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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Jats Who Cultivate Land

The Jat people are a tradionally agricultural community in North India and Pakistan, originally pastoralists in the lower Indus River-Valley of Sindh. They migrated North into the Punjab region in late medieval times, and subsequently into the Delhi territory, northeastern Rajputana and the western Gangetic plain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Jats are proud because they are taller and stronger than the average person in India and a lot more warlike nature, they are independent in character and resisted against many invaders in the past. Jats are famous for religion, rulers, chieftains, warriors, revolutionaries, freedom fighters, politics, social reformers, poets, writers, singers, armed forces and police, and sports. Jats have a military tradition and in some places are powerful land owners.

Jats took up arms against the Mughal Empire during the late 17th and 18th centuries. They played an important role in the development of the Marshal Khalsa Panth of Sikhism. The Hindu Jat kingdom reached its zenith under Maharaja Suraj Mal (1707-1763). By the 20th century, the landowning Jats became an influential group in several parts of North India, including Punjab, western UP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. Over the years, several Jats abounded agriculture in favour of urban jobs, and used their dominant economic and political status to claim higher social status.

In 1901, the Jat population of Punjab (British) was 4.9 million, of which Muslims numbered 2 million (40 percent) , Hindus 1.6 million (32 percent) , Sikhs 1.4 million (28 percent), and the remaining population was either Jain or Christian. In 1911, the Jat population of Punjab was 5 million, of which Muslims numbered 2.3 million (46 percent), Hindus 1.1 million (21 percent), and Sikhs 1.6 million (33 percent). The Jat population (21st century) comprises 20-25 percent of Haryana and 20-35 percent of Punjab. In Rajasthan, Delhi and UP, they constitute around 9 percent, 5 percent and 1.2 percent respectively of total population. The Jats represent one of the largest ethnic groups that has evolved in the northwest region of the Indian subcontinent - India and Pakistan - over several thousand years. After partition in 1947, Muslim Jats migrated to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh Jats migrated from Pakistan to India.

Jats were strong followers of Shiva and were his ganas. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Jats become essentially a farming population, taking advantage in the growth of irrigation. As these Jats become farmers, they started accepting Islam. In the 16th century and onward, some Jats adopted Sikhism and protected the country from invaders and took a stand against Mughals.

In Pakistan, the population of Jat Muslims is about 40 million. Jats constitute 20-25 percent of Pakistan and its second largest ethnic group in Pakistan after Pashtuns. They are found primarily throughout Sindh and Punjab regions. Jats began converting to Islam from the early Middle Ages onward and constitute a distinct sub-group within the diverse community of Jat people. When Arabs entered Sindh and other Southern regions of current Pakistan in the 17 century, the chief tribal groupings were the Jats and the Med people. The Jats were the first external converts to Islam, and many were employed as soldiers by the new Arab Muslim administration in Sindh. In the plains of Punjab, there are many communities of Jats, some of whom had converted to Islam by the 18th century, while others had become Sikh. In Pakistan, most Jats are landowning agriculturists and they form one of the numerous ethnic groups in Sind. Jats, together with the Rajputs and Gujjars, are the dominant ethnically - Punjabi and religiously - Islamic tribes settled in the regions comprising Eastern Pakistan. They exert considerable influence in Pakistani society, agriculture, industry, politics, private sector, the judiciary, and military.

The Rajput appeared in the 8th century AD and the word Rajput in its ethnic sense was not used until the 10th century. Similarly the word Gujjar did not appear before the 7th century, whereas historical evidence speaks of the existence of the Jat ruling dynasty over Kota - Bundi as early as 400 AD. Jat originated from Yayat who was one of the earliest rulers of Chandra Vanshi Aryahs. Jats had military kingdoms such as Mursan in UP, Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Patiala in Punjab.

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