The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System
An attempt is also made to examine the impact on this traditional system of the social and political changes brought about by the new agencies of development and the new political set-up of Gram and Adalat Panchayats.
- 1 The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System Part-I
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Khap Baliyan
- 4 Historical Background
- 5 Jat Kinship Structure
- 6 Land Tenure and Inheritance
- 7 Structure of the Khap
- 8 Notes
- 9 The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System—II
- 10 Primary Functions
- 11 The Sarv-Khap Council
- 12 First Formal Meeting
- 13 Resolutions Taken Seriously
- 14 Sanctions, Negative and Positive
- 15 Traditional System Not Weakened
- 16 Source
The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System Part-I
[For reasons of space this article is printed in two parts. Part one, below, discusses fat kinship structure and the bhaichara system of land tenure and the traditional law of inheritance of the Jats and describes the history and structure of khap Baliyan. Part two will examine the functions of the different agencies of the traditional political system and the impact on them of contemporary social and political change. Ed.]
THE Jats are an ethnic group. They are at present divided into three sections, namely, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. The Hindu section does not have sub-castes but only clans. In northern India, particularly in the districts of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Bijnor, which come under the revenue division of Meerut, each clan has a compact geographical area of its own. The villages inhabited by a clan are organized into a clan council, and the area under its jurisdiction is called the khap. Each clan has a headman who is called Chaudhry, and a Wazir who is called minister or secretary. Both the offices arc hereditary. The clan Chaudhry is also the head of the khap Pan-chayat. The Wazir looks after the affairs of the Panchayat and keeps minutes of the cases decided by the khap council. Most of these khaps belong to the Hindu Jats. But some of them also belong to other castes like the Gujars, Rajputs, Tagas or Tiyagi Brahmins, and one to Muslim Pathans. Some clan areas (khaps) of the Jats contain the Muslim section of the Jat population, which embraced Islam in the latter part of the 18th century. There are no Sikh Jats in Meerut Division.
The various khaps of the Jats, as well as of other castes, are organized into a council of all the khaps of Meerut Division, called the sarv-khap Panchayat. This article describes the traditional political organization based on the khap and the sarv-khap Panchayat system of Meerut Division, and the effects of the social and political changes brought about by agencies of planned change .and of the introduction by the government of a new political set-up of Gram and Adalat Panchayats (village committee and justice committee) upon the traditional political system.
For the purpose of analysis I have taken one of the clan areas of the Jats, namely, the khap Baliyan of the Jats of Kashyap gotra in Muzaffarnagar district, as a local point of study.1 The Kashyap clan inhabits a tract of 84 villages covering an approximate area of 288 square miles. In all these villages the Jats are numerically important. They are in possession of most of the agricultural land, having driven out other castes from the land when they first came from Punjab late in the 12th century and conquered the present area. The villages of the khap Baliyan are multi-caste and multi-communal in composition, and are situated near one another which gives geographical compactness to the clan area.
Other castes like the Water-carrier, Carpenter, Black-smith, Chamar. Sweeper, Weaver, and some Muslim castes living in khap Baliyan, have also organized their casle councils on the same lines and having the same villages as those of the khap under their jurisdiction (cf Oscar Lewis, "Village Life in Northern India", University of Illinois, 1958; pp 26-31). Formerly, these caste councils came under the jurisdiction of the khap Panchayat of Baliyan, but now they function, more or less, independently of the khap Panchayat, The decisions or resolutions of the khap council now no longer become automatically binding upon the other castes of the khap area unless they are also adopted by the respective caste councils. But inter-caste disputes are still referred to and decided by the khap council, which will be discussed in detail later.
The history of the khap Balyan, and indeed of the sarv-khap Panchayat forms a notable part of the Jat culture of Meerut Division. Various khaps and the sarv-khap Panchayat have written historical records going back several centuries. The chief historical sources are:
(1) the chronicles of khap and the sarv-khap genealogists or bards giving detailed account of important historical events in which these organizations took part;
(2) royal mandates of Mughal emperors issued to various khaps from Akbar's time (1556-1605) to that of Muhammad Shah (1719-1748);
(3) personal accounts left by Wazirs and Chaudhries of various khaps:
(4) recorded minutes of khap and the sarv-khap Panchayat meetings from 12th century onwards;
(5) letters of historical figures like Sada Shiv Bhau, the Maratha general and the hero of the third battle of Panipat against Ahmad Shah Abdaii (1761), Nana Sahib Dhondu Pant, and so forth, written to these organizations for military help to light the invaders and the British respectively;
(6) and, finally, the sakha or oral account in verse of the settlement of a clan in its present place of habitation and the foundation of a khap. These historical records are available with the Wazir and the Chaudhry of the khap Baliyan, and the hereditary leaders of other khaps or clan areas of Meerut Division.
According to the sakha of the Jats of khap Baliyan, a branch of the Kashyap clan (gotra) migrated from an ancestral village of Mehlana, Gurgaon district in the Punjab, to the present area sometime in the second half of the 12th century. Territorial expansion, colonization or conquest of the villages which now comprise the khap Baliyan continued till the first quarter of the 16th century. It stopped at the establishment of Mughal rule in northern India, when law and order were established for a long time to come.
For defence, internal administration, and conquest, each khap had a militia. The leader villages of khap Baliyan, namely, Sisauli, Shoron, Pur-Baliyan, Harsauli etc, were the military strongholds. Several other villages of khap Baliyan were conquered by the khap militia at the beginning of 14th century.
1. There is no separate local term for the major segment of a maximal-lineage. Sometimes it is referred to by the Jats as thok and sometimes as bara-khandan. To avoid confusion between the terms thok (maximal-lineage) and khandan (minimal-lineage), I have termed it as 'sub-thok'.
End of page. 1821: December 11, 1965, THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY
The sarv-khap Panchayat, according to local belief, was organized in 7th century by emperor Harsha in his lust quinquennial assembly at Pra-yag (modern Allahabad). But from the written historical records it is evident that the various khaps of Meerut Division were organized into the sarv-khap Panchayat as early as 13th century.
Besides functioning as adjudicative bodies and institutions of social control, the fund ions of the- khap and sure-khap council during the mediaeval period were to defend the sare-khap area from foreign invasions and to preserve internal co-operation between different clan areas so as to maintain military solidarity. For exam-ple, at the time of the invasions of Timur (1938), Babur (1326), Ahmad Shah Abdali (1761) and so forth, the armies of various khaps fought against these invaders. Each time the decision to defend the sarvekhap area was taken in a Panchayat meeting in the interests of common defence and freedom.
From Akbar's time (1336) various khaps were granted autonomy in judicial matters, and their hereditary leaders were recognized by the Delhi Court as the leaders of the respective khaps. This recognition came from a mandate of emperor Akbar issued on the 8th Ramzan, 987 Hijri or in 1578. The mandate was issued to Chaudhry Pacchumal of Shoron village and Chaudhry Ladsingh of Sisauli, the Wazir and the headman of khap Baliyan respectively. Other khaps, namely, khap Salaklain (Jats of Tomar clan), khap kalasudn (Gujars of Bhatri clan), khap Daiya (also Jats), and khap Gathwala (Jats of Lal clan), are also mentioned in the man-dale. Impact of British Rule
Sometimes dining periods of political unrest or revolt, certain Delhi kings such as Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526), Muhammad Shah (1719-1748). and a few others, asked the Wazir of khap Baliyan and also of other khaps to provide military help to crush a revolt or to expel the rebels from the kingdom, or to keep peace within the khaps. Such help was provided by the khaps but only after it was decided in the meetings of the sarv-khap Panchayat; and the conditions on which the proposed help was to be given were discussed and agreed upon by the representatives of the various khaps. The political and military weakness of these rulers was exploited by the Readers of the sare-khap panchayat to their own advantage. Thus, though the khaps and the sarv khap Panchayat could not always succeed completely in defending the freedom of the area, they did succeed in getting some concessions in the field of internal autonomy, religious freedom, and freedom from various kinds of taxes levied on the Hindu population by the Delhi kings. The success of these efforts can-be seen from a mandate of emperor Akbar. The text of the mandate is as follows:
"By the present firman [mandate] certain community Panchayats in India who during the reign of the Sultans [of Delhi] were charged certain taxes before my reign, are now being exempted from such taxes, Every community Panchayat has my permission and is free to carry out its traditional functions in my reign. Both Hindus and Muslims are equal in my eyes. So I give freedom [of action] to these Panchayats. The jazia [religious tax levied on the Hindus] and other royal taxes are waived. "Issued in the reign of emperor of India, emperor Akbar, 11th Ramzan, 989 Hijri . Firman issued by the grand Wazirs Abul-Fazal and Raja Todar Mal".
The khaps of the Meerut Division, under the banner of the sarv-khap Panchayat, took a notable part in the Indian Mutiny of 1837 against British rule and fought the British armies. The revolt was crushed and important leaders of the various khaps who had taken part in the revolt were sentenced to death or imprisonment. They have now become martyrs and their names are still remembered. In 1957 alt these khaps commemorated these martyrs by holding Panchayat meetings of their respective khaps. With the establishment of British rule in northern India, the saro-khan Panchayat fell into disuse. According to native belief it was discouraged by the British administrators tor its part in the revolt of 1857. But the khap and inter-khap Panchayats continued to function, though shorn of their legal privileges or charter grant ed them by the mandates of Mughal emperors. No formal3 quinquennial meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat, according to the old tradition, was held during British rule in India. After the independence in 1947 it was again revived in 1950. Since then formal meetings of the sare khap Panchayat are held every five years. Its work and resolutions will be discussed later. The introduction of a new system of administration and the institution of law courts, however, brought another setback to the khap and the sarv-khap Panchayats, and reduced their political effectiveness to some extent.
Jat Kinship Structure
The political system of the Jat khaps is based upon segmentary kinship groups, namely, the line-age group structure of varying depth spans, and the clan. Various kinship units such as khandan or minimal lineage, sub-thok or major segment of a maximal lineage, thok or maximal lineage, and clan, have corresponding political councils of their own, Both kinship units and their Panchayats are complementary in that both tend to support each other and thus produce social cohesion within the Jat community. A brief description of the principles underlying this complementary interaction between these two aspects of the Jat social organization will show how such social cohesion is achieved and how the total political structure of the khap is maintained.
The fats of Meerut Division are organized into localized, exogamous, patri-clans. Descent is reckoned from the ancestors who first came from the Punjab and settled in their present clan areas. There are other branches of these clans, with the same gotra or clan names in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, and other parts of the state of Uttar Pradesh. These branches of a clan do not come under the jurisdiction of the Khap-Panchayats of Meerut Division, but marriage is prohibited between them. The hereditary headman of a khup (Chaudhry) is not considered the descendant of the clan ancestor but only as the descendant of the leader of that branch of clan ancestors who first came and settled in the present khap area.
A clan is segmented into lineage of varying depth spans, namely, thoks, sub-thoks and khandans. Like the clan each lineage segment has a headman who is also called the Chaudhry. But unlike the clan his office is not always hereditary. However, once a lineage headman is elected or unanimously select ed by the lineage Panchayat, the cannot, be removed from his office during his lifetime. The depth span of a thok or maximal lineage varies from ten to fifteen generations; of a sub-thok or major segment from six to ten generations; and of a khandan or minimal lineage
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from three to five generations, from the living adults. These lineage segments are named after the founding ancestors. The line of descent from a founding ancestor is generally remem-bered or in case of doubt, which only happens in case of thoks having many generations, can be ascertained from the genealogical tables'of the bard of the khap. The suffix of 'Ke' meaning descendants of such and such person is attached to the name of the founding ancestor of a lineage group; and this gives a clear indication which segment is referred to, or whether segment belongs to another maximal lineage or major segment. After the clan Chaudhry, the headman of thoks wield the greatest amount of prestige and political influence. These are wielded in diminishing order by the headmen of sub-thaks and khan Jans.
A thok is divided into sub-thoks or major segments, and a swb-thok, in turn, comprises various khandana or minimal lineages. A khandan comprises various nuclear or joint families, Like the localised clan, each thok or maximal lineage has a compact geographical area of its own in a village, including both residential and agricul turd lands. Thoks do not extend be- , yond a village. The lineage segments are autonomous- to a large extent, and freedom in internal matters is jealously guarded by each segment. However, thoks or sub-thoks can interfere in the internal matters of a member lineage if that lineage segment invites the elders of the higher segments to do so, or when the thok leaders feel that they should interfere in the affairs of a member lineage for the sake of preserving the solidarity of the whole maximal lineage.
Land Tenure and Inheritance
The spatial compactness of thoks or maximal lineage within a certain area of a village is maintained by two factors, namely, the bhaichara (brotherhood) system of land tenure, and the customary law of inheritance of property of the Jats. Under the bhai-chore system, land is equally divided among thoks which consist of the descendants of the founding ancestors or original conquerors, so that all may share alike. In this system, possession determines the measure of each proprietor's right. Where a village is divided into pattis (divisions of a village for purposes of revenue collect 'on), the land allotted to each may be held within it according to equally divided shares among the descendant thoks of the original conquerors. This differs from the pure pattidari system of land tenure, in which the proprietors hold land severally and fractionally according to known ancestral shares (cf B H Baden-Powell, "Land System of British India", Clarendon Press, 1892: PP 131-132).
According to the customary law of inheritance of the Jats, land — whether ancestral or acquired — cannot he alienated outside the thok or maximal lineage; and the natural course of succession cannot be altered for the benefit of non-agnates (cf C A Roe and HAB Hattigan "Tribal law in Punjab", 1895; p 41). The customary law of The Jats differs from the Milak shara law of inheritance of the Hindus which is not applicable in the case of the Jats. Thus the spatial compactness of the thoks within a village is maintained, and the dismemberment of residential or agricultural lands belonging to a thok does no' take place. Therefore, like the clan, the ties of kinship reinforce the tier, of local contiguity at the thok level. The nexus between these two aspects enables the Panchayats of various lineage segments, and also the khap Panchayat, to exercise social control within their respective units to a greater degree than would have been possible without the help of the bhai-chara system of land tenure and the customary law of inheritance of the Jats.
The chief function of the bhakhara land tenure is to maintain the egalitarian structure of the Jat society in the economic held. But this concept has also been extended by the Jats to other fields of kinship, social and political relations. For example, the principle of khap bhakhara or brotherhood implies that all the castes and communities living within a khap are like brothers, and this forms a basis of khap exogamy not only for the Jats but also in the case of other castes. Jats of other clans or with other Rotra names living within a khap are also considered as brothers and may not marry within that khap. Any attempt to flout this rule quickly brines the khap Panchayat into action, and an infringement, which is very rare and of which I could find only one example, is seriously dealt with by the khap Panchayat; and the whole family of the defaulter, or even his thok or his whole village, may be ostiacised until he has made expiation and has satisfied the Panchayat by giving a fine, a community feast, and a firm promise not to flout this rule in future. As" against other chaps, the various castes and communities of a khap are regarded as "brothers" and are allowed to participate in the khap organization as equals. Thus, on the political level the concept of bhai-chara provides a rationale for khap unity and solidarity.
Structure of the Khap
A khap is divided into a number of political units called thamba Panchayats. A thamba comprises a number of neighbouring villages varying, from thamba to thamba, from 3 to 20. For example, khap B a l i y a n has seven thambas. Each thamba has a headman whose office is hereditary, and who presides over the 'reelings of the thamba Panchayat. The headman-ship of a thamba has no barking of a kinship unit like that of the lineages of varying depth spans, and that of the clan. This is the main weakness of the thamba as a political unit. When the khap Panchayat lost its legal charter given by Mughal emperors on the advent of British rule in India, the thamba Panchayats lost their political power and effectiveness as institutions of social control, and to some extent fell into disuse. This was due to the lack of specific support from any of the kinship units and the corporate group structure of the Jat society.
A thamba is again divided into a number of informal game end Panchayats. A group of 5 to 8 neighbouring villages is called gana and. The same principles of local con igui-ty, kinship proximity, and ties of social and economic interaction, which arc the basis of clan and lineage organization as political units, also support the granvand and the thamba Panchayats. But unlike a guarand a thamba for the most part is too biz to have close social and economic interaction between its villages in day to day affairs (except where a thamba comprises only a few villages, say four or live, and in such cases the thamba Panchayat still punctions effectively and performs most of the functions of the gamvand Panchayat). Otherwise, the sentiment of ki-iship ties is more fluid at the thamba level as compared to a garuand.
The thoks of a garuand and a thamba are related to each other in the sense that some persons from a parent thok of a village say have migrated to a neighbouring village of the khap area and founded a new thok there. This kinship proximity forms
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the basis of these two political units. But the thoks or maximal lineages of a big thamba do not have such close contact and economic and social interaction as is found between the thoks of a ganwand, which is generally a smaller unit than a thamba. But. the village remains the fulcrum of all the political units of the khap Panchayat, The village Panchayat traditionally comprises the heads of the thoks and the headmen and lenders of other castes and communities of a village. There was no office of hereditary village headman in the villages of the khap Baliyan. Political power lay with an assembly of thok and caste leaders. The president of a village Panchayat was chosen at each meet-ing. Even today the village Panchayats hold their meetings on the same pattern when they function within the traditional framework of the khap and the sarv-khap organizations.
A village is divided into a number of thok Panchayats of the Jats and caste Panchayats of other castes living within the village. The thok Panchayats are presided over by thok headmen, and the caste Panchayats of other castes by their respective headmen or leaders. Similarly, other kinship segments like sub-thoks, khan-dans, and joint families, have their own headmen who preside over 'heir respective Panchayats, Thus there is an elaborate hierarchy of political units from the minimal lineage councils to the khap and the sare-khap Pun-chayats.
These political units belong to two categories, namely, those which are based on the corporate group structure of the Jat society and are supported by the kinship charter : and those which are primarily based upon territorial grouping, and are supported by such principles as local contiguity, kinship proximity, concept of bitai-chara, and so forth. Various lineage councils and the clan council belong to the first category; and the patti, village, ganwand, thamba, khap (as a general political council of all the castes living within a khap area), and the sarv-khap Panchayats belong to the second category. On the whole, and particularly since the khap lost its legal charter and the change in economic and political conditions in the country, the kinship-based councils tend to be more effective and show more political solidarity than the territorially based Panchayats. But the suggestion is only tentative, for there are important exceptions and it also depends upon the circumstances of a social situation, For example, the sarv-khap Panchayat, a Panchayat of neighbouring khaps, and also a khap Panchayat, may command more influence and political power loan any kinship based councils whether of a clan, thok, sub-thok, or of a khandan or minima] lineage.
1. The fieldwork was carried out from August 1958 to July 1959 and again in December 1962 in Muzaffarnagar district, in connection with a doctoral dissertation which was submitted in November 1961 to the University of London. I am indebted to the late Robert Red field for a travel grant of the Ford Foundation given by him to cover my expenses from London to India and back. I am also indebted to the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, for giving me two educational grants during my course of study in London.
2. The collection and translation of the recorded historical materials on khap Baliyan and the sarv-khap Panchayat was mainly done in Shoron and Sisauli villages, where such material is kept by the Chaudhry and the Wazir of khap Baliyan. The translation of mandates of Mughal emperors from Persian to English, and of other historical material from Hindi to English, was done by me.
3. A formal meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat is held every five years only, according to tradition. To this meeting the heads and leaders of all the khans and of other castes of Meerut Division must be invited. The meetings of this Panchayat are informal when it meets to decide cases or disputes among khaps or caste groups. A meeting of four or five khaps is also called sarv-khap Panchayat.
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The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System—II
Social and political changes do not seem to have had much effect upon the traditional political system of the Jats of Northern India, based on the khap and sarv-khap Panchayat. A person who comes to occupy a status position outside the traditional system strives to consolidate it by acquiring the status roles within the traditional system. To do this he has to live up to the social norms dictated by it. Thus he upholds adherence to the traditional system and reinforces its authority. The prestige and political ascendancy of such persons is used by the traditional Panchayats to command allegiance and exercise social control within the Jat community and, to some extent, in inter-caste relations.
[The first part of this article appeared lost week.]
THE functions of various political units of khap and the sarv-khap Panchayat fall into three categories, namely, adjudicative, legislative, and executive. The khap council and us various political units now, for the most part, do not have legislative functions because they have, no legal sanction or authority as they enjoyed earlier under their legal charter, then the khap Panchayat could frame rules and regulations to be obeyed not only by the Jats but also other castes and communities of the khap area, and their infringement was punished by the khap Panchayat which was supreme in internal matters. Several instances from the historical records of the khap Panchayat of Baliyan and from the minutes of the Panchayat meetings can be cited where certain rules of conduct for inter-personal, inter-group, and inter-caste relations, rules guiding land revenue collection, and general policies of social welfare for the people, were framed and executed by the khap Panchayat. However, the khap Panchayat and its units now function only as adjudicative bodies, and executive bodies in so far as the implementation of their decisions is concerned, by virtue of what may be called the traditional charter. The sarv-khap Panchayat still functions as a legislative body when it meets for its formal session every five years since its revival in 1950. (See the resolutions of the sarv-khap Panchayats below). An informal meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat of neighbouring khaps may also function as adjudicative and executive bodies when they judge cases of infringement of resolutions adopted in the formal meetings of the sarv-khap Panchayat or decide to implement these resolutions in the various khaps of the area or when they decide cases and disputes between persons, groups or castes, and implement their decision on the parties concerned, Executive power, particularly in implementing the sanctions passed by a Panchayat, is generally used in extreme cases of default or flouting the social norms by a person or a group, and its success depends upon a strong public opinion behind the decisions of the Panchayat. A council of higher political units may be summoned if a smaller unit is not successful in settling an issue. Among the territorially based councils, a khap, an inter-khap, or a sarv-khap Panchayat, is considered more effective than lineage, patti, village, ganwand, and thamba Panchayats. To make a council effective and successful important persons like the headmen, of maximal lineages and the leaders of villages!, ganwands, thambas, khap leaders, and sometimes also of the neighbouring khaps, are invited to attend the meeting and to act as judges or mediators With their judgement and experience and also because of their prestige and political influence, they are considered in a better position to put forward such proposals as may lead to the settlement of a dispute or to implement the decisions of a Panchayat.
The primary functions of the councils of various lineage segments are to maintain unity and solidarity within turn respective groups, and to remove or at least to keep in check the forces of schism which are inevitable in the relations between their members. Thus the lineage Panchayats settle disputes between the members of various kinship groups and strive to keep peace and goodwill between them. Sometimes matters of common interest are also discussed in these council meetings and a common line of action adopted. The cases decided by a khandan or minimal lineage council generally deal with quarrels over the partition of joint family property, misuse of borrowed agricultural implements, the priority in use of irrigational resources and with cases of personal aggrandisement, intimidation by a member against another, breach of promise, theft, refusal to pay back a loan, and other kinds of misbehaviour. These disputes mostly arise between brothers, stepbrothers, parallel cousins or members of joint families of a minimal lineage.
These conflicts may also be present at the sub-thok or major segment level, though with lesser frequency than at the minimal lineage level on account of the fact that the partition of property takes place mostly at the minimal lineage level thereby reducing the chances of jealousy or bad blood bet-ween the members of a sub-thok, A sub-thok Panchayat thus performs the same functions as the khandan Pan-chayat. But sometimes a sub-thok council may also take decisions on matters of common interest and adopt a particular line of action. One of the major segments of Shoron village, for example, decided to discontinue the service of the khap genealogist on the grounds that he gave false evidence against a member of that segment in a court case on account of which the member lost his claim to some property.
The thok or maximal lineage Panchayat is the most powerful and effective of all lineage councils, On account of kinship factors and local con-tiguity an individual is largely dependant upon his thok for economic, social, and political support. It is not easy for an individual to acquire prestige and political influence without the support of the members of his maximal lineage. The thok Panchayat functions to maintain unity and solidarity among its constituent segments and decides cases and disputes among them. It has power to use certain positive and negative sanctions (to be described later), which are not the prerogatives of other lineage councils. For example, in cases of ostracism or "dropping the huqqah" of an individual by a Panchayat, the assent of his
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marriages, in giving dowry, etc, and persuading the people to save the money and spend it on education of children, on improvement of agriculture, and on. religious rites. Certain functions of the khap Panchayat which it had during the medieval period, eg collecting land revenue, keeping an army and police force for the purpose of defence and internal administration, etc, have now fallen into disute. But it has at the same time taken on certain new functions as mentioned above. A serious dispute within a khap, between khaps or their members, way be decided either by a council of neighbouring khaps or by the sarv-khap Panchayat The procedure for calling such a meeting is the same as in the case of a khap council. The Wazir of a khap is approached and he, judging the seriousness of the dispute or the difficulties involved in its settlement, invites the respected and influential persons from the neighbouring khaps or from all the khaps of Meerut Division, intimating to them the date and the venue of the proposed meeting. The meeting is generally called at the house of the party which is at fault or has infringed a rule. Persons selected to act as judges or mediators at the council meeting are known for their honesty, neutrality, fair play, tact and sense of justice. The reputation of an individual for these qualities is built up gradually over a period of years, and by his behaviour in council meetings, by his opinions and by his ability to settle a dispute, he gets the opportunity for being invited from one important Panchayat to another of increasing significance.
Cases decided by a council of neigh-bouring khaps, or an informal sarv-khap Panchayat may fall into any of the following categories: Marriage disputes arising out of divorcing a girl or maltreatment of her by her husband or parent-in-law; cases of cheating in marriages, e g, showing one girl 10 the bridegroom's parents and then! marrying another with a defect, asking a heavy dowry and demanding a continuous flow of presents from the girl's parents after marriage under the threat of maltreating her if such a flow stops; and cases of breach of other social norms. Now breach of the sarv-khap Panchayat resolutions adopted in 1950, 1956, and 1963, which will be discussed later, are also discussed at such meetings. Most of these cases may also be decided by a khap Panchayat. Serious disputes between maximal lineages, clans or castes, villages of two different khaps, or between khaps, are also decided either by a council of neighbouring khaps or by an informal meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat.
The Sarv-Khap Council
The sarv-khap council is a representative body of all the Jat clans and of the khaps of other castes of the Meerut Division. It does not have a hereditary headman or Wazir or re-cretary. The president of the council is elected at each meeting. The Wazir of khaps Baliyan acts as the secretary at the Panchayat meetings, and records its minutes and decisions. The membership of this council is now voluntary, but during the medieval period, it seems, all the khaps were under the jurisdiction of this council. Now only those khaps or castes which attend the meetings of the sarv-khap Panchayat and agree with the decisions and resolutions passed by it are bound by them. The sarv-khap council does not have any administrative power over tie other khaps. Its executive powers are also limited in .that they can only be exercised with the consent of those khaps which have agreed to implement its decisions within their clan areas, In its informal meetings, the sarv-khap Panchayat mostly functions as an adjudicative body, and the implementation of the decisions is either left to the khaps concerned or to a committee of influential persons constituted with the consent of the khaps to see to their implementation. The legislative functions of the sarv-khap Panchayat are mostly confined to its formal, quinquennial meetings. But during the medieval period when faced with extraordinary circumstances like a foreign invasion or political or economic turmoil, a formal meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat could also be called which could formulate certain rules or regulations for the people of the area. This is borne out by the minutes of the sarv-khap council meetings of that period. The authority under which the sarv-khap council has ben functioning for centuries is mainly traditional and It has not had any legal charter such as was granted to various khaps. This traditional authority is based on its role in defence of the sarv-khap area in the past. Now it has become a moral force which is hard to flout even for a khap.
The primary functions of the sarv-khap council are the same as those of a council of neighbouring khaps. Thefunctions it came to acquire during the medieval period, e g, keeping an army for defence and maintaining internal autonomy of the area, demanding political recognition for the khaps from rulers at Delhi, etc, have now disappeared. But it has now taken on certain other functions such as working for schemes of social and economic welfare of the people. These new functions have strengthened the traditional belief of the people in the khap and the sarv-khap councils. To convene a formal meeting of the sarv-khap, a council of five or six khaps is held to decide the date and the venue for the meeting. A khap may offer to play host. Then a working committee consisting of important leaders from various khaps is set up to raise subscriptions from the sarv-khap area and to send invitations to headmen and leaders of the khaps and also of various castes to participate in the meeting and, finally, to make necessary arrangements for food accommodation and other conveniences for the delegates and for holding the council meeting. A steering committee is also instituted to decide the agenda of the meeting and to finalise a list of topics which is put before the general meeting for dis-cussion and passing of resolutions. But the delegates are also free to put forward any resolution they wish to before the council meeting. Speeches are delivered elucidating the aims and purposes of the resolutions and the desirability of adopting them. Then those who do not agree with this or that resolution deliver their speeches. Finally, the resolutions are put to vote one by one. Voting is by show of hands. If a resolution is passed by an overwhelming majority, it is considered as adopted, and the one which cannot muster enough support or which do not have an overwhelming majority, fall through. A resolution may not be binding upon those khaps or castes which were not in favour of it. After the resolutions have been adopted, the leaders of those khaps and castes who were in favour of them come to the dias one by one and take an oath to implement the re-solutions in their respective khaps or castes.
A working committee is set up con-sisting of the leaders of various khaps and castes to canvas and enlist sup-port for the resolutions by touring the villages of the sarv-khap area, and to persuade the people to accept and im-plement the resolutions. After the meeting of the sarv-khaps council in
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over, the leaders of various khaps and castes may also hold meetings of their respective political units in which The sarv-khap council resolutions are again adopted with a view to emphasise their importance and to persuade the constituent political units such as thoks, ganwands, and thambas, etc, to accept and implement the resolutions.
If the resolutions have been accented by a khap or a caste council it may punish any infringement of them in its Panchayat. In more serious cases of default, the matter may be referred to the sarv-khap secretary who then summons a Panchayat meeting of four or five khaps, and the defaulters are lined, warned or admonished for flouting the resolutions. Other sanctions may also be passed against the defaulting persons or groups, but the implementation of these sanctions is again left to the khap or the caste concerned, and only on its suggestion a committee of influential persons may be set up to see the sanctions implemented. The secretary of the sarv-khap Panchayat keeps himself in touch with the efforts of the committee and after it has successfully carried out its task the secretary makes a note of it in the sarv-khap Panchayat register of records. If the sanctions passed by a Panchayat is not successful because of the intransigence of the defaulter, a bigger Panchayat of more influential persons and leaders of a larger number of khaps is called at the doors of the culprit. They refuse to eat or drink (by the tradition it is the duty of the person at whose house the Panchayat is assembled to provide food and other hospitality) till he has accepted the decision of the council and has carried out the sanctions to the satisfaction of the council members. It becomes very difficult for a person or a group to ignore such an assembly of persons. Moreover, if the Panchayat goes away from the house of the defaulter without accepting food and water from his hands the prestige of such a person is mortally affected and other persons, groups and even his service castes may discontinue social and other relations with him till he complies to the sanctions passed by a Panchayat and expiates himself by giving a community feast in which the same, council members must be in-vited. If, however, the Panchayat has failed to bring a person to book it may ostracise him, his whole thok, village, and even the whole ganwand, (if it is found that these units are siding him or are helping him in other ways) till such time as when the defaulter hascarried out the directions of the Panchayat and the leaders of other units have apologized and asked to be forgiven for their conduct. During ostracism, which is almost always temporary among the Jats, eating, smoking, marriage, and other kinds of interaction are prohibited with the person concerned and also with such units as may have helped him. Over a period of years these restrictions become unbearable and then the defaulter and those who have been helping him try to reach a settlement with the Panchayat. After they have either paid a fine or tendered an apology or given an undertaking (with a straw under the teeth signifying humility) not to go against the wishes of the Panchayat, they are pardoned and are allowed to enjoy the usual privileges of the caste. There are a few cases in which such extreme decisions were taken to ostracise a ganwand, and once the whole of the khap. in recent years. The normal relations of commensahty and marriage were established after several years and then only when the defaulters in the ganwand case had apologized and paid the fine, and in the inter-khap dispute between Bali-yan and Desh when a rapprochement had been reached between the two.
First Formal Meeting
The following case will make the procedure and the functions of the sarv-khap Panchayat explicit. It relates to the first formal meeting of the Panchayat held in 1950 after a period of one hundred years. It will also show the influence this council has had upon the Jats as well as other castes of Meerut Division since its revival:
The meeting of the sare-khap Panchayat was held in Shoron village, khap Baliyan, and was attended by hereditary leaders of all the 18 khaps of Meerut Division and also by the leaders of other castes and communities. The headman of khap Kalaslain (of Gujar caste) was elected as president of the meeting, which lasted three days. Speeches were given by several leaders from various khaps eulogizing the past history of the sare-khap Panchayat, the aims behind its revival, and its importance for the welfare of the people. Then followed discussions and speeches on the 14 resolutions put up before the general meeting. These resolutions had been framed earlier by the working committee of the Panchayat. They were: (1) People should not incur heavy expenditure on daughters' marriages, particularly on extending hospitality to the grooms' parties.
(2) Display of ornaments by groom's father at the time of 'the ceremony of welcome' held at the. bride's house should stop.
(3) Not more than five persons should accompany a marriage party.
(4) No relations should be invited by by a bride's father at the Lime of her marriage, except her maternal uncle (mother's brother), for this custom entails heavy expen -diture which the bride's father can ill-afford.
(5) The feast of mandha (final feast before the departure of the marriage party) should be disconti-nued.
(6) The engagement ceremony should be performed only with one rupee and the old custom of incurring heavy expenditure or this ceremony should be diseonti-nued.
(7) The groom's father should not present more than 3 tolas (weight measurement for precious metals) of gold and 50 tolas of sliver ornaments to the bride. The bride's father should not give more than one tola of gold and 25 tolas of silver ornaments.
(8) Only 5 items of clothes and 5 of kitchen ware should be given in dowry.
(9) The boy and the girl should be fully satisfied with each other before the marriage takes place. After the marriage, the husband should not leave his wife.
(10) The marriageable age for a boy should be 25 years, and for a girl 16 years. Child marriages should be stopped.
(11) In the bhat ceremony (when presents are given by the bride's mother's brother to the parents of the bride) not more than 50 rupees should be given in cash and presents of cloth and kitchen utensils should be discontinued,
(12) The custom of sending presents to daughter's husband's place on every festival after marriage should be discontinued.
(13) In the ceremony of gauna (when the bride goes to her husbands place for the second time after marriage) only five items of doth and one set of bedding should be given by the girl's father. All other presents in cash or kind should be discontinued.
(14) Other malpractices now preva-lent in marriage cremonies
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should also stop; and the money thus saved should be spent on education of boys and girls and for religious causes. All these resolutions were passed by the general assembly and were ^looted. Members of all the khaps came to the dais one by one and pledged their support for the resolutions and also promised to implement them in their respective khap areas. Leaders of several other castes also pledged then support and promised to implement the resolutions within their castes.
These resolutions have had a profound effect upon the people of Meerut Division. Some of the resolutions such as those about marriageable age of boys and girls, limit on the number of relatives to be invited in marriages by the bride's father, or the limit im-. posed on presents and expenditure incurred on the bhat ceremony are not strictly followed, But the other resolutions are being strictly followed by quite a number of khaps and the infringement of these, resolutions brings swift punishment from the khap or inter-Map Panchayat. The defaulter is generally made to pay a fine and give a firm promise that he would not break the solutions in future. The fine thus realized is donated by the Panchayat to the school in the locality to which the defaulter belongs or towards building such a school if the village has none. From the register of records of the sarv-khap Panchayat kept by the Wazir of khap Balivan, it is evident that khaps and councils of neighbouring khaps have punished a number of persons who have infringed one or the other of these resolutions. During my fieldwork I came to know that these resolutions have been effectively implemented and are being strictly followed by the Jats as well as by certain other castes of such khaps as Baliyan, Salaklain or Desh, Choga-ma, Gathwala, Kalaslain (of Gujar caste), Badanu and so forth. Information about breaking a rule by a person may be given either to the khap leaders or the Wazir of the sarv-khap council who, after verifying the complaint from the respected persons of the village or ganwand to which the defaulter belongs, calls a Panchayat meeting either of the khap or council of neighbouring khaps, depending upon the, seriousness of the breach or the status of the defaulter. The 1950 meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat was also attended by several Jat leaders from the Punjab. And it had such a profound effect upon them that after their return they canvassed for a meeting of the khaps of their state which ultimately led to a meeting of several khaps in the town of Beri, on January 31, 1951. The pro minent leaders of the sarv-khap Panchayat of 1950 were also invited to this meeting. In this Panchayat the 1950 resolutions of the sarv-khap Panchayat were adopted.
Resolutions Taken Seriously
The second meeting of the sarv-khap council was held in 1956, again in Shoron village of the khap Balivan. I attended the meeting. The same resolutions of 1950 were put up before the general meeting for discussion with a view to finding out their impact upon the people. It was established from the speeches of leaders from different khaps and castes thai these resolutions had done quite a lot of good in removing malpractices of too high dowry, unnecessary expenditure in marriages, leaving the wife after marriage and extortion of money and presents from the wife's father or maltreatment of the wife. One Jat leader in his speech assessed the amount saved by the Jats and such other castes as Rajputs, Gujars, Ahirs, Tiyagi Brahmins, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Goldsmiths, Muslim Jats, and Weavers of the sarv-khap area at Rs 750,000,000 during the five years between 1950 and 1956 through economizing in marriage ceremonies and related expenses. And this, according to him, was due to the resolutions of the first formal sarv-khap Panchayat. This showed the effectiveness of the council as an institution of social control and its popularity with the masses. However, it was felt that in come areas of Meerut Division the resolutions were not being followed strictly. Therefore, it was decided that these resolutions should again be passed and adopted by the second Panchayat meeting, and fresh pledges for their implementation should be taken from the leaders of the khaps and castes. This was done and the 1950 resolutions were adopted again and fresh pledges taken. The second sarv-khup council also passed some other resolutions of minor importance, bur its main task was to infuse of fresh sense of dedication to the resolutions of the first formal Panchayat and to propagate for their acceptance by certain khaps or castes which had not yet seriously taken up their implementation within the areas of their jurisdiction. In this the second sarn-khap Panchayat succeeded to a great extent The third quinquennial meeting of this body was held on March 2, 1963 in Baraut (a town in khap Salaklain of the Jats of Tomar clan, in Meerut dis trict). The president in his speech he-fore the general meeting eulogized the role of the sarv-khap council in maintaining and propagating the cultural tradition of the country and its devotion to the cause of social welfare of the masses and to defending the freedom of the country as was borne out by its past history. He said that in the difficult period of national emergency created by the Chinese attack on their country the eyes of the nation were fixed on the farmery who had to produce more food so that the country could be strong enough to defend itself; and in this task the sarv-khap council and its leaders could render valuable service by persuadmg the farmers to make the country self-sufficient in food, He also expressed the hope that in its present meeting the Panchayat would be able to put forward before the public a constructive programme of economic and social development and would be able to implement it with the dedication which had characterized its functioning from ancient times.
The resolutions put up for discussion and adoption before the general meeting are of topical interest because they indicate the present trends in the sarv-khap council, the thinking of its leaders, the effect of the Panchayat resolutions upon the masses and their relevance for the political processes of today within the various khaps and castes of Meerut Division. The resolutions finally adopted by 'he Panchayat are:
(1) The Panchayat should contribute its mite towards the defence of the country in the wake of the Chinese aggression by persuading the people to donate to the national defence fund, helping the government in building a village volunteer force and in army recruitment and persuading the farmers to grow more food
(2) The Panchayat should continue to work towards the implementation of the resolutions of the two earlier Panchayats of 19.50 and 1956. These resolutions have done quite a lot of good in removing malpractices in marriage ceremonies and customs prevalent among the castes and the communities of the sarv-khap area.
(3) The Panchayat should strive to remove caste distinctions and barriers,
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(4) The Panchayat should promote better educational facilities and better management of educational institutions. It should also raise funds towards building a girls' college?. But co-education in schools and colleges should not be encouraged.
(5) Cows should be protected (from slaughter) and production of milk and ghee (clarified butter) should be increased in villages.
(6) People should be made conversant with the history of the sarv-khap Panchayat so that they may know the importance and the role of this organization in the life of the people from old times to the present day and follow its resolutions.
(7) Two military colleges should be opened, one in Baraut and the other in Bulandshahr district. The Panchayat should persuade the government to undertake this task and should also raise contributions from various khaps towards the financing of these colleges.
(8) A working committee should be set up to implement these resolutions. I have not been able to visit the field recently in assess the impact of these resolutions on the people of the various khaps of Meerut Division. Nor has it been possible to know how far the working committee has been able to implement the new resolutions adopted at this Panchayat meeting. But it was bigger and more important than the two earlier meetings of the .sarv-khap council held in 1950 and 1956, both with regard to the number of delegates and the topics on the agenda of the meeting. The resolutions indicate that since its revival the Panchayat has taken upon itself the responsibility of tackling with social and economic problems facing the people of the sarv-khap area, and to sonic ex-lent the nation as well and is thus trying to widen its influence among the masses. Moreover, the resolutions on national defence passed by the Panchayat indicate that its leaders still consider it as their duty to defend the country against foreign invasion which was one of the important functions of the sarv-khap Panchayat: in mediaeval times. The Panchayat's contribution to defending the country could not, of course, take the same form as in earlier times, like raising an army from different khaps and light -ing the invader directly.
By and large the leadership of the sarv-khap council still functions within the traditional thought pattern as can be seen from the resolutions mentioned above. Rather than accepting a political ideology and programme of social and economic development from the 'rightist' or 'leftist' political parties functioning in the country, the Panchayat is grappling with these problems in the traditional manner with a 'peasant-outlook' as it were. This is born out by resolutions 2,4,5, and 6 mentioned above. On the one hand, the sarv-khap Panchayat stands for schemes of social welfare and change (resolutions 2,3.4, mentioned above); on the other, it also acts as a check on certain other social changes like co-education in schools and colleges and urbanization and westernization and the ideas that go with them.
Sanctions, Negative and Positive
This sophisticated and largely intended meeting of the sarv-khap Panchayat fits proceedings were broadcast by the All India Radio, and were also covered by the Nav Bharat Times of March 2nd and 5th, 1963, and by other newspapers), passing bold resolutions on problems having an ail-India bearing, may seem a far cry from Che informal lineage Panchayats in different khaps with parochial interests in the Jat villages: it may also seem at first that there is no connection between these two political institutions. But a closer look at these political processes will show that thes? two units form a chain in the political continuum. For the same structural and organizational principles, viz, kinship proximity and local contiguity at village and khap level, the concept of 'brotherhood' (bhatchara), and so forth, are at work at the sarv-khap level also. And the resolutions are primarily addressed to the people of the various khaps and the caste Pan-chayats of other castes. Here the khap leaders, at least in the case of the Jat clans, will only be able to implement these resolutions by the active support of the headmen and leaders of thoks, sub-1hoks. and khandam of minimal lineages. It is these lineage councils, together with the khap Panchayats, which see to the implementation of the sarv-khap Panchayat resolutions. The sanctions exercised by various units of the Jat political system may be divided into positive and negative sanctions. Positive sanctions promise economic, social, or psychological rewards to an individual. Negative sanctions are those which may inflict punishment, penalty or ostracism for the breach of norms of the society.
They are negative in the sense that they can be applied only to penalize or punish but not to reward. (R T La Piere, "A Theory of Social Control", McGraw Hill, London, 1954), Positive sanctions are used not by the Panchayats but by the society of social groups and their use is closely related to an individual's actions and behaviour in relation to the lineage groups to which he belongs and to those with whom he comes in contact in face-to-face relationships. But sanctions like total extermination of an individual, economic intimidation, wilful harm to a person's property or, conversely, economic reward arc unknown among the Jats and are not used by the Panchayats. Formerly such physical sanctions as beating or whipping of a defaulter were common but now they are rarely used by the councils. Permanent expulsion or ostracisn of an individual was rarely practised if at all, and is now totally absent, But temporary expulsion signified by 'dropping the huqqah' (withdrawing the right of a person to eat or smoke with other members of his caste) is common, though resorted to by the Panchayats only in extreme cases of default. And then, to be effective it must have the active support of the thok or maximal lineage of the offender. Thus the exercise of this san tion is the privilege only of the thok or the khap Panchayat. Fines and economic restitution of an aggrieved party are common and can be used by any unit of the Jat political system. A curse is considered one of the most effective sanctions. The faith in a curse, particularly when uttered by Panchayat members, is very strong and a curse is considered infallible. Several cases could be cited where a curse uttered by a Panchayat against the persons who have flouted its decisions has come true. A typical case is that of a person in Shoron village in khap Baliyan who, on the advice of his elder brother, got married in khap Sala-klain. But this was against the resolutions of his own khap which had banned marriages between Baliyan and Salaklain on account of some dispute, between the two khaps. The khap council tried to persuade the two brothers not to break the ban, but it failed to persuade them in spite of two or three meetings of the khap Panchayat. The elder brother of the person concerned was the headman of a thok of Shoron village. On account of party politics within the khap, with the backing of his maximal lineage, the headman succeeded in marrying his brother against
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the ban. After the marriage, a meet-ing of the khap Panchayat was held and a curse was uttered by the council members that there will be no male issue from this marriage to carry on the family name. This incident happened more than twenty years back but there has been no male child born till, now. The person concerned is now about seventy years did (this was his second marriage); the only son from the first marriage had died at the age of eighteen before the second marriage took place. According to the villagers there is now not much hope of a son. The curse of the Panchayat had had effect. A curse may be uttered by any political unit from a minimal lineage to a sarv-khap Panchayat when all other means of social control have failed. It is the last, but not the least, of the effective sanctions at the disposal of the Panchayats. The belief in the efficacy of the curse and the strong fear of it strengthens the moral element in social .relationships and checks unethical or anti-social conduct. The process of education and urbanization, it seems, has not affected this belief and it is fairly common among educated and urbanized fats serving in the Indian army, government or civil service and also among college students.
A Panchayat may also ask an individual to lake an oath of good conduct in figure. This practice is supported by the common belief that if an individual breaks his words of honour or a promise given before a Panchayat, he loses his respect in the eyes of others.
For certain religious and moral lapses an individual may be asked by a Panchayat to undergo expiatory religious rites such as going on a pilgrimage, taking a purificatory bath in the river Ganges or giving a communal feast. Others may be forbidden to eat or smoke with him until he has performed these rites. In some cases he may also be asked by a khap or sarv-khan Panchayat to tour the villages of his khap and ask to be forgiven by the leaders of those villages. In such cases the Panchayat appoints a committee of two or three respectable persons who are asked to accompany the defaulter on his tour to the villages and to see that he carries out the decision of the council. Generally, this sanction is accompanied by temporary expulsion of the person from the caste. The caste councils and the khap Panchayats of other castes also use these sanction?. Impact of Economic and Political . Changes. The Jat community as well as other castes of Meerut Division have experienced certain economic changes brought about by the introduction of irrigation-al facilities and of sugar-cane as a cash crop, by the growth of the competitive market economy and the growth of industry and towns. These factors have produced economic inequality among the Jats. Those who have gained wealth now aspire for leadership or office within the traditional political system, as headmen of Uncage groups and as judges or council members in Panchayat meetings and also for office in the new government instituted political set-up of Gram nd Adalat Panchayats (village committee and justice committee respectively).
Traditional System Not Weakened
Those who are more well-to-do than others may even stand for the state legislature or the parliament. For such status roles as are outside the traditional ones, an individual need not follow the traditional values demanded by the society. Such persons, if they are unable to achieve a position of leadership or office within the traditional political system, may turn against it; and then it becomes difficult for a Panchayat to control their behaviour. Those who come to hold office as president of a Gram Panchayat, a judge on the Adalat Panchayat, a member of the Zila Piri-shad (district committee), or member of the state legislature by virtue of their economic or political influence, may also be elected as the heads of thoks and sub-thoks or to such other status roles within the traditional system as are not strictly hereditary. This is because the belief in the traditional authority and value system of the Jats, as moulded by their kinship and political structure, has not changed much in spite of education and urbanization. Education among the Tats is increasing fast on account of the keen interest the community is taking in education by raising funds for schools and colleges. But the traditional values, ideology, and thought patterns of the Jat society are not undermined by the dissemination of education, in spite of its western pattern. It only results in the broadening of outlook which is used to rationalise and to reinforce the traditional value system based upon the kinship and the political system of the society. This happens because the Jats are still tied to the land which cannot be alienated outside the thok, a factor which maintains the corporate group Structure of the society. Moreover, because of the introduction of the cash crop of sugar-cane and the increase in land prices on account of irrigation, facilities resulting in substantial increase in agricultural output and its market value, an individual has high economic stakes in his ancestral property. And those fats who arc serving outside their villages in army, civil service and other jobs like to return to the villages after retirement to settle down there. I did not come across even one case where a Jat had sold his property in his native village and had settled down in a city On the other hand, many cases could be cited of senior army officers, government servants, etc, who have come back to their villages after retirement and now lead wealthy agriculturists' lives. These values and interests uphold the kinship and the political system of the lat society under the conditions of change.
A person who has come to occupy a status position outside the traditional system strives to consolidate it by trying to achieve the status roles within the old system. To do so he has to live up to certain social norms dictated by kinship and the political ideology of the certain social norms dictated by the community; and in doing so he upholds the belief in the traditional system and thus reinforces its authority. The prestige and political ascendency of such persons is used by the traditional Panchayats to command allegiance and exercise social control within the community and, to some extent, in inter-caste relations as well.
Social and economic changes do not seem to have much effect upon the traditional political system: nor is the system showing any signs of disorganization. The fats, as well as other castes, still believe that "five punches (council members) sitting in a Panchayat are like five gods". This epitomises the ethos of the Jat community, The council members entrusted with the task of setting a dispute or making a decision are considered sacred. This belief not only protects them against any harm from the litigants for the decisions they may give, decisions which are morally binding upon the parties concerned and could only be broken at the pain of incurring a curse by the Panchayat which is considered infallible, but also compels the punches to conduct the affairs of the Panchayat with justice, equity and good consic-ence.
Such structural and organizational principles as khap bhaichara (brotherhood), khap exogamy, kinship organization and sentiment, corporate group structure of the society and the seulement pattern of the lineages and the
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End of page 1864: THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY, December 18, 1965
Source- The Article was published in THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY, December 11 and 18, 1965. It was provided by Mr Harsh Lohit through Email: <email@example.com>
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