ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Living on the Fringes

The current discrimination against the Romas is the result of European prejudice.

Ever since France began expelling the Roma migrants, Europe has had to confront once again its unspoken antipathy towards ethnic minorities. The Roma or Romani peoples – who number somewhere between 4 and 10 million, now live mainly in eastern Europe. The Romas are seen as “different” because of their refusal to be “settled” in any one place and most of all because of their refusal to be assimilated into European society. This has tested European society which takes pride in its professed tolerance and even respect for diversity but has occasionally shown streaks of racism. According to current scholarship, the Romas, who were earlier derogatorily referred to as “gypsies”, originally migrated from north-west India in the 11th century. The Romas have always been discriminated against – because their skin colour is different, because they have always lived akin to nomads (in “caravans”), because they are associated with crime and most important because even in the 21st century they are insistent on retaining their distinctive non-mainstream lifestyle.

The discrimination against the Romas reached its “final solution” when somewhere between 2,50,000 and 1.5 million Romas were exterminated as part of a Nazi genocide during the 1930s. While the mass extermination of the Jews of Europe has been recorded and acknowledged, the equally shameful secret of Europe is the genocide of the Romas. But this to date has not been fully acknowledged in the same measure and is as dark an event as the other one in European history. Indeed, if the Romas are now found mainly in central and eastern Europe, it is because those who lived in western Europe were subjected to mass murder by the Nazis, not without silent support from the local population.

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