The people of Nat community, historically known as entertainers for the Rajput patronages, are found in different parts of northern India. Although they are not significant in number, they tend to carry distinct group identities in contemporary society. From a historical perspective, Rajput lost their kingship in various states; in consequence, Nat people lost their traditional occupation. In such a given crisis for livelihood, Nat women of the community forced to get engaged in sex work. They have been practicing the profession over the years in rural hamlets as well as in urban red light areas. What initiatives have been taken to empower the community in mainstream society? With the stigma attached to the women in particular what changes have been there in their livelihood patterns? This paper draws on evidence from an empirical study on Nat Community in Ajmer district of Rajasthan to reflect on inimitable socio-cultural practices, and challenges faced by Nat women in their daily lives. The paper also brings in the issues of social discrimination and exclusion that the Nat community in general and the Nat women in particular face in day-to-day social interactions. The study is purely qualitative in nature and employed case study as approach to do in-depth study of Nat hamlet in Ajmer district of Rajasthan. Unstructured interviews had conducted with 25 Nat women. As revealed, the Nat women are not allowed in any religious place in the village, and also face discrimination in accessing the public and civic services. Sexual harassments like eve-teasing and molestation against Nat women and girls are common phenomena. The elderly women who are not active in flesh trade are forced to perform begging in nearby communities in the festive seasons. The paper argues that discrimination and exclusion particularly against Nat women at structural and societal levels, and lack of legal safeguards and government initiatives for their inclusion into mainstreaming society, make women from multiple marginalized groups like Nat community lack basic opportunities for a sustainable livelihood, and remain vulnerable to all form of human rights violations.
Hemraj P Jangir, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, India