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Just some good information on surnames/clans/folklores etc

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Francklin, W. (documented during A.D. 1798-1803) [11] wrote, "The Seiks (Sikhs), in their person, are tall, and of a manly erect deportment; their aspect is ferocious, their eyes piercing and animated; and in tracing their features a striking resemblance is observable to the Arabs who inhabit the banks of the Euphrates (river in modern Iraq)". This is an interesting observation on and appears to have some historical connection because General Sir Sykes [13] says in his book that a large number of Jats from the Indus Valley were taken to the marches of the Tigris (river in modern Iraq) in eighth century A.D. For more information on this topic the reader is directed to Chapter 3.

Regarding the founding of Khalsa (baptised Sikhs or saint soldiers in A.D. 1699) by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs, Lt. General Sir MacMunn [14] wrote, "The Jats of the Punjab, sturdy and quarrelsome, flocked to the new brotherhood (Khalsa), and he (Guru Gobind Singh) soon had a force which enabled him to try conclusions ----with the forces at Delhi (Emperor of India's). A strong religious sense did animate these warlike, muscular Jats----. The Jat tribes about the Sutlej and the Ravi rivers hastened to join the faith----. No longer would they turn the cheek to their persecutor, and they began to group themselves by tribes and confederacies known as Misals----".

In the eighteenth century Sikhs were very successful in establishing twelve principalities or confederacies called Misals (Misal is a Arabic word means alike or equal [4]). At least nine of these Misals were founded by the Jats. The history of each of the Misals founded in the eighteenth century by the Jats is briefly described below [6, 7, 15-17].

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A hardy people in search of new role

by D.R. Chaudhry

Forming an Identity — A Social History of the Jats by Nonica Datta. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages viii+228. Rs 450.

There are numerous theories about the origin of the Jats, ranging from their sudden appearance from Shiva’s locks to their lineage in the Aryan race. Most of these theories are absurd and unscientific, as correctly pointed out by Hukam Singh, a sober Jat historian. The origin of this community, as pointed out by K.R. Qanungo, an important historian of the Jats, is enveloped in obscurity, which the light of scientific research has yet to dispel.

The origin of the Jats, mercifully, is not the subject material of the book under review, though it deals with it in passing. The book deals with the Jat identity as it evolved and got shaped in rural southeast Punjab the (present-day Haryana). Three factors played the most important role in shaping this identity — the qaumi (community) narratives, the role of the Arya Samaj as a religious reform movement and the politics of Chhotu Ram through the medium of the Unionist Party.

Of late, there has been a spate of writings on Jat history, Jat identity and related things. The writers are largely from the Jat community itself. They have dished off tomes on various aspects, emphasising Jat diplomacy, Jat heroism, Jat glory and so on. Unfortunately, most of these are not rooted in credible historical evidence. No historiography, no theory of history there. The need to quote sources is dispensed with as a meaningless activity.

Conjectures and surmises to prop up preconceived notions constitute this brand of history. As a consequence, there is a lot of myth making in the name of Jat history. Some make hilarious reading. For instance, a theory has been propounded in all seriousness that the Jats are ancient rulers who once held sway all over the world and their descendants are found in all important races and the communities even today.

Thomas Mann, the Nobel laureate from Germany, descended from the Mann gotra of Jats while Thomas Moor, an English writer, belonged to the Mor gotra. The lineage of Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt is traced to the Nisir or Nasiar gotra. Risley is not far wrong when he observes that when a Jat runs wild it needs God to hold him back.

This kind of myth making, an attempt to weave a mystique around the Jat community, is in the opinion of this reviewer a response to the present agony of this community. The Jats dominate the rural hinterland in a radius of about 300 km from the national Capital. They control fertile land and have hegemonic position in rural society. But they stand marginalised in Indian politics thanks to their bankrupt leadership. Even the Yadavas, an intermediate farming caste like the Jats, have done better.

When faced with a grim present and an uncertain future, the community ideologues strenuously try to discover a glorious past — an imagined past, as historians call it — as a defence mechanism. But this defence does more harm than good. More on this later. In the present socio-cultural and historical environment, rendered humid by mythmakers, the book under review comes like a whiff of fresh air. It is a sober, balanced and well-researched work on the social history of the Jats in the present-day Haryana.

The custom of “karewa†(marital alliance with the widow of one’s brother), local cults, deities like Gugga, Teja, Ramdeoji, etc. saints, “pirsâ€, tombs, sufi shrines, etc. kept the Jats distinctly from the Brahminical social order. The Brahmin has never been the object of veneration among the Jats. “Pandit†has been a term of light banter and mockery in rural Haryana. The popularity of narratives like “swangâ€, “kissaâ€, “kathaâ€, etc. dealing with the heroic deeds of Allah-Uddal, Gugga Pir, Bhure Badal, etc. helped evolve a distinct identity. There was nothing Vedic or Puranic about this.

Two religious traditions played an important role in shaping Jat identity. The Jats had no patience for the intricate symbols and elaborate practices of orthodox Hinduism. They described their religion as “kachha mazhab†— simple and earthy — as contrasted with the “pucca mazhab†of the high castes. Second, the reformist tradition in the Jat community had a pronounced non-Brahminical orientation. There was nothing sacred about the Ganga or the Yamuna for them. Idols and temples were emblems of superstition and the Brahmins had no role to play in their rituals and ceremonies. The Naths, followers of Gorakhnath, ate meat and drank alcohol. They had a good following among the Jats in some areas.

It can thus be deduced from the community narratives, religious practices and reformist tradition that they were very much part of the lower rung of the Hindu social order and had no illusion of belonging to the twice-born Hindu varnas till the advent of the Arya Samaj which tried to engineer a basic shift in the Jat psyche.

Whatever be the later-day notions about the superiority of the Jat “quomâ€, Jats were stigmatised by the higher castes. The Brahmins treated the Jats as Shudras and denied them the right to wear the sacred thread. The Jats were largely free from the Brahminical orthodoxy and caste rigidity. The Arya Samaj’s attack on Brahminical rituals, orthodoxy, superstitions and caste rigidity had a natural appeal for the Jats and they easily took to it.

The Samaj’s act of investing them with the sacred thread gave them the “dvija†status, putting them on par with the twice-born castes. Its advocacy of widow remarriage was in tune with the practice of “karewaâ€. The religious reform movement had a powerful impact on the Jat community and went a long way in sharpening the sense of the Jat identity.

The treatment of the Arya Samaj in the book as an important factor in fostering the Jat identity is eminently lucid and highly convincing, though there can be two ways of looking at the nature of identity promoted by the Samaj.

The treatment of Chhotu Ram in the book as an ideologue of the Jat peasantry and champion of its interests is laudable. There are two images of Chhotu Ram, two perceptions completely opposed to each other. One image portrays him as a saviour and a messiah of peasants. The other depicts him as a loyalist and a collaborator of the colonial regime (a “toddy bachhaâ€). His role has been mystified and decontextualised by those who treat him as a messiah of the peasantry. In the process, Chhotu Ram has been appropriated by the Jats and has been reduced to a totem of the Jat clan. His detractors do him grave injustice when they portray him as a traitor since he was not part of the national mainstream. To extend this logic further, Jotiba Phule, B.R. Ambedkar and Ramasamy Naicker — the great crusaders for the uplift of the dalits in Indian society — too could be dubbed traitors as none of them was a part of the Indian freedom struggle. (Naicker organised a protest demonstration on August 15, 1947. When the dawn of independence was being hailed all over the country, he and others of his social standpoint believed that the transfer of power in the then existing social arrangement would only benefit the higher castes to the detriment of the dalits).

Nonica Datta successfully steers clear of the two positions about Chhotu Ram. Her attempt is aimed at relocating his politics in its proper historical context. In his time the Jat peasants were victims at the hands of higher castes, especially the usurious Mahajans. They were portrayed as an ill-bred, ill-cultured lot, a sort of semi barbarians. Chhotu Ram exhorted peasants to shed their inferiority complex and fatalistic outlook and become assertive and self-confident.

As an important Minister in the then Unionist Party government in Punjab, he did a lot to improve the economic status of the peasants through numerous legislative measures. He helped them acquire self-confidence and self-respect. He actively cultivated the army lore in the Jat peasantry, investing it with the halo of a martial race. His image as a patron saint, as rightly concluded by the writer, played an important role in the organisation of the Jats as a self-conscious community.

There is a general agreement among historians that the Jats had the status of Shudras in the Brahminical social order in the past, even lower than that at some stage. According to Irfan Habib, they constituted an ostracised community at the level of Chandalas in the seventh and eighth century Sind; they are described as Shudras in the 10th century and as “low Vaishyas†in the 17th.

The book under review provides ample evidence to show that the Jats were very much part of the lower strata in the caste hierarchy and were looked down upon by the higher castes like the Brahmins and Rajputs.

Like other depressed castes, the Jats too had an aspiration to rise in the caste hierarchy through the process of Sanskritisation. This process got a fillip at the hands of the Arya Samaj. The Samaj tried to enhance their caste status through the wearing of the sacred thread, the “yajnaâ€, Gayatri mantra and other Vedic symbolism. This triggered a desire for caste mobility among the Jats and led to theorisation of the Jats being ancient rulers, their glory, their valour, and their diplomacy and so on.

If the Jats are the ancient rulers with a “dvija†caste status, “why are they now so desperate to be included among the OBCs? (This has already happened in two states and there is a similar demand in other states with a sizeable Jat population.

Several eminent Jats of Haryana in their memoranda submitted to the Backward Classes Commission set up by the Haryana government in 1990 have eloquently pleaded for the grant of a lower caste status to there community on the ground that there is a ruling of the Punjab High Court, Lahore, declaring the Jats as Shudras; that al-Bruni found them to be Shudras; that they share their “hukkah pani†with lower castes like the Kumhar, Lohar, etc. and not with higher castes like the Brahmins and Rajputs; that they in many cases in villages live in one small room which is also shared by cattle and so on. How to explain this metamorphosis in the perception of the Jats about their caste status? Was the Arya Samaj’s act of introducing the Jats to the Vedic world of the sacred thread and the sacred fire a mirage?

The writer refers to some negative traits of the Arya Samaj movement like its puritanism, anti-feminism and anti-Muslim bias, but in the opinion of this reviewer, it was in the field of caste hierarchy that the Jats got a real drubbing at the hands of the Samaj. Nonica quotes Colonel A. Pressey, an English army officer, who had observed that “the Jat was an unorthodox Hindoo and had no right to assume a badge which would enroll him among the ‘twice-born’ races of Hindoo mythologyâ€. And he banned the wearing of the sacred thread by Jat soldiers in his regiment. How true!

The Arya Samaj bred a misplaced sense of enhanced caste status among the Jats. As a consequence, they were estranged from the lower castes to which they really belonged and the higher castes would not own them. So they were neither fish nor fowl. This explains their presented dilemma and they are trying to wriggle out of the predicament. They are keen to revert back to the slot they belonged to in the caste hierarchy of the Hindu social order. Better late than never.

But in the process they have done enough harm to themselves. None would disagree with the writer about the role played by the Arya Samaj in shaping the Jat identity but what is really important is the content of this identity. In fact, the Samaj obviated the possibility of the Jats emerging as a leader of the OBCs in the movement of social justice in our times. Rather, they were on the other side of the fence in the anti-Mandal agitation, at least in Haryana. The Jats perhaps needed a Phule or a Naicker or an Ambedkar from their own ranks more than a Dayanand. The process of shaping the Jat identity could have been much more constructive and healthy in that situation.

The writer, as already observed, avoids two extremes in the case of Chhotu Ram but there is a centrist position which, while acknowledging his great contribution to the well-being of the peasantry in the composite Punjab, critically evaluates the after-effects of his policies on Haryana society. Chhotu Ram dominated the political landscape of the Haryana region and he was not a part of the freedom struggle. This, it is averred, acted as a check on the fuller participation of the people in the national movement. This also deprived them of the higher level of socio-political consciousness, which could have been theirs if Chhotu Ram had provided them a lead in the fight against colonial rule.

Second, it is argued that since he was a pillar of a party, which believed in seeking concessions from the colonial rulers by collaborating with them, this mind set is responsible for the “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram†culture in Haryana’s politics in the modern times. The first contention lacks in substance. Bihar was in the forefront of the freedom struggle but this has not bettered the lot of the people of Bihar in any way in post-independence India. Rather, the poor Biharis today have become national “kaameens†— the hewers of wood and drawers of water all over the country. What is important in the struggle is the social composition of its leadership and its class content.

As regards the naked opportunism and the near absence of any ideological commitment in the political behaviour of the Haryana political elite, it would be unfair to hold Chhotu Ram’s legacy alone responsible for it. Many factors in the historical growth of Haryana society have contributed to its spiritual atrophy, moral decay and political degeneration. But all the same, the contribution of the Unionist Party’s politics in this context cannot be brushed aside lightly. This aspect needs to be researched dispassionately and objectively.

Nonica Datta has deftly dealt with the intricate theme of forming an identity of a complex community like the Jats in the present-day Haryana. Her observations, leaving aside local variations, apply equally well to the Jats of other regions around Delhi — namely, the western UP, Delhi dehat and the adjoining areas of Rajasthan as this zone constitutes one cultural unit. While answering some, her treatment raises a few new questions. And here lies the real efficacy and utility of the book under review. It can act as a launching pad for further research.

It is a must for all those who wish to know or work on the social history of the Jats. It deserves wide circulation but its price is a deterrent for an individual to buy it. Its paper- back edition would put it within the reach of individual buyers.

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