multilingual. In the southern Balkans, Roma speak Romani plus the local south Slavic language or Turkish, Albanian or Greek.
Although scholars differ as to the first reliable documentation of Roma in Europe, we can say with certainty that Roma were established in large numbers throughout the Balkans by the fourteenth century.
Most Roma settled on the outskirts of existing communities while others remained nomadic. Reported dates of a Rom presence include 1322 in Crete, 1348 in Serbia, 1370 in Wallachia, 1407 in Germany, 1418 in Zurich, 1419 in France, 1422 in Italy, and 1425 in Spain. Since this time, Roma have been indispensable suppliers of diverse services to non-Roma, such as music, entertainment, fortune-telling, metal working, horse dealing, wood working, sieve making, basket weaving, comb making, seasonal agricultural work, and middleman marketing.
Many of these trades required nomadism. Roma are extremely adaptable in the area of occupations and they often practice two or three occupations simultaneously or serially.
Roma and Europe
Eastern Europe is home to a largely overlooked population of 12 million people who speak a unique language and follow a culture quite distinct from the European norm. While spread out across Europe (primarily in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia), the Roma people constitute a bigger European nation than the Czechs, Hungarians, or the Dutch — and yet have little political voice or cultural presence in the wider society.
The once-common term “Gypsy” (derived from “Egypt,” from where they were thought to have originated) is now considered not just inaccurate but derogatory. The Roma now thought to be descended from several low north-Indian castes. (The language still spoken by about two-thirds of today’s European Roma — called “Romany” — is related to contemporary Indian languages.)
A thousand years ago, the Roma began to migrate through Persia and Armenia into the Ottoman Empire, which later stretched across much of southeastern Europe. Known for their itinerant lifestyle, expertise in horse trading, skilled artisanship, and flexibility regarding private property, the Roma were both sought out and suspected in medieval Europe. Similarly, the gadjos (non-Roma) and their customs came to be distrusted by the Roma.
The Industrial Revolution removed the Roma’s few traditional means of earning a livelihood, making their wandering lifestyle difficult to sustain. Roma became entertainers (fortune telling, music and dancing, horse shows, dancing bears), outlaws, and metalworkers.
Roma were initially not allowed to enter Austrian territory, but as the Habsburgs recaptured lands once controlled by the Ottomans (including Slovakia and Hungary), they permitted the Roma already living there to stay. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as “Gypsy music” funneled into the theaters of Vienna and Budapest, a romantic image of the Roma emerged: a happy-go-lucky nomadic lifestyle; intoxicating music, with dancers swirling around a campfire; and mystical powers over white Europeans.
But white Europe’s image of the Roma also had a sinister side. Even today, people might warn their children, “If you don’t behave, I’ll sell you to the Gypsies!” And when someone is cheated, many English speakers say they’ve been “gypped” — an ethnic slur so deeply ingrained most don’t even realize its origin.
The widespread bigotry had long been encoded in many legal restrictions that kept the Roma from enjoying full citizenship. In the 1930s they were stripped of all citizenship in Nazi Germany, and in the 1940s, Hitler addressed what the Nazis called the “Gypsy question” (how to deal with the Roma population) with full-on genocide, sending hundreds of thousands of Roma to the gas chambers purely on the basis of ethnicity.
After the war, communist governments in Eastern Europe implemented a policy of forced assimilation: Roma were required to speak the country’s major language, settle in towns, and work in new industrial jobs.
Rather than producing well-adjusted citizens, the policy eroded time-honored Roma values and shattered the cohesiveness of their traditional communities. It left the new Roma generation prone to sexual, alcohol, and drug abuse, and filled state-run orphanages with deprived Roma toddlers. When the obligation and right to work disappeared with the communist regimes in 1989, rampant unemployment and dependence on welfare joined the list of Roma afflictions.
As people all over former communist Europe found it difficult to adjust to the new economic realities, they again turned on the Roma as scapegoats, and state-sanctioned persecution continued in many areas.
For example, obstetrician in the Czech Republic were accused of sterilizing their female Roma patients without their informed consent. One small Czech town tried to build a wall between its wealthy neighborhood and the Roma ghetto.
Many Roma resist assimilation and live in segregated ghettos, such as in the Spiš Region of Slovakia, where many Roma live in small, remote, self-contained villages — a long walk up a dirt road away from the mainstream “civilization.”
Polygamy is not uncommon, and both girls and boys marry and begin having children at a very early age. Most children start attending school, but a high percentage drop out. Those who make it against the odds and succeed in mainstream society typically do so by turning their backs on their Roma heritage.
The large Roma population also puts an enormous strain on the already overtaxed social-welfare networks.
Unemployment in the Spiš Region among Roma is about 50 percent in the summer (when some seasonal work is available) to 80 percent in the winter.
What emerges is a seemingly unsolvable problem — a fundamental cultural misunderstanding, tinged with racist undertones, that separates the Roma people with those they live among.
Courtesy : Notes from Cameron Hewitt