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Burhanpur/ Madhya Pradesh/ Deredar community

Nautch girl: a 19th century sketch by a British artist
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Zing back in Madhya Pradesh mujra dancers’ feet

By P Naveen & Amarjeet Singh, TNN, Mar 30, 2013

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Burhanpur/ Madhya Pradesh/ Deredar community

BHOPAL: The sounds of carefree singing and dancing are back in Burhanpur district, 343km south-west of the state capital. The mujra girls there and their clientele are heaving a collective sigh of relief after 'attendance' registers, kept at the mujra houses for the last four years on government orders, were removed recently.

It was in 2008 that a taxi driver had tipped off the Madhya Pradesh anti-terrorist squad (ATS) about dropping off some alleged terror suspects at a mujra house in Burhanpur. A thorough search was made but no suspects were sighted. The downside of the incident was that the authorities went on a security overdrive, and in the process, many customers were harassed and some even detained. The administration also made it mandatory for every mujra house there to keep a register at the entrance where all the details of the visitors, including names, vehicle registration numbers and phone numbers of their references, had to be noted down.

The decision made the clients very uncomfortable - many of them were the local rich and famous, and also businessmen from neighbouring districts like Indore, Ujjain, Khandwa and Bhopal. After four long years, these powerful bigwigs decided enough was enough, and made it clear to the local corporator that if she wanted their votes in the next election, she had to get the registers removed. That threat has had its desired effect, and the registers have been shelved.

"We ran from pillar to post for the last four years to get the registers removed from our premises. Now they have been removed, thanks to the local corporator and her husband who took our plea to the higher-ups," says Ameen Chaudhary, head of the Deredar community and president of Deredar Samaj Sangeet Sangh. "The police have asked us to be cautious and report about the visits of suspicious people, and we have no problem with that," added Chaudhary.

Before 2008, around 60 families of the Deredar community were involved in mujra dancing. Many have moved away from the profession since then and have opted for other means of livelihood. Today there are just 24 mujra families. Interestingly, the Deredar families are reasonably educated. Only one daughter of a family earns by dancing. The other children are sent to school for a better life. As a result, the community can actually boast of four lawyers, three gynaecologists, nine teachers, three medical representatives and a few businessmen among its members today.

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