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New Delhi: The people of the Roma community spread across various parts of the world are actually children of India, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Friday.
"You are the children of India who migrated and lived in challenging circumstances in foreign lands for centuries. Yet you maintained your Indian identity," Sushma Swaraj said while inaugurating the three-day International Roma Conference and Cultural Festival 2016 here.
"A strong 20 million Roma population is spread over 30 countries encompassing West Asia, Europe, America and Australia," she said.
Romas are said to be descendants of groups in India like Dom, Banjara, Gujjar, Sansi, Chauhan, Sikligar, Dhangar and other nomadic groups from northwest India.
They are known variously as "Zigeuner" in Germany, "Tsyiganes" or "Manus" in France, "Tatara" in Sweden, "Gitano" in Spain, and "Tshingan" in Turkey and Greece, "Tsigan" in Russia, Bulgaria and Romania and "Gypsies" in Britain.
Lauding the community, Sushma Swaraj said that the Romas were "the perfect example of peaceful co-existence in multicultural societies".
"In fact they are perfect flag-bearers of Indian ethos and we are proud of it," she said.
Stating that there was credible evidence which indicated the migration of Roma community from India towards the west in the fifth century, the minister said: "We Indians are proud of the progress and name that the Roma community has made for itself at the local and international level. More significantly so, because the process of adaptation, diffusion and progress was based on Indian value systems of peaceful co-existence, respecting other cultures and contributing towards growth. Roma maintained Indian traditions in the countries that were unaware of India, and its culture and traditions and thereby maintained Indian identity."
Sushma Swaraj also congratulated all those scholars who have re-written the forgotten history of the Roma community and its links with India.
"This needs to be further augmented with continued efforts and in-depth research. Precious heritage of Roma community and its relations with India needs to be carefully preserved and documented," she said.
Thirty-three scholars and 12 cultural performers from 12 countries apart from 15 Indian scholars are attending the three-day event that is being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP)-Bharat.
ICCR Director General C. Rajasekhar also highlighted the contributions of the Roma community in first world countries.
"In Romania and Bulgaria, Roma community forms 12 percent of their total population. In Turkey they have a population of 2.75 million while they have a significance presence in Russia, Slovakia, Hungry, Serbia, Spain and France. They have kept the Indian spirit alive at all these places despite adverse circumstances," Rajasekhar said.
ICCR President Lokesh Chandra claimed that the Roma community made an immense contribution to building London which is counted among the most developed and amazingly planned modern cities.
"Romas have been a community of craftsmen. They have been ironsmiths, coppersmitsh who were living on the outskirts of the habitations," he said.
"They made weapons for the state of Hungary in the 15th century during the reign of King Ulaszlo II and were close to royality in those times. They were also primary contributors to building the topmost cities of the world," he added. (IANS)