A Brief History of Roma People

Vincent van Gogh: The Caravans – Gypsy Camp near Arles (1888, Oil on canvas)

We know that the Roma originally migrated out of India. But what migration path did they follow? Also, where exactly did they originate from India?. A new study looks at maternal DNA to trace the Roma history and has some answers. This is particularly important because the Roma don’t have a reliable history and we all know how the Enlightened Europeans treated them.

The new study is mostly about what contributed to the heterogeneity of the Roma groups. What is of interest to us is that they left India about a 1000 to 1500 years back and went through Persia and Greece to reach the Balkans. By the 14th century, various Roma groups established themselves in the Balkan Peninsula and within a century they reached the periphery of Europe. When Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama set out on their famous voyages, the Roma were present in Spain and Portugal.

Investigating their Indian origins, the study found that the Roma originated mostly in North-Western India and a bit from East India. Among the North-Western states, Punjab is the most probable homeland for the Roma, thus creating a new market for Yash Raj films.


  1. Isabel Mendizabal et al.,  Reconstructing the Indian Origin and Dispersal of the European Roma: A Maternal Genetic Perspective,PLoS ONE 6, no. 1 (January 10, 2011): e15988.

Roma: Persecuted for a Millennia

European Parliament asked France to reconsider expelling the Romas. France said they will not stop. The European Parliament is unhappy. Now it looks like that politics is not paying off for President Sarkozy. But it is not just in France.

Roma from East Europe and the Balkans are leaving their countries as a result of the persecution that is so virulent there that it has caused death and destruction of settlements not unlike pogroms of centuries past. For example, in Cluj, a university city in Romania’s multi- ethnic Transylvania region, a large Roma settlement is being displaced and moved into a more remote and environmentally marginal area. The Roma have not been given any recourse. They appear not to have any civil rights. Roma have been attacked in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic. These attacks include fire bombings, shootings, stabbings, beatings and murders. [Roma: Not all alike]

But who are these Roma people and how did they end up in Europe? Subash Kak’s The Roma and the Persistence of Memory gives their history and the persecution they suffered in Europe.

It is estimated that over a million Roma were murdered from 1935 to the end of World War II. After the war, the Roma received little, if any, reparations from any government for their losses and suffering. Not a single Rom was called to testify at the Nuremberg Trials, or has been to any of the subsequent war crime tribunals. Until the 1970s, many Nazi-era laws remained on the books. In 1982, the German government was one of the first (and few) to belatedly recognize the atrocities committed against Romani people during World
The Roma have survived in the most difficult situation and for this they deserve to be saluted by all. They have also given a lot to Europe–music, dance, arts and crafts, and shown an indomitable will to survive.[The Roma and the Persistence of Memory]