My Lords, “Rajas” and “Chaudhrys
How you tire in your claims?
Born to “nobles” “lineages” high
your’s is ‘nobility’ supremely entrenched!
Of past glories, “Jaghirs”,
of providence unchecked
You accept your fate with elated breath

But what good are titles of ancient fiefs?
When your wards of providence have to earn their keep!
In dirty mills, on rickety legs,
they make cause to share their spoilt beds.
As you expend your labour for servitude’s sake
Their hues blackened by England’s sooty roots
Is this your ‘nobility’?
Then surely the nobles are dead!?
And in their courts, on their cushions,
sit egos bloated of dubious breeds.
Like shepherds galore waylaid by bony sheep.
And still you sing the old hymns in paupers’ drapes
In full glare of your “Kammis”, your dues are due, in toil shared

But you are our “Earls” and you are our “Dukes”?
In whose memory many defile the path of nobility and grace
and so I marvel in bemusement and despair,
Oh the shame it would take for you to feel the whip of one flippant quip?
As you crack wise jokes about the ‘bereft’ and their ‘muddled’ ways!
Ennobled menials”, ennobled “serfs”,
What are we but orphans of an age long gone?
As highborn or low, with riches or none,
Flattery indeed is the ‘honour’ we feign
For the ‘Realm’ we left and her ‘Poverty’ we fled,
They call us immigrant “Pakis” in this land of Blighty!

Terminology

‘Rajas’/‘Chaudhrys’; titles of an Indian nobility class belonging to a patronage system; ‘Jaghirs’; fiefs’/landed estates; ‘Nawabs’; Noblemen; ‘Durbars’; court; ‘Gaddees’; cushions/thrones; ‘Kammis’; low born/bereft (offensive); ‘Ghulams’; slaves

Read related article; Understanding titles of nobility and our culture of dispossession by Reiss Haidar

 

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Associate Editor at Portmir Foundation. Born and raised in the UK, on a journey of cultural exploration. Proud British ‘Mirpurian’; the two are not in conflict; want to explore and celebrate my cultural heritage in the UK – grandparents from the high hills of Jammu. Like the others here, I’m not scared to offend my own people for the common good!

Okay, the official bit…

My opinions are not necessarily those of the Portmir Foundation; the Foundation does not do censorship and neither does it endorse my opinions; if you disagree with any us, and you’re from our background, write your own opinion piece and we’ll publish it.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The caste system is a problem in most ‘Asian’ communities, and its not just Rajas and Chaudries hating on those below them in the pecking order, even the lower castes hate castes below them – so the ‘carpenters’ look down on the ‘vegetable growers’. You can’t just blame the higher castes. Its a much bigger problem than just blaming Jats or Raje for instance.

  2. That’s true but there are no ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ castes because the whole thing is just bogus. It makes no sense in the absence of patronage networks, but that holds true for lots of our cultural customs. Even as we attempt to describe the caste-system in our region which is really clan-based as opposed to the idea of belonging to ‘castes’, we need to understand how different the social norms were from Indo-Gangetic India. Even in the Hills/Mountains of the western Himalaya where Muslims dominated, we didn’t have the ‘Ashraf’ groups – those of purported Muslim ‘foreign’ origin – in the way they existed in urban areas where Muslims controlled their own territorial polities. But your right, this problem of the caste system is about attitudes shared by lots of people irrespective of their ‘caste’ backgrounds.

  3. Youngsters today don’t care much for caste system. They wouldn’t even know their own backgrounds. It’s more or less dead in UK. We have a bigger problem with how mirpuris are identified by Pakistanis and smaller Pakistani sub-groups. These are the most current identities as pathans, mirpuris, punjabis, Urdu speakers etc. Our youngsters are more aware of these identities than they are about Jats or Raje, and you should include posts on these issues.

    • Are we Jat or r we Mirpuris? Are we from Pakistan or Jammu & Kashmir? Where does the loyalty of Mirpur’s Jat, Rajput and others lie according to you? What about all the other clans who stand up and fight for so-called Azad Jammu & Kashmir and fight for their homeland? Is Pakistan our homeland, a country created in 1947? What about everyone else?

  4. My question, which comes first, Jat or Mirpur? They insult us in the UK for being Mirpuri and then they quickly make fun of the Jat background and these are Pakistanis from Punjab? I thought Punjab was homeland of Jat but why are they insulting Mirpuri Jats then? Cause they’re playing games with Mirpur’s Jat who are from Jammu & Kashmir and not Pakistan! Pakistan is an artificial country run by an unelected elite who doesn’t even care for ordinary people wherever they are. at least Mirpur’s Jat care for poor people, all the money they’ve been giving to Pakistan is in the hundreds of millions of pounds, all from the UK!!! Prove me wrong????

    • Myra

      We need to stop using these caste terms – that’s all they are, a form of social stratification that is irrelevant to our actual experiences. There are no “Jat” in AJK worth the name, as those who were identified on the basis of this background are not engaged in farming. It’s an out-dated and irrelevant “group identity” borne of a skewed understanding of colonialism. The same holds true for Gujar, Rajput, Mistry, Bains, caste-Kashmiri, Mochi etc., – these are terms that have no social or political value except when we impose on the labels our own skewed priorities. People are imagining entire backgrounds on the basis of something very vacuous analytically speaking.

      We reject this false social hierarchy.

      Now why would anyone talk of Jat or Rajput or “Kashmiri” within the context of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan? What has caste got to with politics and an occupied territory?

      These are loaded terms that create confusion; our detractors use them suggestively to cause distance between people as they deliberately demean one set of people through the supposed agency of the others. I’ve been speaking to lots of people from AJK and the Valley, and they are all coming to this conclusion, that the people of Jammu & Kashmir are deliberately being played off one another. The “demeaning” you see online is orchestrated. There are some “individuals” involved in this as they claim to be authentic Kashmiris from the Valley usually unaccomplished young people who recycle race myths to self-affirm; a lot of people find their comments crass and embarrassing. There are others who claim to come from caste-Kashmiri communities in Pakistan -i.e., ethnic Punjabis; we have no time for these people, as their communities are not domiciled in Jammu & Kashmir, they have their own communities in Pakistan and priorities, they should worry about being “Pakistani” and not “Kashmiri” which they are not. If they want to identify as Kashmiris because of their caste (it’s interesting they don’t want to mention their actual occupational backgrounds), we have no right to challenge their identification, but they have no right to speak about Jammu & Kashmir as if they are experts on our region’s troubles or peoples. These various elements do not represent the people of the Valley; there are others claiming to come from this population, as they slate “Islam”, pretending to be the real “Kashmiri Pandits”; these are social media accounts run by certain elements to cause hatred??? Lot’s of Kashmiri Pandits want normalisation of relations with India so they can return to their homes in the Valley, they are not anti-Jammu & Kashmir, and nor do they want to insult the diverse peoples of “their” State. They are as much victims of this Conflict as are the rest of us.

      Can we therefore really say the intentions behind the creation of such divisive material is benign or spontaneous as people are played off one another?

      As for illusory caste identities, I am encouraging everyone from the British Pahari or Kashmiri community (however you identify, even as Pakistanis if that’s how you identify – I believe this is a false consciousness though given the AJK set-up and the corresponding prejudice of our fellow “British-Pakistanis”) to make a point of no longer using such divisive “identities”. We must show that we are against the caste system and are prepared to speak out against it. There are no Raje, Chaudhry, Mughal, Sardar amongst brothers and sisters and equals, we are democrats and nationals of Jammu & Kashmir State, diverse people of our ethnic homeland. Some of us live abroad, others remain in this unfortunate territory. Illusory identities are being deployed in such a way as to cause strife amongst us, and the people who have created the current status quo have a charge sheet that exposes them for their illicit and unfair dealings.

      Their actions have been condemned across the world.

      TO RECAP, “Jat”, and “Mirpuri”, these are illusory identities – they tell us nothing about the people in AJK who live in Mirpur. To deploy such identities would tell us nothing about the politics of the region except to try and differentiate people on the basis of something that’s incredibly false. This has been happening for some time now, but it has zero appeal within the region, as most of Mirpur’s population is living outside Mirpur, in the UK, the Middle East, North America, even in Indian Jammu; those who remain behind have become reliant on remittences. This is the prosperity people talk of, which is illusory and fickle based. When these remittences dry up, there’s going to be huge conflict in this region as people turn to resistance narratives. I’m not an advocate of conflict, but I can assure you, anyone who knows anything about conflict, can see the seeds of something terrible about to happen in how AJK is managed by the outside powers.

      We’re being encouraged to bide our time as Imran Khan is going to solve all of Pakistan’s problems; we’ve waited 70 years for some reform in AJK, I’m sure we can watch on the side lines as we mobilise around our own interests in AJK and UK? Let’s see if we get electricity as promised – AJK should be a priority, no? Let’s see if we get an airport? Let’s see if we get the promised investment?

      To REPEAT, there is nothing distinctive in any ethnic or cultural sense of being “Kashmiri”, “Jat”, “Sudhan”, “Mughal” as separate from other groups within the wider “AJK” State; there is nothing distinctive about Mirpuris in any ethnolinguistic sense as separate from Poonchees or Muzaffarabadis, (these are areas not ethnic identities) which extend into Northern Pakistan and Indian-administered-Kashmir, in the hills and mountains north of the Salt Range Tract. However, just as Punjabis and Sindhis live in Pakistan, Gujaratis and Bengalis live in India, we too have our own diversity and it has absolutely nothing to do with “caste” as we’re opposed to this false consciousness.

      So we are opposed to such outside interference.

  5. Most of these caste-Kashmiris from Punjab usually have the Butt Surname right? So if these are the upper castes from Kashmir valley, where did all the Punjabi Butts go? Butts are supposed to have lived on the banks of a mythical river saraswati which runs from Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, all the way down to the Gujrat, Maharastra, Goa area. However, all the butts/bhatts from these other areas claim to be natives and not migrated from elsewhere. Pooja Bhatt does not claim to be an ethnic Kashmiri but Gujarati with no ties to Kashmir. So why do only the Butts in Punjab all claim they are from Kashmir valley. Is it because of the Kashmir conflict?

    And if these guys are indeed of the landowning upper castes from Kashmir then why did they flee the area during various famines?

    Butt became synonymous with the “kashmiri” identity for some reason or another in Punjab and that’s why all these Punjabi butts also became Kashmiri.

    Every one of these caste-Kashmiris are obsessed with self-affirming as Kashmiri, but if the ‘Kashmiri’ identity was so important to them, then why did their grandparents lose their native tongues and start speaking Punjabi? Most other Proud communities don’t allow their culture and language to be replaced so easily. We are also 3rd/4th generation mostly in the UK but we still follow Pahari culture and we still understand our language(all Mirpuris understand it even if they don’t speak it), along with English and Hindi-Urdu from Bollywood. The only thing “Kashmiri” about these guys is they drink Pink tea occasionally, and self-affirm as Kashmiri.

    The Kashmir conflict has got these guys thinking India and Pakistan is fighting over them, when in reality, neither country cares for the people in the valley which they claim to come from. Their country Pakistan is telling them they want to free the Kashmiris, but they are only after the land. This is why even those with 1/4 or 1/8 valley Kashmiri ancestry is claiming to be an “ethnic Kashmiri”. Hence the inflated number of “ethnic Kashmiris” in Punjab.

    One of my mates from Lahore was exactly like this. He claimed his great-grandparent was a Kashmiri Butt from Baramulla who moved to Amritsar then to Lahore after partition. The funny thing was he was obsessed with going around and sticking his Kashmiri identity in peoples faces. Every topic was diverted to him being a “Kashmiri” and a “Butt” pun joke. He even said valley Kashmiris are the “real Kashmiris” and the rest are “imposters”.

    I later found out that only one of his grandparents was a Kashmiri. He was himself 1/4 Kashmiri and 3/4 Punjabi. So why are 1/4 and 1/8 valley Kashmiris from Punjab still self-affirming as Kashmiri when they are without doubts Punjabi? They neither speak the language, follow the culture or have any significant ancestry from the valley, yet they are claiming to be the “real Kashmiris”?

    The neighboring areas of Punjab are Sindh, Balochistan, Rajasthan, KPK, Gilgit, AJK(Paharis). Yet it seems every Pak Punjabi is obsessed with claiming to be either a Kashmiri, Pathan or Arab through partial or mostly imagined ancestry.

    In regards the topic. My parents tell me we are “Raje” but I haven’t seen anything significantly different between us and other castes. If a Jutt or Gujjar told me he was from this caste then I would know, otherwise they are the same as me, and I couldn’t tell the difference. So our identity is Pahari. That’s what distinguishes us from other people: Our language and culture.

    Our castes tell us nothing about ourselves so they should all go.I have everything in common with fellow Mirpuris/Paharis but nothing in common with people in Lahore or Rajasthan who I share a caste with. This goes for caste-Kashmiris and Jatt. Myra, you have more in common with me then someone in Punjab who is claiming to be a Butt.

    In short, this caste business is the most irrelevant thing I’ve ever heard of and says nothing about us. My parents told me we are Raje and I never bothered to think about it again or ask them any more questions.

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