• Vijay Korra


This chapter presents an overview of Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 and debates on the same. The colonial British Government of pre-independent India notified certain nomadic, pastoral and traditional trading communities as ‘born criminals’ and passed the wicked ‘Criminal Tribes Act (CTA)’. CTA defined criminal tribes as ‘a tribe or caste whose occupation is committing non-bailable offences’. Booth Tucker, a British officer, defined it as ‘those sections or groups of people who traditionally follow or commit criminal acts like stealing, robbery, dacoity and other such commission of non-bailable crimes in order to obtain a livelihood’. In other words, the British-Raj notified criminals based on physical attributes, castes, tribes, habits, appearances, way of living, hygiene, dressing and occasional offences. Among them, some either resisted and/or assisted the freedom fighters against the British aggression from time to time.


Criminal Tribes Act Criminal tribes Born criminals De-notified tribes British-Raj 


  1. Abraham, Susan. 1999. Steal or I’ll Kill You a Thief – ‘Criminal’ Tribes of India. Economic and Political Weekly 34 (27): 1751–1753.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed, A.S. 1982. Nomadism as an Ideological Expression. Economic and Political Weekly 3: 1101–1106.Google Scholar
  3. Aiyappan, A. 1948. Report on the Socio-Economic Conditions of the Aboriginal Tribes of the Province of Madras. Madras: Government Press.Google Scholar
  4. Asad, T. 2004. Where Are the Margins of the State? In Anthropology in the Margins of the State, Advanced Seminar Series, ed. Veena Das and Deborah Poole, 279–288. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.Google Scholar
  5. Asian Tribune. 2007. Repeal the Habitual Offenders Act and Affectively Rehabilitate the Denotified Tribes, UN to India, March 19.Google Scholar
  6. Bayley, David H. 1969. The Police and Political Development in India. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Berland, C.J. 1982. No Five Fingers Are Alike. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bhasha Research and Publication Centre. 2012. Denotified Tribes (DNT RAG). Accessed 20 Nov 2012.
  9. Bokil, Milind. 2002. De-Notified and Nomadic Tribes: A Perspective. Economic and Political Weekly 37 (2): 1–8.Google Scholar
  10. Bonington, C.J. 1931. The Bhantus: A Criminal Tribe of India. In Census of India, Part III, ed. J. Hutton, vol. 1. Government of India.Google Scholar
  11. Budhan. 2000. The Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group Newsletter. Vadodara: DNT Rights Action Group.Google Scholar
  12. Chaman, Lal. 1962. Gypsis, Forgotten Children of India, 62. New Delhi: Government of India.Google Scholar
  13. Chandavarkar, Rajnarayan. 1998. Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India 1850–1950. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Chatterjee, Chandrima. 2006. Identities in Motion: Migration and Health in India. Mumbai: Center for Inquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT). Accessed 30 June 2014.
  15. D’Souza, Dilip. 1999. Declared Criminal at Birth India’s “Denotified Tribes”. Manushi.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2001. Branded by Law: Looking at India’s Denotified Tribes. New Delhi: Penguin.Google Scholar
  17. Dandekar, A. 2009. The Issue of Denotified Tribes in Independent India. Working Paper 214. Gujarat: IRMA.Google Scholar
  18. Darrow, Clarence. 1934. Crime, Its Causes and Treatment, 10. London: Watta and Co.Google Scholar
  19. Devi, Mahasveta. 1992. Kheria-Savar Sammelana in Purulia. Economic and Political Weekly 27 (41): 2206.Google Scholar
  20. Dirks, Nicholas B. 2001. Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Dyer, Caroline. 2006. The Education of Nomadic Peoples: Current Issues, Future Prospects. Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  22. Franz, Kurt. 2005. Resources and Organizational Power: Some Thoughts on Nomadism in History. In Shifts and Drifts in Nomad-Sedentary Relations, ed. Stefan Leder and B. Streck. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.Google Scholar
  23. Joshi, Vidyut. 1998. “Tribal Situation in India: Issues in Development” (with special reference to western India). Jaipur: Rawat Publications (Sardar Patel Institute of Economic and Social Research).Google Scholar
  24. Kannan, Kasturi. 2007. Presumed Guilty: India’s Denotified Tribes. InfoChange News & Features.
  25. Korra, Vijay. 2017. Status of De-Notified Tribes. Economic and Political Weekly 52 (36).Google Scholar
  26. Kumar, Mukul. 2004. Relationship of Caste and Crime in Colonial India: A Discourse Analysis. Economic and Political Weekly 39 (10): 1078–1087.Google Scholar
  27. Lalitha, V. 1982. Denotified Communities of Andhra Pradesh – Some Problems of Rehabilitation. PAPHC.Google Scholar
  28. Marx, Emanuel. 2005. Nomads and Cities: The Development of a Conception. In Shifts and Drifts in Nomad-Sedentary Relations, ed. S. Leder and B. Streck. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.Google Scholar
  29. Mayaram, Shail. 1991. Criminality or Community? Alternative Constructions of the Mev Narrative of Darya Khan. Contributions to Indian Sociology 25 (1): 57–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. ———. 2006. Against History, Against State: Counter Perspectives from the Margins. Delhi: Permanent Black.Google Scholar
  31. Mullay, F.S. 1912. The Criminal Classes of Madras Presidency. Madras, India: Madras Government Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1948. Speech Delivered at Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. India.Google Scholar
  33. Nigam, Sanjay. 1990. Disciplining and Policing the Criminals by Birth, Part I: The Making of a Colonial Stereotype – The Criminal Tribe and Castes of North India. Indian Economic and Social History Review XXVII (2).Google Scholar
  34. Radhakrishna, Meena. 1989. The Criminal Tribes Act in Madras Presidency: Implications for Itinerant Communities. The Indian Economic and Social History Review 26 (3): 269–295.Google Scholar
  35. ———. 1992. Surveillance and Settlements Under the Criminal Tribes Act in Madras. The Indian Economic and Social History Review 29(2): 171–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. ———. 2000. Colonial Construction of a ‘Criminal’ Tribe Yerukulas of Madras Presidency. Economic and Political Weekly 35 (28–29): 2553–2563.Google Scholar
  37. ———. 2001. Dishonoured by History: ‘Criminal Tribes’ and British Colonial Policy. Chandigarh: Orient Longman.Google Scholar
  38. Ramaswamy, Gita, and Bhangya Bhukya. 2002. Lambadas: Changing Cultural Patterns. Economic and Political Weekly 37(16): 1497–1499.Google Scholar
  39. Raghavaiah, V. 1943. The Problems of Criminal Tribes. Nellore.Google Scholar
  40. Sandra, Freitag B. 1991. Crime in the Social Order of Colonial North India. Modern Asian Studies 25 (2): 227–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Singh, Jaspal. 1976. Reformation of Ex-criminal Tribes, Hyderabad. Journal of Asiatic Society, Nov. IV, 1975.Google Scholar
  42. Sutherland, Edwin H., and Donald R. Cressay. 1955. Principles of Criminology. New York, 12 p.Google Scholar
  43. The Report of the National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT), 2008. Government of India.Google Scholar
  44. Thurston, Edgar. 1909. Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Vol. 3. Madras: Madras Government Press.Google Scholar
  45. Varady, Robert G. 1979. North Indian Banjaras: Their Evolution as Transporters. Journal of South Asia Studies (ns) II (1 and 2): 1–18.Google Scholar
  46. Wilson Vine, Margaret S., Gabriel Tarde, and Hermann Mannheim, eds. 1960. Pioneers in Criminology, 228–238. Quadrangle Books, Inc.Google Scholar
  47. Yang, Anand A. 1985. Crime and Criminality in British India. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vijay Korra
    • 1
  1. 1.Nizamiah Observatory CampusCentre for Economic and Social StudiesHyderabadIndia

Personalised recommendations