There is this thing about the Jats. It’s an opinion that you’ve had about them for years, possibly not knowing how it came to be. Those bull headed, bandook brandishing, brainless brutes, speaking with the thick Haryanvi “Ghana utawala ho raa sain” accent. And it probably stuck in your head from a few troublemakers you saw, or the movies you watched, or some conversations you heard…
“ Mat time waste kar. Jat buddhi hai saala.”
“ Main to us area mein jaati hi nahi hun. Saare Jats rehte hain wahan par.”
“ Chaudhary bana phir raha hai.”
“ You’re from Delhi ? Must be so crazy, na… with all the Jats there”
I am a Jatni born and raised in Central Delhi. I am yet to be acquainted with the moustache twirling, gun wielding ‘quintessential’ Jat. It’s true, I have not lived in villages. My dreams haven’t been crushed by the hand raising, muscle flinching males of the family. Obviously I wouldn’t know. But let me tell you about my family.
My Badi Nani was a Jatni raised in Haryana. She’d work arduously in the fields from dawn to dusk ‘like a man’ while the other ‘privileged’ women fiddled with needlework at home. She suffered many miscarriages but raised one girl, like God’s greatest gift. This girl, my Nani, wasn’t asked to sit at home and do ‘chuulah-choka.’ She was asked, in the 1930s, to study hard. And when she grew up, she was accepted at Lahore Medical College. No, she didn’t become a doctor and yes, you probably expected that. But a ‘khap panchayat’ wasn’t called to punish her for following her dreams. The ‘elders of the house’ were probably reluctant to send her to would-be-Pakistan in those pre-independence years. She went on to work in the Air Force. She married my Nanaji, who had worked in the Indian army, and a few years later they settled in Uttarakhand where my Nanaji, singlehandedly developed the most treacherous jungle terrain into agricultural land. They raised seven kids and all of them got the best education in the most limited means, to become successful professionals. Including my mom, who became a doctor, fulfilling her mother’s unmet dream.
My Dadaji was a small Jat farmer in a village in Uttar Pradesh. My Dadiji was illiterate, as were most women of most communities at that time. No one in my father’s family had completed school education. But that did not stop them from ensuring that my father did. Nor from finishing his masters in Physics. And when my Dad was accepted for a fellowship in Medical Physics in the UK in the 1970s, my Dadaji borrowed loans from all his Jat relatives to send him there.
A community has many faces. And the thugs are a part of many. In all corners of this land. The irony is that while the country is lauding some sportspersons who happen to be Jats, many are labeling all Jats as loose cannons in the same breath. And Jats are not just your heroes – the Virender Sehwags, the Sushil Kumars, the Vijender Singhs, the Saina Nehwals, and the Geeta and Babita Phogats. They are also those nameless Jat farmers, men and women, who working tirelessly in the fields, raising the rice or the wheat chapatti you probably ate. The nameless Jat soldiers who lost their lives for the country. The Jat doctors and scientists and engineers and politicians and entrepreneurs, who believe it or not, went to the top school and colleges in the country. And they are not the ‘atypical ones’ or those one-off ‘good cases.’ They are in plenty. All doing their bit. All trying to make a difference. As countrymen. Not as, or for, Jats.