Calling Romas “children of India”, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Friday pitched for documentation of links of the 20-million strong migrant community spread over 30 countries with India. “I am very happy to meet 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,” Swaraj said after opening the International Roma Conference and Cultural Festival.
Stating that the cultural link between Romas and India has been a topic of research for many years, she said: “This research needs to be carefully preserved and documented.” Commending the Romas’ ability to adapt to foreign cultures, she termed them “first flagbearers of Indian culture overseas,” and an example of peaceful co-existence in challenging foreign conditions.
“We, in India, are proud of you. Your ‘Baro Than’ India once again welcomes you with an open heart,” she said.
Organised by ICCR, cultural wing of the MEA, and Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad-Bharat, the three-day conference is hosting 33 scholars and 12 cultural performers from 12 countries and 15 scholars from India.
The Roma community is said to have originated from nomadic tribes in northern India such as Dom, Banjara and Gujjar, among others, and were traditionally blacksmiths. It is believed they migrated with Alexander the Great to Europe in the 5th century. Over the course of time, the community spread across the world with a major chunk of its population in Turkey, besides Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and the US.
The community has produced eminent personalities such as artist Pablo Picasso , comedian Sir Charlie Chaplin, singer Elvis Presley and Oscar-winning actor Sir Michael Caine.