Jats rock, caste shocks

This post is dedicated to a Facebook friend who, when I asked her her caste, replied: “Now, now, now! In any case, with the brouhaha surrounding the census, what’s the proper form these days? Mention of caste in or out?”

I woke up to this headline in The Indian Express today. My reaction was to wonder what many others’ reaction would have been? Those who argue that reservation and ‘caste census’ and such measures serve to solidify caste identities rather than weaken them – I wonder what they would make of this headline? 

The article reads:

As the packed house brought the roof down, Poonia shouted over the din to tell a reporter that that she was happy that all winners were from India. “And all from Jat families,” she added.

I wonder what some of the Express columnists, who have passionately argued against reservations for OBCs and counting OBCs in the census, made of the headline? Did they cringe? Did they not notice anything problematic with it? Did they feel happy that the Jat community’s contributions are being hailed in a national integration sort of way? Did they think the paper should have exercised some self-censorship? Did the paper make them wonder about the co-incidence of Jats doing well in the Commonwealth games? Did it make them wonder that caste communities have some advantages, and some disadvantages? Did they wonder about the word they throw at you when you say caste, that m-word, “merit”?

(I also wondered if the Jat performance in the Commonwealth Games was anticipated by the community’s leaders who gave up their threat to besiege Delhi and prevent the games to press for their demand of being granted Other Backward Classes status.)

On the Indian Express website, I found I was right! The people-who-pretend-caste-does-not-exist are all there in the comments! I’m reproducing some here:

At 8:30 AM – first thing in the morning – a certain Dilip comments:

Why highlight caste?
Highlighting caste (“Jats”) in this story’s headline was unnecessary and reflects poorly on your newspaper’s journalistic and editorial standards. When we are hypersensitive to how foreign commentators and newspapers report on us but use societal stratifications and stereotypes, it smacks of immaturity and double standards.

This one from Ashok B: (And I wonder if B is for Brahmin?!)

Using Poonia’s ‘Jats pride’ exclamation in your headline was like reporting on CBSE results with the header “Brahmin boys take top 3 spots in school-leaving examination”. Would your readers stand for it?

As the sun rises, the comment writers get angrier. Ajit Singh says:

its good ,you informed us that all the three winners were indians,and all of the were JATS…..now please tell us which caste the other winners were..which ethnic groups did they belong….what language they speak…..which religion did the practise….lets do a thorough postmortem.why so less muslims….that means our CHAMARS are not doing well in sports…..today onwards please….please tell us the caste of every medal winner..a patient too should know the caste of his doctor….we should know the caste of the fighter pilot who bombs the enemy….well done indian express…well done indian media…..

Delta goes up a step to call it racism (oops! Does he know the Government of India denies ‘casteism’ is racism!)

What a racist. With people like this India will always be “developing”. And why does the paper glorify this?

Jayakrishnan brings in the nation:

CWG is an international game, and Indian athletics winning medals should be given a National sense of Pride. This piece from the outright has a tinge of anti-national sentiments. All Jats night?What is this?Are you saying that you are keeping your eyes open to see which Indian athletes belonging to which caste is being tracked? What next, All Malayalees Night? A tasteless piece of article reeking of caste sentiments. Absolutely poor piece of reporting.

Richa Singh jumps in to say it’s the Jatnis, not the Jats!

PROUD… Keep hoing jatnis… reading this news gave me a wonderful feeling……..proud and honoured…..all d best

One Mazhar comes in:

This is a pity that that natinal glory and big accomplishments of our medal winners has been reduced to castist head line. May I request atlest Indian express to keep itself away from this kind of jurnalism.

One Jat Ram replies the above:

I would request you to relook at the tally……more than 50% of medals won by India are actually won by Jats. When Media can malign Jats image for KHAP PANCHAYATs and call them TALIBAANI>…… then why not publish this story with clear names of JATS……… Jats have done wonderful job in CWG 2010. You need to accept it well.

It’s past ten and the Jats seemed to have arrived! Jaldeep Mangawa posts:

jat are the proud of india……………..jat rocks

One Lt Col Anand Pahal stops short of telling these nation-vs-caste types that the Indian Army has a Jat regiment:

It is incorrect to term this artical racist/ anti national. It indeed induce competition among castes. Their ( Poonia and Antil) caste feelings have motivated them to win medal for the country. I support this artical. Any caste doing well should be praised and motivated after all the medal is for the country and not for their caste… the players should be motivated.. The method of motivation is immaterial

Satya speaks the truth:

Can somebuddy tell me how many champions of eradication of Caste choose names of their children from other religions or social groups. Why a tamil doesn’t name his kid Mandip Singh; why a Bangali doesn’t name his kid Kumaraswami, why?Why a Hindu doesn’t choose the name Irfan Khan? Wht stops a person from letting his regional, or religious, or National identity be dissolved into a Universal Naught. When two strangers meet, the second thing they want to know is the place which other belongs to; why? Does this question divide the country? Dear sirs, wht is required is Harmony not eradication of identities. Who will contend that Marwaris are great traders, or that Gorkhas are a bit aggressive. In India, each caste has deeply assimilated particular sort of culture. Who doesn’t know abt Bishnoi (In Rajasthan) people’s love for Wild life or secular style of Jats? So, b cool..And Jat anyway is not a caste, its more of a life-style. [Italics mine.]

By now caste-vs.nation has become caste-for-the-nation. It’s nearly 4 pm. Kumar writes:

If caste affiliation can motivate people to do well for our country, then whats wrong in that. Jats take great pride in being hard working farmers, loyal soldiers of the country and able sportsmen. If they take pride in that, then why are other people crying on that? At the end of the day its the country which is benefited. If caste/regional/tribal affiliations can motivate people to do good things for our country, then its not a bad thing.

And Jat Ram’s reply to Mazhar above seems to have had some impact on Mazhar, who comes back with:

I have very high regards for the Jat community as such many of my good friends and classmates were coming from this caste. The way things are moving I am sure that these Indian girls and boys coming from such gens and healthy food/lifestyle background would make India proud with many more gold medals and going forward even in Olympics. My mind is open, keep rocking.

By 6 pm Sundeep Antil (any relation to Seema Antil, one of the Jat winners?) seems to have resolved and closed the debate, with a comment that seeks to make everyone sugar happy:

the line said by poonia that “All are from JAT families” is wrongly analysed this is not castist headline…she want to convey the message to all the indian peoples that when the girls from the jat community over whom there are so many social and community restriction can creat the history than why not the other community which are more resourceful and have less social restriction can won the medal for the country and make India proud…this is only motivational message to all indian in single line that lets make India proud..we all can do this..players always represent country not the caste. [Italics mine.]

These responses reveal how India obsessively debates caste with itself, how a small elite wants us to forget their own uper caste privileges and for that reason don’t want the c-word uttered. That does not mean they will stop living in, by, for caste society. We want to live caste without acknowledging it. We won’t concede that that amounts to hypocrisy, or that is an attempt at maintaining social status quo, that it is a conspiracy of silence. Like so much else about us – sexuality, corruption, deprivation – we want this Bollywood number to be our national song:

Lastly, to the Indian Express editors: thank you for this headline. By the way, I’m Khatri by caste.

Update, a day later: Rohit points out in the comments below that Mail Today has also taken note of the Jat performance at the Commonwealth Games.

44 thoughts on “Jats rock, caste shocks”

  1. I think we shouldn’t lose our shirts over that headline. In all this clamour for political correctness… we tend to lose our light touch… our sense of humour… which I think that headline was trying to encapsulate, nothing more and nothing less… I think it’s rather stupid to make every falling apple sound like the discovery of gravity… sometimes a falling apple is just that… a falling apple… nothing more and nothing less!


    1. My sense of humour is pretty good. But I did not understand what is humorous in the headline of Express or what the Gold Medallist said. Dhiraj Singh, are you sure that your comment is not one more of the attempts to live in, by, for, caste but at the same time deny it too?? By the way I am an untouchable :-)) or CHAMAR as some Indians like to say.


  2. Thanks, Shivam, for this post. Your synthesis of the comments in reaction to the article in the Indian Express was not just useful (I am concerned with this issue in my current work) but also most illuminating on the important issue you broach, viz whose interests are served by naming or not naming caste in an India where it is a real phenomenon and a practice of identification and discrimination. I have two quick questions and one exercise in detection to offer in return. (1)This question is in a lighter vein, or perhaps not? Were you participating in the act of essentializing along lines of caste when you linked the appearance of Jat-authored comments to a particular time of day? (2) I’d be interested to hear why you characterize this collection of opinions on the online site of the Express a ‘debate’? I didn’t see any comments by dalits? The only ones who brought themselves to defend the mention of caste–finding also the most ingenious ways to sanitize their defense, which is familiar in early twentieth century upper caste reconciliations of nation and caste, too, by the way–were generally clearly ‘caste’ Hindus. You would also have to take into account the filtering that the Express’ site’s moderator would have applied. It would be so interesting to hear those views/opinions and also offenses, so to speak, that were left out. That might be the sort of sample that would be useful to all those who want to engage in a debate. The exercise in ‘fine detection’ in Sherlock Holmesian fashion, unsolicited by you, that I wanted to offer relates to your Facebook friend with whose words you opened this post. Clearly (1) It’s a she but even more clearly (2) she’s upper caste. Only upper castes, as you conclude in your piece, can joke about the question or assert the luxury of not answering it, in this case she does it almost in reprehensibly cavalier fashion. Shame on her.


  3. I thought Mr. Shivam Vij was anti-CWG all this while.

    I agree with you that denying the existence of caste is counterproductive. But I find some problems with describing it as a way of life. There is a fast urbanization taking place among almost every caste. I belong to an urbanized section of my caste and I (along with other urbanized people from my caste) seem to have more in common with urbanized people of other castes more than my extended family in the village. How can I feel inclusive in that way of life. Even if I were to have an arranged marriage, my parents would probably look for a girl from an urbanized family (preferably of my caste, but some variations allowed). This is not to say there is no caste in cities. Just that within a caste other factors can create a vast gulf and even caste is not a homogeneous entity.


  4. Of course we should not let go of our caste identities. We’ve made far too many mistakes by letting go of our traditions: case in point being Sati. I think we should hang on to every iota of history we can.

    After all, don’t black people wear their race on their face (sorry, but one can’t help being literal)? Don’t all Bengalis oil their hair till it smells? Aren’t the Maratha elite proud to be Maratha elite?

    If we’re different from the other person, for whatever reason, be it out caste, our color, our regional identity, our mother tongue, shouldn’t we always make sure that the world knows how we’re different from the others around us?

    Since my ancestors were the floormat 100 years back, should I not do everything in my power to whine and whine about that? Even though I am doing better than most Brahmins right now, should I not ask for reservation for my children because my granddad was cleaning your granddad’s puny backside? Since my wife is a Dalit Christian from Kerela, should she not make it a point of letting the world know that she is NOT Tamilian?

    These things really matter. You’re completely stupid if you want to believe that they don’t.


  5. Nandu, just as didn’t forget to mention (albeit with some sarcasm) that you are an ‘untouchable’… I find nothing wrong in some medal winners mentioning their pride in their caste… we are after all pretty tribal in our (group) loyalties… be it our old school or an organisation we feel proud to be associated with… I also see no problem with the paper reporting it… I think the girls were also trying to reiterate that they come from a caste that has mixed feelings (at best) about them being born at all… and in that it is certainly a victory… them having come this far.

    Shivam, I am glad Newton thought differently from me as well as from you… I don’t think micro-analysing a headline is going to help change (and here am only speculating that that is what you want) society’s attitudes and biases… all it helps doing is drawing attention to circular arguments and inanities that have been with us since the invention of the shunya.


    1. Dhiraj,

      Wow! What universe are you living in? You don’t seem to be doing this as a matter of deliberate blindness so I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt. You really seem to think the caste identity of everyone up and down that hierarchy is as benign and snuggly as old school ties (btw, even those can be the basis of asserting power and the foundation of exclusionary practices out of school–perpetuating elites). But surely you would know the difference between a self-assigned upper caste identity and the forcible ascribing of notions of inferiority and deference and the consequent repression and oppression that it permits and that is entailed in upper caste definitions of lower caste identity. There is nothing benign or even comparable or equivalent in these two forms of identity. Please do not misunderstand/misconstrue the stunningly powerful gesture of owning that lower caste identity by a radical dalit politics of resistance as being the same thing as that mushy, ‘harmless’ thing you identify as universal ‘tribal’ feelings.

      And when you shrug away the problem that is raised about that headline, you must recognize that it’s easy for you to do so. Most upper castes have little stake any longer in what they have the luxury to see as really ‘puraani baatein’ — old, irrelevant talk — only they can dismiss caste as unimportant, as so many have pointed out, because for them it is so. But it is unimportant only for those, you will notice, who have milked caste for everything it can give them. It’s as simple a point to grasp as it can get. It’s like an American from the US saying, they are all for the ban on carbon emissions now and the application of the most stringent sanctions on engines that produce them in India (btw have Indian engines now graduated to Ultra Low Emission standards). I’m sure you’d feel at least a tickling of resentment at the hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness involved in that position.

      As for making too much of a newspaper headline or a newspaper article– perhaps, you’re right; for me today’s newspaper will wrap tomorrow’s fish (no offense to any journalist) — but somehow, annoyingly, that headline might linger a little longer. Let me ask for your opinion on the following newspaper headline: “Michael Palin: Britons should stop apologising for their colonial past and be proud of our Empire’s achievements”. Be honest, does it stir no emotions in you, even though Britain’s imperial past is just that, past? If you’re interested, the full story is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1217472/Michael-Palin-urges-Britain-stop-apologising-colonial-past.html

      Finally, and less seriously, are you in your concluding sentence calling “the invention of shunya” one of those “circular arguments and inanities”? Beware some folks might dub you anti-national.

      Best wishes,


    2. Ms. Rai,

      Do you honestly believe that constantly lamenting the gravity of the caste situation in the country is the ideal way to deal with it? Dhiraj is merely saying that he no longer finds caste more important than an irrelevant side detail. That does not imply that he’s blind to the situation.

      Case in point is the Indian Express article under question – indeed, micro analysing on the negative caste-ist issue has raised itself to such a level that you’ll take a moment to recall what sport Krishna Poonia won in (Discuss Throw), but you perfectly remember that ‘She’s Jat and she’s publicly proud of it’.

      Is it really so hard to believe that at times, caste is not all about being one against the other? It is also a source of collective pride. The poor Jats were simply looking to raise their profile above the khap-farm-milk route, but now they’re scared of proclaiming their prowess in sports lest some intellectual brand them caste-ist. Keep up with the attitude and soon enough you’ll get the kind of Jats you’re worried about.

      Before you wonder about my planetary roots, I am a Marwari Jain from Tamkor, a village in Jhunjhunu Distt, Rajasthan, and I assure you, I am more aware of the caste-ist issue than you would like to believe. I just prefer ‘the caste problem is slowly being resolved’ to ‘the caste problem still exists.’



  6. Shuddha: Thanks. What’s your sadhu?

    Dhiraj: All you’re saying that I’m needlessly making a fuss. So let me! Why are you making a fuss about my making a fuss? I look forward to Nandu’s reply to you.

    Revu Naik: I’m against CWG, not sports. As for caste, let’s go beyond urbanisation and marriage. Do you have a ceiling fan in your house? It was probably manufactured by a company owned by someone of a particular caste, and fitted in your house by an electrician probably from an OBC caste. Caste is in the air you breathe, literally!

    Mridu, I’ll have to reply you one by one, and wonder if I have answers to all that you say.

    Your first question:

    1)This question is in a lighter vein, or perhaps not? Were you participating in the act of essentializing along lines of caste when you linked the appearance of Jat-authored comments to a particular time of day?

    No, I wasn’t. But it did strike me that someone may wonder!

    (2) I’d be interested to hear why you characterize this collection of opinions on the online site of the Express a ‘debate’? I didn’t see any comments by dalits?

    Even without Dalits there’s a debate there, though mostly such debate that I find online involves Dalits. Many Dalits today assert their jati identity (and not just ‘Dalit’ status). We have a lot to learn from the Dalit movement, wherein everyone’s asserting their jati identity. This will be difficult for me to explain or clarify, but it is my contention that the lower castes (both OBCs and Dalits) asserting their identities – like saying I’m ‘Chamar’ rather than hiding it – is part of the debate, and part of the process by which caste identities are being made redundant. For, the lower castes today assert their caste identities with exactly those caste names they were taunted with. So a Jatav calling himself Chamar takes the caste sting out of the word Chamar. You see what I mean? And yet some will say him asserting his caste shows how caste identities are being strengthened. Bullshit. He’s left his caste profession quite a while ago, and not because of those who say I-will-not-tell-you-my-caste-because-that’s-un-PC. See this excellent piece of scholarship: http://beta.epw.in/newsItem/comment/188837/

    By the way, some Dalit friends have been saying that the census should not just enumerate OBCs but count all castes, so we get to know how many Brahmins there are, etc… Currently we have data about SC and ST. Add OBC to that. And you’re left with “general”. The term “general” is a such a lie, as though the generals don’t have caste, and only the lower castes are sticking to such regressive things as caste…

    To return to your question, I think there’s debate there within those comments, but I never said those comments, or the caste profile of those writing comments, was representative of the caste spectrum or of India.

    You write:

    The only ones who brought themselves to defend the mention of caste–finding also the most ingenious ways to sanitize their defense, which is familiar in early twentieth century upper caste reconciliations of nation and caste, too, by the way–were generally clearly ‘caste’ Hindus.

    I think it’s important for them to think through this, too. Good for them! It’s also important that while the debate may not be new, it continues, and will continue for a long, long time. My intention was to also point out how it’s not just a bunch of intellectuals who’re uncomfortable with and confused about caste identity, but every Indian, even the one who is ready to kill or die in the name of caste has a debate in his/her head. There’s a value to this debate which we should not brush away.

    You write:

    You would also have to take into account the filtering that the Express’ site’s moderator would have applied. It would be so interesting to hear those views/opinions and also offenses, so to speak, that were left out. That might be the sort of sample that would be useful to all those who want to engage in a debate.

    Didn’t think about that. You’re right.

    Lastly, you write:

    he exercise in ‘fine detection’ in Sherlock Holmesian fashion, unsolicited by you, that I wanted to offer relates to your Facebook friend with whose words you opened this post. Clearly (1) It’s a she but even more clearly (2) she’s upper caste. Only upper castes, as you conclude in your piece, can joke about the question or assert the luxury of not answering it, in this case she does it almost in reprehensibly cavalier fashion. Shame on her.

    Well, in all seriousness I haven’t found OBCs or Dalits saying they won’t tell their caste. When people with upper caste privileges refuse to answer the question, or say they find the question offensive and that it shows my “casteist” mindset. However, if you don’t believe in caste, if you are not “casteist,” then will you become so merely by revealing your caste?


    By the way Mridu, what’s your caste?


    1. Mr. Vij,

      You say –

      Dhiraj: All you’re saying that I’m needlessly making a fuss. So let me! Why are you making a fuss about my making a fuss? I look forward to Nandu’s reply to you.

      – so would you rather have an audience that wholeheartedly agrees with your view on things rather than offer anoterh point of view? This really redefines the essence of a ‘debate’.

      Poor Dhiraj was just pointing out that he and his group of people have stopped finding caste barriers irrelevant. You may not have done it yourself, but your selection of comments has ensured that the headline IS being micro-analysed. Instead of responding to his comment like Ms. Rai, you’ve basically spurned him.

      But then again, even this might seem as a fuss to you.



  7. True sir,

    Also it’s good Jat chicks are getting better at events like discus throw and the like. The Khap enforcers won’t be able to mess with them if they decide to marry out of caste or in gotra. What a pity the gold medalist is married already.


  8. Mridu: Also wanted to add a word about your “Shame on her” comment. I think there are two things here: the intent and the impact. So while the intent of not revealing one’s jati may not be, at least consciously, to preserve upper caste priviliges. The intent may be one of defying rigid identities, of doing one’s bit against “casteism”, of preventing being judged on the basis of one’s caste (“oh that Brahmin professor!”). For even if you don’t become ‘casteist’ by telling your caste, perhaps you’re feeding into the “casteism” of the person who asks you the question. I understand and appreciate this.

    However, the impact of this is not always as intended. The times have changed – the upper castes are hiding (behind) caste and the lower castes are asserting caste! I see not-hiding-caste as a statement of honesty, not one of assertion of caste. I know people who have dropped their surnames and write only their first names, so as not to assert caste. And yet if you ask them their caste, or what their surname was, they don’t mind telling. These two are not contradictory. In journalism or academia this is important, because your “byline carries the weight of your caste”, as a journalist in Lucknow once told me: http://www.mail-archive.com/zestcaste@yahoogroups.com/msg02984.html

    Rohit: thanks for that

    Revu Naik: Now, now, now! You remind me, the best way to finish caste is inter-caste marriage. Not just gotra. The more inter-caste marriage there will be, the more people won’t be able to tell what their caste is. And which reminds me, today’s paper has yet another death of a girl reported, a Rajput girl who dared to have an “affair” with a Jat boy… the parents killed her.


  9. Shivam, I had a question on the last comment you made to Revu Naik: Is that we want to finish caste(and it’s important to mark the subject of these sentences carefully — not every one really wants any change at all)? So is it that we want to finish caste or that we want to make it irrelevant? I don’t know if I’m expressing what I am saying clearly? What I am NOT saying is what Gandhi proposed–that wishy washy idea of preserving caste but acting in the right spirit. Oh God, no, that is NOT what I am saying. What I mean is something closer to Dr. Ambedkar’s contention that caste is a political, social, economic and legal problem and its remedy will have to be sought there (not in in the expectation that upper castes will act like a Gandhi/self-monitoring-“saint”).

    So wouldn’t it be easier–at least in the short term–to make caste irrelevant for each citizen in those spheres? So all those who see something divinely ordained or find their pride in their caste ties won’t have to rebel against the change “we” want — they can carry one marrying in their caste if they think that’s such an attractive proposition. But jati is made irrelevant elsewhere. And I don’t mean that half-hearted attempt at change that the state resorts to in enforced separation between private and public domains — but I mean bringing about changes so that individuals themselves find their caste is of no use or harm to them in these areas.

    In any case, for the vast majority of Indians whose lives are linked to its agrarian vastness, none of this will mean anything until that problem that every politician since 1947 has avoided is really and firmly tackled: changing relations in the land.


  10. I would like to applaud Mr. Shivam Vij for this piece – no statments, no assumptions – just a trigger for thought – Kudos! He has taken the trouble to go through many comments and then highlight various views, but without passing off as someone who shows that he know more than he actually does, Mr. Vij has been very wise to keep the issue at that, and maintain the humourous tone.


    1. Well, yes, I am. I like opinionated articles, but more often than not, I feel they are a bit myopic. I was a bit happy to find one article, that was not. :)

      And yes, the fuss over your fuss is misplaced – it really has nothing to do with the essence of the discussion, but i just felt that your reply was a bit brash.



    1. I don’t quite understand why you felt the need to point that article out. The article seems harmless… and I really hope other states and parties do something about sports in their backyards as well. I for one never found anything commendable in Hooda’s campaign, before this. It isn’t derogatory to any other community, nor is it focused (atleast ideologically) on one population segment (like Jats), and spells mutual benefit. I wouldn’t mind this kind of marketing-politics, compared to Laloo’s absurd motorbiking campaign.

      I get the feeling that its a simple case of a proud Haryanvi/Jat on the ed-board, who wants to show that his community is more than just milk, farms and khap panchayats… The India-minus-Haryana quip was just to put things in perspective – If we can do that about Phelps as a nation beating India at Beijing, this too is acceptable. Lets not get too sensitive about too little. :)


  11. Prayash: About your response above to my resonse to Dhiraj.s response… I do think you’re adding to the needless fuss. About what, I don’t know.


  12. Mridu: that’s an important question: are we trying to finish caste or make it irrelevant? I would say we’re trying, or should be trying, to finish it brick by brick. We should try all routes to it, IMHO. From changing religion to promoting inter-caste marriage to preventing children from following the caste profession (be it manual scavenging or trading) to making sure conviction happens in atrocity cases…

    The one way we’re not finishing caste (or making it irrelevant) is by the I-will-not-reveal-my-caste piety. I think that’s really counter-productive. It pretends “we” don’t have caste, we don’t live or participate in caste society. It promptly brings forth the charge, right or wrong, that we’re doing so to disown our upper caste privileges, to assert that we don’t have caste and the lower castes do. I’m saying that simply answering the question, “What’s your caste?” does not make you “casteist”; does not make you participate in caste society, does not take away your involuntary participation caste society, does not or should not affect your views on such things as inter-caste marriage and caste-based discrimination and atrocities. Personally, I find the I-won’t-tell-you-my-caste position to be naive at best and dishonest at worst. Sorry!


  13. Yet another twist in the tale here – friends tell me that Krishna Poonia, the gold medalist in the Express story, cannot be a Jat. Her surname reveals she’s Dalit – like Panna Lal Punia, Mayawati aide-turned-Congress MP and recently appointed chairman of National SC commission. But in the story she exclaims how all three winners are Jats. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.


  14. Shivam , nice one. Have been working with artisan castes in a village in Rajasthan since 17 years. We wanted to sponsor a cricket tournament for young people , the only condition being that no team can have more than 6 players of one caste . Thinking that now kids of all castes play cricket together. We were told no such team is possible. And we never came across a Dalit identity as the differential across Regar(shoe-makers) and Bhangi( sweepers etc.) and Bawaria(semi-nomadic honey collectors/crop-protectors) is huge. And even among banias , there are at least three castes who don’t intermarry and there is a whole range of brahmin equivalents depending on their function – living off death functions or regular rituals. The muslims too have huge variety of castes and sub-castes as strongly held.
    The funniest are the jokes each caste has on all the other castes. The Chippa caste or printer caste believes that bania’s are poor eaters and will never feed the guests well !
    Caste has got its own regional and national local media now. They have their own caste-publishing which talks of history and the social-mobility . Mulayam Singh inaugurated the Yadav hostel in Jaipur which has Jat,Brahmin and Rajput hostels.
    Most people there believe that the political party a Jat belongs to is irrelevant , as Jats just see how many of them are in Parliament !


  15. Sunny, nice to know you! A sociologist in Jaipur once gave me a memorable quote. He said that today political parties don’t contest elections. Caste groups contest elections through political parties. Caste in Rajasthan, it seems to me, had already reached such a stage by the time Mandalisation happened that there was no scope for caste-based parties. Both Congress and BJP there mastered caste politics early on. Given your experiences, do you think it makes sense for anyone to say I won’t tell you my caste? In dealing with people in this society, you’re looked at with great suspicion if you say you don’t know/won’t tell your caste. It’s better to lay down your cards and begin from there.


  16. It may be the upper castes who now want to “lose” their caste identities, but historically I think it has been the lower castes. That is hardly surprising.

    In Tamil Nadu, for instance, it was the DMK that pioneered “losing” caste identities. They took it to the extent of renaming roads. In Chennai, you will come across roads like “Dr. Ranga Road” or “Musiri Subramania Road.” The gentlemen in question are Dr. Rangachari (a famous pioneering doctor, an Iyengar as the achari indicates) and Musiri Subramania Iyer (a famous Carnatic musician). Oddly enough, we also have “Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Road” where the caste identity is clearly there. I am not sure what all this has achieved.

    I remember reading a few year ago an article about how Dalits in Rajasthan were “disguising” their identity by adopting what were perceived to be “upper caste” names. One of the Dalits was quoted as saying “If we ask Brahmins to name our children, they give names like “Batti Ram” which immediately reveals our caste.” (It was in a national newspaper but I don’t have the reference.)

    It is a sign of changing power relationships that it is the upper castes who choose to not reveal their caste now. That is a sign to the good. Clearly, we ought to build on it but I am not sure forcing everyone to reveal his/her caste is the way to go. But that is just my opinion.


  17. Shivam , I being a Delhi Punjabi from the “other” side spent a long, long time trying to get my caste out of my parents . Till then I used the line that there are either “Hari-jans” or “Rakshash-jans ” , and that I was a Harijan ! I found out I was an “Arora” which is kind of between Khatri and Baniyas ! There is an amazing history of fluid caste formations in India and of shifting professions. The Ludhiana and Faridabad industrial belts run on Ramgarhia Sikh Lohars and they have become very powerful after the Jat Sikhs. There are stories of Karnataka Kayasthas who moved to Bihar in middle ages and are known as Karna-Kayasths ! The competition between Kayasthas and Brahmins is legendary . I feel that India loses all its flavour by not studying caste deeply. And it is only the upper-castes who are creating the construct of the nation-state who deny caste. It is the ostrich-like attitude of the liberal-left deluded by their western training that caste is any less stronger. I once wrote a essay saying that modernity will leave us with O.C.C – outside caste caste ! It has happened many times in our history that people broke out from their castes to follow a spiritual leader like Lingayat , or changed their profession- Kayasths who eat non-veg , were Persian speakers and did the mumimgiri for the Muslim in middle-ages.
    o yes I believe we should have caste names out in the open even if it means Brahmin-Baniya , or Arora-Amil , all will see that most inter-caste are actually top 5 percentile of income and top 20% of caste !


  18. I’m also not sure after reading through the article and all the posts how revealing one’s caste solves the caste discrimination problem.


  19. BC according to me there are no “solutions” to caste discrimination, as there are to religious, race , ethnic or gender. By sweeping caste under the carpet it does’nt vanish . Similarly the sweeping of religion or faith by secularists did’nt “solve” the religion “problem”. In India caste matters and nothing , no social or political or cultural movement , or conversion to another faith has really transformed caste-dynamics. The brahmin-Catholics of Goa threatened to leave the Church when the Church was thinking of taking in dalits into governing bodies.
    The only thing that transforms power equations is power . The leather and footwear entrepreneurs of Agra from lower castes and Mayawati knows that. In Delhi now the garbage collection is almost monopolised by Bengali muslim/Bangladeshi immigrants- their bosses are the MCD/NDMC workers who are in charge of the dhalaos where the garbage is sorted. They collect almost 50-80% of the service charges from these immigrants. These safai karamcharis are mostly Dalits. With the Sixth pay commission every government employee is on the top 10% income category of India. That is the reason why the so-called lower and middle-castes are mobilising so strongly for census along caste. They know the state-power lies with bureaucracy . They will soon be powerful to lord over many minor-castes and smaller tribes . There will be caste transitions and never solutions.


  20. If you are against castism than, please write to Maya wati,Lalu Prashad and all other parties.Tear-off ST/SC/OBC and other reservation list of all states as well as centre list.Stop caste wise censes.
    If you are unable to write or stop castism than,you have no right to comment on or about anti-castism.
    If all leaders can speak for caste than,every indian have right to speak about their caste.Please read parsian, parthian history,Indo-Arian ,Ancient IndianHistory and Iranian History and please after reading the same than write this types of comment about “JAT Worrior’s” by the way Mr Vij,Krishana Poonia is Jat and I know about her family(Both Hissar and in Jhunjhanu).


  21. Social revolution sweeping across “Jatland”

    “On the occasion, other family members of the newborn girls also took the pledge to oppose the practice of female foeticide.

    The success of Haryanvi girls in the Commonwealth Games too seems to have made a difference. ”We are excited about the performance of girls in CWG. I hope one day my daughter would win gold medals and make the country proud,” said Kritika, mother of a newborn girl”



  22. A very nice Article Khatri ji
    you have put up the scenario very beautifully, and very truly said in one of comments; Jat is not a caste;its a race;a people;a way of life.

    A fellow Jat


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