The First World Romani Congress, organised by the Comité des Tsiganes (later Comité des Roms and eventually the International Romani Union), in 1971 in Orpington near London, was partially funded by the government of India (as were other, later Romani political and cultural events. The notion that a group of historical 'Indians' had 'colonised' Europe long before Europeans had colonised India, appealed to the early Hindutva nationalism of the period.
In practical terms, this connection brought great benefits to the Romani political movement and organisation:
'Besides being scientifically defensible, the pro-Indian-origin position was corroborated in practice by Indira Gandhi's open acknowledgment of Roma as an Indian population outside of India. Moreover, the Indian government was instrumental in helping our people achieve representation in the United Nations and in creating the First World Romani Congress, and it is currently supporting our claims for the return of gold and other possessions taken from Romani Holocaust victims and currently on deposit in Swiss banks…'
Ian Hancock, 1997, The Struggle for the Control of Identity © Transitions Vol. 4, No. 4 September, used by permission of the author
The lessening of Indian governmental support in the decades since Indira Ghandi's death on 31 October 1984, has meant that the aspirations for recognition and reparations of the Romani Holocaust, or Porrajmos, have not yet been entirely realised. However, the European Union, European Commission, and Council of Europe (often in concert) have taken the place of Indian sponsorship, since 1997, extending and expanding the political, policy and strategy impact of support for Romani rights and aspirations, to an enormous degree.
In the arena of arts, culture, and performance, both Romani and non-Romani artists, academics, and activists have engaged with the struggle for control of Romani identity, or identities, sometimes fiercely, particularly through support and funding from international donors and supra-national government bodies.
The latter-day establishment of cultural organisations and institutions, such as the European Roma Institute for Arts & Culture (ERIAC), has focussed the representational debates and activism for Gypsies, Roma, Travellers, and other linked ethnic communities, continuing a longer-term governmental trend for 'funnelling' political aspirations through the cultural arena, in regional or national Roma 'cultural centres'.
Such practice continues the policy, since the 1980s, of establishing minority ethnic communities' foci as primarily through arts, literature, drama, and other cultural activities, by municipal authorities, with those communities seeking to extend the boundaries of representational and political activities, resisting the limitations imposed through government and charitable funding.
This is a process first theorised by Dutch sociologist, Johann Christoffel ‘Jan’ Rath, as minorisation, a process similar to that of racialisation particularly in the United Kingdom1, where '…political empowerment is understood solely in terms of the cultural domain'. The difference between the two is the dominance of (and reliance upon) phenotypical and physical characteristics, as a primary point of departure in racialisation, which minorisation eschews in favour of a perspective that recognises:
Political behaviour is seen as determined by one's political culture, so that as long as migrants' culture is not adapted to… [majority] culture, migrants will not be able to move into the central positions of power. But, paradoxically, according to this paradigm, the political 'integration' of migrants is best achieved by the formation of group specific institutions. Through these institutions 'ethnic minorities' can become politically active in their own 'ethnic' way… For this reason, the state, political parties, trade unions and welfare agencies have all set up and supported special socio–political organisations, committees or advisory bodies… or they have waged special electoral campaigns on behalf of, 'ethnic minorities'. Although these institutions do grant migrants places in the political decision–making process, they are rarely, if ever, the central positions of power.
Jan Rath, 1991, Minorising
1 See Mills, Robert, 1989, Racism, London: Routledge; Fanon, Franz, 2004, The Wretched of the Earth, Bhabba, Homi K., [intro.], Philcox, Richard [trans.], New York: Grove Press