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Gujjar Politics and the Mihir Bhoj Controversy

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In her 2014 article “Pastoral Predicament: The Gujars in History", Prof. Shail Mayaram – advocated the Gujjars of Rajasthan and the NCR to secure the ST reservation. In the same newspaper, the Gujjars of Rajasthan and the NCR were clubbed not only with the Planed Tribe Vangujars of Himachal, but also (rather mistakenly) with the Gurjara Pratihars (a Rajput clan). With this in mind, another online publication also published an article dated February 14, 2019 with the title "Gujjar Quota Stir: Today’s demonstrators are descendants of the Gurjar Pratiharas who once belonged to India’s greatest empires “- which reflects the often repeated and false claim that links Gujjars to the Pratihars of the ancient Gurjara region.

But on August 21, 2012, Gujjar organizations under the leadership of Colonel Kirori Bainsla and Himmat Gujjar actually issued a memorandum to the government of Rajasthan stating that 99% of the Gujjars are nomads and live in forests.

But a decade later, the same Gujjar “leaders” – including Mr. Himmat Gujjar – accompanied by Acharya Vikram and the Akhil Bhartiya Veer Gujar Mahasabha (ABVGM), now militant, claim that all Rajput rulers and Rajput clans are before the Mughal – in particular the Chauhans, Pratihars, Parmars, Chandels, Bhatis, Chavdas, and Tomars – should be identified as Gujjars. A press conference was also held on October 18, 2021 by the above. Himmat Gujjar also threatened dire consequences if the makers of the Akshay Kumar Starrer film Prithviraj Chauhan did not portray the Rajput ruler as Gujjar. Such historical absurdities are not unique and can be found in abundance on right-wing portals. Assembled stories about a Rampyari Gujjar and Jograj Gujjar (characters that Manoshi Sinha created from scratch in her book “Saffron Swords”), who allegedly defeated Taimur Lang, also find ardent support in the right.

Notably, these leaders and organizations not only vie for ST status in order to receive the same socio-economic benefits that are afforded to Dalit and Adivasi communities, but also wish to be viewed as Kshatriyas. Their claims go beyond Rajput icons and include figures such as Shivaji Maharaj, Kanishk, and all of the pre-Mughal Rajput monarchs. Then why do Gujjar organizations compete for ST reservations at the same time while claiming royal ancestry by appropriating a multitude of different historical icons? That is puzzling to say the least.

However, its truth lies somewhere in the middle of these conflicting claims. First, the Gujjars of the NCR and Rajasthan were not a purely pastoral community. While her ethnonym has its roots in. Has "gau-char"Over the centuries, many lands and chaudhriyats acquired under various Rajput kings and Mughal emperors. For example, a Gujjar named Nunne Shah Khatana (who served as Dewan under Datia’s ruler Bundela Rajput) was granted the Zamindari of Samthar by the latter. A century later Samthar was declared an independent princely state by the British against military support (The Golden Book of India, Roper Lethbridge, pp. 475-476). The Rohilla chief Najib Khan also granted Chaudhari Manohar Singh (a Gujjar of the Khubar gotra) the Zamindari of Landhaura (near Roorkee) in 1759 (Atkinson, 1875, pp. 199-206). His descendant Raja Raghubir Khubar received 11 additional villages from the British regime because of his “good” behavior during the mutiny of 1857 (Saharanpur Gazetteer, p. 121). BJP MLA Pranav Champion belongs to this Zamindar family. William Dalrymple also mentions a Gujjar Raja from 14 villages, Devi Singh, who relentlessly pillaged mutinous soldiers and the British. Given that many Gujjars gradually became zamindars in the late Mughal and British era, merging them with the Vangujars or other ST groups is both manipulative and ignorant.

Second, district gazettes and other census records show that the Gujjars did not share any clans with the Rajputs other than Bhati. In addition, the NCR Bhati Gujjars claimed to be descended from a Rajput Raja Kazan Bhati and a Gujjar woman. The same Gazetteers also reveal how Chamayan Gujjars took the surname Tomar, how Kalsan Gujjars from Kairana and Mavi Gujjars took the name Chauhan, how Khubar Gujjars claimed to be Parmars, and how Rawal Gujjars got along with Khokhar Rajputs (William Crook, Tribes & Castes of North-Western Province of Agra & Oudh, Vol. 2, p. 442). Similarly, Chandila Gujjars also took the surname Chandel. This has also been confirmed by The Karnal Gazetteer and Saharanpur Gazetteer (Gazetteer Of The Karnal District 1892 – Pg 84, 111, 118). Obviously, there are no Rajput clans among Gujjars (i.e. Chauhans, Parmars, Pratihars / Parihars, Tomars, Solankis, Chavdas, Chandels, etc.). Although the Gujjar community adopted Rajput clan names, the rationale they gave the colonial ethnographers for being the descendants of a Rajput father and a Gujjar mother remained anchored in an unfounded story. This is sociologically known as Rajputization. When media houses and journalists portray the current controversy as a Rajput-Gujar conflict over the identity of a particular king, they are misleading readers and misinforming them.

In addition, the conflicting attitudes of Gujjar leaders towards reservation and historical appropriation are becoming increasingly violent. A few days ago, Himmat Gujjar made a public post calling on various communities (Jats, Marathas, Kurmis, Dalits, Brahmins, and Adivasis) to attack Rajputs whom he ironically accused of stealing the history of other communities. Another video of Narendra Gujjar, the president of ABVGM, also went viral making misogynistic remarks about Rajput women. Apparently, fringe theories and dirty caste politics have mixed together to create a new mob-style policy of propaganda, intimidation and collective violence.

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The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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