Rural Nostalgia & Transnational Dreams: Identity and Modernity Among Jat Sikhs 0802092578, 9780802092571

Renowned as the predominant farmers and landlords of Punjab, and long possessed of an autocthonous agricultural identity

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Rural Nostalgia & Transnational Dreams: Identity and Modernity Among Jat Sikhs
 0802092578, 9780802092571

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Note on Identity Terms
Prologue
1 Introduction: Jat Sikh Locations and the Bahu Ethnographer
2 Farming, Family and Faith: Elements of Jat Sikh Identity
3 Good Families: Marriage, Gender, and Middle-Class, Jat Community
4 Good Fortunes: Education, Class, and National Contingencies
5 Unities and Schisms in Jat Sikh Identity
6 The Rural Imaginary
7 A Wedding Phulkari and Other Gifts
Epilogue
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

RURAL NOSTALGIAS AND TRANSNATIONAL DREAMS: IDENTITY AND MODERNITY AMONG JAT SIKHS

ANTHROPOLOGICAL HORIZONS Editor: Michael Lambek, University of Toronto This series, begun in 1991, focuses on theoretically informed ethnographic works addressing issues of mind and body, knowledge and power, equality and inequality, the individual and the collective. Interdisciplinary in its perspective, the series makes a unique contribution in several other academic disciplines: women’s studies, history, philosophy, psychology, political science, and sociology. For a list of the book published in this series see page 303.

NICOLA MOONEY

Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams Identity and Modernity among Jat Sikhs

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS Toronto Buffalo London

© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2011 Toronto Buffalo London www.utppublishing.com Printed in Canada ISBN 978-0-8020-9257-1

Printed on acid-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Mooney, Nicola, 1967– Rural nostalgia and transnational dreams : identity and modernity among Jat Sikhs / Nicola Mooney. (Anthropological horizons) ISBN-10: 0-8020-9257-8. ISBN-13: 978-0-8020-9257-1 1. Sikhs – India – Social conditions. 2. Jats – India – Social conditions. 3. Sikhs – India – Ethnic identity. 4. Jats – India – Ethnic identity. 5. Punjab (India) – Rural conditions. I. Title. II. Series: Anthropoligical horizons DS432.S5M65 2011

305.6⬘9460954

C2010-907473-4

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.

Contents

Acknowledgments

vii

Note on Identity Terms

Prologue

xi

3

1 Introduction: Jat Sikh Locations and the Bahu Ethnographer

7

2 Farming, Family and Faith: Elements of Jat Sikh Identity 47 3 Good Families: Marriage, Gender, and Middle-Class, Jat Community 87 4 Good Fortunes: Education, Class, and National Contingencies 112 5 Unities and Schisms in Jat Sikh Identity 136 6 The Rural Imaginary

173

7 A Wedding Phulkari and Other Gifts Epilogue Glossary Notes

216 221

229

Bibliography Index

287

267

207

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Acknowledgments

Many people have had a part in the production of this work. I must first thank the people on whom this study most depends, for it would not have been possible without the support of a broad Punjabi community, the members of which are too numerous to name individually, in Canada, India, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, and particularly in Ganganagar. My sincere thanks to everyone in each of these places who made me part of their family lives, took an interest in my work, and shared with me their particular understanding of Punjabi society. The members of my Jat Sikh saureh, both real and honorary, deserve special mention, and I especially thank several of my sisters-in-law for their great and cherished friendship. To share in the ongoing generosities and kindnesses of so many good families is truly a gift: mere dilon, saariyan da lakh lakh dhanwad. A number of people and academic institutions must be singled out. Stimulating graduate courses with Wsevelod Isajiw, Milton Israel, Richard Lee, and Michael Levin laid the foundations of the present work. I would also like to express my thanks here to Neil McMullin, who taught me religious studies for four years as an undergraduate and made it possible for me to imagine this study. In Delhi, conversations with Dipankar Gupta, J.P.S. Uberoi, Patricia Uberoi, and Ravinder Kaur helped me formulate (and reformulate) both my research topic and my approach to fieldwork. The advice, insight, intellectual companionship, friendship, and home away from home so warmly provided by Madhulika Banerjee and Yogendra Yadav is particularly cherished. I am thankful to Douglas Sechter for introducing me to Hindi (in the absence of official classes at my institution), and especially to Kulwinder for her instruction and assistance in Punjabi, and

viii Acknowledgments

Dildeep for his painstaking help with translations and much else. Three fellow thesis writers, Hilary Earl, Gillian McCann, and Carla Shapiro, provided a stimulating and safe environment for the completion of the dissertation on which this book is based; I am especially fortunate that my longstanding friendships with Gillian and Carla were deepened in intellectual and other ways in this process. As the doctoral dissertation on which this book is based was prepared and defended, the insightful questions raised by Michael Levin, my thesis supervisor, committee members Wsevelod Isajiw, Milton Israel, and David Turner, and Cynthia Mahmood, my external examiner, invaluably improved it, and indeed continue to challenge and provoke my research. I am very grateful to Michael Lambek for his invitation to turn that dissertation into this book, and to Anne Meneley for her advice on going about it. At the University of Toronto Press, the comments of three anonymous reviewers helped to strengthen my arguments while copy-editor Diane Mew helped to refine their expression, and I am especially appreciative of the patient commitment to the manuscript of editors Virgil Duff and Anne Laughlin. Several years of my research and writing were funded with the financial support of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program and the University of Toronto Fellowship program, while two University of Toronto Associates Fieldwork Travel Grants paid for my airfares to India. This book was substantially completed while I was McCain PostDoctoral Fellow at Mount Allison University and ultimately finished at the University of the Fraser Valley. The work at hand has profited over the past decade from discussions of some of its ideas and problems with a number of colleagues and friends, including Pauline Aucoin, Judith Doyle, Heather Howard, Jane Ku, Jill LeClair, Denise Nuttall, Amali Philips, Paramjit Rai, Janet Rubinoff, Deborah Simpson, Patricia Kelly Spurles, Emma Varley, and Donna Young. As well, I have been grateful at various junctures for the encouragement of Robert Adlam, Balbinder Bhogal, Janice Boddy, Sally Cole, Glynis George, Virinder Kalra, Ruth Mann, Hew McLeod, Arvind Mandair, Kirin Narayan, and Daphne Winland, among others. As I worked on final revisions, the book benefited from insightful exchanges with Satwinder Bains, Rajinder Dudrah, Van Dusenbery, Harjant Gill, Inderpal Grewal, Doris Jakobsh, Anne Murphy, Michael Nijhawan, Anjali Gera Roy, Gibb Schreffler, Ashveer Pal Singh, and Margaret Walton-Roberts, among other participants of the Diasporizing Punjab, Disorienting Bhangra workshop that I organized at the Centre for IndoCanadian Studies in 2010. It remains to note that Clarence McMullen

Acknowledgments

ix

– who is both a learned scholar, and by virtue of my friendship with his daughter, an honorary uncle – has generously shared his expertise on Punjab and Sikhs on numerous occasions, while T. Sher Singh and Jagpal Singh Tiwana have made valued comments on some of my writing and ideas. Any errors are of course my own. I must finally thank several people above all others. My natal family has given me their unfailing confidence and love through many years of study, while my parents-in-law greatly assisted me in, and were greatly committed to, the completion of this book. Most of all, my dear husband has displayed an unstinting devotion to this project – a fealty that I fear has been in numerous ways sacrificial for him – and was largely responsible for sharing with me the joys (and pains) of Jatpana, Punjabiyat, and Sikhi. This book is dedicated to him: tuhaada bahut dhanwaad, aavdi duniya, meri duniya banaun layee.

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Note on Identity Terms

In this book, ‘Punjabi’ refers to all persons commonly sharing the social and cultural traits that are associated with the Punjab region, and more especially, to persons who routinely speak the Punjabi language; this is the broadest of designations, and theoretically can refer to Hindus and Sikhs of any caste, as well as to Muslims and Christians, in or originating in both India and Pakistan. The term ‘Jat’ refers to all members of the Punjabi farming caste, although I use this term as a short form to refer to Jat Sikhs; this mimics local usages, which typically call attention to a person’s caste standing as Jat rather than their religious affiliation as Sikhs. ‘Jaat’ refers here to Hindu members of the farming caste, utilizing the local difference in the pronunciation of the two terms to distinguish between religious affiliations. Aroras – also referred to, locally and in the literature, as Khatris – are urban, merchant-caste Sikhs, and comprise a mixed-caste group which often intermarries with other merchants who practise Hinduism; Jats often refer to the community as bhaape, a term which marks their caste position as traders, or as Hindu Punjabis. On occasion, I use the term ‘Sikh’ alone to designate commonalities, typically religious, shared among the Jat and Arora Sikh communities. Whenever the term ‘Jat Sikh’ or its short-hand Jat are used, however, I not only distinguish Sikh from Hindu farmers, but I also mark these Sikhs as separate from Arora and other Sikh castes. A fuller exegesis of the core terminologies appears in chapter 2 in my discussion of the problem of Jat identity.

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They make divers kinds of true pleasures. For some they attribute to the soul and some to the body. To the soul they give intelligence and that delectation that cometh of the contemplation of truth. Hereunto is joined the pleasant remembrance of the good life past … Whosoever cometh thither to see the land, being excellent in any gift of wit, or through much and long journeying well experienced and seen in the knowledge of many countries … [her] they receive and entertain wondrous gently and lovingly. For they have delight to hear what is done in every land … Also, such things as are to be carried out of their land, they think it more wisdom to carry that gear forth themselves, than the other should come thither to fetch it, to the intent that they may better know the outlands on every side of them. Thomas More, Utopia

The men and women who came from the country to the cities did not need to be told what they had lost, any more than they needed to be told what they might struggle to gain in their new world. But then it mattered very much whether an experience of the country – in its whole reality, from a love of the land and its natural pleasures to the imposed pains of deprivation, heavy and low-paid labour, loss of work and place – was ranged for or against them, as they struggled to readjust. … The song of the land, the song of rural labour, the song of delight in the many forms of life with which we all share our physical world, is too important and too moving to be tamely given up, in an embittered betrayal, to the confident enemies of all significant and actual independence and renewal. Raymond Williams, The Country and the City

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Prologue

It is as important to understand the anthropologist’s position in writing as that which they outline therein for the ethnographic community in which they research. It is essential at the beginning of an ethnographic work to reflect on the motivations which inspired it, as well as the methods by which it was accomplished. I must state here explicitly that myself and ‘my other’ are intricately and intimately connected in this project. Although I had always planned a career in anthropology, it was not until shortly after my marriage to a Jat Sikh that I selected as my doctoral subject a comparison of museums and museology within a post-colonial framework in India and Canada. I had consciously designed this study in order to link my master’s work in museum studies to my doctoral work in anthropology, as well as in order to visit India to spend some time with my husband’s relatives and friends there (although he was not to accompany me until the last few months of my fieldwork). But within the first few months of my marriage I knew that the museum subject, although important, was not as compelling to me as were other topics. I had become fascinated with the Partition of 1947, and the questions it raised for pluralism, nationhood, and identity, as well as with the yawning gaps in scholarly understanding and popular memory of this profoundly traumatic period of South Asian history. I read with great interest the comparative plethora of materials that began to appear shortly before the fiftieth anniversary of Indian and Pakistani independence, and devoured whatever literary treatments of Partition I could find. Sadat Hasan Manto’s short story ‘Toba Tek Singh,’ about the bewildered Sikh asylum patient deposited at Partition in a no-man’s land between the two new nations, intrigued me as the metaphor seemed to have had ongoing relevance to the Sikh

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position in South Asia and the diaspora in the 1980s and 1990s. I found that the topic of Sikh identity amid Indian history indeed captivated me, perhaps because it rendered my academic interests in social histories, public memories, and formulations of identity in personally meaningful terms. I centred the proposal for my doctoral candidacy around an exploration of these concerns. My ethnographic interests, in conjunction with the commitments of my personal life, have in some ways taken on the impetus of a decolonizing project. While I do not propose that my work as daughter-inlaw ethnographer is inherently decolonizing, I suggest that reflections from this position bring attention to gendered post-colonial intersections of self and other, object and subject, empowered and marginalized, and the negotiations of these tensions in localized and everyday ways. Having been born and raised in England, it seemed that my own background, despite my family’s working-class, Irish-origined apparent non-complicity in British colonialism, would intersect that of my spouse and in-laws in multiple ways. I knew, for instance, that my father-in-law lived a short distance from where he had been born and lived as a child. He desparately wanted to visit his home again, but was prevented by the border, which had been imposed, in a typically Western colonialist way, with eminent apparent rationality and absolutely devastating results. At the same time, I was frequently regarded as the ‘Britisher’ daughter-in-law that my father-in-law’s father, a doctor in the British army and an Anglophile, would have been honoured and proud to have welcomed into the family had he been alive. Class was another matter still, for while my husband’s grandfathers and both parents had attended university, my kinsmen were labourers and skilled tradesmen, and I remain one of only a handful of cousins to attend university (and until today, the only woman). Thus, I ‘studied up’ (Nader 1972). Meanwhile, my husband had been wrenched from his familial and patrilineal centrality in my parents-in-law’s lives. As their only son, he had migrated from India during the Punjab crisis, having become during this period, like many other young Sikh men, a potential target of extrajudicial detainment, torture, and even death owing to his turban and beard. To his profound dismay, and that of his parents, he was only able to find work to support himself in Canada after untying his turban and cutting the thick long hair to which his mother, aunts, and sisters had lovingly attended for much of his childhood. The loss of his hair was connected to other Sikh difficulties. My husband’s happily

Prologue

5

envisioned future as an engineer serving the nation in the Indian civil services, living jointly with his parents for the remainder of their lives, had become a nightmare of political alienation and forced departure. Thus, a prolonged and unfilial separation from his parents is another matter of diasporic consternation. Since leaving India, there have been years of struggle to establish an alternate future abroad, perceptible anguish and not inconsiderable guilt at living apart from kith and kin, annual remembrances and commemorations of personal and collective trauma, attempts to create and maintain charhdi kalaa (an aspirational notion of good and rising spirits towards which Sikhs aim in their daily practice), and an ongoing interrogation of identity and belonging amid a fierce love-hate relationship in which India is a troubled and troublesome home. These experiences are alternately eviscerating reminders of the personal and religious traumas recently suffered by Sikhs and testament to the strength and succour of Sikh identity. The elements of this story are recognized and shared by many Sikhs. Yet even today, I cannot fully comprehend the emotional impacts of this situation, and in part, my anthropological project seeks a deeper understanding of the meanings of these traumatic histories in and against the everyday lives of Jat Sikh families, and the construction, contestation, and celebration of identity in and around these circumstances and concerns. Although my explicit object with this work is the question of Jat identity in urban and increasingly transnational contexts, I also hope to address some of the reasons behind Sikh claims to marginality. While several fine ethnographies (Axel 2001, Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995) have examined the militant Khalistani nationalism that developed among Punjabi and diasporic Sikhs in the 1970s and was greatly strengthened in the context of state terror in the 1980s, a good many Sikhs – my affines and friends included – are and were not Khalistanis. Thus I seek to understand alternative Sikh responses to state terror, as well as what it means to be Sikh, and in particular, Jat Sikh, outside of militant and nationalist frameworks. I write for the most part as an outsider, and interpret my experiences with Jats in the familiar terms of ethnographic research and method. However, the maintenance of objectivity which anthropology’s critical and self-reflexive current ethos now demands in ethnographic enterprises is perhaps particularly precarious here. While I have made strong attempts to overcome bias and suspend judgment, whether Euro- or Sikh-centric, this is not always easy in a context of profound attention to marginality and trauma. Sikhs manifest a deep awareness of col-

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lective historical misfortune, religio-political violence, socioeconomic peripheralization, human rights abuse, and genocide. It is occasionally a temptation to join in the immediate and impassioned responses that my Sikh family and friends at times have to ongoing political events, recollections of traumatic histories, misunderstandings of Sikhism in the media, and slights against Sikhs in everyday civic life. This project therefore cannot escape being at times positioned and political, for I am frequently confronted with narratives and situations of Sikh marginalization which after years of both fieldwork and family life can feel like personal affronts. Even were I not intimately related to the community, I would object to the frequent misrepresentations and marginalizations Sikhs suffer. To invoke the words of Veena Das, ‘What I offer here is profoundly shaped by my own biography – I want to state clearly that it is not more or less virtuous to be engaged in doing anthropology in this manner’ (2007: 210). While I privilege cultural relativity, and scholarly representation, analysis, and interpretation wherever possible, an entirely objective work is impossible in these (or indeed any) circumstances. Nevertheless, I hope that in testifying to some of the difficulties of being Jat and Sikh today I might have some small role in making understood and thus legitimizing, if not ameliorating, the contexts of these traumas. Of course, I also hope to suggest some of the joys that these identities bring to Jat Sikhs, in which I am happy and very privileged to share. This is a work of ethnography at home, and while the home is not my own (in any ethnic or primordial sense), it is of my own choosing. Many Jat Sikhs have created a home for me within their culture, and I do for the most part feel at home there. At the same time, this work explores the potential meanings of home amid the multiple contexts of displacement – territorial, political, economic, temporal, spatial and otherwise – that Jats Sikhs have experienced since colonial times. I offer this book, which recounts some of the dukh-sukh – painful and joyful, traumatic and sweet – moments in the lives of my Jat Sikh friends and relatives, as well as in my life among them, as a token of my enduring respect, gratitude, and affection.

1 Introduction: Jat Sikh Locations and the Bahu Ethnographer

This book is a study of identity-making in a community of Jat Sikhs. It describes some of the possibilities of community and belonging common among Jats amid the various influences of urbanization and transnationalism. While Jats have traditionally held a primordially rural identity as the farmers and landlords of the Punjab region of northwest India, a number of economic and political crises experienced over the past century continue to force Jats from their lands to take up urban lives in India, as well as to emigrate. In discussing processes and discourses of Jat Sikh identity-making, I describe a number of contradictions, tensions, and paradoxes in the formation and articulation of identity among an urban, middle-class Jat Sikh community in India. Among these are the continuance of caste practice despite Sikh egalitarianism; the coexistence of localized culture and values, relative regional wealth and global opportunity and yet a self-perception of being marginal; the bounded coherence of the Jat community despite internal difference regarding Sikh belief and practice; and the contradiction between this sense of separation and the links of class that transcend it. Diverse constructions and experiences of modernity are at the core of the contemporary identity project among urban middle-class Jats in India. At times classed, gendered, and religiously contested, urban Jat modernity puts forth visions of rural nostalgia at the same time as it imagines transnational dreams; each counters the marginalities that also advance from diverse participation in, internalization of, and objectification by, aspects of the modern project. The Jat identity is at its core a caste identity. Although Sikhs doctrinally and in many of their everyday practices reject the caste system, and many Jats are today urban and transnational, a notion of being Jat

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remains crucial to contemporary Jat life. This book explores two of the areas in which caste, as well as caste identity, are most crucial: marriage and occupation. Jats continue to arrange marriages within caste, and even love marriages are more likely to be caste-endogamous affairs. But contemporary Jat marriage also has thoroughly modern concerns, and as such it is enmeshed with constructions and emphases of class identity. Perhaps even more crucial to caste identity among Jats is an authocthonous notion of the community as farmers and landlords. This book thus also explores the possibilities for traditional notions of Jat identity when Jats are no longer living on the land. More specifically, the book examines everyday Jat life and identitymaking among middle class, educated, and professionally-employed Indian Jats with transnational family networks.1 Almost all of the families under discussion here, including the one into which I married and with whom I lived in India, extend laterally to include rural, urban, and transnational components. Jat social practices and the re-constructing of Jat identity thus occur between a series of rural, urban, and transnational locations. Complicated, globally-contextualized boundaries of local self, nation and state are negotiated in making the contemporary Jat identity. Reconfigurations of Jat identity amid the ongoing rural-urban transition are informed by global processes and practices of modernity even as an apparent body of tradition is reassessed and reconstituted. This work will describe how being Jat today incorporates complex affiliations with a mytho-historical Punjab, the fabled farmed land and agriculture of the region, as well as with a transnationally dispersed migrant kin. In my focus on Jats, I attempt to move beyond the emphasis on politicized religion in Punjabi identity and the inadvertent but problematic ‘exoticization’ of Sikhs as militants and terrorists that has been an apparently natural object of scholarship in this area since the invasion of the Golden Temple by the Indian army and the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 (e.g. Axel 2001, Gupta 1996, Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995, Tatla 1999). My focus on caste and its classed and religious complications as the central elements of ethnicity in the Jat Sikh case inverts and extends the more usual focus on religious identity. In so doing, I hope to avoid the focus on an exclusively Sikh affiliation I feel may have glossed over important local and regional contradictions in identity-making. My reading prior to fieldwork had convinced me that in border zones in particular, we cannot understand culture without understanding the

Introduction

9

cultural stuff of ethnicity, since language, religion, territory, and kinship are not only ethnic markers but the bearers of regional culture. Among Punjabis, it seemed that these elements rendered the contexts of ethnic self-identification complex, variable, and problematic. Caste, religion, kinship, and claims to language, territory, and history mutually intersect in forging particular local identities as Jat Sikhs, Hindu Jaats and Aroras, and so on, while each community in other contexts recognizes itself to also be Punjabi, a somewhat contested regional construction. Among the various Punjabi communities, Jats make the broadest and loudest claims to being at the heart of Punjabi traditions. In their landed attachments to the region, whether expressed in agricultural practices, rural nostalgias or Khalistani aspirations, Jat Sikhs are symbolic of the wider Indian nation’s understandings of the region. A circumstantial and mutually influential layering of ethnic affiliations exists among Jats. It is helpful to imagine Jat identity as a series of inter-nested spheres, which represent from outermost to innermost, the articulation and development of national, regional, and local distinctions. In the outermost sphere, representing India, Jats understand themselves as both Punjabis and Sikhs; in the second sphere, representing Punjab, Jats understand themselves, situationally, as either Sikhs or Jats; and in the third sphere, representing the Jat community, urbanity, education, and middle-class status distinguish some Jats from others. Beyond India, of course, are other spheres: differentially modern and transnational influences that inform and are at times claimed in Jat identity. Jats participate in these multiple spheres simultaneously, with both political and personal occurrences in each sphere affecting the cultivation and expression of identity in the others. People in the Jat community in which I worked had a fairly constant awareness of both Jat and Sikh elements in their identity, but at times, one or the other of these attachments predominated. In my observation, it was more often the case that the Jat identity was privileged over the Sikh identity. This is perhaps unsurprising as the Jats of my study are primarily involved in social rather than religious aspects of life, in keeping with their middle-class status. This situation, however, should not be understood as a creeping middle-class unorthodoxy or a failed attachment to Sikh doctrine; indeed, many Jats with whom I spoke continue to pray on an everyday basis, and to wear at least some of the physical symbols of Sikhism. Rather, we might most profitably understand these observations in relation to the social significance of being Jat. There are times when Jats are only Jat, without regard to Sikhism:

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when they are single-minded, self-sufficient, hardworking, uncompromising, or argumentative; when they exhibit confidence, exuberance, loyalty, bravery, boldness, bravado, foolhardiness, boastfulness, and humility; when they are in good humour and laughing over a Sardarji joke, drunk and faced with a fight, taking on the battles of others, living on or reminiscing over their land. These stereotypical – and certainly masculine – features of the Jat identity are socially reinforced by the accruing of izzat (honour) and status in the community through being and behaving Jat in these ways. Some of these self-claimed Jat traits are complementary and perhaps even contributory to Sikh values, although this interpretation of the Jat influence on Sikhism is a contentious one, as it emphasizes notions of caste difference in a doctrinally egalitarian setting, and more problematically, suggests a Jat claim to Sikhism that many Jats would be only too happy to defend. To the Jats of my study, the importance of their Jatpana, their being Jat, both rivals and complements that of their Sikhi, their being Sikh. Some of the Jats among whom I lived and worked voiced an uncertainty at my positioning them as ethnographic subjects, although not for the reasons that those versed in contemporary representational critiques of ethnography might expect. They were glad that I had gone to live with them, to learn about speaking and being Punjabi, and especially to learn about being a bahu (daughter-in-law). However, they did not consider their modern life in the city an authentic matter for academic scrutiny. Jats in Ganganagar, the city in which I lived in India, frequently told me to go to the villages, where they assured me I would find what they considered the real and authentic Punjabi culture worthy of my study. I had been in Ganganagar for scarcely a month, and was beginning to get an initial sense of the local construction of community during the 1998 Lok Sabha2 elections when Jasleen Brar3 remarked to me: We have a more interesting democracy than you do, because of caste. Everyone in India votes for their caste-fellow. We do everything in caste, vote, marry, conduct business. Of course urban educated Indians are a different lot, we vote and so forth on different principles. But the people in villages, huge numbers of them, they are predictable. That is the true India, village India. Seventy percent of Indians still live there, in this way.

Urban, well educated, and at a generational remove from village life, Jasleen nonetheless, feels a profound affinity for the rural attachments

Introduction

11

historically associated with Punjabi village life. At the same time, he portrays an apparent disassociation from the values and traditions of that rural life. He articulates an awareness of the privilege of his urban, middle-class social position and possibly also a measure of discomfort at finding himself in such relatively fortunate circumstances, and even an alienation from what he considers authentic cultural forms. Jasleen’s words suggest the complexity of the urban middle-class Jat identity, intricately entangled with various complicated and at times disputed notions of history, tradition, kinship, gender, privilege, progress, place, nation, and modernity. His remark, like many ranging narratives that were to come, articulated a boundary between modern Jat life in the city and the traditions marking life in the villages as the locus of authentic India, and more particularly Punjab. I eventually came to see these assertions of the inauthenticity of Jat urban lives as a means of marking a nostalgia – or of signifying a deep, immediate, and emotionally gratifying lived memory – for the caste-based, agricultural life whose practices and beliefs urban Jats consider to be more genuinely a measure of the Jat self. This study thus constitutes in large part an inquiry into what it means to be Jat in the Indian city. Although I went to India to learn about Sikh ethnic identity, the present work has taken a circuitous route. I was initially interested in how ethnicity might be revealed and reflected in inter-ethnic family relations and, more specifically, in intermarriage patterns. A cursory glance at the colonial literature4 on Punjab tells us that Sikhs were considered a sub-grouping of Hindus, and often interpreted as the military wing of the pacifist Hindu community. A singular Punjabi community was noted to be implicated in cultural practices which fostered and maintained a shared identity, namely Sikh intermarriage with Hindus, and in the purportedly common practice of Hindu families raising one son as a Sikh.5 I suspected that these longstanding practices would have declined measurably throughout the period since India’s independence. The Partition is a crucial moment in which the modern ethnic configurations of Punjab were introduced: although Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs fell on the same side in the division between India and Pakistan, both being politically and demographically poised in opposition to Muslims, the identities, collective affiliations, and political fates of each community were proven separate in these events, and in the end unbridgeable. Partition thus marks an important point of departure between Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. Further to this, I expected to find that the events of 1984,6 which further polarized the two primary reli-

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

gious communities of Indian Punjab, would have brought intra-familial inter-religious practices almost to a standstill. When I arrived in India at the beginning of 1998, I was told by several elderly Punjabis that these practices no longer existed, and that even when they had existed prior to independence, they were only prevalent in a highly caste-specific and geographically discrete area – that is, among the Khatris and Aroras of Peshawar and Rawalpindi, cities in the northern area of what is now Pakistan. I was told that the relative geographic isolation of this custom limited the ability of refugee families who had lost many of their social networks to continue with it; matrimonial advertisements in newspapers now secured many Khatri and Arora matches, and these almost invariably demanded caste-endogamous partners. Certainly the remnants of such intermarried families of yore could be found, but it was doubtful whether they could teach me anything of the contemporary construction of Punjabi ethnicity. Interestingly, my Jat informants theorized that these previous affines, both Hindu and Sikh, had developed sharper senses of self after Partition and no longer wished to intermarry. Nevertheless, it seemed that colonial observations of Sikhs and their marriages had focused on those castes in urban occupations that Jats consider significantly different from themselves. I was repeatedly assured by the Jats with whom I had most contact that their community had never engaged in intermarriages with Hindus. The Jats with whom I spoke hinted at their separate and bounded sphere of social identity, and perhaps too at feelings about its superiority.7 I spent the following few months engaged in participant observation, in an attempt to salvage a study of Punjabi ethnicity based in contemporary experiences of Jat identity. At the same time, I found that the more time I spent in India, the more the behaviours appropriate to a daughter-in-law (bahu or nuh) were impressed upon me, and it was made clear that the normal modes of anthropological fieldwork, which demanded travel beyond the immediate neighbourhood, and which, moreover, might require travelling or working alone or in the presence of unrelated men, were inappropriate for me to take on. Among Jats in particular, uncertainty over urban living exaggerates these concerns. These activities are simply impermissable for Punjabi daughters-in-law living at their saureh (in-law’s home). Like Abu-Lughod (1986), I was to find that the restrictions imposed by my kinship status permitted a greater depth of study within the family itself. During a break from fieldwork, I decided to focus my study on Punjabi gender relations and constructions which could respectably be

Introduction

13

studied from my position within the family, and I declared as much to them; happily, they seemed to find this a more appropriate topic. I also came to a momentous personal decision: I would take on the role of daughter-in-law with the modesty and respect expected of the role whenever I felt able, or more specifically, whenever the compromise required did not seem too great. In Punjabi terms, I decided to attempt to ‘adjust with’ my in-laws.8 A bahu gains rapport with her affines, their trust and respect, by lovingly performing the duties incumbent to her role, however personally difficult she may find them. My parents-inlaw’s pride, and their assistance in my work, visibly grew as I took on the expected behaviours of a daughter-in-law in adjunct to my research. While attempting to adjust to being a daughter-in-law in a Punjabi family, I gathered information on a variety of subjects related to family and community life, hoping to still formulate some commentary on contemporary Jat identity. Among Punjabis at large, modernity seemed to be expressed in the social values attached to education, professional employment, and migration, and these values guided family relations and the forming of new family alliances through marriage. In addition, the global reach of local Jat families seemed to be another matter for Jat pride and practices of identification, which were often noticeably deterritorialized and even transnational. What was becoming a study of gender began to metamorphose yet again when I began to note that my in-laws and others to whom we were socially connected prided themselves on the modern nature of their city lives while valorizing their home villages. Yet none of them could explain to me, in a way that corresponded with the knowledge of the expression of transnational Jat identity that I had brought from Canada, what it meant to them to be Jat. I came to realize that urban Jat nostalgias challenge both rural authenticities and processes of modernization, rendering the experience of modernity ambiguous and uncertain. The work has thus in the final analysis once again become a consideration of Jat identity, specifically examining the urban middle-class context of Jat ethnicity, and the construction and contestation of Jat notions of modernity, amid processes of urban and transnational movement. Ethnicity and Identity As a community inhabiting what is – and has historically been – a borderland, Sikhs have been both subject to and objects of ongoing boundary-making processes and struggles over group identity and affiliation.

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These are both internally constructed and externally imposed, and at significant times have resulted in violence. Sikhs can be understood both as an ethnic group and as a nation, although not all Sikhs are nationalists; nevertheless, divergent notions of Sikh panth (religious community) and qaum (religio-political nationhood) both proffer religiously privileged imaginings of community. Khalistani nationalism, which arguably constructs a religiously primordial, nostalgic, and utopian Sikh national vision of Punjab in its formulation of the qaum, must compete with other envisionings of polity and sovereignty, however. Among the urban middle-class Jats of this book, Khalistan is scarcely mentioned and rarely supported. Indeed, many Sikhs with whom I have spoken fear what they envision as Khalistani orthodoxy, hegemony, and supremacy, and prefer instead to project their identity attachments onto the construction of rural nostalgias and transnational dreams. As Khalistan is not a generalized notion on which a Sikh consensus exists, and moreover because the Sikh community is potentially divided by caste, class, gender, and location and thus is internally diverse, competition over the construction of ethnic identities, national imaginings, and notions of idealized polity occurs among and between Sikhs and not simply between coherent bodies of Sikhs and Indian others. Here, I briefly examine the theorization of ethnic and national identities in their Indian and ethnographic contexts. Theorizations of ethnicity and nation are firmly linked in the notion of identity and in the concept of boundary. Ethnic identities typically precede national ones; indeed, they may exist in the absence of nations, which are developed in response to politicized – and politically mobilized – senses of boundary and thus ethnic aspiration. Brass argues that the nation ‘may be seen as a particular type of ethnic community or, rather, as an ethnic community politicized, with recognized group rights in the political system. Nations may be created by the transformation of an ethnic group into a self-conscious political identity or by the amalgamation of diverse groups and the formation of an inter-ethnic, composite or homogeneous national culture through the agency of the modern state’ (1991: 20). The political, ideological, and military assertion of boundaries is essential to the nation, which administers these through the apparatus of the state. While ethnicity is also concerned with boundaries, and indeed ‘arguing that a large and dominant population in a society is or is not an ethnic group is a political-moral position as well as an intellectual one’ (Yinger 1994: 7), ethnic boundaries are described as being somehow less precise. For instance, Gellner has

Introduction

15

defined ethnicity as ‘the condition that prevails when many … boundaries converge and overlap, so that the boundaries of conversation, easy commensality, shared pastimes, etc., are the same, and when the community of people delimited by these boundaries is endowed with an ethnonym, and is suffused with powerful feelings’ (1994: 35). Tambiah suggests that ethnic boundaries develop and coalesce around ‘a selfconscious and vocalized identity that substantializes and naturalizes one or more attributes – the usual ones being skin color, language, religion, territorial occupation – and attaches them to collectivities as their innate possession and their mytho-historical legacy’ (1989: 335). In the nineteenth century, Tönnies (1882 [1957]) described what have come to be understood as the differences between ethnicity and nation, using the concepts of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. Tönnies characterizes gemeinschaft as ‘real and organic life … community,’ implying a primordialism that is often seen as ethnic, while the ‘imaginary and mechanical structure’ of society that Tönnies outlines in his conceptualization of gesellschaft has obvious links to the concept of nation. However, the nation is not without primordial import; indeed, many nations indulge notions of primordial relationships between nation and citizenship, as well as among and between citizens. While Tönnies separated the primordial and the instrumental, Renan declared that a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which are really one, go to make up this … one … lies in the past, the other in the present. The one is the possession in common of a rich heritage of memories; and the other is actual agreement, the desire to live together, and the will to continue to make the most of the joint inheritance. (1882 [1996]: 47)

Indeed, the construction and expression of nationalism is particularly prone to primordialism: ‘in nationalist doctrine, language, race, culture, and … religion, constitute different aspects of the same primordial entity, the nation’ (Kedourie 1993: 67). According to Gellner (1983: 1), nations and nationalism rely on contiguous ethnicity, demanding ‘a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones.’ While ‘ethnic solidarities and identities are claimed most often where groups do not seek “national” autonomy but rather a recognition internal to or cross-cutting national or state boundaries,’ ethnic affiliations can become nationalist positions in response to primordially deployed elements: for instance, the development of national mytho-historical legacies to ideologically support claims to the

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

nation are key to ethnic aspirations to nationhood (Calhoun 1993: 235). In nations comprised of more than one ethnic group, notions of democracy may be deployed to override ethnic considerations, whether by unanimity in a pluralist consensus, or by force. In India, the Jat Sikh ethnie – which continues, periodically, to voice nationalist aspirations – has been overcome by both means at different historical junctures. Notions of democracy also foil Sikh nationalism: Khalistani interests would fail to win the nation’s ‘daily plebiscite’ (Renan 1882 [1996]: 49) among Sikhs – not to mention Punjab’s not insignificant Hindu population – and thus Khalistan could not be a democratic entity founded in the mutual agreement of citizens. Although nations may mobilize primordial sentiment, they are not primordial entities. Anderson’s constructivist argument that nations are ‘imagined communities’ whose shared sovereign consciousness is constituted in the act of reading is important in this regard (1983 [1991]). Anderson proposes that nations are comprised of linguistic communities who imagine themselves part of national collectivities in relation to the communicative technologies of ‘print capitalism,’ simultaneously having access to printed media written in a shared vernacular language. In his view, the experience of colonialism, particularly the role of educational and administrative ‘pilgrimages’ of indigenous functionaries amid the centres and margins of empire, and the inherent tensions around vernacular and colonial languages and their readers and speakers within colonial administrations, are key in the creation and deployment of nationalisms. While Anderson states that vernacular language is a primordial element of the nation (and that nations share features with primordial entities such as kinship and religion), the particular languages of popular or vernacular nationalism are not nearly as important to the development of nations as the imagined national solidarities created and sustained in the shared symbologies of (print) language. That is, the nation is a political community imagined, constructed, in language. Despite post-colonial critiques of Anderson’s argument, which question what remains for post-colonial nations to imagine amid the Euro-American political models that circulate in the aftermaths of empire (Chatterjee 1993), the constructivist paradigm encapsulated in his work continues to be both influential and useful. Education is firmly connected to the structures and institutions of modernity and the modern state (Althusser 1970, Durkheim 1956, Foucault 1977, Giddens 1990), and is centrally important to the creation and expression of the nation (Anderson 1983 [1991], Gellner 1983, 1994, Srivastava 1998) and thus identity. Schools are sites of hegemonic social

Introduction

17

reproduction (Bourdieu and Passeron 1990) and ‘intense cultural politics’ (Levinson and Holland 1996) in which national educational projects produce particular forms of citizenship and subjectivity according to national goals and values. Schooling may also produce notions of difference; for example, the Indian nationalist movement was intricately tied to elite schooling (Jayaram 1990, Srivastava 1998), and elite education in English continues to produce post-colonial national identity as well as secular, national, and urban Indian modernity. The process of becoming, educated thus influences ethnicity by constructing particular forms of affiliation, distinction, valuation, and consciousness: education becomes a feature of the social identity (Gellner 1994). Like language, religion is an important element of the construction of identity in South Asia, it marks ethnicity by providing a symbolic venue for the imagining of community. The South Asian scenario thus does not conform to the assertion (e.g. Anderson 1983 [1991], Renan 1882 [1996]) that modern nationalism replaces religious ideologies and modes of governance, as religion and politics become differentiated into separate phenomena in such a way that individuals may generally ascribe to both identities without problems of incompatibility.9 However, where religion is not replaced by nationalism, these matrices of identity may compete for affiliates. This is particularly the case when their respective goals are not compatible, and one struggles to displace the other. Embree (1990: 14) states that religion and nationalism … intersect in the nature and function of leadership, in the construction of ideologies of transition, and in utopian visions. All three aspects of religious and nationalist movements have built into their structures not just the potentialities for conflict but, one is tempted to say, the necessity of conflict.

Because they operate in similar ways, and hope to claim many of the same adherents, nationalist ideologies and religions may complement each other or compete. In India, religion and nationalism often coincide in making their respective claims to social identity for both Hindu and Khalistani nationalists, while such nationalism challenges religious identifications for many other Sikhs. It has been suggested by historian Anil Seal (1973) that pan-Indian nationalism developed in direct response to the British imperial presence of the nineteenth century: the colonial government’s administrative need to manage India as a single ‘indivisible’ entity created the perception of India, among Indians, as a single, unified nation. The

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

political structures developed in colonial nationalist India also corresponded to the organization of the raj: ‘imperialism built a system which interlocked its rule in locality, province and nation; nationalism emerged as a matching structure of politics’ (1973: 347). In this analysis, then, local and regional identities are subsumed within national ones. But by the early 1940s, Seal (1973: 344) states, ‘politicians claimed to be custodians of all the sets of interests crammed into the Pandora’s boxes of the Congress and the League.’ India’s post-colonial history does not demonstrate the continued primary and superior importance of the nation in prioritizing personal affiliations, yet it remains an inescapable element of post-colonial politics. This importance may be found evident in Gupta’s (1990) suggestion that implicit in post-colonial India’s political structure is a dialectical relationship between the nation’s centre and its regional concerns. From this perspective, a Sikh political agenda, like other regional or minority demands in India, is a requisite, if problematic, component of the national political structure. According to Chatterjee (1993: 15), ‘the very centrality of Indian history’ forces a distinction between ‘“national” and “regional” histories,’ and it is this ‘very singularity of the idea of a national history of India which divides Indians from one another.’ Regional and particularly religious movements challenge Indian nationalist politics in ways that themselves may be considered nationalist; the constitutional assertion that India is a secular nation belies the huge importance of religious affiliation and practice in the lives of most citizens, as well as the inescapable interaction of religion and politics in the national sphere: ‘secularism is a much-used and amorphous word in India, a legacy of the pre-1947 nationalist movement, and its interpretation is a continuous factor in the function of religion in relation to politics’ (Embree 1989: 193). In South Asian historiographies, religious histories are comprised of particular memories and mythologies through which identity and difference from other religious communities is established. In their religious and regional politics, Sikhs rely greatly upon the invocation of a particular historical vision that is also the hallmark of making national claims on the future. Popular recountings of Sikh history emphasize both national glories and the traumas of national minoritization, and it is from this mix that both Khalistani and non-nationalist Sikh positions derive. However, as Sikh ethnic, religious, and regional political goals often appear to coincide rather neatly, their position is frequently interpreted in nationalist terms.

Introduction

19

Besides language and religion, race, ancestry, tradition, and region are other ethnic markers that vie for primary (and primordial) status in the assertion of identities. Each assumes varying degrees of importance in tracing various ethnic and national affiliations, although usually one of these attributes will assume greater importance than the others within specific situations. But all of these features are enacted within the greater social realm of political, economic, and historical circumstance; thus all ethnic and national identities are created and negotiated in the light of social context. This complex process is further complicated by the reality that these markers only rarely coincide in ethnically homogeneous nations. When such primordial ethnic traits are identified in heterogeneous nations, the potential for ethnic conflict exists, particularly between majority and minority groups. Geertz (1963) asserts that the post-colonial nations are especially prone to ethnic struggles, and argues the need for new national governments to integrate ethnic affiliations into the national identity. Tambiah (1989: 342–43), however, has declared the failure of Geertz’s ‘integrative revolution.’ He argues convincingly that economic and social inequities have become entrenched in the post-colonial period and coalesce to overcome the integrative equation of ethnic and national solidarities so that ethnicity has become the location of the majority of national struggles. Ethnic boundaries are malleable and ethnicity can thus be deployed to address grievances and marginalizations. A central tension in the consideration of ethnicity centres on whether ethnicities are essential and primordial entities, expressing real and objective cultural difference between social groups (e.g. Geertz 1963, Isaacs 1975, Tambiah 1989), or whether these notions are social constructs (e.g. Anderson 1983 [1991], Barth 1969, Cohen 1985). What makes this debate particularly problematic is that while, in theoretical terms, social identities can be demonstrated as articulating imagined collective bonds, the expression of these same identities invokes primordial associations, which may be taken as authentic among the people that express them. So, although the ethnographer may interpret Jat identity as social construction, for Jats, identity is very much a lived, experienced, and emotive reality. Ethnicity is both fluid and fixed, with neither approach excluding the other: as agents active in interpreting their selfhood and demanding social recognition of the same, ethnic ‘actors themselves … [also] speak as if ethnic boundaries are clear cut and defined for all time’ (Tambiah 1989: 335).

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

The classical formulation of the primordialist understanding of ethnicity is as organic entity. Barth (1969: 10–11), as a prelude to his critique of this approach, outlines Narroll’s definition of ethnicity, which 1. is largely biologically self-perpetuating, 2. shares fundamental cultural values, realized in overt unity in cultural forms, 3. makes up a field of communication and interaction, 4. has a membership which identifies itself, and is identified by others, as constituting a category distinguishable from other categories of the same order.

In this perspective, ethnicity is comprised as a series of personal and affective attachments and affiliations which are, as Isaacs (1975) remarks, deeply held. Geertz (1963: 112–13) outlined several primordial features of identity – assumed blood ties/quasi-kinship, race, language, region, custom, and religion – that might be mobilized to assert claims above all others, and might thus become the basis for a national politics. Taken on its own, primordialism is an essentialist understanding of identity: ‘one is bound to one’s kinsman, one’s neighbour, one’s fellow believer, ipso facto, as the result not merely of personal affectation, practical necessity, common interest, or incurred obligation, but at least in part by virtue of some unaccountable absolute import attributed to the very tie itself’ (Geertz 1963: 109). This understanding is critiqued in a much-cited essay by Barth (1969), who argues that strategies of boundary-maintenance create ethnicity as a matter of ascriptive exclusivity within particular ethnic groups. In this understanding, ethnicity is self-articulated in essentialist terms through which boundaries from proximal others are expressed and enforced. This boundary may be social as well as territorial. Barth (2000) suggests that where concepts of territoriality are not indigenous – and I would add, even where they are – social bonds and taboos rather than physical boundaries may encapsulate group identity. Barth’s work suggests that ethnicity be understood as a social construction, recognizing the social complexity of identity formation and boundary-making beyond the simple assertion of primordial ties. Indeed, the primordial elements of culture claimed by ethnic groups may themselves be constructed (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983, Rudolph and Rudolph 1967). Often, too, ethnicity has a situational component,10 such that processes of boundary construction are ongoing (Barth 1969, Horowitz 1975), and claims made on ethnic grounds are flexible, contextual, shifting, and potentially volatile (Nagata 1974). Situational ethnicity ‘emerges when links

Introduction

21

are made between people based on common places of origin, or particular patronyms, only to be screened out when an alternative, (albeit sometimes overlapping) set of connections is mobilised in terms, for instance, of occupational histories or individual mobility’ (Edwards 1998: 163). Ethnicity in this sense is constructed in political and historic myth-making, produced and manipulated by elites for economic and political advantage (Brass 1985). Conceptually, then, ethnicity may be characterized by the interpenetration of constructions (dynamic and processual entities subject to constant flux in the mediation of identity) and primordialisms (expressions and assertions of identity fixed in social facts and cultural certainties). In this milieu, modernities and globalisms may invoke particularly transient and transformative identities, as Shami’s concept of ‘identities in motion’ suggests: ‘changing trajectories of migration, memory and imagination’ render identity a matter of flux (Shami 2001: 221). Lovell (1998: 1) has noted that the exploration of how notions of belonging, localities and identities are constructed seems particularly relevant in current political contexts of ‘globalisation,’ where the interface between localised understandings of belonging, locality and identity often seem to conflict with wider national and international political, economic and social interests.

While there may be an appearance of fixity in these decentred and displaced identity formations, and people may long for such certainties, even the apparent stabilities that we see are, under close examination, usually our devices for handling objects characterized by motion. The greatest of these apparently stable objects is the nation-state, which is today frequently characterized by floating populations, transnational politics within national borders, and mobile configurations of technology and expertise. (Appadurai 2001: 5)

Indeed, notions of local cultures and localities are locally and ethnographically challenged as culture is increasingly understood as deterritorialized (Appadurai 1996) and interstitial (Fog Olwig and Hastrup 1997); localities are not fixed, but emerge in engagements with broader issues (Gupta and Ferguson 1992, 1997a, 1997c, 1997d, Tsing 1993). Amid these contexts, identities emerge in part ‘as a compromise between a

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mix of elements of resistance to incorporation into a larger whole and of elements of accommodation to this larger order’ (Marcus 1992: 313). Although identity is recognized to be negotiable and fluid, ‘neither the progress of modern “rationality” nor the shape-shifting of postmodernism’s celebration of infinite difference’ have yet ‘undermined the power of ethnicity and national identity to move people and to shape their lives’ (Jenkins 2002: 117). Ethnic groups may define themselves ‘in terms of objective attributes, with reference to subjective feelings, and in relation to behaviour’ (Brass 1991: 18), and while each of these aspects is created in response to the particularities of circumstance, each element is also to some extent primordial in its enactment. The ‘deeply held’ (Isaacs 1975) attachments of ethnicity are thus important to understand. While contemporary ethnography, in recognition of postmodern transformations and diasporic mobilities, is duly engaged in deconstructing earlier primordialist notions of sitedness, rootedness, and locality (Gupta and Ferguson 1997a), struggles ‘to define the local, as distinctive community, in historical contexts of displacement’ (Clifford 1994: 308) are ongoing. Indeed, although much contemporary ethnography challenges unchanging notions of identity and authenticity by focusing on transnational and globalized modernities (e.g. Appadurai 1990, Clifford 1997, Hannerz 1996, Ong 1997), to many people’s variously displaced amid diaspora, or by the structures of global capital, a sense of authentic – and frequently emplaced – identity remains important. Our ethnographic subjects, as well as ourselves, most frequently experience identity in essential and emotionally-fulfilling primordial ways (Fog Olwig and Hastrup 1997, Lovell 1998). Although in theoretical abstraction it is clear that primordial identities are constructions ‘many people, in many situations, fervently believe’ (Jenkins 2002: 127) in their primordial selves and act upon primordial emotions, attachments, and affectations. Nor do instrumental or circumstantial views of ethnicity mediate the contradictions of constructivism and primordialism. While to Barth (1969), changes in socioeconomic and other cultural circumstances signaled changes in ethnic self-ascription, more recent works have suggested that primordial ethnicity is more than a simple matter of affiliation (e.g. Appadurai 1999; Gil-White 1999; Glick-Schiller 2005). To the ethnic subject – the ethnographic object – identity is not vague, fluctuating or imaginary. Indeed, the predicted homogenization of cultures under the influence of globalization does not pre-empt and may even encourage primordialism: ‘as large populations occupy complex social spaces and as primary cultural features (clothing, speech styles,

Introduction

23

residential patterns) are recognized to be poor indicators of ethnicity, there tends to be a steady growth in the search for “inner” or “concealed” signs of a person’s “real” identity’ (Appadurai 1999: 320). The unmooring of self in the face of global others encourages a desire for new moorings. New boundaries foster concern with ethnic purity, which in turn encourages the formalization of these boundaries despite the difficulty in establishing authoritative definitions of authentic identity (Appadurai 1999, Malkki 1997). In this preoccupation with boundaries, it has been noted that ‘ethnicity is often accompanied by hostility toward outgroups’ (Horowitz 1985: 7), and we are warned that the explosion of ethnic conflicts in the global setting is characteristic of a resurgence of primordial identities (Tambiah 1989). The force of primordialism cannot, therefore, be discounted. Cohen (2000: 5) has stated that while people may not be clear about the conditions of authenticity with respect to their identities … it is clear that identity (however inexplicit), boundary (however elusive and nebulous) and authenticity (however contested and contestable) are matters in which people invest huge value. This now seems so obvious that the statement risks redundancy. But it has taken us many years to overcome a conventional view of these issues in social science as matters of tactic and strategy; as vacuous masks, changeable almost at will.

The assertion of what are taken to be primordial features in group definition cannot be easily set aside. The emotional power of primordialism appeals to an eternity of ethnicity, identity (and nation) spanning continuously the remembrance and reinvention of ancient pasts to the aspirational longings towards collective futures that can be glimpsed in and guaranteed through present-day constructions of primordial identity; it may be precisely this pretence to infinity (Jenkins 2002) in primordial identities that makes them so compelling. Ethnographers understand that identity is a relation of difference and change (Gupta and Ferguson 1997a: 20), but the differences and boundaries expressed by the people among whom we work are often articulated and practised as if fixed for all time. Nevertheless, ethnic identifications can readily be demonstrated as social constructs. This suggests the importance of deconstructing primordialisms. Such a perspective has informed recent perceptive works on Sikh nationalism by Axel and Mahmood. Mahmood observes that while Western scholars such as Gellner and

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Hobsbawm ‘view nationalism as an essentially outmoded philosophy in an increasingly interconnected world,’ and despite the evidence that ‘these ways of thinking sound progressive in the circles of Western intelligentsia,’ they ‘carry a very different message for people who have developed nationalist aspirations today as a means of acquiring the recognition they are denied in the liberal states in which they find themselves’ (1996: 245). Meanwhile, Axel suggests that constructivism ‘does not adequately account for the homeland as a relational phenomenon inflected by prevailing historical, social and material conditions’ (2001: 215). Deconstructivist approaches, which permit the primordially-felt and practised nature of the normative social and cultural features in which constructed affiliations and identities are located and through which they are produced, thus are helpful in understanding Sikh positionings amid plurality, marginality, diaspora, and modernity. For Jat Sikhs, ethnicity is expressed and experienced in a number of ways. The expression of ethnicity in the social life of the family and the local community is important: the family encultures the individual, providing a social identity expressed in community settings, and a corollary moral code that is validated and enforced therein. As well, modern forms of education are important to urban, middle-class Jat identities. Jats also articulate senses of self through and around notions of myth and history; Jat Sikh history variously accepts, intersects, challenges, resists, and subverts national narratives and historiographies. Jats affect primordial stances in describing their community, although some of these claims may be demonstrated as historically contingent.11 As Punjabi peasants with demonstrated notions of land and property ownership, and moreover a mythologized history of sovereignty, Jats have conceptualized boundaries about themselves as a territorialized people that owing to their specific situational history within the Indian nation they presently have no means of realizing. Moreover, the ascriptive caste boundary of Jats as farmers no longer holds true, although Jat primordialism is arguably recreated in the contemporary urban setting. Jat ethnicity responds to regional, national, and transnational social, economic, political, and development influences, and in so doing constructs locally meaningful imaginings – and resistances – of modernity. Modernity It is now commonplace that modernity is an object of ethnographic inquiry. As a general term, modernity refers to the condition of human

Introduction

25

life in the contemporary world, and is thus associated with a number of broad social constructs, issues, and intellectual pursuits, including colonialism and post-coloniality; the nation, and formations of nationalism, secularism, democracy, and the state; Westernization, development, and globalization; capitalism, materialism, and consumerism; and social, scientific, and technical development, including the importance of scientific rationalities to what is defined as knowledge, as well as processes of industrialization, urbanization, and education, and the proliferation of media. Modernity also refers to a particular phase in human history in which social, temporal, and spatial relationships are reconfigured. It is ‘a historically unprecedented amalgam … of new ways of living … and of new forms of malaise’ (Taylor 2002: 91). An anthropological formulation of modernity, relating the condition to processes of social change and notions of place, locality and identity, is provided by Rofel: ‘modernity persists as an imaginary and continuously shifting site of global/local claims, commitments, and knowledge, forged within uneven dialogues about the place of those who move in and out of categories of otherness’ (1999: 3). At the same time, society becomes increasingly individualized – as well as purportedly secularized – in modern contexts, so that both relationships and identities become fragmented, if not autonomous (Berman 1970), and also subject to reflexive self-creation (Giddens 1991). As well, newly conscious of time, moderns have at their disposal transportation and communications technologies that condense both time and space (Baumann 2000, Harvey 1990). Modernity is a disorienting and fragmented experience. In Berman’s evocative words: ‘to be modern … is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one’s world and oneself in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction’ (1988: 345). Intellectual concern with the radical transformations associated with the new age that is modernity has a deep history in the social sciences, dating back to the classic sociological works of Durkheim, Marx, Simmel, and Weber. While there is something of a broad tendency to approach modernity in terms of its separate constituent components, anthropologists approach modernity holistically. Among the ethnographic aims in examining modernity is to understand the impacts of its globalized processes of social change in particular locales and on local peoples. A number of social theorists have approached modernity with metaphors from the physical sciences, characterizing its diverse elements as variously as solid, liquid, and air. According to Berman (1988: 89),

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Marx originally formulated a materialist notion of modern bourgeouis society in which ‘all that is solid melts into air.’ More recently, Baumann’s concept of liquid modernity explains the global mobility of modernity through a metaphor of fluidity: ‘fluids travel easily. They “flow,” “spill,” “run out,” “splash,” “pour over,” “leak,” “flood,” “spray,” “slip,” “seep,” “ooze” … they are not easily stopped’ (2000: 2). These poetics give some sense of the heterogeneity of modernity that is argued by anthropologists. They also imply now predictable, then mercurial, social changes within particular communities as they are exposed to, incorporate, manipulate, consume, critique, adopt, and reject elements of global modernity, and create and become embedded in its diverse localized forms. Slippery, unsettling, and evasive, liquid modernity alters through alchemy, osmosis, and erosion our notions of place, time, the individual, family, community, work, and consumption, as well as understandings of the nature of capitalism, power, and conflict, and has still other meanings when we consider its colonial and post-colonial contexts. The global deployment of modernity is inherently implicated in colonialism and thus within a particular Western historical, political, economic, and military framework. Although modernity seeks to free ‘human reason … from particular traditions’ (Mitchell 2000: xi), and ‘technological power … from the constraints of the natural world,’ some of the central ways in which modernity is projected throughout the world involve particular forms and technologies of power, governance, domination, and hegemony which impose the interests of Western capital and exclude other modes of living. Thus modernity’s status as a teleological, universalizing grand narrative comes under question. Modernity is not a verifiable object nor a rational condition free of discrepancies and incoherences; rather, it is a totalizing project that seeks to establish Western sensibilities and ideals such as secularism (Asad 2003: 12). Pre-modern communal social features such as religion supposedly have scant place in modern regimes, which emphasize what Foucault has called the cult of the self, except in those uniquely Western and purportedly liberal religions which permit the separation of ‘law and morality,’ or state and church (Asad 2003: 183). Amid these regimens of power and disempowerment, modernity is far from uniformly established in the world. Venn, for instance, reminds us that the persistence of ethnic conflict (and cleansing), the failure to arrest both poverty and capitalism in the name of development, and ongoing environmental degradation have ‘derailed the lofty ambi-

Introduction

27

tions of the project’ (2000: 6). Indeed, some scholars have challenged the tenet that modernity is the fundamental characteristic of contemporary social life. For instance, Latour (1991 [1993]) has argued that the notion of modernity as based in Enlightenment principles of scientific rationality depends on a dualistic framework that is untenable in its separation of humanity from non-human elements of the world, or in anthropological terms, of culture from nature; for him, the continued importance of social, religious, political, economic and other discursive elements in ‘modern’ science mean that ‘No one has ever been modern. Modernity has never begun. There has never been a modern world’ (1991 [1993]: 47). Putting attempts to define modernity aside, its trajectory and proofs are nevertheless widely observed and debated. Giddens (1990: 3) has remarked that ‘rather than entering a period of post-modernity, we are moving into one in which the consequences of modernity are becoming more radicalised and universalised than before.’ Although scientific positivism, grand historical narratives, and trajectories of Western development are now discredited, and many of the official, national, and governmental discourses of modernity recognized as deeply problematic, post-modernism is no easy antidote to modernity. While modernists argue that modernity has ‘the capacity for perpetual self-critique and self-renewal,’ hyper-relativist – and thus ethically problematic – post-modern ‘social thought pours scorn on all the collective hopes for moral and social progress, for personal freedom and public happiness, that were bequeathed to us by the modernists of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment’ (Berman 1988: 9). Moreover, post-modernism is difficult to recognize in anthropological locations still undergoing the radical and capricious transformations of modernity. Thus ‘the hegemony of the modern over what it displaces as “traditional” is never complete’ (Mitchell 2000: xviii). The preoccupation of modernity with Western capital, science, and metanarrative(s) is confounded in many contemporary anthropological analyses which consider local constructions and particularities of modernity, resistances and subversions of its Western meanings, and the creation of alternate, subaltern(ate), and hybrid visions of the modern. Multiple modernities are assembled and dispersed in the world today (e.g. Appadurai and Breckenridge 1995, Appadurai 1996, Gomes 1994, Lash and Friedman 1992), including disparate post-colonial modernities informed by ethnic primordialisms and constructions. There is a contradiction between the expectation that a universalizing,

28

Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

homogeneous culture would result from globalization and the apparent intensification of heterogeneity observed today; in other words, there is a tension between flows and closures of culture and identity (Meyer and Geschiere 1999). Although modernity uniformly relies upon mass technologies of communication, commodification, transportation, and consumption, these are utilized in ways unique to particular culture groups, and influenced by local customs. As well, the conceptual forms and meanings of modernity are invented anew in each generation according to unique situations, particular interests, and configurations and contestations of power. As with many social phenomena, the modern is frequently approached in terms of what it is supposedly not: traditional. However, these terms and their significations must be understood as paired rather than opposite in meaning, for notions of modernity are constructed in conjunction with, and in simultaneuous antithesis to, notions of tradition. Lambek has observed that ‘modernity exists only insofar as it is able to conceptualize and differentiate itself from tradition’ (2004: 59).12 This is particularly so in colonial and post-colonial circumstances where the purportedly superior social technologies of the West are measured against indigenous means of social organization. These distinctions were noted in 1967 by the Rudolphs, in their study of the modern nature of many apparently longstanding or ‘traditional’ features of Indian social and political organization. The Comaroffs have called modernity a myth, along with its ‘nice opposition’ tradition (1993: xii); they opine that only the specific properties and effects of this Eurocentric vision of universal teleology may be explored; meanwhile, other ethnographers of Africa (e.g. Geschiere 2003, Meyer and Pels 2003) have demonstrated the intractable mutuality of tradition and modernity, and the persistence of both altered and reified traditions where the deployment of modernity is locally problematic. Traditional, pre-modern, and nonmodern social phenomena do not represent a fragmentary and incomplete teleology of modernity, but rather reflect ambiguities, tensions, or resistances concerning modernity which themselves are fully modern as they arise from the project itself. Indeed, the very idea of modernity is reflexive, understandable solely in relation to the contrasting notion of tradition (Giddens 1990). Certainly, the idea that modernity references contingent constructions of time, space, and self challenges its universal agenda. While the notion of modernity represents recent world history as a process in which a homogeneous Western culture emerges through various imperial means as globally dominant, in post-colonial

Introduction

29

nations like India where alternate, locally-informed modernities have arisen, elements and ideas incompatible with Western modernity have been subordinated and marginalized. But it is these cultural, historical, and theoretical heterogeneities that ‘continually redirect, divert, and mutate the modernity they help constitute’ (Mitchell 2000: xiii). The colonial origins of Indian modernity are widely recognized (e.g. Bhabha 1990, 1994 [2004], Chatterjee 1993, Cohn 1996, Gupta 1998, Inden 1990, Joshi 2001, Nandy 1988, Prakash 1999). While Indians ‘quickly adopted those aspects of the western model [of modernity] which best suited their own interests and life situations’ (Joshi 2001: 173), at the same time, ‘the insistent demand for a nation-state was an urge to establish a modernity of one’s own, one that differed from Western modernity’ (Prakash 1999: 201). Particular and local pasts were not to be erased by modernity; rather, both were situated within and shaped its intellectual, political, and social manifestations. Indian modernity rests on Indian foundations. For instance, indigenous scientific traditions were a key element of the construction of Indian modernity by colonial nationalists, while religious and educational reform movements interpreted indigenous traditions within modern British frameworks of administration and governance (Chandra 1986, Chatterjee 1993, Seal 1968, Prakash 1999). Thus Indian modernity is postcolonial not only as a British bequest, but also as an indigenous interpretation and invention. Chatterjee (1993) argues that the colonial elites of the Indian nationalist movement deployed notions of tradition that challenged British modernity and rejected colonial authority; the traditions thus mobilized, often in the form of religious reform movements, were thoroughly located in the contexts of colonial modernity, and thus have influenced the post-colonial modern in India as well. But despite the proliferation of national, regional, and local modernities among India’s elites and middle classes, the uncomfortable and complicit nexus of colonialism and modernity has created ambivalence and even suspicion, for the universal intent of Western modernity does not permit the production of modern forms of knowledge, state, and culture that are indigenously and genuinely Indian. Chatterjee has noted that ‘given the close complicity between modern knowledges and modern regimes of power’ Indians and other post-colonials were to ‘ever remain consumers of a universal modernity,’ never to be taken seriously as its producers (1997:14).13 An important outcome of colonial modernity in India is its middle class, ‘the repository of the morality of the nation’ and ‘the link between

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

the [post-colonial] state, its institutions and the people’ (Favero 2005: 18). Although a differentially aspirational project (cf. Bhabha 2004, Joshi 2001), rather than a singular and established construct, middle-class identities in India are coeval with and also constituent of modernity. In emic terms, popular constructions of middle-class identities focus on particular forms of education (typically in English), profession (in medicine, law, engineering, teaching, or various forms of military and bureaucratic work), location (urban and increasingly with social links to transnational locales), and material culture (owning a home, its commonplace furnishings and technologies, and some mechanized means of transportation), rather than on Western notions based primarily in wealth. Gupta (2000) criticizes the notion of an Indian middle-class modernity, deeming it mistakenly declared on the basis of contemporary India’s technological proficiencies and proliferating consumptions which exist amid traditional attitudes which permit communal violence, institutional corruption, and dowry death, all of which offend a more Western modernity, in which individualism, egalitarianism, accountability, and morality are universalized (or at least idealized). Joshi (2001) describes this contradictory co-existence of traditional and modern impulses – as a fractured modernity. Although much of Indian social life may remain oriented towards traditional – and thus non-intersubjective and un-modern (Gupta 2001) – modes of social organization, it is important to understand the aspirations and claims to modernity of particular middle-class communities within the nation and amid the South Asian diaspora. These communities may valorize modernity’s movement as indicative of both status and progress; Jats, for instance, view trajectories of social movement for the most part as natural and desirable. The psychology of local and particular engagements with modernity and globalization is complex, for modern and global processes impose compromises and conditions as well as promise. A key issue here is agency. Appadurai (1996) suggests that globalization makes people aware of possible, imaginable lives beyond their everyday reality; Hannerz similarly notes the construction of identities as fantasy amid diverse strands of cosmopolitanism and consumption (1999: 326). But agency is restricted by comparative economics and power disparities: the presumption of parity in global economies within the present ecumene of gross inequities in capital and power renders collective notions of modern identity elitist. Global possibilities are within the purview of post-colonial peoples, but not all are positioned to act upon them. The psychology of choice is

Introduction

31

also at issue. Taylor (1991: 8) notes that ‘the institutions and structures of industrial-technological society severely restrict our choices … they force societies as well as individuals to give a weight to instrumental reason that in serious moral deliberation we would never do, and which may even be highly destructive.’ The status attached to the modern practices and goods achieved by instrumental reason is often accepted uncritically – and even at times welcomed as a means of resisting traditions that are no longer prestigious. For instance, Abu-Lughod (1990: 51–2) has noted of modernity and resistance in Bedouin weddings that in resisting the axes of kin and gender, the young women who want the lingerie, Egyptian songs, satin wedding dresses, and fantasies of private romance their elders resist are perhaps unwittingly enmeshing themselves in an extraordinarily complex set of new power relations. These bind them irrevocably to the Egyptian economy, itself tied to the global economy, and to the Egyptian state, many of whose powers depend on separating kin group and regulating individuals.

Such mediated choices thus engender a risk of accepting and thus being appropriated by the hegemonic power structures hidden behind the innocuous, and exciting, veneer of modern life. Of course, many of these problems of modernity are also issues in the West, as Berman (1988: 15) has observed: To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and at the same time threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish.

Although modernity offers optimism and promise, it is also profoundly disorienting. Having sketched here a generalized theory of modernity, the localized nuances of this term must also be examined. While contemporary anthropology often takes a critical view of the world system and the cultures of its elites, many of the communities in which we

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

work desperately want to be part of such cultures, to participate in the class-based progress, material comforts, and utopian aspirations of modernity. I do not criticize Jat Sikh dreams of modernity; rather, I seek to understand the particular local meanings with which they are charged and the practices through which they are articulated, as well as to emphasize the unique historical and political conditions in which they have become important. Participating and claiming to participate in modernity, however locally defined, invents and asserts particular forms of status and establishes new forms of social imagination. It also reconfigures boundaries of self and other. In their engagements with modernity and global ideals, Jats are drawn into a set of circumstances increasingly beyond their control: These include Third World economic status, lack of employment, pressures to adopt regionally inappropriate development strategies (such as the Green Revolution), restrictions on transnational movement and other limitations of the nation-state (imposed by North on South), and the further complication of perceptions of regional, national, and transnational marginality. Sikh marginality has been presented as a religious issue firmly linked to Khalistani nationalism in much recent scholarship on Sikhs. However, I take the position that Khalistan is not the exclusive site of Sikh marginalization and resistance; I also locate Sikh notions of marginality in broader processes of modernity and diverse responses to its invasions and transformations. In doing so, I emphasize sentiments or charges of marginality as they are expressed in narrative, discourse, and popular culture. In referring to Sikh marginality as a perception, I do not want to suggest it is not also very real. Some sentiments of marginalization, such as that in the socioeconomic arena, are difficult to sustain, as Jats in general are a comparatively wealthy Indian people, and the Jats of this particular study are urban middle-class professionals. Nevertheless, because of their ongoing agricultural associations, many urban Jats in some ways share in the marginalizations claimed by Punjabi and other farmers in India: under-development, government indifference, struggles over water rights, and the unsustainable financial, environmental and social costs of post-Green Revolution farming. Moreover, colonization under the Mughals and British, Partition and the post-colonial division of Punjab state, and the oppressions and persecutions of the 1980s all support the claims of Sikh marginality. Their validity is further developed in complaints circulating around caste reservations, the subjection of Sikhs to Hindu code in Indian personal law, and the way Sikhs are represented

Introduction

33

in school texts, the media, and popular culture. Urban and transnational notions of land loss, whether perceived or real, may also have a role here. From such sentiments and experiences, new interpretations of the world, may be constructed. Sikhs variously resist, subvert, reiterate, and commemorate their marginality. It is perhaps in the instances of Partition and 1984 and its aftermaths that Sikhs in general claim marginality most. Indeed, a broad trope of suffering or victimhood exists among Sikhs, variously fuelling notions of everyday marginality, political community, and resistance by migration. Sadly, as part of the pathology of assault, Sikhs sometimes mobilize the marginalization of Sikh others, whether sahejdharis or scholars (e.g. Oberoi 2001).14 Issues of authority and interpretation in Sikh scholarship are highly contentious, with both Western and Sikh academics having come under attack for the misrepresentation of Sikh religion and history. Two major targets of such furor have been Hew McLeod and Harjot Oberoi, as well as their doctoral students – Pashaura Singh and Lou Fenech in the case of McLeod and Doris Jakobsh in the case of Oberoi – who are now themselves established scholars. While in part, these attacks derive from a misunderstanding of the academic enterprise of critical scholarship in historiography and hermeneutics (as well as a failure or refusal to read and seriously engage with the works of these academics), a discourse of conspiracy – which illuminates the notion of attack from which these sentiments in part derive – is frequently voiced as part of these vicious contests. McLeod, for instance, is variously portrayed as a Christian missionary and an agent of the Government of India, while Oberoi is supposedly ‘part of a world-wide Christian conspiracy to undermine Sikhism … a member of the communist party’ and an agent-in-Canada of the Indian government (Oberoi 2001: 202), as well as both feared and dismissed as an ‘anti-Sikh’ and thus dangerous ‘heretic’ (200–1). These issues are considered at further length by Mahmood (1996), Axel (2001), Ballantyne (2006), McLeod (2004) and Oberoi (2001), among others. It is interesting to note that anthropologists who have studied contemporary Sikh militants (e.g. Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995) – who by no means represent the Sikh community en masse but with whom other Sikhs share perceptions of marginality – have apparently not been subject to such interrogations and inquisitions. This does not speak to any innate superiority of ethnography, but rather to the importance of validating ‘social memory’ rather than ‘historical reconstruction’ (Connerton 1989: 13–14) in these works, and the associated likelihood that they thus

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams

conform to the strictures of what Ballantyne has called ‘Khalsacentric scholarship’ (2006: 13), not to mention Khalsacentrism at large. These debates illustrate the overwhelming importance of religion, history, and the interpretation and construction of historical boundaries around religion to contemporary constructions and contingencies of Sikh identity and modernity. Even as they invent and incorporate a ‘regional modernity’ (Sivaramakrishnan and Agrawal 2003), Jats construct and reconstruct cultural boundaries in attempts at closure and fixity; these derive from internal cultural impulses as well as external pressures. Rural nostalgias and transnational dreams articulate flows and closures of people, territory, language, caste, history, and religion. As kin and social networks become increasingly transnational, Jats remaining in India (or on the land) are increasingly desirous of modern lifestyles and movement, while Jats abroad (in cities, both nationally and transnationally) attempt to fix them into primordial and authentic categories and representations, imagining ruralities, traditions, and notions of a homeland. For all its appearances, as Levin (2002) has suggested, transnationalism is anchored in place. Jats who no longer farm find other ways to reconstruct primordial identity, whether through endogamous marriage, religious identity, or particular identifications with Punjabi language, literature, and popular cultural forms for as land and territories are left behind, caste identity is threatened. As this book will elaborate, Jatpana, Sikhi, and Punjabiyat – roughly, being Jat, Sikh and Punjabi – are both emphasized and transformed in processes of flow and enactions of closure. Regardless of these challenges, being modern is a very real preoccupation for the Jats of this book, and the idea of progress and its means are central to middle-class Jat social life. While the contemporary practice of Jat social customs, such as marriage, may be perceived etically as being changed in response to modern values, they also demonstrably articulate a sense of authentic culture and identity. Being modern is claimed as a Jat characteristic, no matter which traditions appear to express this modern self. Despite being a phenomenon and process clearly apparent in urban, middle-class Punjabi society, and despite the central role that the Punjabi middle class plays in defining and imagining Indian modernities (for example in Indian cinema), modernity is little articulated in the extant literature on Punjab, and more particularly, on Jats. It remains for me to briefly articulate how the term modernity is utilized in this work. I most often intend it to suggest the complex of ideas related to ‘progressive’ social change and modernization in India: education, urban

Introduction

35

residence, professional employment, linguistic usages, changes in the social hierarchies of caste and class, and related patterns of material and cultural consumption, as well as technological advance. Modernity and identity are also inherent to a regional representational aesthetic of popular material culture elements, such as film, music, architecture, interior design, clothing, jewelry and hair styles, and even food, as well as to local and transnational trends in their consumption. In this sense, I use modernity in a framework akin to its local usage and meaning, intending to suggest specifically local narrations and representations, actions, proactions and reactions. However, other features of social structuration, including classed, gendered, ethnic, and national identities are also implicated in the application of the term modernity here, as are the transformations inherent to transnationalism; my usage of the term thus should also be read to imply local encounters and constructions of modernity amid global processes in the colonial and post-colonial periods.15 In other words, modernity should be understood as the contemporary cultural stuff from which identities may be constructed, articulated, selected or rejected. Modernity, ‘a located cultural imaginary’ (Rofel 1999: xii), is ‘at large’ (Appadurai 1996): contemporary Punjabi, Sikh, and Jat identities are made and remade in light of the social and cultural transformations that the process and potentials of social prestige arising from modernity make locally possible. Location: Ganganagar The city of Sri Ganganagar, the seat of Ganganagar district, is located in the rough triangle of land at the northernmost tip of the state of Rajasthan, adjacent to both the Punjab and Pakistan borders. This situation has influenced its development and character, and colours local understandings of regional history. Punjabi history and tradition are important here, and the linguistic and cultural associations of a significant portion of the city’s middle class are Punjabi. Ganganagar abuts the border with Punjab state, and the district as a whole has been populated by a large number of Punjabi farmers as well as urban professionals. The Punjab-Rajasthan border, at least for Punjabis resident in Ganganagar district, only arbitrarily divides the two states,16 while Punjab looms far larger on the collective social imagination than does Rajasthan. For the families I lived among, the notion of a shared Punjabi history and culture orients social cohesion and a common sense of identity far more than does any Rajasthani sentiment.

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Ganganagar is a young Rajasthani city. Mid-nineteenth century maps17 of Punjab and its environs, made shortly after the time of Ranjit Singh’s rule, reveal very few urban settlements south of Ferozepur, which is today in the westernmost part of central Punjab, about 110 kilometres north of Ganganagar. Ganganagar is absent from colonial maps; this is not to say that settlements did not exist, but rather suggests that the region was considered remote from British concerns, as during the period of British rule, what is now Ganganagar was part of the princely state of Bikaner. The map of Punjab in the Imperial Gazetteer of 1908 marks the larger Bikaneri towns, as well as a railway from Bathinda to Bikaner, the Rajputana-Malwa line on which Ganganagar Junction sits today.18 The city dates from the late 1920s,19 when the Maharaja of Bikaner, Ganga Singh, after whom the district is named, invested in irrigation and thus made farming a more possible and profitable occupation. Ganganagar in this way can be compared to the British ‘canal colonies’ of Lyallpur and Montgomery, both now in Pakistan. Nineteenth century British-directed irrigation projects brought agricultural prosperity to these marginal regions bordering the desert; loyalty to the British was often rewarded with land and titles in the colonies.20 The Gang canal attempted, and apparently achieved, a similar agricultural prosperity for Ganganagar district. Today the rapidly expanding urban centre of Ganganagar is central to the district: the city grew relatively slowly until the last decade, when it has grown rapidly.21 A common lament today is that the town’s infrastructure has not kept pace with the growing population, a complaint most easily recognized in the town’s roads, which are poorly maintained and very crowded, and in its highly erratic electrical supply. However, the district is the wealthiest in Rajasthan, and much of this wealth is agricultural. As Rajasthan’s most northerly district, Ganganagar has perhaps the most forgiving agricultural environment in the state, complemented by irrigation from the Gang (aka Bikaner) and Rajasthan (aka Indira Gandhi) canals which begin in neighbouring Punjab.22 Winter crops (rabi; those crops sewn after the rains and harvested in winter and spring) in the district include wheat (the region’s major grain crop), mustard, sugar beet, potatoes, radishes, and keenu, a sweet citrus fruit, while the local summer crops (kharif; sewn before the rains and harvested late in the summer and early in winter) are rice, cotton, and a number of varieties of squashes and melons. Farmers in the district are said typically to possess much larger land holdings than farmers elsewhere in Rajasthan, and such landowners live

Introduction

37

material lives similar to their middle-class urban counterparts. The district’s agricultural economy is important beyond the rural community of Ganganagar’s farmers. Many urban professional Jats subsidize their income with theka (rent) from landholdings in Ganganagar district or elsewhere in Punjab. Many, too, are closely related to Jats still living on the land, and some families have moved back and forth from their farms to cities as circumstances have changed. Agriculturally-derivative occupations also exist: there are a number of agricultural commission agents in town, although these are primarily the purview of the town’s Aroras. There are also a couple of area industries which depend in part on local farmers for their raw materials, including a sugar-processing mill and a large textile plant which produces cottons. The remainder of the city’s economy rests in commerce and service. A number of farmsupport businesses exist (tractor/vehicle sales and repair, and also seed and agricultural chemical sales), there are many cloth and housewares shops catering to the family needs of Ganganagar’s relatively wealthy middle class, and several ‘hotels’ (restaurants) and ‘marriage palaces’ provide facilities for weddings and other social functions. There are also two army cantonments on the city’s periphery, and Ganganagar is a centre for regional education, with several institutes of higher learning. Students from neighbouring villages and towns, such as Hanumangarh and Suratgarh in Rajasthan and Abohar and Muktsar in Punjab, attend these institutions. Students from the district’s villages may also stay in Ganganagar, in hostels or with kin, to attend secondary school. The Rajasthan state government has courts and taxation offices in the city, and there are numerous hospitals throughout Ganganagar, as well as a widely reputed home and school for the blind. As an urban centre, Ganganagar is relatively cosmopolitan, and several of its residents described it to me using just this term. While its population represents a broad swathe of north Indian demography, it differs from larger Indian cities in being neither a tourist destination, nor on any popular tourist route.23 As a relatively young settlement by Indian standards, a majority of its population has migrated here within living memory. In this sense, Ganganagar can perhaps be viewed as an initial site of diaspora for its Sikh residents. Very few of my friends and informants over the age of 35 had not come from elsewhere, and even fewer of these were women, as exogamous marriage practices mean that most women marry away from their home locality and the place of their birth.24 Many Ganganagar residents have relocated from Punjab, and Punjabi, likely owing to the local socioeconomic dominance of

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the Punjabi community at large and Jat Sikhs in particular, is as much the local lingua franca as Hindi. The local Rajasthani dialect, Baagri, a form of Hindi which has no written script, is seen by the urbanites of Ganganagar – among them the Jaats whose mother tongue it is – as rustic and outdated. The city’s population consists mainly of Rajasthani and Punjabi Hindus of Rajput, Marwari, and other trading castes, Arora and Khatri Sikhs, Mazhabi Sikhs,25 and Jat Sikhs, many of whom resettled here for the increased opportunities afforded by the growing district after Partition. Rajasthani Hindu Jaats and Bishnois, who are indigenous to the district, also live in Ganganagar, and are today quite conspicuously middle class. In addition, relatively large numbers of recently migrant labourers from other districts of Rajasthan, as well as from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and other states, and a number of Bahadurs26 from Nepal, live and work in Ganganagar, although many on some sort of temporary basis.27 The outlying farms usually belong to Bagri Jaat or Jat Sikh families, and the district’s villages are typically organized along these divisions. Although it is not part of Punjab proper, Ganganagar is an appropriately representative setting for a study of urban Jat Sikhs. The city is a part of the Punjabi imagination, as was made clear in the demand that Ganganagar be made part of Punjab in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, the 1973 Akali Dal document that sought to reconfigure centrestate relations for Punjab. Indeed, it might be argued that Ganganagar, whose Punjabi affiliation is based on the agricultural settlement of Sikhs in the district when it was a new canal colony in the 1920s and 1930s, was only by an accident of imperialism not made part of Punjab at the time of Partition, as it was then part of the princely state of Bikaner over which the British had no authority. In any case, my work describes the dislocations, reorientations, and novelty of the urban experience for Jats, so whether or not the city is in Punjab is in some ways irrelevant; what is more important to the Jat experience is that middle-class fortune can be pursued here. Ganganagar is a young city, and the affiliations that Jats and other members of its populace have with it are also new; for Jats in particular, the city has grown in tandem with their own urban prosperity, and this in itself is an association which renders Ganganagar a profitable location for the study of urban Jats. The novelty of this association corresponds with the continuance of firm ties to Punjab. Many of my Jat interlocutors were born in Punjab, had extended family living there, read Punjabi newspapers with more frequency than

Introduction

39

local or national ones, visit Punjab more frequently than Jaipur or Delhi for shopping, holiday-making, and the visiting of kin, and are proud to have built a Khalsa college in their community that remains one of the few outside Punjab state. Nevertheless, Ganganagar’s location underscores a tension between the inevitable partiality and locality of ethnography, even as I attempted to understand delocalized and apparently global threads of Jat identification. To have located the study in a Punjabi city – say in a regionally and populationally comparable Malwa city like Bathinda – would not have provided a methodological guarantee of an enhanced or more appropriate ethnographic represention of urban middle-class Jats, for any study that I might have undertaken there would be similarly challenged by the local positionings of my interlocutors and influenced by the partiality of my own position. Position: Fieldwork in the Family The significance of personal experience in arriving at the anthropological ‘subject’ is commonly encountered in ethnography (e.g. Abu-Lughod 1998, Gold 2000, McHugh 2001, Narayan 1993, Pettigrew 1981), and in past decades, such reflexivity has become an important ethnographic consideration (e.g. Behar and Gordon 1995, Clifford and Marcus 1986, Gupta and Ferguson 1997b, Lamphere, Ragoné and Zavella 1997, Meneley and Young 2005, Narayan 1995, Okely 1996, Okeley and Callaway 1992, Rabinow 1977, Reed-Danahay 1997, Strathern 1987, Visweswaran 1994). Like all ethnographers, the particular circumstances of my research position me in unique ways. I chose to do my fieldwork in the community in which my in-laws lived: among urban, middle-class Sikhs, living in Ganganagar. As I am both an ethnographer of a community of Jat Sikhs and a daughter-in-law within it, I reflect here on some of the methodological, ethical, and personal issues that arose in this project. While Clifford (1986: 25) warns us that ‘extreme self-consciousness certainly has its dangers – of irony, of elitism, of solipsism, or putting the whole world in question marks,’ he also asserts that anthropologists are no longer distanced, authoritative representatives of groups ‘passing into history,’ and that our ethnographies are ultimately only partial truths, limited in both inscribing community voice and describing objective fact. My position, like that of any ethnographer, thus affects the story I am able to tell here. My insider status was granted in some ways automatically. Nevertheless, in undertaking ethnographic

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fieldwork within a broadly familial setting, I was subject to many tests of loyalty and proofs of trustworthiness in establishing local and familial rapport. In this, too, I was like any other ethnographer. My in-laws of course were expectedly – and according to Punjabi understandings of family, rightfully – very conspicuous in assisting me in Ganganagar. Indeed, such was their prominence in my early work that in my initial months in the field I feared my study was to become solely an autoethnography of my adjustment to life as a bahu. Fortunately, over time, talking to extended members of my family-in-law, and others in my parents-in-law’s social network, I was able to find several persons beyond my sas-saurah who took an interest in the project and thus became important in formulating a broader perspective. A few such people – younger residents of Ganganagar who lived thoroughly urban lives and participated in many of the hallmarks of Punjabi modernity – were particularly sympathetic in this process, and formed a valuable contrast to my in-laws and their generation in their views. They are mentioned frequently in this book, for their narratives are valuable illustrations of the transformations and challenges of urban life for Jats. Simranjit, a cousin-sister28 of my husband, took a great interest in my work and assisted me in conducting a great number of interviews. Neither of us would have been permitted to range around the city, let alone the neighbourhood, alone, but going about together, we were freed from these restrictions. Jasleen, a close friend and schoolmate of my husband, took a keen interest in the affairs of our family, and took it upon himself to ensure that I was settling in; more significantly, he enjoyed discussing a wide range of social subjects and our conversations became very helpful in my work. I established firm and fast friendships with Amardeep (Jasleen’s wife) and her close friend, Radha. Both were fluent in English, of a similar age to me, married into Ganganagar families from elsewhere, and of a curious and open nature regarding life baahar – all elements conducive to putting a novice ethnographer and daughter-in-law at ease. I was not as closely associated in everyday life with Parminder, my cousin-brother by marriage, but he too was interested in my adjustment to the family, my impressions of life in India, and the possibilities of life abroad. Parminder’s story has a particular significance here, as he is living proof of the challenges that exist in maintaining the discourse of progress among Jats. His experience exemplified the struggle of retaining identity, honour, and a notion of family progress in the face of local underemployment and economic

Introduction

41

stagnation, and the strong motivation of Jats to escape the limitations – sometimes gendered – of a life in India. All these persons figured prominently in my life in Ganganagar, fulfilling the role of ‘key informants’ so remarked upon in ethnography. They and others spent much time conversing with me and including me in their social activities. This was not necessarily because they felt any affiliation with my ethnographic project per se; indeed, some of the people in this book showed little interest in being formally interviewed, but willingly shared their experiences and observations in less formal settings. This willingness resulted from the familial and personal connections between us, which invested these informants with the age-old responsibility of helping a new bahu adjust to her marital family circumstances. This is as much a duty of the extended family and respected friends as it is of the saureh itself. Some of these informants-by-default have become renewedly significant to me in writing the present piece. As a measure of my acceptance as a family member, I had relatively free access to a wealth of social detail. Wherever informal evidence is cited, special care is taken to ensure its ethical presentation and reportage. I not only use pseudonyms to protect informants following ethnographic convention, I also keep personal descriptions brief and limit supplementary detail in order to maintain confidentiality. At times, of necessity, when discussing particularly privileged information, I have created compound or hybrid characters so as to ensure anonymity. While a number of my informants, primarily men or women in wellknown professional positions, urged me to use their real names in my writing, I have not done so. I read their candour as a measure of their social comfort in positions of some distinction and of their relative selfassurance. The advice I sought from senior members of the family on describing members of the family and community with ethnographic accuracy as well as confidentiality was answered with a puzzled endorsement: knowing that what they had taught and shown me was truthful, and placing that same expectation of trust upon me and my writing, what was my concern? Behaving, speaking, and living truthfully are of great importance among Sikhs, and being entrusted with the representation of truth is a weighty matter. I can perhaps best hope that the famous words of Guru Nanak guide this work in returning the trust of those in India who opened their lives to me: the truth is high, but higher still is truthful living, or, in this case, writing.

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But a fuller examination of my dual position in fieldwork is required here. I travelled to India, and lived there for much of my time in the field without my husband. This action would be uncharacteristic for most Indian daughters-in-law, and I perhaps had hoped that it would help my in-laws and informants to perceive me more as an anthropologist, for it might appear that I was visiting for my own reasons that had little to do with my husband’s role or life within his family. Rather naïvely, in my mind I went to India as an ethnographer, who happened to have some in-laws with whom to live in the field. My in-laws saw me as their visiting daughter-, sister-, or aunt-in-law, who just happened to be an anthropologist. Thus, in keeping with Punjabi understandings of kinship and honour, I was viewed as kinsperson first and ethnographer second. Learning to behave like a daughter-in-law was essential to my doing fieldwork. I had not become a bahu via a Sikh wedding and the accompanying symbolic practices which separate brides from their natal families while attempting to form incorporating bonds with their husband’s patriline. My husband and I, both living at considerable distances from many of our closest relatives, had married perfunctorily in the registry office in Toronto. I had not even met my parents-in-law before I left for the field. In these ways, I was like any ethnographer first visiting the field, full of excitement and misgivings, and almost entirely reliant upon book knowledge. Indeed, when I arrived in Delhi, the wife of one of my husband’s childhood friends took me aside as frequently as possible in my few days there to give me what she perceived (and I later appreciated) as an essential crash-course in being married into a Punjabi family. With the benefits of hindsight, I realize that having become a member of my Indian affinal family via a love marriage abroad and beyond family purview, my credentials as daughter-in-law might have been particularly suspect and therefore subject to everyday regimentation. But at the same time, my in-laws, their broad social network, and many of the Punjabis I met during the course of my research frequently voiced their appreciation that a foreign bahu had such an interest in learning their ways that she had come to live with them for such a long time. As a daughter-in-law ethnographer, I had to fulfill not only the conventions of scholarly method and ethics, but also local understandings of appropriate behaviour. While everyone I met in the field knew of my dual identity, a majority spoke with me and included me in their activities as my parents-in-law’s bahu. This situation both expanded and limited my ability to work with particular individuals and families

Introduction

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in Ganganagar. On occasions, my affines themselves made important contributions to this work. For instance, my research networks were in considerable part created and sustained through the apical informants that are my parents-in-law. However, people agreed to be interviewed for differing reasons: some – the ones who wanted me to use their real names – wishing to put forward their particular points of view on Sikh and Indian society; others feeling a duty to meet and help educate a willing newcomer; still others no doubt wanting to return, impress, or secure particular social obligations. Perhaps a few were simply curious about the angrezi bahu (English daughter-in-law). Regardless of the motivations of the people I interviewed, I often only encountered what I understand as cultural ‘scripts’ of idealized behaviours and formalized identities in interviews proper; but, like many other ethnographers, I found that some of the richest descriptive and narrative material arose in everyday participant-observation. A daughter-in-law living in a Punjabi household is well placed to gather information informally. Indeed, her ability to adjust to life with her marital family depends on her making the most of this position. For me, information gained as a daughter-in-law was not only a tool of adjustment but also a rich source of field data. Casual conversations often yielded more fruitful and frank observations than did interviews, which – even when they are not interrupted by the eternal domestic demands that women face – have an air of artificiality and officiality that seems to put many Punjabi women on guard.29 Although it must be acknowledged that information gathered in this way may be less complete, as thoughts and exclamations cannot always be pursued to their logical end, informal evidence was in many cases far more salient and sincere. Situating my fieldwork in the context of my affinal family thus poses some particular challenges. Methodologically, many of these are akin to those which occur for most ethnographers negotiating access to a field community: access to some people limits access to others. Ethically, however, the situation is more complex, and perhaps particularly so in the climate of cautious uncertainty that pervades Canadian anthropology since the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council introduced new regulations for ethical research with human subjects in 1998.30 As Renée Sylvain has cogently noted, ‘the ethical codes and research contracts currently being elaborated are too aloof to help us navigate ethical problems that arise in particular field situations’ (2005: 25); professional codes of ethics ‘were never suited to regulate rela-

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tions among friends and family (even fictive kin) for someone whose identity, by the very nature of fieldwork, is challenged, put at risk, and altered’ (36). Donna Young (2005: 209) observes that: In the process of building the personal relationships required to carry out ethnographic fieldwork, both the researchers and the subjects of research let their guard down, revealing more than they had intended once they begin to relate more as friends and neighbours. This process is anathema to those who conceive of ethical responsibilities in narrow terms. But … it is where the real work of making sense of another’s life begins.

The challenges of being a daughter-in-law and ethnographer are not only ethical. Some readers of earlier versions of this work noted what they perceived as a difficulty in discerning the purportedly ‘objective’ ethnographic voice from that of its ‘subjects.’ I was somewhat unaware that I had so closely aligned myself in this way. In instances, I altered referents, in others, I let my identifications rest. These slippages draw attention to the complexities of both ethnographic writing and identification in a project undertaken close to home. I have aimed to construct a local, particular, and contingent account of urban middle-class Jat life, in keeping with post-modern understandings of the modern and the global, acknowledging, (con)textualizing, and translating my personal, positioned, located, and localized experiences into what can only be a partial account. For the most part, the academic voice – authoritative, culturally distanced, and attempting a veneer of objectivity – has been predominant in the writing of this book. But at multiple points, subject and object positions intersect and are melded in an ethnographic reflexivity which reflects the gendered and personal predication of the work. Like Abu-Lughod (1986, 1988), Briggs (1970), Fernea (1998), and Wolf (1996) among others, autobiographical reflections – such as that attempted in my final chapter – are essential to my project, even as they are also coming to denote good ethnography. The people I met in India were full of queries about life in the West31: not only were they interested in how their relatives lived there, but also how life might be experienced overseas in comparison to what they learnt about it in India. This interest was in keeping with middle-class interests as migration is one means of ensuring social progress is fully realized. Their curiosity put me in the occasionally uncomfortable position of speaking for a lumpen, undifferentiated baahar (abroad). At other times it appeared as a test; having arrived at certain moral judg-

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ments based on their general knowledge of the more dissolute West, elders and even my female peers wanted to know where I stood on certain issues and behaviours. I soon learnt that I must disavow myself of principles considered less than acceptable by Punjabi standards if I was to win the trust of the community at large and the honesty of potential informants. This is not a disingenuous approach: instead, it is fully in keeping with anthropological objectives, for in learning to understand local values I have learned to question my own. Specific topics could not be comfortably broached in conversation or in interview: one could speak of women’s position, but not of feminism; one could speak of marriage, but not of divorce; one could speak of dowry and female foeticide as social issues, but not question individual dowries or experiences of pregnancy termination. While I already had an approximate knowledge of appropriate gender positions from the PunjabiCanadian context, in the process of refining this knowledge in Ganganagar the often unvoiced concepts of honour, shame, and reputation which guide Punjabi family and community life became more apparent. Perhaps most onerous of the gendered struggles I experienced in the field was the fact that my own, feminist-influenced interpretations of women’s relative social position often did not fit local understandings: in many instances, where I saw inequality, Jat women saw progress. They claimed not to feel gender hierarchies nearly as profoundly as their mothers and grandmothers did in recognition of apparently profound social changes that have taken place in recent years. Despite this, I was sure I observed awkward pauses, failures to elaborate, and even silences around the hegemonic codes of women’s social place from younger women, still precariously placed in their roles as daughters awaiting marriage or living in even more limited contexts as recent daughters-in-law. Although it was general knowledge amongst my parents-in-law’s several social networks that I was visiting to conduct research, I was almost entirely understood as having come to meet and get to know my in-laws, to learn some Punjabi, and perhaps most of all, to adjust to my affinal family by learning, developing, and practising good daughter-in-law behaviour.32 In striving to discover socially acceptable ways of behaving I was always and primarily a daughter-in-law, as this is how the community understood my living amongst them. Like Teaiwa (2004: 222), I found that ‘my duty was not to go around interviewing people but to be a guest in the homes of close relatives.’ My role as observing anthropologist was socially unrecognized while my partic-

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ipation as daughter-in-law was socially valued. Issues of voice arose unselfconsciously and uninvited as I apparently wrote from my position as a Jat bahu: in my writing, I have at times appropriated locally used and encouraged forms of voice and perspective, referring to ‘my’ relatives and ‘our’ land. My adoption of such terminologies articulates a connection between ‘self’ and ‘other,’ ‘here’ and ‘there,’ that I understand Jats to believe possible and desirable in the contemporary world as they experience it. Moreover, the importance to them of my becoming a bahu affirms local Jat values and traditions at a time of increased global affiliations and challenges. I have carefully, and at length, considered each ethnographic encounter, incident, personage, and excerpt that I have included here. A draft of the work was read by several of the people from whom I learned much in the field and have frequently quoted in these pages, in order that they might make suggestions and request changes prior to its publication. In my experience, most diasporic Jats with whom I have discussed my work are pleased that their contemporary society is being interpreted for a Western audience and recorded as well for Jat posterity. Both of these affirmations are sad ones. For these Jats my work assuages common images of Sikh terrorism and may even promote Sikh safety by enabling a Western reading public to better distinguish between Sikhs and Muslims in the post-9/11 era. Meanwhile, ethnography like this captures, salvage-style, something of the tradition of being Jat so that children and grandchildren might better understand their originary culture and its history. My research assistant, cousin-sister-in-law, and feminist friend in the field, now living in the Sikh diaspora and married to an Australian, recently told me that while her husband found that reading my work had helped him better understand her family and her values, she was glad that my observations were on record for their children. The pace of such change in Jat lives enunciates both the power of transnational dreams and the necessity of rural nostalgias. The varied articulations of Jat Sikh identity presented herein, whether middle-class and urban, nostalgic for the rural, or longing for the global, reflect an ongoing consideration of what it is to be Jat when one no longer lives an agricultural life.

2 Farming, Family, and Faith: Elements of Jat Sikh Identity

The Jat … is the very marrow and soul of the peasantry. [Jats] have a tenacity of character and a skill in farming which make[s] them the best cultivators in India … It would be difficult in any country to find a more remarkable combination of cultivator, colonist, emigrant and soldier. Educated and organized, and relieved of the handicaps imposed upon him by custom and debt, he might well become the foundation of a new rural civilization in the Punjab. – Darling 1925: 38–40

The ethnographic literature on India is huge, but scarcely within it is the ethnographic record on Punjab cited. The canonical Indian ethnographies focus on villages, although paradoxically, many have a civilizational emphasis (e.g. Cohn 1971, Dumont 1966 [1970], Mandelbaum 1970, Marriott 1960, Singer 1972, Singer and Cohn 1970, Srinivas 1966, 1976). Although diverse in regional scope, these ethnographies describe a number of essential similarities of Indian – primarily Hindu – culture: an overwhelmingly rural economy, caste, sub-caste and extracaste membership as the basis for social organization, the local council or panchayat as the basis for political leadership, the extended and joint family ideal, and the norms of patrilineal inheritance and virilocal residence. Other cultural features that may be discerned from these works are: ‘little tradition’ localized religious practices that may be commonly considered under the rubric of bhakti and in conjoint relationship to the civilizational ‘great tradition’ of Sanskritic Brahminism; gender roles that privilege the male while both venerating and oppressing the female; and a generally shared cultural aesthetic. Punjabi society, not

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being uniformly or even primarily Hindu, conforms to this pattern to a greater or lesser degree, which may explain why the consideration of Punjab in the canonical anthropological scholarship on India is generally absent. Only Lewis’s Village Life in Northern India (1958) addresses the wider Punjab area to any extent, and it does not deal with Sikhs. Sikhism is significantly different from Hinduism, especially in matters of caste; thus the study of Sikh social systems has been beyond general ethnographic purview, as it does not significantly adhere to or expand the classical debates of the anthropology of India. This chapter seeks to understand the facets of Jat and Sikh difference. Punjab can be characterized by regional traditions of farming, family, and faith, as well as by struggles over post-coloniality and modernity. The ethnographic literatures on the region are largely focused on family (e.g. Eglar 1960, Hershman 1976), farming (e.g. Ahmad 1977, Leaf 1972, 1984), village life amid factionalized local politics (e.g. Pettigrew 1976, Harjindar Singh 1976), and understanding social change in the region (e.g. Hazlehurst’s 1966 study of urbanization). Other ethnographers (e.g. Chowdhry 1994, Datta 1999, Fox 1985, Kessinger 1974, Kumari 1998), describe a rural regional economy based on farming that is undergoing profound agricultural and social change. The impact of these changes are exacerbated by the factional nature of Punjabi politics, where leadership, authority, and local power are established and enforced through dominant caste standing, comparative wealth and education, and modern as well as charismatic forms of prestige. More recent ethnographies have been devoted to understanding the politicization of religion and ethnicity among Sikhs (e.g. Axel 2001, Brass 1991, Dietrich 1987, Gupta 1996, Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995, Telford 1992), and Sikhs and Sikhism amid the South Asian diaspora (e.g. Bains and Johnston 1995, Barrier and Dusenberry 1989, Buchignani and Indra 1985, Israel and Wagle 1983, Leonard 1992, 1997, Mahmood 1996, O’Connell et al. 1998, Singh and Thandi 1996, Tatla 1999, Williams 1988). Despite the apparent wealth of post-colonial ethnography, the urban middle-class Jats with whom I lived in India most often spoke of themselves in ways that were resonant of colonial accounts written about them. Ethnographic descriptions of the Punjab and its peoples have been published since the early eighteenth century, and the larger northwestern region of India is well represented in the writings of British colonial administrators and military officials (e.g. Barstow 1928, Crooke 1879, Cunningham 1849, Darling 1925, 1930, 1934, Ibbetson 1883, Mal-

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colm 1812, Prinsep 1834, Rose 1883, Sleeman 1844, Trevaskis 1928).1 Punjab was a strategic part of the raj, not least because the British understood Sikhs as a martial race. British writings on Punjab aimed primarily to provide administrators with census and other information with which to further survey and govern the colonial provinces (cf. Dirks 1992, 2001). The colonial writings on Punjab can be read today, when informed with an understanding of the biases2 and subjectivities of the circumstances in which they were composed, as valuable ethnohistories, describing traditional Punjabi practices and ideologies against which contemporary practices and beliefs can be compared. Significantly, colonial descriptions concur with many of the stereotypical and even essentialist characterizations that Sikhs, and Jats in particular, today hold true of themselves as a people, and they are therefore worthy of some further exegesis here. But while it is likely that British imaginings of Jat and Sikh character contributed to local notions of identity, it is the contemporary Jat claim to these attributes that is significant. Like other Orientalist scholars at the time, the colonial ethnographers wrote their own images of the ‘other’ into their accounts of raj-era India (Caton 1999, Inden 1990, Raheja 2002, Said 1978); their subjectivities informed superior positionings of British interest, and justified colonial privilege. Given the military interests of the British in Punjab, especially in creating a stereotype of Sikhs that could be exploited in gaining military recruits, the martial history and character of the Sikhs was of particular concern to colonial ethnographers (Fox 1985); meanwhile, an interesting article by Caton (1999) suggests that the colonial notion of Sikhs and particularly Jats as among the finest of peasants also owes much to the British, and in particular to English rural nostalgias and ideals. Although arguments detailing the colonial construction of South Asian social identities and attributes are problematic in their denial of local tradition and agency (cf. Chatterjee 1993), British stereotypes have significantly contributed to contemporary Sikh and Jat archetypes of self. Nonetheless, the British created and manipulated Sikh stereotypes in their own interest: ‘hardy in frame, fierce in nature when aroused and when the welfare of the “Khalsa” was at stake, it would be difficult to find an oriental nationality producing better soldiers than the “Sikhs”’ (The Punjaub and North West Frontier of India by an Old Punjaubee, n.a. 1878: 14). An anonymous and almost certainly British writer was of the opinion that ‘there can be little doubt that the “Sikhs” were the most

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formidable enemies the British troops ever encountered in the field in India.’ (n.a. 1878: 13–14) Crooke (1906: 431) asserts that: his disregard of caste rules, particularly of the futile restrictions which surround the eating and drinking of the ordinary Hindu, make the Sikh peculiarly valuable to our Empire. He does not, like the Hindu, object to leaving his village and crossing the “Black Water.” Thus, we find him gladly volunteering for foreign service in China, the Malay Peninsula, and East Africa … for steady, deliberate courage in the face of extreme danger, he is surpassed by no native troops in our Indian army.

Cunningham (1849: 11–12) attributes Sikh military accomplishments to the enthusiasm incumbent to the Sikh faith: They are persuaded that God himself is present with them, that He supports them in all their endeavours, and that sooner or later He will confound their enemies for his own glory … The Sikhs do not form a numerous sect, yet their strength is not to be estimated by tens of thousands, but by the unity and energy of religious fervour and warlike temperament.3

One feature of this convention is the tendency among colonial writers to refer to the Sikhs as a nation (qaum). However the homogeneity of the Sikh community in such accounts may be overstated, reflecting the needs of colonial governance and military recruitment more than the reality of the Sikh Panth. Oberoi’s (1994: 373) analysis reveals that the emphases of British military and administrative activities in colonial Punjab did much to ‘eliminate all those Sikh identities that were not covered by the rubric Khalsa.’4 Other Sikh identities certainly existed at the time of British administration: Bonarjee5 states that Sikhs may be classified in three ways: ethnologically, ‘by tribe, race, or caste’ (1899: 79), according to the religious sect to which they belong, or according to their political convictions as either khalsa or non-khalsa Sikhs. This latter distinction between what are essentially orthodox and more liberal or progressive Sikhs remains a topic of heated dispute today, and has transplanted itself as a political issue far beyond Punjab.6 As well, caste distinctions still divide Sikhs. Moreover, Bonarjee further reveals the difficulty in pursuing an exclusive Sikh culture by making several observations regarding the blended characteristics of Punjabi Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu culture. More recent ethnographic observers have similarly stressed the positionality of reli-

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gious affiliations in the Punjab, which often have been shaped, chosen, and changed according to the demands of political and historical circumstance (e.g. Juergensmeyer 1982, Oberoi 1995). Of further significance is the fact that caste is recognized in the early ethnographic genre to be somewhat fluid in organization, and more a matter of social than religious proscription. Ibbetson states that ‘caste is a social far more than a religious institution … conversion from Hinduism to Islam has not necessarily the slightest effect upon caste,’ and further that ‘the people are bound by social and tribal custom far more than by any rules of religion.’ (1883: 2) Caste was circumstantially mitigated by other social factors: the Sikh Jat, for example, although said to be a demoted Rajput (Kshatriya), was ‘content to be a Jat, and has never since the rise of Sikh power wished to be anything else’ (1883: 102). Fixities in caste identity associated with British interests may thus have intersected indigenous interests in the Jat case. The most extensive chronicler of this early period of Punjabi ethnography was Malcolm Darling. Significantly, even during the period of Darling’s writings in the 1920s and 1930s, Punjabis were seen to be struggling with modernity. Manager of a colonial cooperative bank, Darling’s primary interest was in recording Punjabi economics at the local level. His three books (1925, 1930, 1934) focus on describing the financial details of numerous villages that he visited while touring the greater Punjab region on bank duty. He writes, in sometimes tedious detail and condescending tones, of the spending, saving, borrowing and money-lending practices apparent in Punjabi villages. According to Fox (1985), Darling failed to appreciate the influence of the increasingly globalized colonial economy, under the impact of which, traditional local costs ‘underwent a great inflation’ (1985: 41). But Darling’s work, and particularly his observation of the linkage between prosperity and debt, accurately foregrounds the rising consumerism of the Green Revolution period, when notions of prestige and social status were increasingly marked by material display, and thus encouraged growing debt among Jat families caught up in this trend to conspicuous consumption. Darling’s work is particularly significant to my own as it reveals that a number of significant social changes that I might otherwise have assigned by default to the post-colonial period were evident in the rural Punjabi economy early in the twentieth century. Indeed, revisiting Darling’s writings upon returning from India, I discovered that a number of social struggles that I had in the field assumed were recent in origin and primarily of middle-class, urban concern, were

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sketched in Darling’s writings. His works thus outline a complex of rural cultural features and social practices by which the contemporary scales of tradition and modernity might be gauged. Research on Punjab has predictably been concerned with rural formations of culture. The influence of urbanity and class on Jats is largely unexamined in this broad literature. As well, there are few works which address Sikh or Jat identity per se, and still fewer which privilege local cultural processes and the possibilities of local, national, or transnational agency in identity construction: McLeod (1989b) has formally discussed Sikh identity, but only its religious component; McMullen’s (1989) survey and discussion of religious practice hint at deeper considerations of identity current within the Sikh community but does not further discuss ethnicity; Brass (1991) assigns broader economic origins and political motives to the contemporary issue of Sikh ethnicity; Gupta (1996) emphasizes the historic and political contexts of Sikh ethnicity rather than examining local cultural affiliations and identifications. Hershman (1981), Leaf (1972, 1984), and Pettigrew (1976), in contrast, comment on such local and regional affiliations, but do not overtly link them to a theory of ethnic or national identity. The preferred approach would seem to combine aspects of these varied perspectives in order to understand local, practised notions of being Jat, Sikh, and Punjabi in a broader engagement with ethnicity. For the urban Jat middle-class these notions are based in social practices, patterns of discourse, community values, and family aspirations. Jat identity must also be situated in the wider contexts of Sikh and Punjabi identity: being Punjabi, and Sikh, is characterized by common patriarchal cultures of daily, family, and social life, set against divisive and othering colonial histories, the predominance of rurally-based castes and particularly Jats, sentiments of socioeconomic and religious marginalization, linguistic disputes over the Punjabi vernacular, and a longstanding trajectory of migration – all of which muddy matters of identity still further. Traditions of Jat Identity At the risk of engaging in a momentary essentialism, it is necessary here to sketch a brief7 picture of what it is to be Jat. The classic and primordial image of Jats is that they are a caste of farmers, autochthonous ‘sons of the soil’ (cf. Weiner 1978), rooted in the rich alluvium of Punjab. The primary tradition of Jat identity is its rural affiliation, and the Jat community as a whole holds to this tradition. In the north Indian caste

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schema, Jats (both Sikh and Hindu) are farmers, and Jat Sikhs in particular are typically landlords. Despite recent scholarship suggesting that rural and caste-based Punjabi identities may be colonially constructed and thus historically contingent (Caton 1999, Jodhka 2004), colonial authors frequently and with admiration noted the farming traditions and agricultural capabilities of the region’s Jat farmers. For instance, Crooke describes the Jat Sikh as ‘the typical yeoman, the finest farmer in Northern India. His knowledge of crops and cattle is unrivaled, and his industry is unceasing’ (n.d. [1973]: 92–3). 8 Cunningham wrote that ‘the Jats are known in the north and west of India as industrious and successful tillers of the soil, and as hardy yeomen equally ready to take up arms as to follow the plough;’ in his opinion, ‘they form, perhaps, the finest rural population in India’ (1853: 12). Ibbetson, similarly, portrays the Jat Sikh as: ‘the husbandsman, the peasant, the revenue-payer par excellence of the province’ (1883: 102). Ibbetson also remarked upon the admirable honesty, industriousness, and independence of the Jat, but noted that ‘the Jat is of all the Panjab races [sic] the most impatient of tribal or communal control, and the one which asserts the freedom of the individual most strongly’ (Ibbetson 1883: 102).9 Thus not all colonial assessments are glowing. Crooke, for instance, notes the stolidity, reticence, and boorishness of Jats, he also lays bare colonial motivations, stating that the Jat ‘is still a fine, manly fellow, and has special interest for us because his tribe supplies some of our best Sikh sepoys’ (n.d. [1973]: 93). But how do Jats describe themselves? Significantly, they often refer to themselves in similar ways, particularly with recourse to the ideal identities of soldier and farmer (jawan and kissan). The colonial experience, if not also colonial writings, helped to articulate and solidify Jat characteristics. Their essential identity as farmers is omnipresent among Jats in Ganganagar, but the martial Sikh character is also much regarded. I heard many variations on the themes of Jat bravery, loyalty, and obstinacy. Even as they articulate their rustic simplicity, Jats also relate their pride in taking full advantage of the potential of modern life. Jats are said to be good soldiers, good farmers, good drivers, and good sportsmen. I was told they are adventurous and entrepreneurial, which is locally related to their interests in migration. Moreover, a number of people told me that the ‘modern and scientific’ teachings of Sikhism had made the Jats this way: not only bold, but fully suited to modern life. During an informal interview, I discussed the meaning of being Jat

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with Jasleen Singh Brar. I had noted in Canada that Jats rarely discussed themselves in a self-referential way except when men were drinking alcohol together.10 Their claims to being Jat in these settings seemed inspired by this social activity, and perhaps commemorated something particularly Jat in this behaviour.11 I asked Jasleen Brar about this characterization, which seemed more like a caricature, and remarked that I had not observed this stereotypic behaviour in India. I said to him: when I see this difference, I wonder what do people here have in common with those people, except that your certain group of surnames tell that you were in some way once related. What is it to be Jat? That’s something I’m struggling to understand.

He laughed, and replied: ‘Well, as far as we are concerned, we don’t need to understand it. It is an attitude and it just comes naturally. That you are Jat, okay, cheers!’

While saying this, he raised his arm in a drinking motion. He laughed once more, then became serious: I think it’s also something to do with your self-confidence. And in this we are thankful to the Sikh gurus who have instilled this sense of selfconfidence, of pride, in us as a community. That we can take on whatever comes. Because we were suppressed for many centuries. But that spirit, we have held on to. Maybe that’s just my perception.

Displaying typical Jat self-deprecation, Jasleen speculates that drinking is a natural part of the Jat character, and perhaps the part that is most obvious to outsiders. But to him, being Jat is more to do with the strength of character and local notions of courage displayed in and inspired by the struggles of Sikh history. In being Jat, the intangible, spiritual qualities of community pride, confidence, fortitude, and forbearance, as accrued to Jats by their Sikhism, are most meaningful. Jats are renowned characters in the north Indian cultural sphere. They have migrated far and wide in India, and they are well known beyond Punjab. Not only are the Punjab’s agricultural economy and its farmers important to the national food supply, but stereotypes of Jat Sikhs frequently appear in the media. These stereotypes most frequently mock the Sikh character – often making no distinctions between Jat and Arora

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– as perpetually cheerful, thoroughly obstinate, and intellectually slow, even at times verging on insanity.12 Often, these japes are created and perpetuated within the Jat Sikh community itself, which is very fond of Sardarji jokes.13 But Jats ultimately find this Sardarji humour belittling, as they are rarely portrayed beyond the confines of these stereotypes in terms of the more appreciable of their traits.14 Sardarji jokes conceal the fact that Sardar cheerfulness and exuberance are based in a precarious agricultural existence, that their obstinacy is a measure of their loyalty and integrity, and that their apparent slowness is a reflection of the simplicity and humility of a model Sikh society. Other forms of Jat popular culture portray a proud rather than a comical self-image. In representing the Jat self, bravery and loyalty to friends, both expressed to the point of death, are key characteristics. Physical magnificence and martial behaviours are also significant in these self-portrayals.15 Finally, the humility and simplicity of a society based on hard work, struggle, sacrifice, and simple pleasures are emphasized. Popular cultural representations offer insights into Jat character and identity, particularly bhangra songs (and today, their associated video performances). Bhangra, despite uncertain origins is ‘a broadly peasant, but more specifically Jat, Punjabi performative tradition’ (Ballantyne 2006: 124). The song Putt Jattan De (‘The Sons of the Jats’) reveals some of the archetypal rural affiliations and characteristics that Jats claim for themselves. The song was apparently written for a 1981 Punjabi film with the same title, and several popular remixed versions were released in the 1990s. The song remains popular at Jat weddings and other festivities involving dance. Surinder Shinda sang the original film version, and is the performer featured in the most popular remix; Kuldip Manak provides another version. A notion of Jat regional centrality is perhaps expressed in these particular performances of this song. Neither of its well-known singers are Jat: Surinder Shinda (whose gotra or clan name is Hunjan) is of Tarkhan (carpenter) Sikh caste, while Kuldip Manak’s birth name is Latif Mohammed and thus he is Muslim; thus, both a pan-Punjabi privileging of Jats and Jatpana, and a sense of Jat inclusivity and caste magnanimity, may be apparent here. The Shinda version of the song has four main stanzas, each of which changes in instrumentation and tempo slightly to correspond with its subject matter. Bhangra is known for its lively tempo, which results from the use of dhol (drums). The first verse is sung at a relatively slow pace against instrumentation whose main feature is dhol, as would be typical of a traditional rural bhangra performance. It opens with a

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popular lyrical refrain, bulaonde bakre: Putt Jattan de bulaonde bakre, which has a literal meaning akin to ‘Sons of Jats, call/imitate your goats,’ which colloquially means ‘Sons of Jats, make some noise!’ This invites the audience’s exuberance, and is accompanied by ‘brhhoooah-brhhoooah’ sounds which do indeed mimic goats; we thus have a clear demonstration of the rustic concerns which many Punjabis attribute to their language. In this verse, a group of exuberant Jats are encountered on a rural road. They are wearing white lunghis and are adorned with gold around their long necks; they bear gandaase, wooden staffs with crescent-shaped blades, and are carrying botlaan (bottles), presumably of liquor. The tempo of the song and its instrumentation increase in the next stanza, which relates the tale of a mela (fair) in Jagraon, at which several Jats from Malwa villages ordered 40 botlaan, drank 39, and threw the last bottle against the wall of a large home, precipitating a fight, in which their gandaase were used. The drunken fracas was so intense, the singer narrates, that the end of the world might have come, had the police not stepped in.16 In this verse, the earthy pleasures of Jat men are seen to cause them trouble, and their reputation for fighting is introduced. This apparently negative portrayal, however, foretells the bravery they are to display in the next stanza. Here, the song’s tempo is slowed dramatically, and the emotion of the singer’s voice rises above the instrumentation, which augments his efforts only in imitating the sad melody he follows. He relates how the sons of the Jats were ready to die for their country: teasing death, journeying overseas for revenge, going to the gallows laughing, and naming Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh – both legendary freedom fighters of the Indian independence movement – as examples of Jat bravery and vengefulness. (Here too, Jatpana is stretched to include Udham Singh, who appears to have been a Kamboj Sikh, as his bravery, commitment, and death as a martyr of the independence movement render him an honorary Jat.) The final verse returns to an upbeat tempo. It details the qualities of a Jat’s friendship and love, his loyalty and willingness to die for his loves, and the importance of his protection, word, commitment, and integrity. Significantly associating Jats with landed imagery, the verse relates that Jats swear beneath the jand tree – a large desert species known for its shade – to give protection to their friends and lovers, and that their friendship and love is like the trunk of a mulberry (toot; from shahtoot), that is, unbreakable. In essence, this song describes the qualities of Jat izzat (honour; used here in a masculine sense), on which Jatpana is largely premised. The song thus articulates characteristics that Jats claim are true portrayals of themselves.

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Engendering Jat Tradition For Jats, sociocultural notions of gender are often at odds with Sikh religious ideals. Sikhism as an intellectual tradition declares that women are the equals of men, and advocates equality among both castes and genders (cf. Jakobsh 2003, Mahmood 1996, Mahmood and Brady 2000, Malhotra 2002: 2, Singh 2005). Mahmood (1996: 220–1) states that Sikhism is probably the only major religion of the world that claims gender equality as one of its central precepts … To my knowledge, there has never been any debate about whether or not women should become scripture readers, caretakers of gurdwaras, baptized members of the Khalsa, or freedom fighters … The third Guru, Guru Amar Das, had forbidden widow burning, seclusion of women, and female infanticide – practices still common in much of India. Guru Gobind Singh made woman, kaur or princess, and man, singh or lion, siblings in the Guru’s family.

However, as Jakobsh (2003) points out – utilizing McMullen’s (1989) framework – normative and operative religious frameworks must be distinguished: that is, religious ideals and cultural practices often may differ. Hence, Sikh women are seldom permitted significant public religious roles (perhaps because they are clearly confined in cultural terms within the domestic sphere), and the practice of female infanticide (in the new guise of sex-selective foeticide) continues horrifically apace; indeed, it is more common in Punjab than anywhere else in India.17 Mahmood herself claims that ‘this ideal has not exactly worked out. Equal opportunity is there, but actual equality is not’ (1996: 221). Indeed, the Sikh tradition is interpreted, claimed, and historicized in overwhelmingly masculinist ways (cf. Axel 2001, Jakobsh 2003, N. Singh 1993, 2005). According to Jakobsh (2003: 43), ‘the ethos dominating the developing Sikh community was clearly patriarchal, hierarchical, and masculine.’ She deconstructs the premise of gender equality within Sikhism, arguing that the gurus’ appreciation of and approach towards women was not uniform, questioning the gendered meanings of women’s roles within Sikh history, and examining the impact of Victorian gender values on colonial religious reform movements within Sikhism. Meanwhile, in an ongoing and compelling feminist project, Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh posits the obliteration of a religiously conceived femininity from Sikh memory, and in response reinterprets Sikh texts to privilege feminine perspectives. She describes, for instance, how

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the language of the gurus’ verses is ‘replete with rich feminine symbols and imagery’ (1993: 3), and how purportedly masculine Sikh symbols are also charged with femininity, linking the destruction of both gender and caste to the birth of the Khalsa in a symbology of meaningful gestation and bloody parturition (2005). The social status and position of women in Jat Sikh society is thus a contradictory one, for regardless of their potentially exalted religious position, gender inequality prevails in the everyday lives of many Sikh women. Indeed, many Jat women told me that the fabled gender equality of Sikhism remains theory or doctrine rather than a social fact. The ongoing implication of women in the production and reproduction of caste identity, difference, and distinction, as rooted in family life, notions of honour, and women’s bodies, is in many ways constitutive of Jat women’s gender inequity. The family is the essential unit of Punjabi society, and the patrilineal and patriarchal joint family remains the ideal family form. Gender relations are infused with, oriented against, and expressed through discourses of men’s izzat and women’s sharam – twin notions which guide traditional Jat relationships both within the family and in the community at large. Izzat means, variously, honour, respect(ability), or reputation, while sharam, literally translated as shame, more accurately refers to modesty, humility, and (sexual) propriety; to be called besharam, immodest and without shame, is a condemnation feared by women. Izzat is among the most valued ideals among Punjabis, and its negation in sharam or ‘loss of face’ is to be avoided, even at the expense of ‘normal sentiments and emotions’ (Das 1976: 2, 14). Izzat and sharam are dual concepts, their meanings interpenetrating and informing each other, but both are guided by male interest: as this was explained to me, ‘a man’s izzat is his women’s sharam.’ Jat gender relations are thus issues of a complementarity of categorizations rather than matters of strict opposition. Izzat marks the reputation of both the individual Jat male and his family, and is constructed through the deportment of his wife, sisters, and daughters, who attend to sharam in their modesty and humility. Relatedly, the few sanctioned social roles for women in north India are domestic and kin-based. Women’s roles are always constructed in relation to men; women are socially bound in the primary kinship categories of daughter and sister in their paternal homes, and in the roles of wife, daughter-in-law, and mother in their marital homes. Jat tradition, community identity, and women are thus firmly connected. Issues of gender are also often embodied ones: women are aligned with tradition primarily in matters of the body, mobility,

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and the fulfillment of mothering and other kin roles; for example, the demand that women’s dress and social deportment be modest is central to Punjabi sensibilities regarding gender. Women embody Jat custom, and their behaviour – which should be mindful of their womanly sharam – accrues and expresses family honour. The association of women and tradition therefore is a matter of significant moral compulsion.18 A firm connection exists between gender and ethnicity, linked as components of identity in diverse social practices.19 Ethnicity, as Eriksen (1993: 12) observes, is a matter of relationships; as well, notions of ancestry and kinship observances implicate gender in ethnic boundarymaking. Gender also intersects ethnicity and modernity, often in relation to the nation-state, as new formulations of gender roles and behaviours are adopted in the interests of national progress (Abu-Lughod 1998, Mohan 1996) and the state regulates family life (Moore 1988). While gender intersects and overlaps the ethnic elements of identities in Punjab – and also to some extent sets up a separate and unified category of women subjects – that have been referred to by Bagwe (1995) as being collectively ‘of woman caste’ – as Kandiyoti (1991: 443) has observed, ‘the regulation of gender is central to the articulation of cultural identity and difference.’ Both women and men embody and express ethnic boundaries. In India, as elsewhere, women are frequently implicated in notions of cultural tradition and bounded identity (Chatterjee 1993, Mani 1998, Sarkar and Butalia 1995, Sarkar 1998); this embodiment may be cast in moral tones of purity, as was frequent among Punjabis during Partition (Butalia 2000, Das 2007, Menon and Bhasin 1998). Sikh men, whose religious practice is physically marked, also embody community boundaries and represent collective identity, and may, like Sikh women, suffer violence – although typically of a different order – for these associations (Axel 2001, Das 1990, 2007). Women reproduce the boundaries of communities by reproducing communities themselves, both physically and ideologically mothering identity (cf. Yuval-Davis and Antaias 1989). For Punjabi women, social belonging is a matter uniquely ‘linked to sexuality, honour, chastity; family, community and country must agree on both their acceptability and legitimacy, and their membership within the fold’ (Menon and Bhasin 1998: 251). The epistemological containment of sharam, the concern of women, within the realm of izzat, the purview of men, suggests that men are women’s social superiors. Derné remarks that Indian men ‘have constructed a focus on honor that advances their own interests’; he found that ‘men claim that the threat of dishonor is only a mod-

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est restriction on their own actions, while it tightly limits women’s freedom’ (1995: 30). Men’s lives are thus noticeably more public than women’s, whose movement is limited following the customary dictates of purdah. A women’s sharam is both revealed and enforced by practices of purdah, ghungat (Hindi), or ghund (Punjabi), veiling,20 which is both a physical practice, and a set of avoidance mechanisms between a woman and her affines; a married woman traditionally veils from her husband and all of his elder male kin, as well as her mother in-law and other kin of these classifications. As Sharma (1978) has suggested, purdah reminds women of those relations with whom passive or submissive behaviours are appropriate. According to Chowdhry (1994: 284), the veil ‘reaffirms a social hierarchy corresponding to the social world outside.’ Strict veiling practices have waned in Ganganagar, but many women still partially veil by covering their heads with their dupattas in the presence of elder male affines. The moral force of sexual propriety inherent to veiling has continued, however, and is a strong influence, since women who behave according to the morals attendant to gender distinction are socially rewarded. Although strictly-kept purdah practices are on the wane,21 there remains a gendered distinction between public and household spaces. As Flueckiger (1996: 9) has noted, it is believed that women should spend as little time as possible in public. Harlan (1992: 228) has commented that the traditional segregated women’s quarter of north Indian homes, the zenana, even ‘when vanished as a location … has retained a discrete presence in the various traditions that have bequeathed its morality to descending generations.’ In Ganganagar, practices of purdah are continued in rules that place restrictions on leaving the house unaccompanied, that limit the daughter-in-law’s use of certain household spaces, and that demand her adherence to certain codes of dress, speech, and mannerism. Women’s clothing and deportment thus signal and assure family izzat, and in this way can become sites of contest. Representations of women in various popular media may deride their modernity in clothing or other manners, guarding real women from such concerns through notions of vulgar deportment and improprietous behaviours. Often, rural and urban women are contrasted in such representations. Women’s giddha performances, popular television fare for family viewing, are often staged on studio floors dressed with sets featuring kaccha (unfired mud) Punjabi village homes and village props, and the video performances of women singers22 are typically set against village backgrounds, often using a central conceit of a village mela, wedding cere-

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mony, or the women’s festival of Teej.23 The featured women themselves are always dressed in traditional style, in brightly coloured salwarkameez, or lehnga-ghagra, often with tops and bottoms of what might appear to a Westerner as markedly clashing colours, and perhaps with still different coloured dupattas, always draped discreetly about their chests if not their heads. Their makeup is usually minimal, but again in bright and potentially clashing shades, and they wear their hair in traditional braids or buns. They are typically adorned with golden jewelry in traditional forms. Their apparent traditional ‘simplicity’ contradicts the more subtle, ‘sophisticated’ appearance of urban Jat women’s clothes, and this contrast is particularly apparent in their televised juxtaposition. ‘Modern’ city-fashioned suits of clothing, unlike those worn for giddha, are nearly always matched in colour and fabric or, if they utilize contrasting shades, their differences will always have a harmonious effect, drawn together by some detail of embroidery, dyeing or patterning, rather than a bold clash of solid shades. The modern clothing of film and video are almost always of rich materials, and are often exquisitely embroidered and beaded. Dupattas, if worn in Bollywood films, are artfully and minimally draped over prominent necks, shoulders, and even midriffs, and exquisite jewelry, always carefully matched to clothing, features far more prominently than in giddha videos. Visual and popular cultural representations of Punjabi women thus connote their particular relationship to rural traditions which are held to be timeless and authentic truths of the Jat self. Urban households are often decorated with paintings depicting village women engaged in embroidery and other household tasks, many of which are variations on the common print ‘Punjaban with a needle,’ which depicts a young, semi-veiled Punjabi woman, wearing a village-styled suit, often in red (the auspicious colour associated with young brides), or a lehnga-ghagra (the traditional garb of the Punjabi peasant woman in the past). She is sitting on the ground, her eyes cast demurely down at the sewing she is doing. In other variations of this print, the same young woman similarly attends to her charkha (spinning wheel) or chaatti and madhaani (vessel and churning stick used to make butter). Rural women do in fact seem to continue with household traditions that their urban sisters no longer practise. Many of these are related to cooking and craft production. Household goods such as dhurries (carpets) and khes (woven cotton blankets for spring and autumn use), and smaller items such as pakhiaan (rotating hand held-fans, often featuring traditional Punjabi embroidery, phulkari) and embroidered tablecloths are often

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obtained from relatives in village families in which women maintain these arts.24 City women often knit, and are able to do simple sewing, often learned in home science classes, but it is far more prestigious to have suits stitched in the latest fashions by the tailors in the bazaar, and to have elaborate machine-embroidery done there as well. Men are fond of making disparaging remarks upon the tastes of women for such fashionable items, but they are also aware that their own status is reflected in the dress of the women of their family. For instance, I was commended on my preference for ‘simple’ cotton suits for daily wear, but was just as often told, by my father-in-law as much as my motherin-law, to change from these same suits when going on evening visits, even just for chai-pani. Matters of dress thus have import in facilitating individual communications between women and their families, in symbolizing relationships, as well as in demarking community boundaries. In evoking Jat traditions, kapre (clothing) signals propriety and community identity. While Western dress is common among men in the city,25 Jat women are expected to wear modest and simple salwar-kameez or ‘Punjabi suits’ in the manner of their village sisters. Although most middle-class women have a taste for embroidery and other embellishments of their clothing, and despite the fact that such attention to a garment’s details reflects the social status of their family, more traditional cuts of suits, with front darts for fitting and very wide pant legs, worn with the dupatta partly obscuring the head, are always complimented as being both beautiful and essentially Jat. In other ways, the Jat woman’s clothing speaks of her group affiliations: like the Jat Sikh man’s turban, the Jat woman’s clothing marks her difference from other Punjabi communities. She does not wear a sari, as Hindu women do,26 and she wears her suits without any overdress such as a burqa, differentiating her from Muslim women. Nor does she adorn herself with any physical symbols of her status as a bride:27 she never applies sindoor, nor does she wear red bangles, nor bindis, on a daily basis.28 Middleclass Punjabi children29 largely wear western-styled clothing,30 but once girls reach their early teenage years, it becomes appropriate for them to display their modesty, and salwar-kameez become the expected form of dress. Before marriage, girls of all Punjabi communities wear salwarkameez; the married woman thus has a particular symbolic importance in marking group identity. Women, in these various ways, are physical manifestations of bounded group identity. The dupatta is particularly symbolic in Jat women’s dress. While it may be interpreted as a religious symbol, a counterpart to the turban

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in ‘maintaining and respecting the gift of the kesha [hair]’ (N. Singh 2005: 188), for Jat Sikhs the dupatta has primarily gendered meanings. A bodily extension of the restrictions of purdah, the manner in which the dupatta is worn, if properly demure, connotes the gendered expectations of modesty, respect, and humility. To communicate these meanings, the dupatta is worn fully draped over the chest, and by new bahus (daughters-in-law), or those in more traditional or conservative families, partially covering the head also. The dupatta is particularly meaningful in the context of marriage: brides whose dupattas do not conceal much of their faces during the marriage ceremony (anand karaj) are admired as bold and modern, yet chided simultaneously as rather too modern; the honour of such brides is slightly suspect. Similarly, Jat women that don saris on special occasions may at the same time be complimented and admired as ‘smart’ and ‘modern,’ criticized for taking too much interest in films whence such trends are said to originate, and even disparaged for not being proud of the Jat form of dress. In Ganganagar, wearing one’s dupatta in the manner of city women – here referring to women of the metropolitan centres of Delhi and Chandigarh – its full length folded and draped over a single shoulder, suggests that the girl is too modern, challenging of family traditions, and thus demanding careful observation, if not outright correction; to go visiting or about the bazaar in this manner does not communicate family respectability or a woman’s modesty. As they must constantly take care that their dupattas are modestly draped about the neck, chest and shoulders – and it is not easy to balance a thin and often slippery chiffon veil about one’s upper body, particularly when moving about – women are constantly reminded of the requirement of bodily attending to honour. Besides marking propriety, womens’ forms of dress facilitate communications between women and their families, symbolize gendered positions and relationships, and demark personal and community boundaries; dress may also communicate resistance through variations in clothing practice. Since such resistances challenge Jat izzat, and in relation, collective notions of self, the maintenance of appropriately gendered formations of identity are constantly guarded in strategies which attempt to reestablish hegemonic codes of honour. Sikhism It is a common paradigm among Sikhs that Sikhism manifests enlightened ideals and is a modern religion; Sikh academics such as Uberoi

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(1996) have also used the idiom of modernity in describing Sikhism. Unsurprisingly, Jats in Ganganagar told me that Sikhism is a modern religion, practical, rational, non-ritualistic, and progressive in its social views, and related their willingness to take up opportunities for social progress to these aspects of the Sikh faith. This purportedly modern character of Sikhism is attributed to Guru Nanak’s rejection of prevailing religious ideology. Sikhism arose in the fifteenth century31; Guru Nanak, who is recognized among Sikhs as the founder of the faith,32 and is often described as a mystic, preached the continual mindfulness of God and meditation on God’s name, as well as truthful living, humility, service, selflessness, equality, and social engagement. Nanak envisioned a single God, (ek onkar or doctrine of one God), whose name is said to be truth (satnam), and advocated the practice of meditative recitation of God’s name (naam simran) as the means of escaping the cycle of transmigration in which Sikhs, like Hindus, are trapped. The devotional and meditative nature of Sikhism is in keeping with the larger influence of the Hindu bhakti movement,33 although it is monotheistic, and for the most part antiritualistic. Nanak also found inspiration in the Sant tradition, which stressed the formless quality of God, and asserted that caste was of no importance in attaining religious deliverance; this tradition in turn was inspired in part by Muslim Sufi traditions (McLeod 1989a). But Nanak famously declared ‘there is no Hindu, no Muslim,’34 thus refuting both sets of religious practices, and ideologically, the rightful exclusivity of either tradition. Nanak’s intention in these religious transformations can be variously interpreted as both means of spiritual liberation and forms of social protest. The most common interpretation of Sikh doctrine articulates its egalitarian, anti-caste emphasis on social reform: occasionally it is ascribed with a revolutionary intent (e.g. Jagjit Singh 1988). Indeed, Grewal (1990 [1997]: 28) argues that ‘a rigorous analysis of the compositions of Guru Nanak reveal that there is hardly anything in contemporary politics, society or religion that he finds commendable,’ and that the very fact that he composed his own texts was a rejection of scriptural authority. Nanak is said to have travelled throughout the subcontinent and beyond, performing kirtan and meditating with followers. But Nanak also advocated a householding life, which meant that Hindu practices of wordly renunciation, leaving one’s family, home, and society, should not be attempted: for Nanak ‘true renunciation consisted in living purely amidst the impurities of attachment’ (Grewal 1990 [1997]: 40).

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Prior to his death in 1539, Guru Nanak instituted a succession of gurus by appointing one of his disciples to guide his devotees in spiritual matters. With the articles of faith proclaimed by Nanak, later gurus35 instituted the major articles of practice among Sikhs, as well as building the major gurdwaras at which these practices are rendered especially meaningful. Some of the important accomplishments of the later gurus include: the compilation of the Adi Granth by Guru Arjan, the fifth guru, in which Sikh poetry and hymns, as well as some of the devotional works of Hindus and Muslims who inspired Nanak and his followers, outline the spiritual and social path Sikhs are to follow; the building of the Golden Temple at Amritsar and several other of the historic gurdwaras and pilgrimage centres; and the institution of the egalitarian practice of langar, the communal meal prepared in a joint kitchen and eaten by all devotees irrespective of caste or other social standing. In this initial period, ‘significant axes of identity to the embryonic Sikh Panth’ were provided in practices of ‘allegiance to Guru Nanak and his nine successors; identification with their teachings (bani); the foundation of congregations (sangats)’ (Oberoi 1994: 49). The establishment of these practices, in some ways antithetical to Guru Nanak’s rather solitary meditations, marks a response to ‘problems of definition and organization’ within the Sikh Panth (McLeod 1976: 8), although this assertion has been described as unacceptable by certain scholars of the Sikh community (e.g. Grewal 1998: 121). Throughout the next two centuries, the egalitarian and universalist faith envisioned by Nanak met increasing resistance under Mughal rule. Sikh faith and practice were to change quite radically as a result. The Sikh gurus who followed Nanak in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived in a social environment that was increasingly hostile to non-Muslims. In response, the Sikh doctrine of miri-piri, which outlines the indivisibility of the religious and political spheres of human society, was developed. McLeod (1989a: 4) posits that the tenet of miri-piri evidences ‘a new militancy … in response to early seventeenth-century circumstances.’ Since miri and piri are mutually infused concepts, religious identity thus becomes a temporal and a political concern to Sikhs. In light of this doctrinal development, Sikhism sanctions the military defence of the community through the ideal of the sant-sepoi or saint-soldier. As well, the notion of ‘salvation through martyrdom’ (Karandeep Singh 1990: 247) is developed. Sikh martyrdom (shaheedi) occurs not only in the struggle for Sikh causes, but from Sikh participation in any truthful and righteous battle (cf. Dietrich 1987: 129); shaheeds are wit-

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nesses testifying ‘in resistance (to oppression) and defiance (of tyranny)’ (Fenech 2001: 6). Sikh martyrs are celebrated and commemorated, their collective sacrifice is invoked in the ardaas (daily prayers), and their images are often displayed in gurdwaras. According to Embree (1990: 210), ‘to destroy the enemies of the community is a necessary act … the courage to fight and the willingness to die are essential qualities of the devotee of the Guru.’36 Supported by these tenets of faith, Sikhs fought against the forced conversions instigated by several of the seventeenthcentury Mughal emperors, and are commonly acknowledged as the valiant defenders of fellow Punjabi Hindus against the same persecution. The doctrines of miri-piri, best understood in the historic context of Muslim rule, still contribute to the contemporary minority consciousness among Sikhs. In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and final guru, established the Khalsa,37 or community of the ‘pure,’ telling Sikhs that henceforth they would look only to the writings collected in the Guru Granth Sahib for spiritual leadership. To become members of the Khalsa, Sikhs undergo the amrit initiation rite, swearing to bear the five Ks as symbols of their Sikhism. Uberoi (1996) explains that kesh (uncut hair) was prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh to make Sikhs visible and force them to represent their faith, that the kirpan (sword/dagger) was prescribed so that Sikhs might defend their faith and fight injustice, and that a kara (steel bangle) was worn to remind Sikhs of their integrity, honour, and duties; while the kangha (small comb worn in the hair) symbolized order and cleanliness in both body and community, and kachha (briefs or shorts worn beneath the pyjama, salwar or lunghi) represented both sexual engagement and moral restraint, following the guru’s injunction that Sikhs not renounce sexual relations within marriage.38 Uberoi argues that these requirements of Sikh initiation ‘stood as the antithesis or the antonym of the rites of Hindu renunciation’ (1996: 5). The Khalsa initiation also was intended to obliterate hierarchy and destroy caste observances among Sikhs, as Guru Gobind Singh’s first initiates, the panj piare, were assembled from different castes and transformed into a singular ‘brotherhood.’ The formation of the Khalsa fulfilled a military destiny for Sikhs that had begun midway through the succession of gurus, following the death – or martyrdom – of Guru Arjan at the hands of Muslim torturers and which aimed to mark the orthodox Sikh community as separate from all others. Guru Gobind Singh’s famous invocation raj karega Khalsa – the Khalsa will rule – established a call for Sikh political

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authority that has remained significant in orienting Punjabi political development (Pettigrew 1987). Khalsa Sikhs, as members of Guru Gobind Singh’s community of the pure, have become hegemonic in representing and interpreting Sikhism; however, this privileged position is debated among and contested by non-khalsa Sikhs.39 Prior to the British colonial period, despite the establishment of the Khalsa ideal, ‘most Sikhs moved in and out of multiple identities grounded in local, regional, religious and secular loyalties’ (Oberoi 1994: 24), and engaged in common Punjabi folk practices which concerned themselves with efficacy rather than exclusivity. Punjabi folk traditions are significant to an understanding of local identity for they challenge notions of fixity in religious identity. Yet, ‘official Sikh historiography has always maintained a stony silence on Sikh participation in popular religion’ (Oberoi 1994: 139). Oberoi recounts ‘an enchanted universe’ of popular religious practices (1994: 139–203), while Grewal notes that remnants of the popular religion of the common people of Punjab, which ‘bordered on animism and fetishism’ have survived (1990 [1997]: 24). Cataloguing and presenting Sikhs according to a generic and homogeneous classification limits the usefulness of the literature in providing insight to the study of Sikh religiosity, as the religious identities and practices of the Punjabi populace are only inadequately described in idealized theological or doctrinal terms, and indeed for many Sikhs, popular religious practice still inhabits Oberoi’s enchanted universe. Since the late nineteenth century, however, the historical trajectory of Sikhism has increasingly espoused orthodox forms, and the Khalsa identity has become hegemonic within Sikhism (Axel 2001, McLeod 1989b, Oberoi 1994); Jat dominance within the religious sphere is significant in this hegemony. Guru Nanak’s creation, compared with the Sikhism of the later gurus, and particularly that of Guru Gobind Singh, suggests very different notions of faith, practice, and religious exclusivity. The universalist frame of early Sikhism contrasts with the particularist tradition of the Khalsa; as well, meditative devotional practices are at odds with tenets of militancy and martyrdom. McLeod (1989a: 5) states that the Khalsa is ‘a militant organization with an external identity which is typically perceived as the beard and the distinctive turban,’ but questions how this new militant doctrine can be reconciled with ‘Guru Nanak’s stress on inward devotion.’ McLeod articulates Gobind Singh’s qualifications on the drawing of the sword: ‘the first is that the sword may be used

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only in defense of truth, of righteousness, and of the faith; and the second is that it may be drawn only when all other means of defence have failed’ (1989a: 6). Leaf (1982: 185) aptly states that ‘militancy as such is not a Sikh virtue,’ and that it is self-defence which produces the effect of militancy; in this way, the purported militancy of Sikhism can be interpreted as eminently reasonable. Thus conflicting models of Sikhism are reconciled in later theologies, but continue on occasion to be remarked and questioned by Sikhs today. Several of the Sikhs with whom I spoke expressed difficulties with the notion that a single guru was represented by and spoke through Guru Nanak and his descendants until Guru Gobind Singh. What is most significant to the present work is the fact that Jats aligned with Sikhism in great numbers after the institution of the Khalsa, and that Jats today typically claim stronger affiliations with Gobind Singh’s vision of a martial Sikh faith. Militant traditions justified and enabled the defence of family, home, community and honour, and this sanction is no doubt of particular appeal in the beleaguered border land that Jats believe is Punjab. Until today, Jats observe firm allegiances to this exclusivist religious form,40 whether or not they are Khalsa Sikhs. The Historical Development of Sikh Difference Among Jat Sikhs, historical awareness, popular discourses of religious differentiation, notions of religious orthodoxy, linguistic issues, political opposition, and the more recent perception of economic discrimination have coalesced to construct an ethnic and national position that no single issue would perhaps have so inspired. Despite broad cultural similarities, Sikhs have become increasingly differentiated – both religiously and politically – from Punjabi Hindus and Muslims over the past four centuries. For Jats, present-day conceptions of marginality are developed in response to this history. These marginalizations may be variously manifested as Khalistani militancy, or, as for the Sikhs of this study, as an urgency to lay claim to social centrality, as produced through practices of status and prosperity, whether through class or transnational movement or both. Significantly, each of these strategies can result in further marginalization. While the historical events that are the key to contemporary Sikh alienation began in earnest during the British colonial period, Sikh identity began to be guarded against a Muslim other in the seventeenth century. During this period, while the gurus were still in living succession,

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Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus were jointly faced with a self-assertive and often violent Mughal presence, particularly under the draconian reign of Aurangzeb from 1658 to 1707. The Sikh response to Muslim domination was militaristic, as exemplified by the founding of the Khalsa and its principles. Today, Sikhs still pride themselves on having fought and been martyred to protect Hindus; for instance, on his website, Sandeep Singh Brar writes of the martyrdom of the ninth guru, Tegh Bahadur: ‘Never in the annals of history has the religious leader of one religion sacrificed his life to save the freedom of another religion’ (http://www. sikhs.org/guru9.htm). Following the era of Muslim oppression, after a brief period of Sikh ‘empire’ (Grewal 1990 [1997]: 99) from 1799 to 1839 under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and a series of Anglo-Sikh wars, Punjab came under British control in 1849. At this time, Sikhs managed to retain – or perhaps gain – social prominence in Punjab by enrolling in the British army in numbers far exceeding their relative population, and by being rewarded with land and titles (jagirs). Particular formations of Sikh orthodoxy became important, as army recruitment policies gave special preference to khalsa Sikhs, contributing to what Ballard has called ‘a sharp resurgence in conformity to the external convictions of the Khalsa’ (1993: 91, emphasis mine). While arguments concerning the British influence over recreated and re-enacted Punjabi identities (e.g. Ballard 1993, Fox 1985, Gurharpal Singh and Talbot 1996) are convenient and of undeniable historiographic merit, they are limited in denying local agency in dialogic colonial engagement (cf. Chatterjee 1995).41 Nevertheless, colonial conditions prompted diverse questionings of Sikh identity. For example, the Sikh Singh Sabha movement, founded during the 1870s, responded to the raj by creating itself in opposition to the Arya Samaj. This organization promoted fundamentalist reforms and anti-colonial revivalist discourses in Hinduism, and was interpreted as seeking to ‘reconvert’ supposedly lapsed groups such as Sikhs, and indeed to ‘propagate Hindu militancy’ (Gupta 1996: 25). In response, the Singh Sabhas had as their central objective the construction of ‘a clear categorical boundary between themselves and their Hindu rivals’ (Ballard 1993: 91). This became evident in the reinvention of certain social practices such as the marriage ritual, anand karaj, codified in the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, which intended to differentiate Sikh marriages from Hindu ones in the substitution of the Adi Granth for the sacred fire (McLeod 1989b: 80).42 Then, in the 1920s, a vigorous campaign took place to restore Sikh gurdwaras to orthodox Sikh control as they were

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essentially being run by Hindu priests (mahants) engaging in Hindu practices (Dietrich 1987: 124–5l; McLeod 1989a: 46). The mahants leading the gurdwaras had been enabled under British law to list the temple properties they managed in their own names, and they incorporated Hindu idols in the temples to attract a wider circle of potential donors. Even the head priest of the Golden Temple introduced Hinduised practices into the holiest of holies by, for example, not allowing scheduled castes to enter along with other worshippers. (Dietrich 1987: 124–5)

Although the boundary between Sikh and Hindu was culturally blurred, set against the ideological struggles between the Arya Samaj and the Singh Sabhas, orthodox Sikh control of the gurdwaras became crucial to the persistence of Sikh difference. The significance of the Khalsa was further intensified at this time as the Singh Sabhas increasingly emphasized the teachings of Gobind Singh rather than those of Nanak (Ballard 1993); indeed, the Singh Sabha movement informed the reassertion of orthodoxy in the twentieth century (Oberoi 1994). As well, Sikh community leadership organizations – the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) political party, and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee43 (SGPC) for gurdwara management and administration – formed to defend Sikh interests in the 1920s continue to represent a majority of Sikhs.44 The development and subsequent histories of the Arya Samaj and Singh Sabhas reflect the influence of colonial modernity on Punjabi society, as reflected in ‘caste status, urban residence, literacy, [and] Hindu or unreformed Sikh identity’ (Fox 1985: 163). The differentiation of a Sikh identity continued to be a matter of religious and political necessity well into the twentieth century. Despite repeated assertions of Sikh religious difference in the colonial period, during the independence movement Sikh political interests were cast with the larger, purportedly secular interests of what was to become the nation-state of India. The case for a Sikh Punjab was originally encouraged by British policies on representative government and supported by British census figures, but attempts to have Punjab redrawn based on Sikh language and demography failed owing to comparatively thin population concentrations of Sikhs (Grewal 1990 [1997]: 173). At Partition, Sikh boundary-making aspirations were thwarted by their minority status in the region. This division was intended to be merely territorial, but profound communal unrest forced the redistribution of Indian Sikhs and Hindus and Pakistani Muslims.

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Local understandings of the Partition today remain almost mythic in their dimensions. Not only were local communities arbitrarily divided on the modern and purportedly rational basis of demography, and religious institutions and places precious to each community lost, but the nominative feature of the Punjab, the five rivers precious to Punjabis, were legally and territorially sundered. The accompanying tragic violence of this traumatic event resulted in a new sense of community closure and the fixing of the Punjabi religious communities according to newly formulated and firm boundaries. Although a fluctuating and evolving dynamic between the Sikh self and Muslim and Hindu others is apparent in Punjabi history, Partition crystallized these notions in a way that had never previously occurred; those who had formerly been Punjabis became Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. Gupta (1996) argues that Partition caused Indian sentiments of the nation-state to become irrevocably attached to territory, and relatedly, property and economy.45 After Partition, Punjabi regional politics served to disassociate Sikhs and Hindus still more. A consequence of dividing the Punjab was that the Sikh minority became a larger entity within the Indian Punjabi population. Territorial concentration was fuel for Sikh political aspirations: ‘as the Sikh leader, Master Tara Singh, later ruminated in his memoirs, the Sikhs could have staked their claim to an autonomous State had they been as favourably located in any definable territory at the time of the transfer of power’ (Harbans Singh 1983: 335). However, nationalist aspirations were to find no favour in post-Partition India, for ‘the partition put an end to all speculation about future partitions of the country’ (Gupta 1993: 30). Among Sikhs, the communal violence of Partition created a resolve of some urgency to avoid minority political positions if at all possible.46 Encouraged by the post-colonial linguistic reorganization outlined in the new constitution, and using many of the activist tactics learned during the freedom struggle, Sikhs lobbied for the establishment of a Punjabi-speaking state. Nehru was opposed to such a development, which was ‘in his view, a covert means of securing a Sikh majority state and was thus to be viewed as serving the needs of the Sikh community’ (McLeod 1989a: 111) rather than being strictly linguistic.47 The Punjabi Suba (state) was realized in 1966, after Nehru’s death, with the removal of the majority Hindi-speaking area of eastern Punjab, which is now called Haryana, as well as the mountainous northern region that is now Himachal Pradesh. Significantly, political aspirations had come into conflict with religious ideals in campaigning for the new state; this pattern is apparent time and again in India’s

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purportedly secular democracy. As for the Sikhs, they at last formed a scant majority in this further reduced Punjab. However, these regional language debates and the further division of the region contributed to a renewed sense of alienation among Sikhs, who became linguistically separated from Punjabi Hindus in this process. Punjab’s Hindus, prompted by politicians and the Arya Samaj (Pettigrew 1975: 94–96), claimed – en masse, as Jat Sikhs tell it – to speak Hindi rather than Punjabi, ‘leaving little doubt as to their political preferences’; this Hindu denial of Punjabi as mother tongue and main daily language was a ‘deliberate falsification’ of the census (Shackle 1986: 10). Claiming to speak Punjabi thus came to mark Sikhs and Hindus as inextricably separate: Hindus claimed Hindi in the Devanagari script to be their mother tongue, despite their vernacular daily use of Punjabi. In this way, they insulted a language ripe with religious connotation for Sikhs, for Punjabi is written in the Gurmukhi script created by the second Guru for the purpose of writing religious texts. Moreover, ‘in political terms, the Punjabi Suba had failed to deliver the anticipated result, namely a government which would give effective expression to Sikh aspirations’ (McLeod 1989a: 113). Regional issues48 of water management and the forcible sharing with Haryana of the state capital, Chandigarh, remained critical into the 1980s, and are to this day unresolved. And while the redrawing of the province on linguistic boundaries had the ultimate aim of realizing Punjabi Suba, large areas of Punjab were again lost, along with their mythic and symbolic icons of Punjabi identity. This fact remains a source of social alienation and grievance among Jat Sikhs, who blame not only their Hindu neighbours but also fellow Sikh Aroras, as ‘Hindu Punjabis,’49 for doing much of the damage. As recognized by both Renan (1882 [1996]) and Anderson (1983 [1991]), the shared memories and collective symbols implied by and invested in vernacular language are as important to national identity formation as its practical formalities.50 Thus in the period following Partition, the memories and collective symbols implied in and maintained by language, as well as by a sense of being in place, were no longer shared by all Punjabis. The central Congress (I)51 government, having awarded the Sikhs their linguistically-defined state, then embarked on what can be interpreted as a campaign of reincorporation, seeking to represent Punjabis at the state government level. This playing of politics in large part resulted in the Punjab ‘crisis’ of the 1980s. Congress attempted to gain the support of Punjab’s rural majority of Sikhs who were thought to

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adhere closely to the strictures of religious orthodoxy by installing a renowned preacher, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, as their party’s representative in Punjab. Bhindranwale’s charismatic appeal is legendary, but it was not long before he revealed his lack of interest in and indeed his opposition to the Congress cause. Embree (1989: 209) has aptly described Bhindranwale’s position as marginal to the Sikh community despite the Congress belief that he was representative of Sikh interests: in the 1980s, a group of Sikhs – mainly young men, marginal in many ways to Sikh society as well as to the larger society of India – saw themselves as a saving remnant of the kind that fought the Muslim emperors at Delhi, only now the warfare was against the Hindu central government of India. Nothing is more irrelevant than to say that they are only a tiny faction, or that most educated, prosperous Sikhs do not agree with them, for saving remnants are by definition few in numbers and marginal to their society. The answer of the violent faction is that of course the majority is not with them. Dulled to true religion, they have accepted the arguments and the way of life of the enemies of the faith, and by doing so have themselves become enemies of the faith.

Initially, little central government action was taken to contain Bhindranwale, but eventually Congress, as led by Indira Gandhi, was to disregard the principles of democracy on which India was founded, imposing martial measures against the entire state and cancelling state elections for a number of years. The efforts of Congress to gain electoral support in the Punjab state elections through Bhindranwale had clearly backfired. More significantly, the government engaged in military intimidation in an attempt to suppress Bhindranwale, including the 1984 armed attack of the Golden Temple compound, in which Bhindranwale and his armed followers were killed,52 along with a large number of Sikhs who were merely making religious pilgrimages at the time.53 Then, in the aftermath of this event, ‘Operation Bluestar,’ Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, an event igniting large-scale anti-Sikh riots54 in which thousands more bystanding Sikhs were targeted and died without police protection.55 The attack on the Golden Temple was generally interpreted among Sikhs as an attack on Sikhism itself, and the failure of the government to provide protection in the anti-Sikh riots could only confirm this perspective. To make matters worse, the Congress government throughout the 1980s supported

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the often groundless arrests, torture, and killings by police of a large number of male Sikh youth. The Sikh Punjab – specifically, the Jat Sikh Punjab – thus became polarized in the 1980s against the central government and the nation as a whole. In the face of political violence, ‘a farmer’s movement, initially concerned with specific socio-economic issues’ was transformed ‘into a national struggle for freedom’; this was ‘not just a battle for a strategic piece of territory adjoining an international border,’ rather, it was ‘a battle between two sources of authority, that of the centralized administration of the Indian state and that of the Akal Takht’ (Pettigrew 1995: 4). In this battle, the vague impulse to nationhood expressed on occasion throughout Sikh history was strengthened: many Sikhs now renewed the community’s earlier support for an independent Khalistan. This movement received much support from the transnational Sikh community.56 Today, however, there is certainly no consensus on or even likelihood of Khalistan, and as a result of careful political containment, new political alliances, and a largely successful campaign against terrorism in the 1990s, it has ceased to be an issue for many Sikhs in Punjab. Nevertheless, the period of state terror precipitated by the events of June and November 1984 remains a critical point of historical departure for contemporary Sikh boundary-marking and identity-making. Sikh community, for both militants and non-Khalistanis, is produced through the violence of these events, whether Sikhs hope to consign their traumas to remembrance, reconciliation, or oblivion. According to Axel, the Sikh nation, and the Sikh diaspora (both at large from and deprived of the homeland), are ‘tortured bodies,’ ‘political artifact[s] of state violence’ (2001: 122). The history of the 1980s is often conflated with the Partition of 1947. Both incidents catalogue unspeakable violence and trauma – they are commonly referred to as ghallughara, genocide – and one is frequently representative of the pain of the other. Of course both events are national as well as Sikh tragedies, although their meanings are different for Sikhs, and profoundly so. In Sikh discourse, Partition is foundational to the events of 1980s: its monumental history establishes Sikh national difference and the failure of democracy, making both the development of militancy and the visitation of state terror possible four decades later. Both the crisis of the 1980s and contemporary Sikh notions of marginalization refer, transparently and obliquely, to the experience of Partition. As Das (2007: 76) has remarked, ‘the memory of the Partition cannot be understood … as a direct possession

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of the past. It is constantly interposed and mediated by the manner in which the world is presently inhabited.’ The magnitude of Partition is such that it is scarcely possible to remember it as an historical event in India (and particularly in Punjab); instead, it has taken on mythic proportions. Larson (1995: 191) has described Partition as ‘a creation-narrative, an epic founding myth, of sheer agony over religion.’ Pandey (1992: 33) has observed that there is no consensus among us about the nature of Partition. We have no means of representing such tragic loss, nor of pinning down – or rather, owning – responsibility for it. As a consequence, our nationalist historiography, journalism, and filmmaking have tended to generate something like a collective amnesia. Consciously or otherwise, they have represented Partition and all that went with it as an aberration.

The mythic remembrance of Partition reminds ‘one of something which it is immediately obligatory to forget’ (Anderson 1992: 201) in the sense that the simultaneous processes of memory and forgetting act both to construct and affirm national affiliations. While such ‘acts of mourning are more potent than those of triumph [to national identities], since they impose duties and require common effort’ (Renan 1882: 47), I would suggest that Sikh experiences, memories, and narratives of Partition are focused on region, religion, and self before nation. Like other South Asian nationals of the colonial period, Sikhs became ‘Indians’ under colonial rule. As a comparatively small minority and a valued military resource, Sikhs were not obvious targets of the divide-and-rule policies of the raj; meanwhile, Sikh efforts towards independence firmly joined those of other Indian nationalists. Had independence not entailed division, it is possible that India’s Sikhs would have imagined themselves an integral part of the nation rather than one of its smaller and thus weaker minorities. Yet the events of Partition catalysed a reassertion of Sikh identity so that if Sikhs had become Indians under the raj, they were quickly transformed back into Sikhs in the new India. Partition was a crisis for the Sikh community as they were not granted any special status in post-colonial India, and a unique Sikh identity was neither recognized nor validated within the new nation-state. Sikh memories and narratives of Partition are overwhelmingly ones of trauma and loss. While a discourse of fond neighbourly relations and compassionate acts is important to Partition narratives despite

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the event’s violence (e.g. Bright 1948, Butalia 2000, Corruccini and Kaul 1990, Das 2007, Nanda 1948, Khushdeva Singh 1973), it underscores and heightens the sense of loss. The flight from Pakistani homes entailed not only material losses of capital, property, and land, but also psychologically torturous losses as family and friends (who might be Muslim or Hindu) were abandoned or killed, and sisters and daughters murdered (or martyred) in the defence of honour. Symbolically potent losses occurred as community and religious centres and many historic sites attesting to the founding and evolution of the Sikh faith, as well as to prior Sikh tragedies and achievements, were left behind. While the personal losses are profound, and the violence of Partition continues to impact everyday Punjabi life, in constructing contemporary ethnic identities the symbolic losses have perhaps had the greatest long-term impact upon Sikhs, for they have affected both Partition refugees and those Sikhs who had always lived on the Indian side of the border. McLeod (1989a: 102) has described these losses for Sikhs: the Punjab was their homeland and the division of that homeland resulted in a total evacuation of the western portion. Muslims could take comfort from the creation of Pakistan and Hindus from the new India. Sikhs inevitably cast their lot with India, but as a result of the 1947 Partition they lost more than lives and land left in Pakistan: the birthplace of Guru Nanak and the numerous shrines associated with it were no longer accessible; the city of Lahore, Ranjit Singh’s capital and the place where the first Guru had suffered martyrdom, had likewise become foreign territory; Panja Sahib, the famous gurdwara situated between Rawalpindi and Peshawar, was far beyond reach. It was a disastrous year and the scars are still visible.

The diverse losses and adjustments demanded by Partition remain significant in the production and reproduction of Sikh identity since 1947. That this historic tragedy resulted from a sweeping and poorly-thought out political expediency, was remarked in the Sikh community: especially in the five years immediately following partition, the common feeling in the community was that democracy was suitable only within homogeneous societies, while in a heterogeneous society it was ruinous for minority groups, who could be made helpless before the majority. It became the specific policy of one political party – Akali Dal – to campaign for an area where Sikhs would be in a numerical majority and could therefore protect their identity through exercising effective political power. Not

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all Sikhs were behind this specific political demand, but all Sikhs did value what they conceived to be their very special cultural identity (Pettigrew 1975: 82–83).

In this context, the dual nationalism proposed by Brass – that is, ‘the comfortable accommodation of most Indians to a recognition of themselves as members of two nations: a Sikh, Bengali or Tamil nation at one level of identity and an Indian national at another’ (1991: 169) – seems impossible in the wake of recent history, at least for Sikhs. Partition began a process in which the Sikh construction of identity, historically contingent upon the emphasis of Muslim opposition, was transferred onto a Hindu nemesis, redefining Sikh identity in new juxtaposition to the category of Hindu which had previously been far less differentiated. As Butalia (2000: 285) proposes, new privilegings of boundary and community reflect this partitioning of the mind. That Sikhs increasingly claim entitlement over Punjabi ethnic identity is clear: many Sikhs have explained their identity (or origin) to me without any reference to India at all, preferring to describe themselves as Sikh or Punjabi. Of course, as Maiello (1996: 106) has remarked, ‘the real tragedy is that there are now no more Punjabis in the Punjab, only Sikhs and Hindus,’ as the common ethnoculture of Punjabiyat is cast aside in the assertion of religious difference. The Problem of Sikh Identity Punjab occupies a far greater psychological landscape for Jats and other Sikhs than its current territory represents. Present-day Punjab is beset by political division. In the Jat popular imagination, however, Punjab is not bound according to the contemporary borders of Punjab state, for historically, Punjab has occupied a much larger area; essentially comprised of the plains of the tracts surrounding the five rivers57 of the region, Punjab once extended north into the Indian Himalayas to embrace Afghanistan, significantly west into what are now the Punjab and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, east to include the Indian states of Haryana and Delhi,58 and was bounded on the south by the Rajasthani desert principalities of Bikaner and Jaipur. Although the maximum area of Punjab was occupied for only a short period of time under the leadership of the famed Jat Maharaja Ranjit Singh – sovereign of an expanding Punjab region commencing with his capture of Lahore in 1799 until his death in 183959 – Jats today still often note the

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former magnitude of Punjab in their narratives, and in so doing, make claim to this larger ethnic home. The ‘glory’ of imperial Punjab remains particularly significant given the diminution of the region at the time of Partition and yet again with the subsequent language-based redrawing of the Indian states in the 1960s. Despite territorial division, aspects of a common culture and language are still shared throughout parts of greater Punjab; if culture is considered to be an important marker of a place’s boundaries, we would note that Punjabi cultural features and practices still exist in the former Punjabi areas with new names in India, and are also still influential in Pakistan. Notions of Jat sovereignty in the region continue to be imagined in relation to ideas of caste and religious exclusion. While ‘Jat’ is a definitive social category based in the ascription of caste practice and ideology, ‘Punjabi’ and ‘Sikh’ remain ambiguous categorizations. In a broad sense, a Punjabi is anyone claiming an affiliation with the greater territory of the region, although Jats seem to assert their particular affiliation as most rightful and important. Even considering Punjabi strictly as a linguistic category is not definitive: Punjabi-speaking Jats are almost all Sikh, while Punjabi-speaking Aroras may be either Sikh or Hindu, and many Hindus also speak Punjabi in their daily life. As a perplexed anthropologist attempting to understand claims to identity not often declared in the course of everyday life, I have been told on several different occasions – and always by Jats – that ‘all Sikhs are Punjabi, but not all Punjabis are Sikh.’ This formulation nicely prioritizes the Sikh claim to the designation Punjabi, but does not make the complex of ethnic identities in Punjab quite so tidily apparent to the outsider. Indeed, one of the difficulties in differentiating between Punjabis and Sikhs arises from the variations of religious practice and political persuasion in Sikhism. Although McLeod (1976: 1) has observed that the popular contemporary understanding of Sikhs ‘suggests a community easily defined, one with well-marked bounds and an essentially homogeneous constituency,’ and while this view would seem to find support among religiously orthodox Sikhs, and is fostered by both Western and Indian national medias, this perspective has little foundation in Punjabi social reality. The description and definition of Sikh identity have long been complex. Even in 1906, Crooke (431) described three grades of Sikhism – first, that of the Akali zealots, who follow all the ordinances of Guru Govind Singh; secondly, the true Sikhs, who observe

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his main directions against the use of tobacco and the cutting of the hair; thirdly, those Sikhs who retain many, or perhaps most, of the Hindu beliefs and usages, and yet profess devotion to the tenets of the Gurus (emphasis mine).60

The societal fractures on these issues divide the community not only in terms of religious and political liberalism or conservatism, but also in terms of caste, which often separates Jats and Aroras. Most commonly, Sikhs are defined by their adherence to the five Ks, the five physical markers of Sikh belief ordered by Guru Gobind Singh. According to the religious code governing Sikhs – the 1945 Rahit Maryada published by the SGPC – a Sikh believes in God, the ten gurus and their teachings, the Adi Granth, and Khalsa initiation; as well, a Sikh believes in no other religion.61 While the translation initially appears inadequate in privileging belief62 over practice as the definitive feature of Sikhism, a very real ambiguity as to who is a Sikh is here expressed. There are multiple potential measures of orthodoxy in Sikhism, many concerning hair (kesh) and the turban to which it is symbolically linked. The various Sikh forms are particularly elaborated around male practices and expressions of orthodoxy, and thus are masculinist in nature; a number of contemporary North American Sikh women have adopted the turban, but egalitarian or feminist claims regarding the practice are complicated by the hierarchy of identities asserted through hair and turban. One might be a khalsa, amritdhari or gursikh (literally ‘pure,’ or guru’s Sikh, having taken amrit [nectar] in the initiation ceremony and abiding by all of the five Ks), a keshdhari Sikh (Sikhs with intact hair [kesh] who typically observe the five Ks but have not taken amrit), or a sahejdhari Sikh (with cut hair, and generally thought to be on the easy [sahej] or slow Sikh religious path, although sahejdhari Sikhs may continue to wear a turban with trimmed hair and beard). A hierarchy of religious privilege exists among these designations, with sahejdharis – despite the association of sahej with the state of blissful, ‘mystic consciousness’ (Lal 1999: 109) aspired to in Sikh meditation (naamsimran) – sometimes disparagingly referred to as mona (having cut hair, or clean-shaven) or patit (renunciant, apostate, fallen) by apparently more orthodox keshdharis and amritdharis. Complicating this scenario, McLeod suggests that many Aroras (or Hindu Punjabis) are sahejdhari, in the sense that they are ‘slow adopters’ of the faith, and that monas are distinct as keshdharis with cut hair (1999: 65–66); there are also various controversial sub-sects within or related to Sikhism, such as Rad-

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hasoamis, Namdharis, and Nirankaris. While each of these Sikh forms may be distinguished from the others, each of these groups also notes common distinctions between themselves, as Sikhs, and Hindus. There is also the possibility of being a largely non-practising, essentially secular Sikh, claiming a Sikh identity only through one’s family heritage,63 although several such apparently irreligious Sikhs with whom I have spoken maintain impassioned opinions on what they perceive as a generalized failure of contemporary Sikh practice in recognizing the ‘true’ importance of Sikhism, an increasing marginalization of Sikh interests, and the meaning of being Sikh. The Jats who articulate the narratives and populate the stories of this book are mainly keshdhari and sahejdhari Sikhs, although a small number of Sikhs from amritdhari families were also interviewed. Through my marital family’s social network, I typically met older parents who were keshdhari and their sahejdhari children who were in their twenties, thirties, and early forties. These families, across both generations, largely considered themselves Sikh as a result of having been born in a Sikh family, and thus socialized into what was often described to me as the Sikh dharm (faith or way of life), rather than owing to any overtly expressed beliefs or patterns of religious practice. Consequently, this study deals with a broad spectrum of keshdhari and sahejdhari families, rather than with fully orthodox amritdhari Sikhs. In my limited travels through north India, and strictly on the basis of this observation, it seems that such families are more common than amritdharis among the urban Sikh middle-class. This view finds support in the broad literature on the 1980s Sikh conflict which asserts that more orthodox and militant Sikhs are predominantly rural (Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995, Tatla 1999). What is most important in understanding who is a Sikh is that gradations between the various categories other than amritdhari are problematic; despite the differential forms of Sikh orthodoxy that might be related to uncut hair and other practices, the khalsa designation is privileged. According to Axel (2001: 36), ‘the amritdhari body has attained a hegemonic quality so extensive that all other ways of being a Sikh are constituted in relation to it.’ In an important corollary of this, ‘according to the discourses of many amritdharis today, people who are not amritdhari cannot be considered Sikhs even though they claim to be Sikh.’ Orthodoxy is certainly easier to classify – and perhaps to value – than more moderate forms of Sikhism, but other forms of Sikh practice are certainly both present and significant among the Sikh community

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at large; indeed, a significant undercurrent of discontent is heard with regard to amritdhari as well as militant hegemonies. How are Sikhs otherwise differentiated from the broader Punjabi community of which they are part? Despite the differing traditions and divergent histories of the Punjabi religions over the last century, Punjabis, whether Sikh, Hindu or Muslim,64 share a complex of cultural traits, having in common many aspects of daily cultural practice, such as particular foodstuffs, modes of dress, and leisurely pursuits. Oberoi (1994: 48), writing about the medieval Sikh period, asserts that Sikh notions of time, space, corporeality, holiness, mythology, kinship, social distinction, purity and pollution, gender, sexuality and commensality were firmly rooted in Indic cultural thinking. The territories in which the Sikhs lived, the languages they spoke, the agrarian festivals in which they participated, the ritual personnel they patronized and the symbolic universe of their rites of passage – all these were shared by numerous other communities in Punjab.

Pettigrew (1994: 4) has remarked that the communal divisions that arose in the late colonial and subsequent Indian national periods take little account of the similar culture in which all three communities – Muslim, Sikh and Hindu – share, nor, of the uniqueness of the area as such from the rest of the subcontinent … The prevailing forms of social co-operation and the type of political solidarity bear no reference to ‘caste’ and to rules of purity and pollution, but rather to the family unit and to the values pertaining to that unit, namely honour, pride and equality, reputation, shame and insult.

There is also some overlap of folk religious practices, particularly among Sikhs and Hindus. Broad family values, many notions of social virtue, and adherence to caste endogamy are also shared; some Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus, Khatris and Aroras in particular, continue to share a number of endogamous caste arrangements and marriage observances. Similarly, members of all three social groups, whether Sikh, Hindu, or Muslim, participate in the vernacular language of the Punjab region, although appellages of linguistic difference are commonly used to mark the three communities as separate. Thus, with the exception of formal religious affiliations, the designation Punjabi articulates an ethnic category.

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Finally, there is the matter of caste. Sikhism takes a doctrinally anticaste and egalitarian position, although Deol (2000: 61) asserts that caste must be understood as a cultural construction rather than a religious injunction among Sikhs. Social hierarchies are certainly apparent within Sikh society; the maintenance and furtherance of the dominant caste position of Jats is articulated as a necessary part of their being Sikh. The fact that Jat Sikhs, a phrase which in local usage implies ‘farmer Sikhs,’ refer to themselves in this manner suggests social distinction. Jat Sikhs, not only cultivators, but also landlords, are the dominant caste (cf. Srinivas 1966, 1989, 1996) in a great majority of Punjabi villages. Pettigrew (1975: 41) remarks that ‘the Jats considered themselves to be “born Sikhs” and did not think other Sikhs deserved the title of Sirdar’ (sardar, leader). Sikh notions of hard work and self-sacrifice, become a ‘conscious sociological model’ (Leaf 1984) or strategy for productive farming. As Leaf (1972: 162–3) observes, village farmers insisted, when asked directly, that it [Sikh Jat] was a different caste from ‘Muslim Jat’ or ‘Hindu Jat,’ indicating that they recognize something about being Sikh as being pertinent to their particular type of farming … Village farmers have definite ideas on the decisive features of their occupation – they consider themselves superior to Muslim and Hindu farmers specifically in matters pertaining to independent, smallscale, irrigation agriculture, including the management of wells and the raising of wheat.

These distinctions exceed local notions of social prestige, and are in fact commentaries on the centrality of the Sikh religion to the Jat way of life. Throughout their history, Sikhs65 have fostered a minority consciousness, which has been renewed in the 1980s. Kinnvall (2002) argues that Sikh identity is based on social emphasis of chosen traumas, in response to forces of modernization and globalization.66 The view from within the Sikh community is that they are a beleaguered minority, and have been through much of their five-hundred-year history in Punjab, with the nationalist period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s leadership being an all too brief interlude. Psychologically, this period of purported self-rule provides a central and archetypal component in Sikh identity formation. Pettigrew (1987) has stated this influence on contemporary Sikh national sentiment as the seeking for a new kingdom of Lahore.67 Imag-

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es from Sikh religious history were in common circulation during the Indian freedom struggle and later periods of regional strife; although the traditional picture of the Sikhs of this period as warriors fighting against great odds for the freedom of their faith and the cause of national independence from the hated foreign foe, treacherously opposed by Punjabi Muslims all too ready to side with their co-religionists, and most inadequately supported by the craven Hindu population, may correspond only in part with the known facts. But it is a picture continually reinforced in popular Sikh imagination, and the continuing power of its inspiration should not be underestimated. (Shackle 1986: 5)

Mythic lores and received notions of Sikh history, popular cultural representations, and even prayer practices reiterate the minority position of the Sikh community in the modern experience of communal strife. Continued histories of oppression in which Sikhs read the present through the past are conflated in this discourse.68 The Sikh self is thus developed through an appreciation of the community’s glorious and traumatic past. Corresponding to these ideologies of Sikh boundary-making, there has been an increased economic and social differentiation of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus in the post-Partition period. Most authorities on Punjab have attributed the recent political situation in Punjab to primarily economic causes, in which the Sikh, and particularly the Jat Sikh, socio-economic position has been increasingly marginalized over the last sixty years. According to Jats, successive central governments have repeatedly overlooked Punjab for industrial development; as an area bordering Pakistan, the region is considered risky for investment. Furthermore, the government has legislated, under the Mandal reports, employment quotas for civil service, army, and other governmental positions which disadvantage the dominant Jat caste; under- and unemployment are common Jat complaints. The natural limits to growth of the Green Revolution’s agricultural reforms are also increasingly felt among Jats, particularly as its early years saw a huge increase in consumerism and the corresponding social need for material acquisition and display; furthermore, the capital costs associated with farming have traditionally been underwritten by members of the extended joint family occupied in ever-dwindling military or government careers. In some senses, a reversal of fortune has upset the established codes of social status in Punjab: those fami-

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lies who were most socio-economically depressed several generations ago find themselves today in the envied position of having educated several or perhaps all of their male family members and subsequently having placed some of them in stable and newly prestigious forms of employment. Zamindar (landlord) families, who did not see the necessity or have the foresight of educating sons, are often now in straightened circumstances and may also suffer reduced social position. The cumulative effects of the social changes of the past century impacted particularly upon rural Punjabi youth, and this is often seen as one of the root causes of the nationalist struggle of the 1980s. The decline in material fortunes among Jat Sikhs is readily contrasted with the historical position of relative social and economic privilege they enjoyed during British colonial times. Material conditions alone, however, are unable to account for cultural formations of Sikh identity. Indeed, any singular social attribute in which Sikh identity has been politically engaged or implicated, be it material or religious, is inadequate in the analysis of identity and social change, for these are multivariate, interaffective, and problematic notions. Perceptions of Sikh marginalization are contingent on the articulation of a religious tradition built upon egalitarian difference,69 on the slights and accidents of colonial histories, on recent Punjabi demography in relation to India as a whole, on assertions of vernacular language and rural association, and finally on modern concerns of social class. A number of potentially-marginalizing socio-economic factors affect both Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus, particularly as members of both groups may be dependent on agriculturally-derivative occupations and may, moreover, be part of the same social networks. Yet Punjabi Hindus do not appear to manifest the feeling of marginalization articulated among Punjabi Sikhs. Regardless of their relative demography in Punjab, Hindus are part of a huge national majority. Furthermore, they do not as overwhelmingly share the Sikh tradition of keen historical awareness, which among Sikhs may be said to foster a perception of perpetual struggle for self-identity. The process of Sikh minoritization has been accompanied by continual, and apparently ever-increasing, struggle for political influence at the state and then the national level. As an example, in Punjab in recent years, the Akali Dal party, which claims to represent Sikh interests (and is claimed by many Sikhs), can only be re-elected by sharing a campaign platform with the BJP70 who are associated elsewhere with Hindutva, the nationalist call for a Hindu state. Pettigrew (1995: 6) has suggested that only when Sikh attempts ‘for

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socio-economic redress went unheeded did’ the movement for equitable development and social representation in Punjab develop a nationalist position.71 Thus, support for Khalistan is generally understood as an expression of nationalism proceeding from the marginalization of rurally-based Sikhs and predominantly Jats, and the place of Jats in the Khalistan movement is central (Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995, Tatla 1999). Gupta (1996) has argued that the Punjab situation has come to a natural denouement via the ministrations of a number of dedicated regional politicians. Such a suggestion may well be premature; Tatla (1999: 11) notes that ‘deep-rooted sentiments remain for a secure Sikh homeland in the Punjab. As the underlying causes remain unaddressed, the issue of Sikh nationalism is unlikely to disappear.’ Once a claim for sovereign nationhood has been established, however quiescent it might subsequently become – and it is certainly quiescent among the Jats of the present study – it endures in the communal imagination and maintains the potential to be reignited in a subsequent culmination of Sikh minority status. In December of 2004, for instance, The Tribune72 reported that memorabilia depicting Bhindranwale as a martyr of the 20th century were in demand at an SGPC-sponsored gathering to commemorate Sikh martyrs. It is also possible that the rural nostalgias cultivated among non-Khalistani Jats exercise hidden meanings of sovereignty. The larger tension between inclusive and exclusive visions of the nation-state continues to be at issue, in which the reluctance of the centre to deal fairly with Punjab is complicated by a corresponding Jat reluctance to share power in Punjab. To this end, several of my informants related to me that the Sikh position on sovereignty is a matter of being awarded a due share of the agricultural and riverine wealth of Punjab, a situation that has not been rectified. The Jat position in India is an example of the great complexity in the negotiation of local identity and regional power with the nation’s centre. A contemporary condition of great cultural similarity between Punjabi Sikhs, both Jat and non-Jat, and Punjabi Hindus, contrasts with a historical context of political difference in which the construction of identity for each Punjabi community is mapped against the contours of the other. The nature of Jat identity is problematic and contested. Khalsa and non-khalsa distinctions mark orthodox and more liberal positions; khalsa identities are privileged, but not uniformly practised. Profoundly different models of religious practise are expressed in this distinction. Creating still further tensions, Sikhism aspires to egalitarian values but

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social hierarchies of caste and class persist. Set against perceptions of marginalization, Sikh nationalism is interpreted as a political struggle for religious self-definition, yet the prominent Sikh – but notably, not Jat – historian and social commentator Khushwant Singh has stated ‘we are Hindus really, and well within the mainstream’ (cited as personal communication in Blank 1992: 190). While the claim to being Punjabi and sharing in a common Punjabiyat remains a link between Sikhs, Hindus, and even Muslims from greater Punjab, and despite the fact that many well-educated Sikhs, in Ganganagar at least, proclaim that the designation and its meaning is of great personal and regional importance, the borders of each community are also in very clear focus. For Jats, boundary-making is enacted in practices, ideologies, and histories of family and farming, and more contentiously, through assertions of faith.

3 Good Families: Marriage, Gender, and Middle-Class Jat Community

We are a flock of sparrows, oh father, we will fly away Our flight is long, oh father, to which country will we go? We are a flock of sparrows, oh father, to which country will we go? A flock of sparrows father, to which country will they go?1 – Excerpt from a traditional geet sung on a girl’s marriage

Marriage is the most prestigious of Indian family ceremonies, and is the major occasion on which kin, caste-fellows, and other social contacts gather. Morever, marriage and having children are paramount and lifelong concerns. In this chapter, I examine marriage as one of the primary symbolic means through which socially valued aspects of identify are expressed and maintained. In particular, I describe the characteristics locally attributed to the ‘good’2 middle-class Jat family. The virtues attached to arranging and formalizing marriage comprise much of the current understanding of izzat in the Jat community, and the local meaning of the good family becomes principally apparent in these contexts. Often, these constructions are caught up with the primordial connotations of the Jat self that occur in its association with land, rural property wealth, and rural affiliations, as well as having prestige meanings of wealth and status which occur across the spectrum of Jat traditions and modernities. As ceremonies are transformed in relation to modern social expectations and patterns of consumption and display, Jat marriages are also intricate commentaries on modernity. As well, modern practices of education and ideals about class contribute to a complex of modern traits shared among good Jat families. Marriage is demonstrated to encapsulate both traditional and modern values; it is a symbol and a practice expressing local discourses of social worth, virtue,

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and collective identity. In this way, Jat marriage arrangements reinforce and reproduce the identity concerns of the community at large, forging solidarity and coherence in the middle-class Jat community. The Good Jat Family Middle-class life, regardless of caste or religious identity, is overwhelmingly marked by concern with the family. This concern was borne out in three major ways in the various narratives that Punjabis in Ganganagar shared with me. Firstly, much emphasis is placed on knowing and respecting one’s place within the family, and being guided to behave accordingly. Secondly, all family members are invested in and responsible for the achievement and furthering of the family’s social status and material prosperity. Thirdly, extended or joint family structures are preferred, despite the increasingly common nuclear family, and the ideal of the ‘complete’ family of one son and one daughter. Such articulations and enactments of Punjabi family values are shared among Ganganagar’s Sikhs, both urban and rural, and are recognized too within the broader Hindu and north Indian communities. In this sense, the values inhering to good families may be said to be matters of regional tradition. Overlying these values, and contributing to family reputation, are honour and modesty, a framework of virtues which particularly orients and determines gender relations. Good families are marked by their members’ recognition of ideal roles within the family and their respectful and appropriate behaviours in these roles; by the strong and mutually indulgent emotional attachment of parent and child, and indeed all elders and children; by the idealistic valuing and practical realities of working towards a peaceful and harmonious home atmosphere, in which individual positions may often be subjugated to the good of the whole unit; by the maintaining of warm, fond, and close relations with non-resident members of the extended family; and through a pervading sense of family solidarity in all matters related to social and material progress, often with an intergenerational emphasis. Whatever the actual behaviours of the home, harmonious relations, family unity, and mutual adjustment according to role and status are the ideal. Women are particularly implicated in the production of family harmony, as proscribed by their marital duty ‘to adjust.’ The character and behaviours – or as phrased in Punjabi, gunn, qualities and virtues, and vichaar, nature or personality – thus instilled in an individual by the family are crucial to the family’s virtue and reputation.

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Among the broader social values that Jats emphasize are honesty, bravery, loyalty, industry, thrift, generosity, community service, and equality. These values largely depend on those dictated by Sikh doctrine, and are encapsulated in the Sikh philosophy of ‘simple living and high thinking,’ which is practised through humility, respect, frugality, a shared sense of moral good, and a commitment to purity of thought, word, and deed. But the stature of a modern good family is no longer solely contingent on the traditional social mores of the honour of one’s family and the respect of one’s community; today, it is measured by its education and professional employment, as well as its wealth and the possibility of its furtherance, as social virtue is increasingly complicated by modern class and status display. The key features of middle-class Jat families are advanced education, professional careers, urban residence, material engagement in modern life, and primary participation in social networks comprised of other such families. As well, family size is usually small – with one boy and one girl as the ideal – and women often work. The characteristics in which virtue is recognized and which resultantly bestow reputation on Jat families are thus shifting. Some educated Jats still hope to adhere to a more timeless value system, in which honour is earned through the Sikh virtues of simple living and high thinking. For example, Ranvir Singh, a middle-aged lecturer who was a frequent visitor to my in-laws’ home told me of his great respect and fondness for educated company: Actually I like persons with high thinking. The family itself is less important, they may have their problems, but I recognize the person, their personality, their education, their activities, their ideas. They should not show off their parents’ house and say ‘we are doing things like this and we have got things like these.’ They should be in their place and do their work, then automatically they will be recognized in our society.

He emphasized the abiding Sikh virtues of humility and simplicity in a society increasingly concerned with displays of status and consumerism that he considered empty and of little social value. Speaking of similar concerns, Jasleen Brar told me: Nowadays, it’s just that you have a kitty3, and there! You’ve become honourable. But traditionally, it was, I think, a much bigger package. That you were with your community, what you spoke carried weight, you were more or less balanced in your attitude towards your kith and kin, and

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Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams yourself, you were distinguished within that group. That was honourable. Now I think simply earning a bit more money becomes honourable.

The urges towards modern consumerism and conspicuous consumption disappointed Jasleen. While money and progress are concerns in which he himself is implicated, to him, they ultimately can limit social virtue4; material wealth is not in and of itself considered honourable or virtuous. Rather, the moral social behaviours that go along with wealth inform social values. Both Ranvir Singh and Jasleen, professionals with young families in the city, despite possessing the social position and wherewithal to engage in the new Punjabi codes of social virtue, articulate a dismay with the new values of urban Punjabis. It is clear that a tension is manifest between what Jasleen calls traditional social values and the contemporary class-based preoccupation of many Punjabis with money and materialism. While traditional mores are not eclipsed among Punjabi families, they are maintained in an uneasy coexistence with the new demands of social virtue. What makes a good or socially virtuous family in Punjabi terms is so culturally naturalized, however, that it is difficult to collect statements detailing the features of such families. Accounts of Jat family life, relationships, and values are peppered with the adjectives changa and accha, or often the English word itself: good. Gurmeet Kaur told me about the things that she finds pride in: I am proud that all my relatives are well-settled, I have good relatives, my pekeghar (married woman’s natal home) is well-settled, all the rishte made have found good matches. Over here, at my saureh pariwar (marital family), the relationships are also good. For example, we are proud of the fact that there’s a good brother, good chacha, good mama, bhooa, everyone is all in good families, that our son is married into a good family, we think of these things. That we are all having ‘good relations.’5

Gurmeet’s words suggest that the notions of good families are of particular social significance and resonate most with meaning in the arranging – and subsequent assessing – of marriages. Mandeep’s account of her marriage supports this interpretation: My parents were very happy with my match. My grandfather was very pleased because the whole family was well educated. His father [referring to husband’s father], after matric, became thaanedar (inspector of the local

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police station), and got good promotion from there as well, and he himself was also well educated and his job was good … They were landlords, they were educated, and they were gentle people. So, they were all very happy. Everyone thought the rishta was very good.

Mandeep’s account mimics many others in both the qualities sought in a groom, and in its repeated use of the word good to signify a common notion of status and respectability. Progress is also important in her commentary, as it was in many other remarks shared with me by Jats. Even when marriage matches are sought – the time at which accurate assessments of other families’ social place are most crucial – the qualities a good match entails are scarcely ever elucidated. They need not be, however, as they correspond closely to a set of universally shared middle-class values. The mere use of the adjective chunga or accha to describe the family for whom the match is sought signals general agreement on the attributes of a good family. The use of the term good articulates a set of shared valuations measured primarily by land, education, occupation, and residence, but there are gradations in the term which ensure that families of roughly equivalent standing in the middle-class spectrum become matched in the process of arranging marriages. The usage furthermore implies that the families share common notions of family life and individual roles within the family, as well as having produced a son or daughter who recognizes their particular roles in practising, maintaining, and reproducing these values, and will therefore live within their constraints. These values are unalienable (if not unchanging), and no match can be made without general agreement on these features. The term good is thus a short-hand for shared Jat social values. Its use marks commonalities of social position among families, and it is a frequent descriptive, particularly when marriages are discussed. In this sense, good is a gendered distinction. Men, with patriarchal titles to land, are assessed as good partners if they bring a considerable amount of it to a marriage. Meanwhile, the honour of good families is fostered and represented in the behaviour of its women, and women must bring to their marriages unsullied reputations and the promise to adjust. Arranging Good Marriages Mandelbaum’s observation that ‘marriage is a sacrament, ordained and imperative, which every normal man and woman should under-

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go’ (1970: 98) suggests the social imperative of Indian marriage. Many elements of Jat tradition remain evident in Jat marriages, which are typically arranged among geographically broad networks that are jatiendogamous and gotra-exogamous. Among middle-class Jats, marriage remains a key element of kinship and social life; it is an ineluctable social duty. Jasleen described marriage to me as ‘the regular flow of life:’ I was excited to get married, but I also felt that it was a duty, and neither imposed by myself. That is, we were not really bent upon getting married at that time. It was just that it was a part of life, it had to go on, it had to happen. That’s what I understand from my life, from myself at that time. It was natural for the arrangement to take place … It’s a continuity and a way of life. It’s also that you must continue to go forward. So, to reach somewhere in this city from elsewhere, you have to get on some vehicle, some auto or what have you. What I understand, it’s not a choice, it’s not a decision, it’s not something that needs any force, it is just serving its course.

Children, the ultimate purpose of Jat marriage, Jasleen continued, ‘are also part of that normal flow’; all a part of that continuity.’ It was common for my younger informants, both female and male, to tell me that they felt unprepared for marriage and even in some instances that they had not wished to marry, but no one could escape as it is a matter of duty on the part of both parent and child. The intergenerational process of being suitably married, raising daughters and sons, and arranging appropriate matches for them articulates and maintains a set of Jat cultural traditions, firmly dependent on feminine and masculine gender roles, and informing a sense of bounded identity, especially as marriages are still caste-endogamous, and the marriage rites themselves are uniquely Sikh.6 The way in which marriages are arranged, therefore, encodes notions of group self-identity, as well as ideas of status and middle-class location. Jat marriage is a matter of negotiating, displaying, and confirming social status and honour. In arranging marriages, discerning the features of good matches from good families becomes crucial in order to secure suitable new kin and make beneficial family alliances. Marriage partners are carefully selected according to the particular criteria a family constructs, in accordance with middle-class standards of prestige and practicality: What is the boy’s occupation? How much land

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does the family have?7 How well educated is the girl?8 Can she work if necessary? Does the boy live with his parents? Is the family joint? How many unmarried sisters does a boy have? Does he have any other family obligations? Is dowry an issue? What goods and amounts are expected? Should the spouse have the potential to migrate, or already be abroad? Is the spouse willing to sponsor their partner’s family members later? Madan has observed of marriage among Kashmiri Pandits, that ‘the individual qualities of boys and girls do not receive much attention. If a household and the family to which it belongs are satisfactory, the children, it is believed, are bound to be well-bred’ (1989: 95). While it is true that the children of good Jat families are sought for their breeding, the marital family must moreover own several means of indicating social prestige – primarily land wealth and an unsullied izzat – and prospective sons and daughters-in-law are also expected to have certain qualities of their own. The ambiguities of the qualifier good therefore also arise in direct association with the particular qualities sought in bride or groom when marriages are arranged. Kuljeet Kaur, a retired school teacher, told me that in seeking marriage matches, People say that the boy should be educated, and he should be good-looking; everybody says this, but not everybody is good-looking! They say it anyway, but really it’s only his qualities that make him good. So everyone tries for him to have a good background of his family. And he should not have bad habits, he should not drink. And, in our families, people think he should have some land. Then in times of difficulty, the girls may depend on this land. He should have a good education and a good job; it is this kind of boy that we should find for our daughters. And in the same way, when people are finding a daughter-in-law, they think in the same way, she should be educated, so at times of difficulty, she can serve, she can earn some money. She should also be of such a nature to be looking after the family, and adjusting in the family, of course.

Women’s education and professional standing are intended only to supplement men’s, while the expectation of women’s adjusting nature is naturalized; as well, the primary desirable qualities for women in marriage are less individuated than those of men. The groom is associated with wealth and status, both inherited and deriving from his education and profession, while the bride’s primary qualities are domestic, although she takes on a public role in the event of financial hardship.

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In these and other ways, Kuljeet’s criteria demonstrate the urgency of both traditional and modern values in the seeking of marriage alliances. The personal virtues of the bride and groom are only meaningful when set against middle-class expectations of family wealth, education and professional employment which are now dominant in the marriage equation. Virtue – even accompanied by education – without the means of proving expectations will rarely yield a marriage arrangement, while wealth and professional standing will sometimes secure a match regardless of virtue. Transnational citizenship is perhaps the most prestigious and desired of marriage attributes, and the phenomena of fake marriages and abandoned brides speak to both traditional imbalances in marriage as well as to a largely universalized Jat desire to emigrate. Yet even in seeking brides for transnational marriages, the more traditional qualities that Kuljeet describes, and which make adjustment to the patrifocal affinal family possible, are prreferred. Manjeet Kaur, who had married off two of her sons in the past ten years, told me: Some people say that the girl should be beautiful, but we think that the girl should have good qualities. The thing that should matter most is the qualities she has. If she is less beautiful, good qualities can compensate for this. If she is beautiful, but she is not good natured and can’t mix with the family, then it doesn’t look nice at all. It doesn’t matter if she’s not so beautiful if she is good-natured, virtuous, tolerant9, and can mix well. The most important thing is that the girl should have tolerance and can adjust with the family. These qualities must be there.

It is commonly understood in the parlance of middle-class marriage prospects that a good bride is well-educated as well as ‘simple,’ ‘homely,’ and ‘adjusting.’ Both men and women told me that a daughter-inlaw should be simple in her tastes and demands, suggesting that she be undemanding, selfless and without airs; homely or domesticallyinclined and family and household-oriented; and adjusting or amenable and unopposed to the way of doing things in her husband’s home, implying that she will put the needs of her affinal family first.10 These terms are frequently heard in discussions of marriage and witnessed in newspaper matrimonial columns, and are used both as compliments and exhortations to newly married brides. Only occasionally will a family give voice to preference for a ‘modern’ girl, and typically then only in deference to their son’s wishes. Modern girls are well-educated, usually in English, and are considered to be

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progressive in their upbringing and ideas. Often, a girl’s clothes, hair, and other features of her department and outward appearance – such as how she wears her dupatta – mark her as modern. Modern girls are thought also to be more independent and headstrong, both of which are negatively-valued traits. Thus the ideal bride appears modern but conforms to more traditional notions of social and family life. A modern girl is selected as a bride against a family’s better judgment, although if she adjusts well enough to life with her conjugal family, her in-laws will likely come to pride themselves on her attributes which come to be taken as a reflection of how modern and progressive they themselves are. Good boys, on the other hand, are less bound by strictures of tradition. Indeed, modern boys are the grooms of choice; while necessarily members of locally respected families, they are well educated and professionally employed in stable, reliable, and remunerative positions, and have land or business property to inherit. Care is taken to request assistance in match-making only from families sharing the good qualities desired in the marriage arrangement to prevent any misunderstandings. In this sense, the finding of a good match signifies the appropriateness of the suggested partnership in addition to the mutually recognized virtue of both families. Remarkably, despite the many gradations in middle-class wealth and standing, the making of appropriate matches appears to occur with relative ease and to general satisfaction. Ascertaining a measure of equilibrium in the relative wealth and equality of the two parties assures better chances that honour, and perhaps even an increased prosperity, may arise from the marital alliance of the two families, while at the same time undoubtedly easing the adjustment of the daughter-in-law to her new home. Initial inquiries as to potential matches, in my observation, include only a brief statement of the family circumstances of the person for whom a match is sought. The few marriage-arranging conversations to which I was privy followed a general pattern: ‘We are seeking a match for my sister’s daughter. You know them, her father teaches at the high school in Fazilka, and he earns in “tuitions”11 as well. She is a good girl, BA pass, pretty, and very simple. And the family is also good.’ Here, the girl is educated enough to warrant a good match, but not educated to the point where she is likely to have difficulty in adjusting to married life, while her simplicity indicates that she behaves respectfully and modestly according to the roles expected of a daughter-in-law. Mention of the father’s earning from tuitions as well hints at his ability to

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provide a reasonable dowry. The seeking of a match for a boy might include additional brief statements regarding the type of job he has, and the amount of property the family owns, which again will signal the amount of dowry the family would expect. Middle-class Punjabis are almost universally agreed that dowry is a social blight that should be done away with, but almost all continue to engage in the practice under the guise of the wedding gift. There is a strong preference among Jats for marriages to be arranged through personal social contacts. As Mandeep Kaur explained to me, ‘There is no pleasure in matrimonials. Better we should sit and discuss matters face to face with our relatives.’ The use of family members as intermediaries (vichola, matchmaker) enables relatively easy validation of claims to wealth and social standing as it is understood that kin members will be honest in giving advice and speaking on behalf of potential marital allies. A known vichola is also some defence against the mistreatment of daughters after marriage. Moreover, the involvement of well-regarded and beloved members of kin in making marriage arrangements was a source of much regard among the women and men I interviewed. Matchmaking remains a matter of great pride for the vicholas themselves, whose social relations with the families for whom the marriage was arranged are strengthened in this act. Arranging marriages also is a means of asserting and reaffirming the continued importance of traditional marriage practices. But vicholas have limited ranges of social contact. As social and residential spheres broaden, today they may be becoming less relevant. Balwant Singh remarked to me that many of the old families are now splitting apart. People are having to move here and there because of their careers. The matrimonials often serve their purposes. If you don’t have any family in Chandigarh, but your son is based there, then you might use the matrimonials. The Tribune will carry all the best marriage possibilities. It is the newspaper of choice for good, well-established Punjabi families.

Indeed, so well-used are today’s matrimonial columns that they are a fascinating encapsulation of the core Jat social values pertaining to marriage arrangement and family aspiration. The increased use of matrimonials is hardly the most dramatic change evident in the arranging of Jat marriages today. The growing agency of the boy or girl whose marriage is under discussion is also widely noted. Mandeep Kaur, who was married forty years ago, told me:

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My brother searched for a match, and did everything for our marriage. He would not let the middleman go between our two families, even though there was one. Sometimes, the middleman is not truthful; these people tell lies and keep secrets. So my brother himself made all the arrangements according to what he thought was good. He had great confidence that he would arrange it well. In the end, he has made so many matches, and he is proud of each one … He asked me if I wanted to be married into a farming family, or whether into a service family. But girls like men with jobs. In this way, asking me, he took my opinion. I felt that whatever he would do, he would do it right, so I accepted his choice. These days, girls feel that they can say yes or no to each proposal, and that ends it, but in those days, we trusted our elders to take the right decision and we accepted it.

Although there are modern elements in Mandeep’s account – her brother considered her opinion regarding not wanting to marry into a farming family – her own marriage was arranged according to the wishes of her elders. Today, a great majority of Jat marriages are still arranged in that way, although the bride and groom typically get to see each other and even, sometimes, to converse prior to the marriage, and they often have a degree of veto power over their parents’ choices. Jasleen and Amardeep, for example, were allowed to chat for about half an hour on their own after an otherwise chaperoned dinner party in order to aid in what I was told (by his parents) was their own decision, although both Jasleen and Amardeep told me that they had not known what to talk about at the time. Often when I visited older couples for the first time, I would be shown photos of the weddings of their children. This practice, besides being a good conversational ice-breaker, seemed to mark their continued kin and social relations with persons no longer present in the physical home, and thus to reconstitute the original family of the home through imaginative commemoration. Mr and Mrs Gill, for example, pulled out the well-thumbed photo album of their daughter’s marriage in 1987 to share with me. In many of the other wedding pictures I had seen, the brides, perhaps unsurprisingly, looked nervous or tired throughout the ceremonies and frequently mustered a full smile only in carefully posed shots. The Gills’ daughter appeared to me to be remarkably happy in comparison to these other brides. I remarked upon this to Gill Uncle, who replied: ‘She was! She was getting a very good husband!’ Once again, the word good encapsulates a variety of status markers and social values. I learnt that the husband in question was a doctor,

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employed in the armed forces, and living at the time of the marriage in Bombay. Their daughter was being married to a man whose life fulfilled a great many of the status indicators current among the Jat middle class: professional employment in the most prestigious of careers, and in the army, as well as living in India’s most metropolitan centre. Moreover, she had been introduced to the boy at another marriage which both families had attended, and the couple had taken an immediate liking to each other; the notion of mutual attraction, inspired by the ideology of the love marriage, and sanctioned by the bride’s and groom’s families, further indicated the cosmopolitan modernity of the match. What, implied Gill Uncle’s reply, was there not to be happy about? While the truism that Indian marriages occur between families rather than between individuals is locally recognized, and Jats are socialized as children to believe that their parents are better able to make decisions in important matters such as marriage, the modern, romantic ideal of the love marriage is gaining local currency.12 The growing acceptability of love matches – even if they must still be sanctioned and formally arranged between families in traditionally honourable ways – marks the progressive nature of the middle-class Jat community. A surprising number of women, for whom the romantic associations of the love marriage are increasingly appealing and acceptable, and even a few older couples in their fifties and beyond, told me that their marriages were love marriages. Whenever it can be ascertained that the partner and their family also adhere to the community’s standards of goodness, the love match, a comment on a family’s participation in modern ideals, is as prestigious as the traditional arranged marriage. Yet it must still be recognized that the love marriage may be a symbolic ideal rather than a social reality in a large majority of instances. As Puri (1999: 139) has noted, distinctions between love marriages and arranged marriages are more ambiguous than clear-cut. For example, parents may legitimize mutual attraction between a young woman and man of the same social class by arranging a marriage. On the other hand, it is equally possible that women will emphasize the instantaneous mutual attraction when they met their husband-to-be as per prior arrangement.

Most often, what interview participants chose to call love marriages are actually more appropriately termed ‘love cum arranged’ marriages, a term which Dalip Beniwal, a Baagri Jaat, shared with me in describing

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the recent engagement of his niece, who had met her Malaysian Jat Sikh fiancé on the internet.13 He explained that ‘our tradition is to “arrange” things between families even if the couple already know each other and wishes to marry, so in this way you can say that the marriages are arranged. The family should still have some hand in it, and those around them still have some influence.’ Regardless of the meanings of love expressed in such cases – and their actuality – it is notable that love marriages have some influence on the closed communities of caste – and religion – that guide and determine arranged marriage matches. Love matches, as well as being considered romantic, are also said to be pragmatic in light of the pressures of middle-class life. It is increasingly recognized that if couples are known to each other and already have a mutual regard, marriages will have a more promising start, particularly if the couple will live alone, contending together with the pressures of a busy modern lifestyle, as career demands increasingly require. Deol Auntie, whose son worked as a lawyer in Delhi, told me: My daughter-in-law, she is very tall and slim, beautiful. It was a love marriage. They met in Chandigarh, at college. My son did not tell me himself; I found a letter that she had written to him. I said to him, look if you like this girl … Your uncle did not like the idea, but I said, if this is what our son wants, we should allow him. It is good if they like each other, where is the harm?

Deol Auntie’s words were spoken with an apparent pride in the suitable match her son had made with a beautiful modern girl who represented the family’s aspirations, as well as at her own role in advancing the marriage. But she continued: ‘Now they have two girls, but they want a boy very, very badly. They will try again.’ The apparent divergence of the marriage from the traditionally desired arranged marriage was tempered by the assertion that the couple was trying for a baby boy14; thus the couple was attempting to fulfil traditional family expectations despite the unconventionally modern beginnings of their marriage. The modern ideal of the love marriage, along with the practice of taking the opinions of the bride and groom into account in arranging marriages, suggest that Jat marriage is increasingly individualized. Under these influences, some young Jats articulate a fledgling unwillingness to accept traditional arranged marriages; often, their refusal is related to advanced education and transnational ideals. While I lived in

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Ganganagar, my cousin-sister-in-law Simmi repeatedly tried to avoid her father’s attempts to arrange her marriage. Simmi had bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and was lecturing at a local college when I met her, although she had recently put in an application to go overseas for another degree. Fluent in Punjabi, Hindi, and English, slim and attractive, she had applied the previous year to work as an air hostess, but had been dissuaded by her father; this had, however, given her some leverage in insisting on the lecturing job. Her parents, meanwhile, were making attempts to arrange her marriage abroad. Transnational marriages are among the most prestigious for urban middle-class Jats, and a girl’s ability to work in India recommends her to transnational families seeking brides, as she most likely will have to work when overseas. Simmi was anxious about her application and under increasing pressure from her parents to marry. Her younger sister had been married a few years earlier, in a love marriage, and already had a child; Simmi was in her late twenties, and well beyond the ideal age for a Jat girl to be married. Every few weeks Simmi’s father, the last living brother of a family with relatively large landholdings, who had obviously notified his social circle that he wished to marry off his daughter, presented her with a photo and the biographical details of yet another eligible bachelor. All the boys were educated, professionally employed, from wealthy families, and most lived in the United States. Most Jat families would consider such marriages ideal. Still, Simmi was desperate to avoid these marriages, and saw continuing her education abroad as the only respectable means of escape. Her father’s attempts to convince her focused on the boy’s wealth and profession, and, perhaps believing that this was the way to gain Simmi’s assent, his looks. Less frequently, the boy’s father’s property was mentioned, which implied Simmi’s marital duty to her own parents. On a couple of occasions, frustrated with her, and worrying about his own izzat, her father showed the photographs to me, telling me the boy’s details, and asked me to help in convincing her. Trying to relieve myself of this onerous task, I would demure, ‘perhaps another boy would be better for her.’ Eventually, she was presented with the option of a US doctor. Simmi’s father was particularly hopeful over this match, as physicians are assigned the most status of any professional. Before he could ask me to intervene, I asked Simmi whether she really would not marry any of the boys her father had proposed. I suggested that a well-educated husband living abroad would perhaps let her continue her studies and have a career, and that perhaps

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she might negotiate this as a condition of accepting a match. I encapsulate the salient points of her replies in our conversation, as noted in my field journal, here: I know, I know this one is a doctor, and my Dad is all excited. The boy is good no doubt, and not bad looking in the photo. Boys there, some of them have different values, and what you say might be true, maybe it’s possible, but most of the time, they just want some traditional girl from India who will cook roti every meal and stay home having loads of kids and say hahnji (yes; i.e. agree) to everything … My Dad and everyone, they just can’t understand that I’m really doing this for my own education, for my M.Ed., that it’s not just about getting married or not getting married. Of course, I don’t want to get married, not until I can make my own choice, like Jyoti did, but I’m not going to spend all that money to go abroad and then not pursue my education … My taayiji said, all that money, half a lakh (50,000 Rs.), to go abroad could be spent on my marriage. She thinks I’m just going overseas to find a husband. But why would I spend half a lakh on that? Husbands are going for free around here! … Why should I be expected to submit to what my Dad wants, when he’s just worried about his own social position, having an unmarried daughter who’s getting older? Jyoti had a love marriage, and my parents themselves like to call their match a love match when it suits them … I just get so depressed thinking that I might have to just stay here and go along with this. As long as my visa application is still being processed, I can refuse. But I worry it is only buying time, and maybe I won’t get my choice in the end. What if I don’t get it [the visa]? Then they’ll really be on at me, and I’ll have no way out.

Simmi’s comments suggest that marriage today becomes a gendered struggle for individual identity. Her father’s sense of duty in wishing to fulfill social expectations of his daughter’s marriage, compounded by his understanding that marital alliances continue family progress, was repeatedly rebuffed. Simmi resisted the traditional roti-making role of the Jat wife and daughter-in-law, and the skilled and complicit performance of Jat gender inequities that it represented. She invoked her sister’s love marriage and her parent’s past penchant for referring to their own marriage as a love marriage as justification of her own wishes and priorities; faced with these histories, her father appeared uncomfortable in forcing her hand. The elders of the family, concerned about izzat, agitated for traditional choices, while Simmi quietly insisted on

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exercising the modern options of education and a career. Significantly, these apparent choices are necessities for Jat men. Simmi’s success in resisting all potential matches until her visa was approved relied on a nuanced understanding and skilful manipulation of the meaning of a good groom. While she steadily refused all the boys with whom she was presented, and despite her personal reasons for avoiding marriage at the time, her refusal of each of these potential grooms was always couched in local terms of marital suitability: this one had too many younger sisters to marry off, implying that the boy’s attentions and finances would be directed elsewhere for several years to come; that one was the youngest of three brothers in a joint family, which meant that Simmi, as youngest daughter- and sister-in-law, would be forced to do a large part of the family’s work; another was an only child, which would be difficult for her to adjust to as she came from a larger family, and there would be no one to share her troubles with or deflect any criticisms her parents-in-law might have of her; still another lived alone, indicating that he was too modern and did not hold proper family values. Despite the modern and transnational appeal of her suitors, Simmi deployed traditional arguments in refuting the sustainability of each room. Contemporary understandings of Jat marriage, as Simmi’s case exemplifies, bridge notions of tradition and modernity. While the traditional marital proscriptions of the community seek to reinforce closed boundaries, the fluidities and mobilities of transnational modernity increasingly have local influence. Love marriages – and the desire to have them – complicate and even confound Jat solidarity as traditionally expressed in endogamous unions between families of suitable social standing, and the love match is part and parcel of a growing body of modern ambiguities in Punjabi culture at large. Dowry, Social Display, and the Costs of Being Middle Class Marriage is the central event in Jat life; accordingly, weddings are the ultimate Punjabi social event, always excitedly planned and shopped for, and enthusiastically deconstructed and remembered in later conversations. Attending a Punjabi wedding is a veritable guarantee of jovial company, rich foods, and good entertainment, for middle-class Punjabi weddings are commentaries on affluence, consumption, and taste. The Punjabi wedding is a frequent figuration in contemporary Indian cinema: the motif of the large and lavish Punjabi wedding and

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the associated ceremonies of shagun and mehndi in popular Bollywood films of the romantic genre in recent years – such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke and Yaadein – suggests that the ideal of conspicuous consumption in the marriage celebration is nationally and transnationally validated. These films usually present extravagant celebrations for large numbers of richly-attired guests in lavish settings. Such scenes are repeated daily on national television as film song sequences are featured in regularly scheduled programming, much of which is dedicated to music videos and performances. These films suggest that the perception often voiced by Punjabis that they are modern, progressive, cosmopolitan, and fashionable is a widely accepted one. Moreover, these representations evoke the marriage practices of the elite, to which middle-class Jat weddings in Ganganagar and Punjab aspire.15 Middle-class Jats look forward to weddings as opportunities to see and be seen – as well as to be photographed and recorded on video16 – and women are expected to take special care and forethought in purchasing their suits and accessories, which reflect on their family’s status. Although marriages are typically arranged only a few weeks, or at most a few months, before the wedding date, these complex events appear to occur with a minimum of difficulty. Family weddings engage the full energies of an extended group of people for the entire period building up to the wedding: the women of the family shop for the bride’s trousseau and also for the gifts to be given to the groom’s family with the dahej (dowry),17 as well as making plans for the hospitality and entertainment of the family’s guests, while the men arrange the gurdwara and marriage hall, and see to the invitations, which must be delivered in person to each guest family, as well as verifying the satisfactory nature of the various arrangements with the vichola and the family of the groom. Marriages and their attendant ceremonies are celebrated with as much fanfare as a bride’s family can afford; the matter is one of their izzat, and as they are the lesser in the hypergamous relationship with the groom’s family, they hope that performing the wedding well will ease their daughter’s transition to her new home. While the importance of Punjabi marriage as a social custom negotiating family relationships, mediating gender behaviours, and regulating reproduction is undeniable, the practices inherent to it are also intricate commentaries on class and consumerism and strategies for social status and progress. Weddings are arguably the largest expense that Jat families under-

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take. The bride’s family bears by far the greater burden in this; in addition to paying for all of the wedding ceremonies, at which several hundred persons must be entertained, the bride’s parents purchase her wedding lehnga and trousseau, her gold, the items in her dowry, and also buy gifts for the groom’s family, including expensive silk clothing, and even gold for his close relatives, regardless of any actual demand for dowry. In the costs of this endeavour, they are assisted by the various other members of the bride’s nanke, the relatives from her mother’s family; thus the expense of having a girl child continues indefinitely through life down through the marriages of her daughters and even her children’s daughters.18 At the time of my fieldwork, middle-class weddings in Ganganagar and smaller cities in Punjab cost, without dowry, a bare minimum of one and a half lakhs (150,000 rupees, or about C $6,000 at the time of fieldwork), and commonly surpassed five lakhs ($20,000) when modest dowries were given. I heard in one instance of a village boy, whose family had considerable lands, that was asking a dowry of fifteen lakhs ($60,000).19 Given that combined monthly household incomes were rarely more than $600, the costs of marriages were difficult to meet. My mother-in-law told me of the amounts spent in a typical middle-class Jat marriage: On Dolly’s marriage, my friend Mohinder’s daughter, one lakh was spent on gold, another on clothes, one and a half on food and mithai (sweets), another half lakh on incidental expenses, like invitations, and cars, and so on. On Dolly herself, half a lakh was spent on her clothes and half a lakh on her jewelry. Now, they give only as much gold as the girl can wear. People think, if she is going to a good family, what is the need for giving so much gold? But, the girl’s side, they have to spend money. Whatever the boy’s side says, do this, do this, they will do. But it depends also on the girl’s parents, how much they can afford. The two families agree on the amount and then the boy’s family gives a shopping list. These gifts are seen as a sign of respect. They are gifts for the boy’s family, so even though they are called dowry, they do not stay with the girl. She may get her gold alone, and sometimes not even that.

This account summarizes many of the issues of dowry practice in the contemporary Jat community: the meanings of prestige and respect encapsulated in the dahej, the continued ideology of hypergamy, and the difficulty in resolving the practice of demand in the face of gifts of

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genuine sentiment. Given the costs, expressions of despair may meet the birth of an excess of daughters.20 Dowry is today a significant social issue among urban middleclass Jats, the more well-educated of whom advocate its abolition as a prestige-bearing social practice. Although earlier practices of brideprice are recorded in colonial accounts, dowry has become a thoroughly entrenched practice among Punjabis. Darling, who recorded the prohibitive costs of Punjabi marriages as early as 1925 (and subsequently in 1930 and 1935), suggested that much of the debt which was often incurred in undertaking marriages was related to expenditures demanded by local notions of honour and respect.21 It is remarked locally that the economic and cultural transformations wrought by the Green Revolution, including high inflation, the growing prestige of multinational goods, an advancing desire to engage in the material features of modernity, and new land values, did much to grossly inflate dowry amounts. In the 1950s and early 1960s, dowries often featured bicycles for the groom, whereas today, cars are a prominent feature of many Jat dowries. Many farming families necessarily have had to supplement their incomes to avoid crushing indebtedness, and the dowry a daughter-in-law brings is seen as a means of offsetting the costs of giving one’s own daughter in marriage (Dube 1997, Hershman 1981). Much of the dowry, purportedly the bride’s share of her inheritance, thus is given to members of her new family rather than to the bride herself. It is this practice that makes the issue of dowry especially problematic. Were the dowry to be used exclusively by the bride, the marital family would have little interest in making demands (mangna, to request) for more dahej. Because, however, gifts are routinely given to the groom’s family, any perceived impediment or dissatisfaction with the bride – or indeed sheer greed – can be expressed in a demand for further compensatory gifts. As the giving of gifts is intrinsic to the marriage ceremonies as a matter of honour and respect, and the treatment of the new bride thus comes to depend on it, the problem of dowry is at the moment almost intractable. Even families who insist that no dowry demands be made or paid continue to engage in the expected symbolisms of gift-giving. Among many urban Jats, it is said that dowry, in the form of traditional gifts of gold and clothing for the bride and her new family, should continue to be given, but the participation in dowry as a means of acquiring expensive consumer goods such as cars must be stopped. Kuldeep Kaur told me that ‘dowry should be gifts only, not demands. Of course we must

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give the bride her fair share of the family wealth, and it is good to give such gifts to a daughter. But demands, for cars and all, should not be there.’ The symbolism of gift-giving in marriage, the presentation of clothings and gold, has continued social importance. At the marriage of one of my husband’s nieces, my mother-in-law explained to me: The boy’s family, they request gifts for all the nazdiqi rishtedaar (close relatives), suits for the women, blankets or pagri for the men. There is gold also, bangles to the mother, sets for the sisters, a kara, ring and chain for the boy himself, rings for the boy’s father and taaya (father’s elder brother) and mama (mother’s brother), bangles also for taayi (father’s elder brother’s wife) and mami (mother’s brother’s wife), maybe chachi (father’s younger brother’s wife) also. These things must be given, to show the girl’s family’s respect for the new relations, the new rishtedaar.

In this way, modern notions of class are read onto traditional hypergamous practices of dahej dena (giving [dena] dowry [dahej]); while the quantity of gold marks middle-class wealth, all of the gifts listed here have traditional symbolic value, and their prestation cannot be avoided. Moreover, the gift of dowry is said to be the bride’s inheritance from her natal family,22 and Jats frequently remark that if dahej is not given, their daughters will receive nothing. Although the social obligations and prestige meanings of dowry prestation remain, some moderation in the system is gaining importance. The previously-cited exchange of only traditional tokens, even if over-written with class concerns, is one example. Almost all of my respondents were reluctant to discuss the dowry-giving practices of their own families, which seemed to imply some embarrassment over the admissions any response to such a question would involve; similarly, assertions that ‘gifts must be given, but demands must not be there’ were made by almost all the interview participants. Problems of dowry were always presented as an issue for other women, such as those reported in the media, although such instances were peripherally not unknown in the community.23 This suggests that, while dowry is still practised, there is a growing awareness of the need for reform – in other words, a change in the social terms of the gift, even if renunciation of the practice is not presently desirable. The refusal of dowry is gathering meaning as a prestige-signifying practice, however. I heard several proudly-told accounts of the refusal

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of dahej in particular weddings. My friend Radha attributed her own marriage to her groom’s progressive refusal of dowry; she told me that she had been more interested in marrying someone in the army, as she was interested in the modern and material life and the rounds of parties that army wives experienced, but when a proposal came along from a boy of her own Jaat community who made it clear that he would not accept a dowry, she agreed to meet and ultimately married him. She said to me: ‘I was very impressed by this fact. It made the proposal stand out a lot. That he wanted to marry me for myself and not for what I would bring. I thought, there is something to this boy. And you see today, this match has been very good for me.’ Radha’s example illustrates a corelation between increased levels of education and decreased dowry demands among India’s middle class. In another example, the well-educated son of a distantly known village family walked away from his own marriage arrangements when his parents demanded a jeep rather than a car. The girl’s family had offered a car in dowry, but the family thought that this would be of little use to them as cars have less utility on farms, and the boy would likely take the car to Chandigarh, where he lived and worked. Apparently embarrassed at taking a dowry in the first place, he told his parents that such a demand was unacceptable, and refused to go along with the marriage. A short time later, he arranged his own dowry-less marriage through a matrimonial advertisement to a well-educated urban Jat girl who worked in Delhi. In yet another instance, Brar Uncle refused to go to the village wedding of his younger brother’s son to express his disapproval over the family’s acceptance of a car in dowry. Given that he was an elder brother, a well-respected professional, and lived in a neighbouring city, the social slight intended would have certainly had great symbolic force, endangering the izzat of the boy’s family, although its long-term influence is less assured. Nevertheless, these examples illustrate that greed is negatively valued. The rising importance of wealth and professional status increasingly disadvantages the more marginal members of the Punjabi middle class. Not only are marriage prospects affected, but such families are often unable to engage in conspicuous, and socially sanctioning, displays of wealth at the time of marriage and beyond. The effects of inflation are rampant and socially manifest: even the common middle-class profession of teaching, which a generation ago paid salaries adequate to put a child or two through private school and to save enough for a house in retirement, emerges today low on the scale of middle-class earning

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potential and thus prestige. Moreover, teaching jobs, like all professional positions, are becoming scarce. The upwardly-mobile status displays increasingly expected of good Jat families, and the resultant changes in the meanings of social virtue, profoundly disadvantage those families who are financially unable to engage in any but the traditional codes of honour. The situation in which Parminder Singh Dhindsa and his family found themselves after his marriage reveal the temptations and limitations that straightened economic circumstances have on the social prestige accrued to a family through the undertaking of good marriages. Parminder was educated in local colleges and schools, and trained as a teacher, but failed over several years to find a position.24 He took up work as a salesman, but at the time of my study had been unemployed for several years after suffering an illness and related surgery. Despite living in a joint and extended family in which his economic situation was somewhat sheltered, Parminder worried about his continued unemployment and his ability to provide for his wife and child, thus thinking of the family’s finances in what amounted to nuclear terms. His own marriage had taken place despite his unemployment; middle class by all indicators but this, his family had a city house, an amount of land, and were members of a locally respected family. His wife’s family were farmers and, like many Jat women raised in villages, she had wanted to marry into an urban family. Their marriage took place according to all of the prestigious Jat traditions, and included a large dowry. According to my mother-in-law, Parminder’s mother had said give gold to my dirani (husband’s younger brother’s wife); whatever you give to me, my bhabhi should also get. So, two gold bangles there. His father’s sisters got gold earrings. There was also a car, a washing machine, a TV, a double bed, and 10 trunks of clothes and beddings. His in-laws, as you know they are living in a village near Hanumangarh, and they wanted a handsome, educated boy, with some land, but living in the city. Village girls do not want to do village work these days! Village people still want to give dowry, even though we people in the city do not need it. If they want to give their daughter some gift, who can stop them? That family was wealthy enough and had only one daughter to marry, so why not? The problem is when there are more daughters than money, and everyone is demanding a car.

But another problem arose from the acceptance of this particular dowry. A year after the marriage, Parminder and his wife had a baby girl.

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The birth of a daughter threatens crushing marital costs, and often is not celebrated.25 Parminder is now particularly concerned about the issue of dowry, and although he very clearly loves his daughter, he was admittedly distressed at her birth. I asked him how he felt when his daughter was born. He replied: I was upset! For so many days! [Why?] Because with a girl come so many responsibilities. They are much more than with a boy, particularly when they are to be married. [You were worried about ‘dowry’?] Hahn. When she grows up and is to be married, I will have to give dowry. Because when I was married, then I got a car in my dowry, and I ‘accepted’ it. But after twenty years, what will I have to give her in ‘dowry’? Who knows? Fifteen or twenty lakhs26 we will have to save. So you see there is some ‘tension.’

Other relatives of Parminder had, entirely practically, tried to convince him not to accept a dowry, but to ask instead for an amount of money from his wife’s family to be set aside to pay for the college education of their children. But his immediate family had been swayed by the status-marking potential of a car, and had decided on the dowry instead. Today, while his family is proud to mark their social standing with a car, they do not welcome the extra expense it entails. The family patriarch in fact insists that Parminder use his old scooter to run daily errands, while he himself, despite his advancing years, uses a bicycle in the interests of thrift. Parminder feels strongly that his unemployment impedes his family’s progress. He remarked to me: One thing I feel is that one should have a small ‘family,’ that’s the most important thing. One ‘sister,’ one ‘brother,’ that’s about the size of the family. The ‘father’ should be working, so that the kids don’t feel that they don’t have this or that; that they don’t look towards other kids, that they are wearing better clothes. I shouldn’t have any ‘complex’ like that, that I can’t afford this or that for my kids. One’s ‘father’ should have enough money for this. ‘Family cooperation’ should be there, that is, the ‘parents’ should have good relations among themselves, they should ‘concentrate’ on the kids, they should think about the kids’ ‘qualifications,’ like which

110 Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams ‘school’ is ‘better,’ the children should be given ‘good education’ right from childhood, so that they will develop good ideas, ‘confidence,’ and ‘behave good’ with their teachers and elders.27

Parminder’s account demonstrates a number of characteristics of Jat family life. Middle-class Punjabis consider the two-child family ideal and often refer to it with the English term, ‘complete family.’ This ideal family size is born both of national dogmas of population control and, perhaps more significantly, of the ever-increasing cost of raising a family to see them well settled and having made good marriages, which is particularly difficult and expensive in the case of daughters.28 Parminder’s words also tell us that children are central to family life; middleclass children should be afforded the best education possible, as well as materially indulged. This reinforces the necessity of a small family in an age of growing inflation and underemployment. Finally, Parminder’s account stresses that good relations and virtuous behaviours should characterize intra-family relations and the values one teaches one’s children. Unable to provide his family with significant means of engagement in middle-class life and materialism, he returns to what he sees as unalienable Punjabi virtues in their upbringing. The concerns over children and their care expressed in Parminder’s narrative reflect not only his own social and familial position as a young father who already has one daughter’s education and dowry to worry about, but are also indicative of the central importance of children in Punjabi family life. Just as it is one’s duty to the family to be married, it is also one’s duty to have and raise children who will both reproduce the family and continue the pursuit of material progress and social position through hard work and marital alliances. Fulfilling the social duty of children, while attempting to conform to the ideology of family progress and the expense this entails, will further marginalize Parminder’s family in terms of both virtue and status against the modern middle-class ideal. The unfulfilled promises of education, profession, and social standing will force new understandings of self and family status for Parminder. He believes himself a member of a good family, and his marriage itself validated this notion, yet his situation asserts the anxieties that arise in the evolving and unchallenged pursuit of good fortune as a means of reiterating family goodness. Parminder’s situation demonstrates that the gender issues of Jat marriage, and especially dowry, do not impact women alone. Although he made no particular demand, the dowry offered by his wife’s family was

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accepted. His acceptance of a dowry marks him as belonging to a family of status that concedes to the gendered and material valuations, negotiations, and exchanges on which the custom of dowry relies. Dowry is not simply a women’s issue; men too are devalued and potentially dishonoured in this practice. In the context of his own marriage, Parminder’s masculinity and his family’s reputation were validated in the offer and acceptance of dowry, yet his daughter’s marriage threatened to ruin the izzat he and his family had accrued in this way. For urban Jat men, dependent on education and profession for both marriage and livelihood, unemployment undoes both social position and gender. If we are to read Parminder’s case, along with Jasleen’s remarks on the social necessity of arranged marriage, we gain a valuable, if brief, insight into the issues that marriage raises for Jat masculinity. Dowry is a complex and contentious practice. Fortunately, changing gender roles and notions of family status are increasingly of some influence in limiting dowry demands: in the marriages of educated and acclaimedly progressive families, a girl’s education and bearing may offset demands for dowry. My mother-in-law, who was married over fifty years ago, was fond of describing herself as saah lainda sona, the gold that breathes, in a reference to the simple dowry she was given, which in her opinion paled in comparison to her earnings over many years of work as a teacher. A bride’s education is representative of significant parental investment, and can allay requests for dowry because the bride herself is considered to be more valuable in terms of her likely compatability with an educated groom, and with regard to her earning potential, even if she is rarely employed after marriage. Moreover, such brides are thought to be able to accompany their husbands to other parts of the country for work or on business, as well as to have fewer difficulties in migration should the opportunity arise; their children too are thought to benefit from the influence of their mother’s education. The growing prestige of transnational marriages, which typically do not involve consumer items in dowry, may also come to impact local dowry practices, even as they fulfill transnational dreams.

4 Good Fortunes: Education, Class, and National Contingencies

We have completely caught up in terms of education. Every Jat family these days educates their boys well and hopes they will get good jobs. Even village boys are educated these days. We have completely caught up in every way. – Balraaj Singh

Practices of education, and relatedly, social class are of great significance to urban Jats as they make possible not only everyday contingencies but also the imaginative modernities expressed in rural nostalgias and transnational dreams. Balraaj Singh’s words express relief in escaping a disadvantaged past, convey a sense of proud arrival into the modern present, and look to a future of promise. The process of becoming educated, although it continues to occur at a differential rate and in a gendered manner among Jats, is key to notions of status now current in the community, both urban and rural. Class and education are intrinsically and intimately related: good Jat families educate their members, minimally to university level, and expect that rewards of career, material wealth, and prestige will accrue from this modern formulation of izzat. At the same time, educated, middle-class Jats are drawn into a national community of others sharing the values of progress, development, and classed participation in an educated modernity. This commonality, characterized by middle-class social networks, occurs irrespective of religion and caste. Middle-class Jats are in this way socially distinguished from other Jats who are less well educated, materially wealthy, and socially prestigious and thus differently classed. The urban construction of Jat identity through notions of education, class, and progress thus defines a specific form of modernity.1

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The Means and Ends of Education among the Jat Middle Class Many of the notions of modernity experienced and espoused by middle-class Punjabis in Ganganagar are related to colonial and postcolonial practices of education. The varied forms of Indian education encompass a complex of local meanings regarding local, regional, and national subjectivities and modernities, and reorganize notions of caste, class, ethnicity, gender, and even religion. Education in India creates fundamental forms of social change by nurturing broader affiliations and forms of solidarity than those centred on the family, village, caste group, and locality (cf. Jindal 1984). The link between education, educated elites, and modern imaginings of community – in India as elsewhere – is clear (e.g. Anderson 1983 [1991], Gellner 1984, 1994, Srivastava 1998). During the colonial period, the education of South Asian elites was implicated in the creation of nationalist discourses and practices. But the process of education – and relatedly, social reform – also has a long history of producing communal and class distinctions in terms of competition for coveted government positions (e.g. Chatterjee 1993), and thus the making of colonial and post-colonial communities of difference (e.g. Juergensmeyer 1982). At the same time, the education of elite classes in particularly exclusive (and prized) schools has been implicated in a particularly Indian form of post-colonial modernity: Srivastava argues that elite education in India, undertaken in institutions modelled on the British public school system, seeks to create rational, multilingual, and cosmopolitan national subjects who graduate as citizens responsible for creating and sustaining a civil society characterized by ‘“secularism,” “rationality,” and “metropolitanism”’ (1998). I suggest that these ends are also evident in the middle class, where they are similarly promoted through English language and public school educations which encourage distinct affiliations, identities, and notions of both belonging and possibility, through similar practices and processes of institutionalized instruction. For Jats, being educated is implicit to the production and reproduction of modern society, in which divisions of labour, modes of subsistence, and notions of land, status, progress, and identity are transformed from agrarian antecedents. Education provides not only the specific means for living in modern civil society, but also – and perhaps at times more importantly – the suggestive power of possibilities for progress within the purview of modernity. So, while the national and civic goals of an elite education are recognized among Jats, a ‘good’ education, properly undertaken and directed, primarily attempts the security and further-

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ance of family fortune through occupational and professional advancement, thus assuring that the privileges of class, and urban residence are continued, and the potential for transnational mobility is enhanced. While modern, these goals are neither new nor post-colonial. In 1930, Malcolm Darling remarked on the desire for education among Punjabi farmers as a means of making a guaranteed income, as well as on the social changes that education wrought. His observations record the early impulse to education among Jat families – an impulse that the families in my study have all experienced within the past few generations. In his account of his travels through Punjab, Darling (1930: 66) quoted a jagirdaar (person awarded a British title to land and its revenue) who told him that up to the eighth class … a boy is not spoilt for work in the fields, but after that, he becomes too weak. The only object of education is service, because service means regular pay and a regular income. Whether the season is good or bad, the man in service gets his roti, while the cultivator often has to go hungry.

The economic imperative for education is clear, but significantly, education compromises the ability to return to farming as well as to participate in village social engagements. These issues still resonate among educated Jats today: a majority do not see farming as a viable occupation for themselves, and as a result of education, there are increasingly marked social differences between village and urban co-relations. The trend to higher education among Jats in Ganganagar, and indeed those of the Malwa region,2 has been quite recent. Almost all the families I met there were agriculturally-based until one or two generations ago – that is, from early in the twentieth century until around the time of independence.3 The few exceptions to these low levels of formal education early in the twentieth century were among persons with infirmities that would have hindered their farming and marriage potential, such as polio or partial blindness, and even then, this occurred only among liberal, far-sighted, and relatively wealthy families. Many of the families in my sample had become well educated and professionally employed in a single or at most two generations, typically as a result of the insight and opportunities of a particular ancestor, usually a grandfather or grand-uncle. Education among Jats initially enabled an escape from the agricultural debts prevalent in the early twentieth century, so families invested whatever they could in the education of a single male youth

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– one who showed academic promise and could be spared from farm duties – who would later make financial contributions to the family’s advancement. Education occurred in a chain-like fashion, with a single first link forging the formation of other, later links.4 While this process to some extent continues today, it has now resulted in a middle class of Jats who have left their lands to work and live in cities. Thus education forges a chain not only of related individuals, but of resonant effects. Becoming Educated One of the most significant social distinctions among Jats today is being parhia-likhia (literally, reading-writing; colloquially, educated). Being parhia-likhia is an expectation as much as a distinction: it is required for prestigious occupations, good marriages, and the possibility of emigration. Education, particularly the forms of schooling available at British-modelled boarding and convent schools which teach in English, is greatly valued by urban middle-class families. Such families make financial and material sacrifices to send their children away to such schools, often in Punjab state – where they can also become literate in Punjabi – or to the numerous boarding schools in Himalayan towns in Himachal and Uttar Pradesh. Besides learning fluent English at these institutions, students are exposed to a cosmopolitan mix of middleclass and elite children from across India, and even to ‘expatriate’ Punjabi students from as far afield as Malaysia, East Africa,5 Britain, and North America. While their own children are educated elsewhere, urban families often take in the children of rural relatives who cannot afford the more rarefied boarding schools, giving them the benefits of a city education. Such care may be long term and frequently involves college education. Many of Ganganagar’s educated, now middle-class Jat families began to leave their caste-based agricultural livelihoods behind in the 1920s and 1930s as family patriarchs, often faced with increasing amounts of family debt, came to view education and jobs ‘in service’6 as a reliable means of securing the family’s eventual escape from debt, land division, and poverty. Jasleen Brar’s family history, which centres on Jasleen’s father, Satwant Singh, as the primary link in the chain of education, illustrates the issues at stake for Jat farmers in becoming educated. Jasleen’s great-grandfather, realizing his family was in considerable debt, thought that education might help the family in making some financial progress. Jasleen said:

116 Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams He was the first one to put the idea to the family. He realized that one must get some education, to at least look into our accounts and begin to put them in order … So he felt that one of his sons or grandsons should be educated to take the lead and to show light to the family in certain ways … He must have seen special promise in my father, so he was especially given tuition in English, and he won a scholarship in third class, and after that he studied on scholarship.

The importance of education to family solvency and advancement in this account is such that it is described in a metaphor of enlightened leadership. But education also opens possibilities beyond the making of money. Jasleen continued his story: After that, when my father tried to go abroad, my great-grandfather stopped him. He said, your utility here is much more, even as a patwari, than if you go away from this place. And I think that he was very right. So, I think my great-grandfather was the architect, and my father was the means.

Satwant’s own desires for advancement – which hint at the dangers posed by transnational modernity to the goals decided by family patriarchs, and indeed to family values as a whole – were sublimated to the greater good of the family. Satwant remained in India, took a further degree, and became a lecturer; he told me proudly on more than one occasion of his financial assistance in ‘settling’ all of his siblings, both in India and abroad, demonstrating in this way the chain of family responsibility and assistance forged by education. It is also noteworthy that Satwant preferred a pedagogical career; teaching joins government service, engineering, and the medical and legal professions, as the most respected, respectable, and sought-after careers among Jats.7 Jat education has been far from universal in its trajectory and scopes, however. Women were essentially an afterthought of education among Punjabis: women’s education came about in response to the desire of educated men for educated wives who were mannered and could manage household accounts, and as colonial reform movements created new ideals of companionate marriage (Minault 1994, Mohan 1996). Although Darling’s observations in 1930 of what he termed ‘the old light and the new in the Punjab village’ demonstrate that the connection between education and the improvement of women’s social place was debated at least eighty years ago, until recently, gender biases have

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meant that English-medium and university educations were for men only. The education of Jat males is viewed as an investment in family fortunes and futures; education is essential to men’s careers, as well as to their marriages, and thus to the reproduction of the patriline. However, Jat women’s education aims only at their marriagability, as it is not expected that they will contribute significantly to the family purse either before or after marriage. Remnant elements of purdah still prevent many women from having the same educational and professional opportunities as men. Despite these limitations on women’s education, today life does seem to be somewhat easier for more educated women, not least because they usually marry into established urban families with similar material and professional prospects. Middle-class Jat women are generally quite well educated, with most having at least matriculated, and many having attained the baccalaureate. Nevertheless, until recently, they tend to have been educated at local schools and colleges, and even by correspondence. In such contexts, English is not emphasized. Thus, women’s proficiency in the English language has not ben a requirement of the marriage market until recently. Today, however, almost all middle-class Jat women under the age of 40 have some English facility, even if only an ability to read it, and regardless of whether they ulimately use English after marriage. As simultaneously, middle-class standards and expectations rise, the fields of employment and marriage become more competitive, and the possibility of transational migration becomes more likely, English facility becomes both more necessary and beneficial to women as well as men. I asked Manjeet Kaur Maan, a giani (having done the baccalaureate in Punjabi) married to a retired schoolteacher, whether there was any difference in the general social position of women in comparison to that of men. She gave a lengthy reply which emphasized the possibilities among the educated for gender equity: It depends on their education. In the families which are educated (parhianlikhian), there’s no difference there between the two. In the villages, there are still differences … like, in the newspapers, there are many stories about bride-burning and problems of dowry.8 These things still happen. It all depends upon education, the educated families are doing alright, they are equal. But the ones which are not [educated], which are backward, they still consider the woman as paerh di jutti (literally, the shoe on the foot9), and force her to work, work, work … Society has made the differences.

118 Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams Parents make these differences. You can see today, in studies, girls are surpassing boys. In ‘service’ also, they are advancing in their jobs, some girls have become ‘officers.’ The difference is only in the way they are brought up. They say, you are a girl, you should not go outside, you should not talk to anybody; they also give them less education as compared to boys. When I was growing up, girls were given very little education. I mean hardly up to the fifth-sixth grade was considered good enough for them. So that they could write letters, bas.

The equal position of Sikh women is confirmed in the egalitarian doctrines of the Guru Granth Sahib, but most Jat women with whom I spoke opined that this remains a matter of theology rather than practice. Significantly, the differences between men and women in Manjeet’s account are recognized as social constructs, created by parents and an ambiguous ‘society.’ Although women’s education has largely been undertaken with marriage in mind, it also has a recognizably positive social affect, lending women agency to get jobs and become ‘officers.’ Education is described in the same terms of social enlightenment that Jasleen used earlier: in Manjeet’s account, education saves women from problems of dowry and even bride-burning. These problems are not the problem of educated women like herself and the other women she knows, but the problem of other, apparently uneducated women who remain paerh di jutti. It is significant, however, that in my interviews with women with less education than Manjeet, still other women were said to be the media-prominent unfortunates afflicted with problems of dowry and threatened with murder. That gender oppression is a shifting object in women’s narratives on education confirms that affiliating with an educated modernity is strongly implicated in the ideals and expressions of status behaviour and family izzat that coalesce around gender. Izzat, or more precisely, sharam continues to limit Jat women’s education, as well as their hopes for careers. A majority of Jat women are married immediately after or even during their bachelor’s degrees. Parents complain that it is difficult to police the morals and activities of college-going girls. A widespread social expectation that ‘girls’ should be married by the age of ‘twenty, twenty-one’ (and thus before either post-graduate educations or careers might be established) helps to contain fears around family reputation and honour. Moreover, this expectation helps to ensure that educated girls might still be good brides, for an excess of education is said to prevent girls from properly adjusting to their mari-

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tal homes; advancing age, in conjunction with education, is thought to encourage women’s self-confidence and the likelihood of their speaking against and rejecting particular marital circumstances. As well, it remains a matter of status in many middle-class Jat families that the women of the household do not work outside the home; women’s education does not have to be advanced or even complete, but just enough to impress potential suitors. In this way, education encourages rather than alleviates the necessity of a woman’s marriage. The potential for feminist modernities that might be inculcated through education are thus limited in the continuation of customary notions of honour and modesty. Even girls with promising intellects and careers are subject to their parents’ and in-law’s ideas about marital propriety. However, most Jat women see their roles in the domestic realm as natural and necessary, if not always fulfilling; only a handful of particularly welleducated working women, burdened with double loads of paid and domestic labours, voiced any dissent. Education has not brought an uncontested swath of women’s progress and social equality to the Jat community. But the understanding that education is a means to social progress, however gendered, is shared among Ganganagar’s middle class, and forms a common virtue for Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus and urban Rajasthani Jaats alike. Radha, a middle-class Jaat mother of two, whose husband owned a local mechanized equipment business remarked that English was a key feature of her education. She told me: I went to a very good school, St. Sophia’s. It’s a convent school and they taught English very well. Then of course I spoke English at college, also. All of my friends from college, we all speak English together. Of course, we don’t meet often nowadays, but if we do, we speak only in English to one another. Even if on the phone. Here, I do not have much opportunity to talk English, but I try to speak it a little with the children, doing their homework … Talking to you reminds me of those college days!

Her proficiency in English became all the more remarkable when she told me that she was the only sister of two brothers who continued to farm the family’s land in her village, which lay in a neighbouring district. She told me that her father, who she described as a forwardthinking man, had purposefully educated her in order that she could make a good marriage and thus escape the toil of a village life. I asked her what language she spoke in the village and she answered bluntly:

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‘Baagri. It is an old language, old-fashioned, and it’s quite useless. You can’t even write in it. It’s a stupid language.’ For Radha, education advanced notions of desirable future ends.10 Fluent in four languages, and educated as much in the potentialities of the modern world as in any particular language, English seemed to Radha to provide a treasured connection with a sense of modern cosmopolitanism and future possibility. English-Language Education and Jat Identity In India, being educated and fluent in English represents social progress and prestige and marks membership in a national (and transnational) elite. It is also potentially a mechanism of cultural alienation (cf. Spivak 1993) that cultivates transnational cultural attachments (cf. Appadurai 1996). English-language facility is essential for undertaking degrees at the best colleges; for careers in the military and civil services; in the fields of medicine, law, engineering, education, and business; and for emigration. A majority of the middle-class urban Jat men I met were conversant in English,11 and many relied on English-language media for their daily news. The government-sanctioned language of instruction in state schools is Hindi, with English as a subject course, while English is the medium of instruction in public schools,12 with Hindi and Punjabi offered as subject courses in Rajasthan and Punjab respectively. Most parents prefer to enroll their children in state-run Hindi-medium schools for an initial year or two while they adjust to the scholastic setting, but it is quite common for children to be instructed fully in English in public schools by the age of seven or eight. Wherever parents can afford it – and can also make the emotional adjustment to having their children live elsewhere – public residential schools in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are favoured, even if acknowledged to be expensive. Today, besides encouraging careers in service, a good education is viewed as preparation for emigration. Middle-class Jat families hope to continue their economic and social progress in transnational migration, as socioeconomic limitations in India become increasingly more manifest in the middle-class setting. Balraaj Singh, a close friend of my parents-in-law, who on their advice, sent his son to one of the more renowned public schools in Punjab, frequently exhorted the values of his son’s education, which he felt had prepared him especially well for the rigours of life abroad. He told me:

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We wanted to give him the best education that we could afford. We made some sacrifices for this, financially it was difficult, but we would have sent him even to one of the schools in the mountains if that was best. They have a good climate, good atmosphere and very good facilities. But they are further away, so holidays become more difficult. And their students are more from the upper classes … he might have become spoiled or felt left out had he gone there. Upper class kids, they don’t need to study as hard, work as hard as our children do. They are already set in life. Where Daljit went to school, these boys are from good Punjabi families, from the towns and villages, many of the same level as us. He learnt Punjabi13 and then he also learnt English there, very good English, good enough for life in Canada as you would know from meeting him. Of course, when he went there with Jassi and Hari, they none of them knew any English at all. They were in a separate class for some time. But they all learned quickly. Now his English is first-class. They all speak well, even Jassi who is still here in Ganganagar itself. As you know, he is working with the state government in a good job. And there is one other boy, a distant cousin of Hari’s, who is married into the Deol family, he is now in the army, he is a major already.

There is a clear intimation of middle-class position in this account: the elite company of the Himalayan schools is eschewed for the known entity of other middle-class Punjabi families, and particularly for rural Jat families, who know the value of hard work. Moreover, Balraaj’s narrative clearly speaks of English as key to a future trajectory of progress for the Punjabi middle classes; speaking English facilitates possibility, regardless of its manifestation. Beyond its formal educational uses, English has pervaded the Hindi and Punjabi spoken in Ganganagar’s urban middle-class. The Punjabi and Hindi dialects spoken in Ganganagar, even by persons with no formal training in or apparent knowledge of English, are infused with English words and expressions.14 Not only are the more modern technological, professional, and educational terms frequently in English, but English has seeped into some of the more basic linguistic usages of Punjabis as well. It is particularly evident in modern, class-based terms, such as ‘service,’ ‘education,’ and ‘function,’ and certainly more surprisingly, is commonly used in discussions of kinship: kin terms are often given in English, and the words ‘family’ and ‘relations’ are commonly used. That English terms are influential in conceptualizing the

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Punjabi home is further illustrated in the common if nuanced use of the terms ‘simple’ and ‘homely’ to describe qualities particularly desired in women. English facility and use, in accordance with a family’s aspirations, can be more or less emphasized in creating and recreating social relations. In some families, those family members with better English are expected to help those with lesser facility. While I was in Ganganagar, I was repeatedly invited by extended relatives to ‘come and live with us for some time so that the kids can practise their English.’ English facility introduces subtle differences and notions of hierarchy into family life. For instance, wherever humour is appropriate to the relationship, those who can speak English may good-naturedly poke fun at those who can’t. My father-in-law’s elder bhabhi was lovingly teased about her inability to pronounce some of the more difficult terms she encountered in the course of her children’s education, phasisk (physics) being one of the most remembered in family anecdotes; taayiji was also remembered, again in good humour, to have scolded her elder son by asking him sarcastically if he thought he was intelligent, but mistakenly using the term television instead. My own elder sister-in-law’s adoption of the phrase bool-shit, which she frequently used to supplement her Punjabi, was another such source of mirth. The desire for Englishmedium schools15 extends well beyond the city to even the villages of the district. I was told by an entrepreneurial village brother-in-law that he had engaged an English-speaking teacher – as he himself received his formal education only in Hindi and spoke Punjabi in his daily life – to teach at the small school he had recently opened in rooms in the village’s abandoned mosque. The village children, he thought, should not be left out of the opportunities that English provides. English is not uniformly prized, however, and may even become a site of local cultural struggle and resistance. This situation appears more to challenge local issues of class, caste and status, and related problems of language education and facility, than to make any specifically postcolonial point. Moreover, differentials in English facility are clearly apparent within the middle class, and English can become a vexed issue for those whose education has not been privileged in this way. As well, English can become a means of resistance and counter-resistance to both modern educational practices and the cultural elements of modernity. Ravvi, a young relative from Punjab doing a post-graduate degree at the local college, occasionally sought my help in explaining some of the more difficult portions of his textbooks. He complained that although

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the standard texts assigned for his courses were in English, with the intention that the issues be discussed in English in class, many of his fellow students would engage in discussion only in Hindi, and resorted to the Hindi versions of the texts in class. This put him at a disadvantage as his formative education had been in Punjabi, having taken English and Sanskrit (rather than Hindi) as his later subjects. Among his classmates, an inability to speak and understand English, most likely as a result of a lack in opportunity for English-medium formative education, engendered an apparent resistance to its use; being primarily Rajasthani, Hindi was their chosen mode of speech, if not also their mother tongue. In Ravvi’s experience, English also became contentious beyond the classroom in the realm of popular culture. Competing valuations over linguistic and cultural identity were also apparent in his complaints. He told me: You know, I like to listen [to] all different kinds of music. Punjabi, Hindi, English, it does not matter to me, if I like it, if it is a good song. But some of the boys in our class, they say [to] me, ‘Why [do] you want to listen [to] all this English music? You think you will become [an] Englishman?’ They listen only to Indian songs. But I think, I am [an] open-minded person, and I like to listen anyway. And some of the Indian songs and movies, the Hindi stuff they listen [to], they copy the English anyways, hai na (don’t they)?

Here, English becomes a site of local cultural struggle over identity, as Ravvi’s tastes for English music are ridiculed. Ravvi’s position, in which Punjabi, Hindi, and English appear equally privileged, may in fact be one of counter-resistance, in which for Jats, English becomes a means of balancing Hindi dominance. The preference for English-language education thus may have other purposes than marriage and migration potential for Jats in Ganganagar. English potentially subverts the dominance of Hindi: Ganganagar’s Jats may choose English-medium schools over Hindi ones in relation to the fact that Punjabi is not a language of instruction in Rajasthan. Even more preferable to many middle-class Jat parents is to send one’s children to school in Punjab, where they will be educated in both Punjabi and English. The issue of the mother tongue is mired in emotional issues of selfhood, authenticity, and even purity in Punjab. But, as Ravvi’s example demonstrates, being Punjabi is not incompatible with being receptive to external cultural influence. In

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emphasizing other languages, however, Punjabi identity may become insidiously attenuated. While English-language education has marked benefits, it may also compromise the importance of Punjabi. My father-in-law agreed with his friend Balraaj that educating their sons in English had been worthwhile, but he also questioned the effects of their education on their identities: Yes, yes, even Jassi, still living here in Ganganagar speaks English very well. He speaks Hindi at work, and perhaps a bit of English when he travels, and of course they speak Punjabi everyday at home. But, as you yourself have seen, he is still fluent in English, because he has had a firm education in it. His English may even be better than his other languages, you saw, just the other day, that he can hardly use a Punjabi dictionary! I just wonder are these boys of ours Punjabi or English, what have we made them? [Laughs].

A few days earlier, Jasleen had come to our house for a visit. At one point, the wide-ranging conversation turned to whether there was a Punjabi equivalent to the English word ‘sin.’ Jasleen knew that my inlaws had recently acquired a set of dictionaries (primarily, it seemed, for my use), and asked to see them; however, he had difficulty in looking up the words in which he was interested as he could not recall the precise order of the Punjabi alphabet. My father-in-law teased him, saying ‘Just see. These boys cannot even use their own dictionaries. Have we made them into Punjabis, or are they something else?’ My mother-in-law, who had been a Punjabi teacher, saved the day by assisting Jasleen, who in the end did not find the word he was looking for.16 The apparent humour of my father-in-law’s question as to whether the Jat boys of these families remain Punjabi bespeaks an anxiety regarding the loss of Jat identity in the face of English-language education and the social changes that accompany it. Later that evening, he echoed Balraaj’s praise for the Punjab residential school; having sent his own son there, he too felt that the money spent had been a worthwhile investment, considering that his son had gained a degree in India, and a graduate one abroad, and was now earning in Canada what by Indian standards is an excellent wage. But the compromise of identity inherent to this trajectory of progress was evident in his exclamation, ‘In this way, we have prepared Hari for you – he has become an Englishman!’ Education, and especially trans-

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nationally directed English-medium education, threatens traditional Jat identities and joins with other forces of modernity in creating new formulations of Jat aspiration, social practices, notions of social and moral values, and expressions of self.17 Not only are Jats merged in this process with an amorphous community of modern and transnational English-speakers, exceeding the boundaries of Punjabi language and custom, but they are also in this way more fully incorporated into the Indian middle class. Class among Ganganagar’s Jats Class identities in Ganganagar are developed in relation to and recognition of educational levels, occupations, and material circumstance. The modern values encapsulated in gaining a good education and a good job, and in the subsequent possibilities of material gain and leisurely lifestyles, are recognized to be part of a wider national and international system of class privilege of which Ganganagar’s middle class – perhaps optimistically at times – feel they are part. As the social networks cultivated in education are composed of friends from different religions and caste backgrounds and living in different regions, and middle-class positions are shared with a broad, ethnically undifferentiated segment of Indian society in Ganganagar and beyond, for Jats, education and middle-class status are assimilative and integrative forces. But while a number of persons related to me their pride in Ganganagar’s cosmopolitan nature, and their feeling that they were members of a global middle class with many options of education, employment, and interpersonal association, social mobility is often restricted to Ganganagar itself. Here, socially significant relations continue to occur within networks of caste as well as class, and thus education and the construction of class-based identities have, until today, by no means been universal among Ganganagar’s Punjabi families. Many Jat families, including my own, are still agricultural in their lateral extensions; less-educated members of the extended families of many urban Jats continue to farm.18 It is not uncommon to discover families with some members in the same generation having doctoral degrees while others only matriculated19 or more rarely, didn’t finish school at all. As class is now central to questions of urban identity, it complicates extended family relationships where relatives are disparately educated. While rural solidarities and orientations are still strongly felt among urban, educated Jats, and common kinship and the prizing of land may mediate some of the ten-

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sions that arise in the transitions of education, class, and urbanity, differences in educational and class statuses can cause estrangement and alienation between family members. As I came to understand it, social class in India comprises both ascribed and achieved statuses: in birth membership in a good family, in the inheritance of land and monetary wealth, in education and occupation, and in class-appropriate displays of consumption. Each contributes to the izzat of the good family. However, among the good Jat families of Ganganagar, education and occupation are increasingly more important than family wealth and status.20 This is related to urbanization; among Jats, one’s level of education, and the types of professional jobs for which one qualifies, are the key local features of the designation middle class.21 Agricultural occupations do not register in the urban class schema. Rural Jat families may be considered good, and their members may be well-educated participants in the material features of Punjabi modernity, but significantly, their unemployed, educated urban relatives who own land merely collect the theka on it rather than themselves moving back, attempting to farm, and thereby forfeiting their class positions.22 In this sense, land merely supplements professional incomes among urban Jats. Education is, therefore, the most privileged feature of modern middle-class positioning, and it constructs middle-class experiences of modernity and expressions of identity. Education and the notion of progress it advances are now such pervasive and morally charged forces of modernity that even the big landlord families participate in it as fully as those Jat families who more clearly need to fulfill its financial promises. In local understanding, even people educated and trained for middle-class professions but suffering unemployment23 are still considered members of the Jat middle-class, despite generalized acknowledgment of their social and material limitations, and the fact that this recognition may curtail their social interaction.24 There is a widespread problem of unemployment among the present generation of Indian graduates, as ‘college and university education is becoming, by and large, a waiting hall for the unemployed, irrespective of the disciplines that they might be pursuing’ (Narain 1997: 131). This problem is by no means new: a jagirdaar told Malcolm Darling that ‘service is difficult to get nowadays, for the rich as well as the poor send their boys to school, and they are able to pay the fees of the higher classes; so their boys get the service, and ours are left behind’ (quoted in 1930: 66). The current situation has arisen from a nexus of problems, regional, national and

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global, which are attributed in local discourse to a lack of central and state government industrial investment in the Punjab region (and Ganganagar), the caste reservation system which is perceived to decrease the numbers of government and other jobs available for non-scheduled castes, and generally, ever-increasing educational levels and numbers of graduates for whom there are just too few professional jobs within a developing, inflation-ridden, and rapidly globalizing economy. While education is central to social class determination, the material markers of class are of growing significance, and it is these that most preclude the unemployed from middle-class sociality. The opening in the past two decades of the Indian economy to global interests and ideologies has inculcated a mantra of materialism in most middle-class families.25 Middle-class families invariably own some means of mechanized transportation, several major household appliances, and in most instances, the pakka (solid and of brick construction) houses in which they live. Friends and relatives are entertained weekly or monthly, food is adequate – and adequately rich – and holidays and in some cases, pilgrimages, are at least annual occurrences. Middle-class families are always well-dressed; women keep up with rapidly changing fashions in salwar-kameez style and adornment, while men and children wear western and international styles (and labels, pirated or authentic). Middleclass children are enrolled in pricier English-language schools, where they wear westernized uniforms, and middle-class youth are greatly influenced by the consumerist orientations of multinational cable television. They daily watch the popular music, film, and entertainment industry spin-offs broadcast on the cable channels Star, Zee, and Channel V, and favour the western fashions and designer labels to which they are exposed; as well, computer use is sharply on the rise among Indian youth. These are ever-changing trends and expensive habits. For all these common material aspirations, there remain fairly wide wealth disparities among Ganganagar’s middle class, for clearly a bank clerk does not make nearly as much money as a lecturer, nor a lecturer as much as a doctor, and the bank clerk is less likely than the other two to have been born to a family that is already wealthy. Among materially well-situated Jat families, therefore, social distinctions beyond the broad sweep of a middle-class designation can be appreciated, and there is some incipient, if still largely unarticulated, understanding of social differences among lower-, middle-, and upper- middle class designations. Four of the 75 participants in my initial interviews volunteered a class qualifier of this nature. One, a retired college profes-

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sor, whose wife also had been a teacher, noted that his family was just middle-middle class, rather than upper-middle. ‘We are not the elites,’ he told me.26 Meanwhile, the rising importance of wealth in constructing and ascertaining middle-class status increasingly disadvantages economically marginal members of the Punjabi middle class. Not only are they unable to engage in conspicuous displays of wealth, but their marriage prospects are also affected, and thus they are disadvantaged even within traditional frameworks of status and izzat. Class as a Challenge to Jat Collectivity Most Jat families have become educated and professionally employed at a differential rate. In the early stages of the caste-to-class transition, families could often afford to educate only one son; this limitation has created unequal relations and statuses, and thus unwitting hierarchies within Jat families. In these, class concerns, and their re-inscriptions of izzat, are highly visible, and may be a source of tension, as differences of behaviour and opinion challenge the traditional ideals of family comportment and solidarity. For this reason, the probing of class issues within family contexts makes for uncomfortable ethnography; such issues are more easily, if obliquely, approached in the gaps and silences at the edges of family interactions. To give some indication of the complex interplay of class, social status, and family membership, I will describe a brief visit to the family of a close cousin of my father-in-law. We visited this senior cousin-brother (taayaji) only once during my entire stay in India, about three months after my arrival, despite the fact that his family lived as close to us as other relatives whom we met perhaps once a month.27 While there was never any mention of a disagreement with taayaji, and our families enjoyed what are locally termed good relations, it quickly became apparent that my in-laws did not visit often as on the way there we became lost among the expanding streets on the periphery of the older settlement in which he lived. I recorded in my fieldnotes: the area in which they live is rapidly being built up. Still, the streets are narrow and are all kaccha, the buildings are poorly maintained, and the population visible on the streets seems dense. The main road is narrow and very pitted and there’s lots of small carts, scooters, stray animals and playing children to avoid. (But very few cars.) Mummy-Daddy bicker about which laneway to take. Their landmarks and street counts no longer

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work as mapping devices and Daddy is complaining about the number of encroachments, and the poor roads, two of his favourite topics while driving. We drive past a number of small provisions shops on the laneway corners, but we’re still lost. I remark, ‘you mustn’t come here very often,’ and Daddy replies matter-of-factly ‘you’re right, we surely don’t.’

Having at last found taayaji’s home, we were seated in the mud-floored courtyard on manjas (wooden cots with woven cord or string webbing) amid a veritable swarm of flies,28 while my mother-in-law inquired after the health of each of the family members and about the schooling of the children, and I was questioned as to whether I liked India, and as to the health and professional progress of my husband. After my mother-inlaw repeatedly drew attention to the troublesome makhhian (flies), both verbally and by dramatically brushing them from her head with her hand and covering her face with her dupatta, we were invited to sit in the tiny front sitting-room. There we were served tea in chipped china cups, while taayaji ’s daughters in-law, and their children – who stayed outside as they could not all comfortably fit into the small chamber – drank from glasses,29 and a small plate of biscuits and some namkeen (savoury snacks) was passed around. After tea, taayaji surprised me by speaking to me slowly and hesitantly in English, which he had learnt many years before while serving in the British army. This particular visit was remarkable for the social distance that appeared to exist between the two families, captured especially in my father-in-law’s uncharacteristically quiet behaviour which could not be adequately explained by the deference expected of him as the younger cousin-brother. Normally a very sociable and even jocular man, fond of tea-time social visits, his behaviour in this instance reflected an unusual and incongruous social discomfort. After the necessary greetings, he sat became reticent, responding only in the few instances when taayaji addressed him directly. My field journal further notes: as we drive home, Daddy, who has sat silently through much of the visit, vociferously complains again about the poor state of the roads and the number of shoddy, and as he is fond of pointing out, illegal, constructions about; these are uniformly the businesses and homes of Ganganagar’s poor. I realize I feel badly that he has seemed to nearly ignore his relatives, and that he seems to resent the small inconveniences of this visit. Inspired by taayaji’s family’s obvious happiness at our visit, and hoping for some further clue to the messy family relations I am facing here, yet not want-

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ing to ask directly about them, I suggest we hold a family reunion when Harwinder visits the following year. Daddy immediately takes up the cause, ‘oh yes, we will invite the Brars and Ranjot Singh’s family, and the Deols, and Iqbal Singh … ’ It is clearly crucial to him to invite these close and more socially prestigious friends of his. I repeat my intention that the function be primarily for family members, like the cousins we had just visited, and his relatives from surrounding villages. He then agrees with a much-reduced enthusiasm that it is a good idea. Mummy agreed with this too, but both then wondered aloud where we could possibly put all these people, and what we would feed them.

Ultimately the party did not occur, nor was I to meet this particular branch of the family again during my remaining twelve months of fieldwork.30 Indeed, it was to become apparent that my in-laws spent far more time socializing with middle-class friends than class-challenged kin. I later discovered, questioning my mother-in-law the next day at home, that taayaji’s son, the principal bread-winner of the family – plied an auto-rickshaw. ‘He has tried so many jobs, in the sugar mill and other factories, and he could not settle in any of them. So, he bought himself a rickshaw,’ she told me. I had earlier been assured by my parents-inlaw and several others that Jat Sikhs did not drive rickshaws, as it is an occupation they considered beneath them. While Sikhs are renowned taxi-drivers, this too is not a middle-class occupation. In excerpts from an earlier conversation with my mother-in-law, which took place after a trip to the bazaar, on the subject of the relative absence of Sikh merchants, I had noted this exchange: [I’ve hardly seen any rickshawpullers or drivers wearing turbans. Don’t any Sikhs do this work?] Yes, but they are Harijans only. [But aren’t they still Sikhs?] Yes, but only low-caste persons.

Later that evening, she reiterated our conversation in Punjabi to my father-in-law. He turned to me and said in English: You will find no Jat shopkeepers, only Khatris and Aroras. Jats you will find only in agricultural business. A few work in the grain market, as com-

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mission agents. And the rickshawpullers are not Jats, only low-caste persons. But they are working still; you will never find a Sikh beggar.

Taayaji’s son, in terms of this analysis, loses both his caste and his class position.31 Along with this loss of position, local social engagement suffers, and this has a corollary impact on family status and respectability. Yet taayaji’s family certainly remains Jat, not least in their originary caste and their patrilineal relationship to my in-laws, even if they are Jats that have fallen on hard times. In light of these earlier proclamations, and well aware of the status concerns of middle-class Jat identities, I did not have the confidence to ask my in-laws directly how it was that their Jat Sikh nephew was driving a rickshaw, nor did I question what this situation said of his caste and class. Was their disenchanted behaviour towards taayaji ’s family based on the disappointing social position of their rickshaw-pulling nephew, did they merely feel little socially in common with these relatives, or did this relationship in some way unsettle our family’s own middle-class position? Class brings with it a certain set of expectations about the making of educational foundations for good livings. Many of the traditional faultlines of Punjabi society – including family divisions over land rights and inheritances32 – today are refracted through the modern concerns of education, employment, and family advancement. Those family members initially trusted with raising their family’s socio-economic position through disciplined study and professional advancement unsurprisingly come to feel invested in the process, and to believe that it is the best – or the only – way to maintain, let alone improve, family fortunes. The disappointment of my father-in-law at what he perceives as his nephew’s failure to value education and middle-class professional service, and in this way commit to the ideal of family progress, is palpable if unvoiced in this instance. He is doubtless struggling to reconcile changed ideas of izzat and family prestige in which ‘poor or untutored relatives can often be an embarrassment,’ as Béteille (1969: 236) has suggested. A lurking fear of losing one’s own hard-earned and highly-valued progress may also be at play here, in which rickshaw-pulling relations are an uneasy and unpleasant reminder of just how tenuous the newly middle class hold on accomplishment, opportunity, and wealth is.33 In light of these disappointments and fears, social relations between the branches of this patriline have become distant, and are thus imbued with class concerns. Those family members who waste the opportunities for what their newly middle-class

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relatives firmly believe is their joint social betterment may be harshly judged. This judgment conceals a complex of issues regarding the value and prestige of middle-class membership, the obligations of family members to these ideals, and the meaning of being an urban and modern Jat. Class and the Construction of Community Modernity has the potential to unite ‘people across the bounds of ethnicity and nationality, of sex and class and race’ (Berman 1988: 6), as well as religion and caste. Class and education sever the urban Jat community from rural, less-educated and under-achieving relatives and affiliates and forge social commonalities with other, non-Jat members of the Punjabi middle class. Profound friendships and deep social bonds occur across both caste and religion as people become united in mutual experiences of education, class, and material modernity. While family remains the central realm of Punjabi sociability, the possibility of fictive kin relationships among friends in effect extends the bounds of family sentiment and role behaviour. Regardless of caste and religion, friends may come to be as important as family among urban Jats, particularly when family members live far away or have structurally different life experiences. Close friendships among persons colloquially described as having or enjoying ‘good relations’ are developed in ways that parallel and to some extent replace family relationships. As well, friends are a socially valued lens on how things are done in other families; disagreements regarding the introduction of particular types of disputed modern social practices, such as love marriages or the abolition of dowry, may be more successfully negotiated with examples gleaned from the range of greater Punjabi society in which one’s friends fall. I witnessed many instances of close friendships among Jats, quite a number of which lay across the bounds of religion and caste. I will describe several such relationships in order to give some sense of the duties and honours involved in Punjabi friendship – duties and honours that often replicate the loyalties and obligations of family. Raghuvir, a Hindu Jaat (and Rajasthani Baagri), and Jasleen, a Jat Sikh whose family hailed from Majha in northern Punjab, met in the same program at college in Jaipur, where they became firm friends. Jasleen told me that he meets Raghuvir almost every day when they are both in the city; they discuss the events of the day, share their problems, and make plans for the short and long term. Since their respective marriages, their

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friendship has continued to grow under the influence of their wives. For Punjabi women in particular, friends may provide an important temporary escape from family pressures. Friendly gatherings may find young women off in the kitchen, sharing in the domestic tasks at hand, but also sharing advice, airing their complaints, and offering the proverbial shoulder to cry on. Although such instances may not be frequent, at least in my experience, this support is particularly important: Punjabi women are married at what are often great distances from both their family and the friendships they formed in their youth, and they must usually befriend their husband’s friends’ wives, for they will have few opportunities to make friends on their own. The only exceptions to this are the meeting of friends through work or kitty parties,34 neither of which are venues assuredly open to Punjabi women. For her part, Raghuvir’s wife commented that she and Amardeep ‘are just like sisters, she and I. You will always find our families together on every weekend, and sometimes even more often. We eat together, we talk about everything, the children are like brothers and sisters. Our families are just like they are related.’ Clearly such friendships mimic the ideal relationships, roles, and responsibilities found among family members. My father-in-law has remained in very close contact with two of his friends from college although they live in other Rajasthani cities. Dhanwant Uncle, a Jaat originally from Ganganagar district, is among my father-in-law’s closest friends, and routinely makes his Jaipur home available to my in-laws and their guests, and stays at their home when he visits Ganganagar. Another of my father-in-law’s college friends, Professor Ahuja, has remained in close contact over the years. While I was in Ganganagar, we attended the wedding of Professor Ahuja’s son, held here as the city is the family’s ancestral home. A series of meals and marriage-related events were planned at a local hotel, for an entire weekend undoubtedly aimed at the renewal of ties among family who had travelled to the wedding from across northwestern India. Although we originally had planned to attend only the most significant, and public, shagun and anand karaj ceremonies which were being held at one of the city’s gurdwaras, we were pressed by Professor Ahuja and members of his close family to spend the two full days with them, sharing in their celebrations, ‘as the opportunity to do so comes only rarely among such old friends.’ In the various marriage rituals I was included as the younger Ahuja’s bhabhi (brother’s wife), and received a very generous 500 rupee ashirvaad35 for my participation. Instances of family-like relationships thus also occur in Jat and Arora Sikh friendships.

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In another example, one of my sisters-in-law, who lives in a town in Punjab, has developed extremely close ties over the course of a decade with her younger next-door neighbour, Preeti, who is an Arora housewife. I witnessed their relations during my visits and again at two marriages in Punjab. Preeti and her entire joint family of affines were intricately and intimately involved in the organization and fulfillment of the marriage ceremonies. When my niece was married, out-of-town guests, myself included, slept, bathed, and relaxed between events in their home; bhaji undertook to deliver many of the invitations, oversaw all of the arrangements at the marriage palace, and did much of the necessary driving around, as well as taking part in the milni ceremony as a respected uncle, while bhainji assisted with hiring and overseeing the caterers, helped with wedding shopping and the packing of gifts to be given to the groom’s family, was central to the rituals of the chunni charaana ceremony, the mehndi, and the singing at the ladies’ sangeet,36 did the bride’s hair, make-up, and clothing on the morning of the wedding, and rendered the vital assistance, usually that given by a sister, of helping her to stand and sit as she walked the four pheras (circumambulations) of the anand karaj. At the smaller midsummer wedding of a brother-in-law visiting from Canada, Preeti bhainji boiled water for the guests, helped with food preparation and cooking, and prepared snacks and tea for those guests who had been invited to enjoy their air-conditioned accommodations, while bhaji once again provided his car and his driving. This plethora of services was performed unstintingly, in the Sikh tradition of seva, to fulfill the honour implied among Punjabis in the making of friendly requests or claims to service, and to demonstrate loyalty, respect, and affection. Clearly deep and meaningful friendships occur between Jats and Aroras, and Sikhs and Hindus, despite the articulation and contestation of caste, religious, linguistic, and political boundaries between the communities. More than one Punjabi, in explaining the importance of the bonds of friendship to me, has pronounced some variant of an adage: ‘you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.’ Nevertheless, notions of kinship continue to inform the bonds of friendship. Ideal friends are often said to be ‘just like a sister [or brother] to me,’ may visit with each other daily, and are invited to, implicated in, and relied upon in the serious responsibilities of important family functions and ceremonies. Like education and other forms of class participation, middle-class friendships serve to draw Jats into wider forms of community – in these cases informed by Punjabiyat and Sikhi – that

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are not bounded by traditional categories of caste and religion. Local understandings of middle-class position thus integrate urban Jats into a broader sphere of class concern that is national and transnational in nature, while simultaneously separating them from their rural and less educated kin. While possibilities for transnational migration are increasingly important among Jats, and complement education and class in a triumvirate of modern statuses and identities, there remains some evidence that education and class may contribute to regional and national affiliations rather than transnational ones. As we have heard, Satwant Singh did not give up on his dream of going abroad following his education. Instead, he projected this aspiration onto his son. But although Jasleen himself has had the opportunity to be sponsored overseas to the United States and was urged to move there by his father, who has now been overseas on a number of visits, he declined to go. In some senses, Satwant educated his son with migration in mind: he was sent to a reputed English-language school, and then supported through two professional degrees at very good universities, and Satwant has several brothers now overseas who would have assisted Jasleen in settling abroad. However, Jasleen thus far has shown little interest in moving. His assertion that his great-grandfather had been very right in preventing his father’s migration suggests a belief in the importance of place to identity that is rather unusual among today’s urban Jats. Indeed, it was Jasleen that first urged me to go out to the villages and, in other conversations, spoke with me in a way that was exceptionally engaged in local, as well as national, affairs. In this way too, education, class and the possibilities they suggest can encourage affiliations with Punjabi and Indian modernities, rather than the swell of transnational modernity that lures perhaps a majority of other Jats. Education thus becomes an element of middle-class Jat experience that can suggest an ongoing local engagement in working through India’s unfinished modernity.

5 Unities and Schisms in Jat Sikh Identity

Matlab, what is the Sikh community? The Sikh community has so many communities: Jats, bhaape, Ramgarhias, so many. They are all different, but they can all say they are Sikh. – Satwant Singh Brar

Jats everywhere seem to agree on the importance of education and middle-class ideals. Even rural Jats, who have been described as the grassroots of Khalistani nationalism (Tatla 1999), seem today more interested in pursuits of materialism and progress than in nationalist political struggle. But Jat solidarity can be undermined by these ideals in practice, and other issues of exclusivity and difference also arise. For instance, those Jats drawn into forms of social solidarity with other middle-class Indians do not also express unqualified affiliations with India as nation. Indeed, their most profound relationship with the nation may be seen in the desire to escape it. In this chapter, I examine potentials for regional, caste, and religious unity, which in each analysis prove ultimately schismatic. In addition, I consider Jat attachments to the nation, which are seen to be confounded by traumatic readings of Sikh history, as well as by transnational longings and attachments. Finally, I examine Jat migration as an expression of modern progress and an apparently unproblematic collectivity that arises around the notion and experience of diaspora. Contesting Identity in Punjab: Sikhs and Hindus Punjabis, whether Sikh, Hindu, or Muslim, share certain elements of a

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common ethnoculture; this shared cultural expression and experience suggests a bounded ethnic category. Punjabis share a vernacular spoken language, local political formations, kinship terminologies, and ideologies of marriage and family life; they have common foodstuffs, modified only by religiously-proscribed dietary restriction, and moreover, a collective material culture, sharing forms of dress, musical and poetic expression, and styles of architecture and other aesthetics. Numerous religious beliefs and practices, particularly of the folk tradition, are also shared among Punjabis, with Hindu and Sikh practices demonstrating a particular overlap; ‘there exists … a whole spectrum of actual religious practice and belief between the fully orthodox positions of Sikhism at one end and Hinduism at the other’ (Shackle 1986: 8). Sikhs celebrate a number of important Hindu festivals such as Diwali1 and Holi2; during fieldwork, I observed that some Jats do this with apparently more enthusiasm than the supposedly paramount Sikh festival of Baisakhi.3 I also observed images and even idols of Hindu gods in a number of Jat Sikh homes, occasionally placed together on a small alter, although in all instances in association with images of a number of the Sikh gurus that were always in a visually or spatially privileged position; perhaps unsurprisingly, many Arora Sikh homes displayed gods and goddesses such as Ganesh and Durga. As well, many Sikhs appear to follow some aspects of Hindu astrology; this was evident in the common practice of wearing particular stones for particular circumstances. Explanations for these practices were far from uniform. Stones were said to bring luck, while household deities were explained by a liking for a particular image, or, by an insistence that the image had been a gift; some said only that it had always been this way at their home (and presumably nothing good would come of changing things). There is also the possibility that religious images are part of a common popular cultural iconography. But those Jats more sensitized to the issue of Sikh identity explained to me that the images were placed there by children or ‘uneducated persons’ who did not know any better. Still, what today may be viewed as ‘Hindu accretions’ would likely have been commonplace in the religiously plural atmosphere prior to the late nineteenth century in Punjab (Oberoi 1994: 421), although Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus have become increasingly differentiated over the past century. Debates on Sikh differentiation from the Hindu sphere are not only religious, but political. Early during my stay in India, in February of 1998, elections were taking place for the central Indian government. My father-in-law and a close friend of his, both Jat Sikhs, were arguing as to

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whether Sikhs should side with the BJP in the BJP–Akali Dal combine4 running for election in Punjab. Their arguments were merely rhetorical, as neither could vote in Punjab; still, the debate was popular in the run-up to the elections, and the two appeared to invest much sentiment in the matter as their exchange was, at times, heated. One argued yes, the Sikhs should indeed vote with the BJP, in order to ensure long-term government stability, to which the other exclaimed ‘how can we support their ideology? They want to see Hindutva’! My father-in-law’s friend explained to me that In Punjab, the Sikhs vote for the combine to keep the Congress out of the running. It is only in this sense that the BJP is useful. Otherwise, Hindutva is a bad idea, they are like fascists … You know everyone here is so concerned about their identity. Sikhs were Hindus just like Christians were Jews. We’re something different now, but our cultures are still the same, we came from the same ground. We eat the same food and have the same language. We have a joke, that if you ask Hindus here what language they speak, they’ll say they don’t speak Punjabi, but they’ll have to tell you in Punjabi. All the political problems stem from this language issue. All of the Sikh problems started then.

Satwant Singh refers here to the 1960s movement for Punjabi Suba which was to be based on the linguistic reorganization of the state. At the time, many Punjabi Hindus are purported to have reported their mother tongue as Hindi – although most are said to speak Punjabi in their daily lives – to avoid the establishment of a state with more Sikh influence, which resulted in yet another division of Punjab in the formation of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. An integral result of the creation of a linguistically homogeneous Punjab state, a political achievement delivering a marginal Sikh majority in the state that should have been cause for celebration, was irrevocably marred for Jats by the loss of further Punjabi territory and the disavowal of the Punjabi language – and by extension, a common Punjabiyat and identity – by their Hindu neighbours. The amorphous boundary around a potentially shared Punjabi community of interest had been thwarted on religious grounds. The way in which Satwant Singh delivered this account, and the deep sigh he made after speaking, conveyed a resignation to inter-faith rivalry in Punjab, and a profound sadness at the lost possibility of a common Punjabiyat. Some days after this conversation, my father-in-law told me that ‘The

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Sikhs only vote for the Akalis, they alone are our party, the Sikh party. I asked him: ‘But surely not all Sikhs vote AD? It doesn’t represent everyone’s interests. Some voted with the Congress too, didn’t they?’ His answer restated the importance of the Akali Dal: ‘The Akalis are the Sikh party, only they represent us.’ I then asked for clarification, as to whether the Akalis represented Sikhs or Jats. He replied: ‘Well, this factor is there. They have primarily rural support, and when in Punjab we say rural support we mean from the Jats. But nonetheless, this is the Sikh interest. These Khatris and Aroras and all are different.’ These remarks are significant in a number of ways. Although they make general claims to Sikh politics, they distinguish Jats alone as religiously representative of Sikhism, differentiating them from the Sikh trading and other castes; by asserting that Jat political interest is the Sikh interest, an exclusive Jat claim to Sikhism is made. At the same time, these comments link Ganganagar’s Jats to a broader, united Punjabi polity in which Jat Sikh interests are privileged. That the Congress Party5 does not appear as a voting option reflects the party’s involvement in the events of 1984 and beyond. This situation has changed somewhat, however, with the ascendance of Manmohan Singh to the prime ministership in 2004. Struggles of ownership and association regarding the Punjabi language join the contentious dissolution of previously assured places in the Indian army and civil services under the auspices of national caste reservations, and agricultural transformations and challenges readily perceived as an assault on Sikh rurality, to suggest a growing distance between Sikhs and other Punjabi and Indian communities. Early in my fieldwork, I had a conversation with Balwant Singh, a Jat lecturer, about the politics of difference current among Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs. I told him that I had written a short paper that used literary sources to argue that Partition caused Hindus and Sikhs to be far more separated than they had ever previously been because it made religious identity the primary affiliation, and suggesting that this was among the causes of Sikh nationalism. He thought about this before replying: Surely this is true. That is when everything became political, when nationalism started. The Sikhs saw that the Muslims had been given their own country, their own independence, based on their religion, so naturally they wanted these things too. We just wanted our due share. Our problem was that we were too spread out numerically, here and there.

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Jat sentiments of marginalization in contemporary India proceed from what they understand as a perennial assault from the centre on their perceived entitlement to the Punjab region, as well as on their linguistic and cultural heritage. That Sikh demography has not been contiguous with any overt geographic majority that might result in a Sikh nation, in the sense of territorial and political convergence, suggests to Sikhs that they alone can represent their own interests in the ongoing struggle with the centre. The matter of the Jat Sikh due share is a contentious one for Sikhs, for their minority demography is not aligned with their perceptions of local and national standing. Despite comprising only 2 percent of India’s population, Sikhs are far more nationally visible6 than this figure suggests, occupying a majority position in India’s most prosperous state, and also being disproportionately influential in the nation’s capital, as well as having been highly successful in the national military (Wolpert 1993: 416). The Sikh community at large also retains a deep awareness of the historic transgressions it perceives to have been visited upon itself. This perception is developed, among Jats in particular, from an awareness of Sikhism’s beleaguered history of oppression and colonization, as well as its religiously sanctioned ideologies of militancy and martyrdom, and its theology of the indivisibility of faith and politics. Indeed, there is evidence of a telescoping of colonial histories in the Sikh approach to its martyrs, which suggests that martyrdom itself outsignifies the events in which martyrdom occurs. When I visited Mudkee, an AngloSikh war site in Punjab, a gurdwara had recently been erected in a field almost directly opposite the British memorial to the dead; I was told that this gurdwara had been built to commemorate the battle that had occured in 1845. Yet along the pathway leading to the gurdwara’s entrance were a dozen covered grottoes which sheltered several new dioramas, and of those half-dozen that were complete at the time, all depicted hagiographic scenes of Sikh martyrdom at the hands of Muslim – rather than British – torturers. Much Sikh religious imagery follows in this legendary tradition of suffering and persecution. A year later in Ganganagar, I attended two musical plays which depicted the lives of the gurus as detailed in the accounts of the Sakhis (hagiographic anecdotes relating to the lives of the gurus, in essence, moral tales) and other Sikh folklores. The productions were travelling around Punjab early in 1999 to mark the tercentenary of the Khalsa.7 These performances emphasized Sikh suffering and martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims, which culminated in the foundation of the Khalsa, following

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Gobind Singh’s idea that Sikhs be perpetually marked as members of a faith fighting injustice. Subsequent deaths, such as those that took place for the Khalistani cause of the 1980s, are also viewed as martyrdoms, and in this way follow in the grand tradition of the gurus. Thus linked to historical and mythical sacrifice, the difficulties of the 1980s intimate to Sikhs that their peripheralization is set against an increasingly violent and hegemonic centre. Although India purports to be a secular nation, the communal politics of India today are said to belie its constitutional ideal. Complicating this perspective, the possibility of a fully secular notion of identity is prevented in Sikhism, which as a faith views the political and the religious as mutually constructed. Sikh identity occupies a contested cultural space at the edges of and in between shared cultural practices, historical experiences, and the social meanings thus produced. Sikh-Hindu opposition depends on the construction of boundaries between the two religious communities so that in mutual relations, each is re-cast as other. Sikhs aggrievedly experience this historical trajectory of othering and boundary-making as a denial of their social and human rights as a local community of some historic importance. Thus the Sikh position in India demonstrates the profoundly complex negotiation of local identity, regional power, and national interests. Belief and Practice: Divergent Visions of Jat Sikh Identity Despite its differentiation from Hinduism, Sikh identity is both graduated and complicated in its formulation; this contributes to problems of ethnic categoriziation. Religious practice is important in distinguishing various forms and claims to Sikhi (the form of one’s Sikh practice, or ‘Sikh-ness’), and in this way in marking different possibilities of Sikh collectivity. Differences in Sikh practice among Jats often have more to do with community expectations of social conduct, however, than with any overtly religious behaviours.8 Thus there are keshdhari Jat Sikh men, ostensibly more orthodox, who drink,9 while there are sahejdharis who abstain; Jat women who are otherwise keshdhari might use depilatory methods on their face and body, others, usually discreetly, have their hair trimmed.10 In Ganganagar, I met highly devout Sikhs who were regular in prayer and gurdwara visits, and who occasionally kept a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib at home despite the additional proscriptions this entailed for the family,11 as well as Sikhs who barely attended the gurdwara and who prayed perhaps only when they felt the need.

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Middle-class Jat men commonly consume liquor and meat, and their engagement with Sikhism at times seems less rooted in an urge to a committed, doctrinally-sanctioned religious practice, and more inclined to be of a philosophical, questioning, and perhaps sublime nature. All are part of a common social network of middle-class Jats. In my observation, then, being Sikh is a matter of degree, from those nominal and scarcely practising Sikhs to those fully baptized or most active in the gurdwara. Most of the middle-class families with whom I spent time occupy a moderate position on this continuum and practise and claim for themselves a middling form of Sikhism. Among the urban middle class, Sikhism is reinterpreted in relation to middle-class social values. Only a handful of the middle-class Sikhs with whom I discussed Sikhism are amritdhari. Maninder Kaur, an apparently religious Jat housewife who prays daily and visits the gurdwara regularly with a group of her women neighbours, told me how she felt the Sikh religion should be observed in progressive middle class houses such as her own: Regarding the religious code of conduct, of course, we can’t take amrit. According to our society, we don’t consider ourselves ready to take it. But the other basic rules that we can follow, we should. Some of the principles that we can’t follow, some of the more rigid, difficult rules, then we can’t do them, but the others, that we can, then we should.

Asked what is the difficulty with taking amrit, she responded: ‘There are some conditions, such as not even dying your hair. But of course in our social setting, they are difficult, so we don’t.’ Her last comment contains the key: middle-class lifestyles are to a certain extent incompatible with the proscriptions of amrit. Amritdhari women do not visit beauty parlours with their neighbours, or have beauticians visit their homes,12 while amritdhari men do not drink, or eat meat, in the company of their colleagues or friends, nor can either item be kept at home or offered to guests. These behaviours are otherwise commonly featured in middleclass accounts of female and male social life, but to take part in their social significations and status, the strict codes of religion must be set aside. Despite the flexibility and ambiguities of Sikh form, there is a general agreement among the Jats as to the characteristics of orthodoxy (or orthopraxy); a sense exists that those Sikhs who are baptized, participating regularly in gurdwara activity, and keeping the five Ks, as

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well as abstaining from tobacco, liquor, and meat, are somehow more representative of community religious standards. In relation, the issue of kesh and relatedly, turbans, is important among Jats today. Among my in-laws’ extended family and circle of Jat friends in both Ganganagar and Punjab, few men under the age of 40 wear a pag, and a mere handful of boys wear a patka; in addition, several middle-aged male relations wear pag but these conceal cut hair. Older keshdhari Sikhs frequently lament this trend among youth, and interpret it as a poor augury for Sikhism; the subject is often debated in the media as well. In an article marking the tercentenary of the Khalsa in 1999, Khushwant Singh wrote: ‘The Khalsa find themselves losing ground, as an increasing number of their youth cut their hair and shave their beards to become no different from Hindus believing in Sikhism.’ Indeed, the only Jat Sikh youth I met in India who had kept his turban was Satwant Singh’s visiting American nephew, Sukhdeep. I said to Satwant Uncle ‘in Canada, in Toronto, like here, we hardly know anyone from India who has kept a turban, but he was raised abroad, and yet he still has one.’ He responded with a laugh: ‘His father is a real, pakka Sikh, practicing. Not like us two here! My brother in Australia is also hardly a Sikh. He wears a turban, but that’s about it!’ Later, at dinner, I asked my father-in-law to explain what Satwant Uncle had said about his brother in America being a ‘real’ Sikh. He replied: ‘Really, it’s true. He has taken amrit and he’s a teetotaller, very strict about his ways. What we may call orthodox. In this way, Sukhdeep has taken after him, and is a good Sikh boy … all these boys these days are cutting their hair. They shouldn’t.’ Despite his own fondness for an occasional social drink and a snack of chicken or fish with his friends, my father-in-law himself had certain standards of orthodoxy. I was told by several others that he was known for trying to convince the boys that he taught to grow their hair and readopt the turban. He told me himself on several occasions, often while watching bhangra music performances on television, of his disappointment with the fashioning of Sikh youth in these representations: ‘They all want to be heroes just like the people on TV.’ Indeed, several of the youngsters in the family confirmed that they felt that many bhangra singers with turbans – although some are highly popular celebrities – are unfashionable.13 For the most part, then, urban middle-class Jat keshdharis and sahejdharis are unconcerned with orthodoxies of Sikh practice and consider their Sikh-ness attributable to birth, family tradition, and personal

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choice of belief. Sikhi is thus both an ascribed and an achieved state of religiosity, which does not demand the taking of amrit. This understanding is affirmed in McMullen’s sociological survey, which found that ‘the majority of the Sikhs (45.0 per cent) consider themselves Sikhs because they happened to be born in a Sikh family. On the other hand, almost the same percentage (40.8 per cent) attributed it to their adherence to the teachings of the Gurus’ (1989: 114). Like McMullen, I found that some Sikhs told me that they were Sikh because of having been born in a Sikh household, while others considered their Sikhism a result of their faith in Sikh teachings. The majority of persons in my study attributed their Sikhism to their having been born in a Sikh family; this is a primordial view of identity.14 Yet Sikhs also recognize the possibility that exists within the community for more circumstantial identities based on relative adherence to the baptismal proscriptions of the khalsa and amritdhari status. As well, the matter of belief is particularly resonant among some of Ganganagar’s Jat Sikhs. Belief forms a more obviously constructed boundary of the Sikh community than practice, and a more fluid one. Raminder Singh, a keshdhari Jat Sikh lecturer, told me: Actually, this controversy over who is a Sikh is a question I have wondered about, and generally I have asked of religious persons: whom do they say is Sikh? Because a majority of people, they will say, he should wear the panj kakke, that is the five Ks, kesh, kara, kangha, etcetera, right? But I feel Guru Nanak’s philosophy, it may be what you’d call Sikh philosophy, is the religious philosophy that makes us behave as Sikhs … any person who believes in Guru Nanak’s philosophy is a Sikh. And those who have the five Ks, that is a uniform almost; if you inculcate a person to wear the five Ks, then automatically he may do that.

Regardless of the orthodoxies of the khalsa which guard Sikh appearance, and despite the fact that he himself is keshdhari, Raminder’s words make clear the significance of belief in his understanding of Sikhism; perhaps more unusually, Guru Nanak is paramount in his version of Sikhism.15 The first guru presented a more quietist and passive form of Sikhism akin to the bhakti and sufi traditions; most Jats claim a greater attachment to the philosophies of Guru Gobind Singh, which emphasized strength of community spirit, often demonstrated martially, as in the lived example of martyrdom. To align oneself with Guru Nanak is to articulate an inclusive vision of Sikhism that is, to some Sikhs,

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dilute and little different from Hinduism. Indeed, the Hindu pantheon permits the veneration of the Gurus, and there are mandirs in Punjab that reflect this. For most Jats however, Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa is thought to be the truest expression of Sikhism. Nevertheless, a majority of Ganganagar’s middle-class Jat Sikhs do not take amrit or become khalsa Sikhs. Jat religious affiliation, belief, and notions of right practice are today in instances at odds with received religious traditions. On a number of occasions I was present as apparent discrepancies in the logics and dogma of Sikh philosophy – such as how all the gurus are or might be one – were discussed. One interview illustrated this tension powerfully, as beliefs in the social and moral power of religion were contrasted with a claim to atheism. This was a surprising position which I heard nowhere else in India, yet despite its individuality and apparent iconoclasm, Jasleen clearly articulated how he had come to his conclusions: I can’t say that religion does not have a place in my life. By saying I’m an atheist, what I mean is that I do not believe in the concept of supernatural power. … But religion as a group in my mind is a great force, as a means of social organization, it’s a great force … especially for the Sikhs in this region. I have a great respect for our gurus and what they did, what they stood for, and as human beings. There is no doubt about it. [So the sense of personal morality that may come from religion is also there for you?] To some extent, you cannot escape it. But not in the same way as it is described in Sikhism. Or, in Hinduism. But we have in Sikhism Sakhis. Those Sakhis are like exemplary stories; they are very influential, for example those stories as told to me by my grandfather. They are influences, when I think of the influence of religion. Apart from that, there is a sense of pride, I think, self-confidence and pride … but God, I have rejected. [Would you say that you consider yourself to be a Sikh?] Well, according to my own definition, yes. Not the traditional one, having a beard and reading from the Guru Granth Sahib, but Sikh as a disciple of life. Sikh of course means disciple, so in that sense I am Sikh.

The purported hegemony of the amritdhari Sikh holds no sway over Jasleen. Instead, he describes an emotive affiliation with Sikh morality, a sense of the righteousness of Sikh values, and a pride in Sikh history.

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Jasleen once remarked to me, following a lively group discussion of Sikhism and Sikhs in contemporary India, in an aside that was both joking and exasperated: ‘five hundred years later, the only equality we have is sitting together on the floor to eat.’ His apparent irreverence in these examples evokes a questioning of self-identity in relation to the changing boundaries of community as well as a frustration that the reforms intended by the Sikh gurus are unfulfilled. There is little hope of fulfilling the Sikh doctrine of equality in contemporary class society, but its utopian vision remains attractive. Once again, the issue of belief is prioritized in Jasleen’s sense of Sikhi: his belief evokes and accepts the common interpretation of Sikhism as a powerful movement of social reform. These are deeply held notions in Jasleen’s identity. Although he rejects God, and the orthodoxies of Sikh practice, the sentiments articulated in his account are similar to those of other Sikhs with whom I spoke. Statements of Sikh belief, and the claims to Sikhism that they create and enforce, are thus contentious means of establishing identity and difference within the Jat Sikh community. The Problem of Exclusivity Issues of belief and practice became particularly contentious during an election of the managing committee of one of the local Khalsa colleges, which was to be held in the spring of 1998. At the time, local tensions over education, class, and urbanity became evident. Welleducated members of the Jat community claimed that monied, mostly rural, and less well-educated members were seeking to exact political advantage from the event by manipulating the vote; as local college elections provide a platform of entry into state politics, they have come to be exploited in this way by wealthy marabbianwalle Jats with little apparent interest in educational issues. Significantly, in the discussions that surrounded the electoral situation, intra-Jat class issues were more contested than statements of inter-religious belief by which Hindus are permitted voting privileges. The college was constructed in 1956 at the behest of local Sikhs who raised funds for its buildings and facilities and the first few years of its operation; after 1960 it received an annual operating grant from the state government. Although the institution was built by Sikhs, the staff and student body is comprised of both Sikhs and Hindus from a broad range of Indian caste communities. College memberships were created as a way to raise funds for the use of the college in the years

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before it was accredited, while today, public membership in college affairs attempts to ensure public accountability in the disbursement of government monies. Every second year a voluntary managing committee of eleven persons is elected by the college’s general membership; committee members manage the overall affairs of the college, which is then administered by its paid employees. The original intention of college membership was that educated people of local middle-class status with some personal interest in the college – whether as alumni, faculty members, or prominent professionals such as doctors and lawyers – would contribute money through their memberships and, more importantly, leadership through their voluntary labour in the managing committee, which was in turn made up of the ‘most distinguished’ of members. Since the college was founded, membership in the college board and electoral lists has been a matter of some local prestige. As there were few Sikh institutions in the district, and even fewer modern ones, the educated middle classes were interested in participating in college affairs. College membership, like an affiliation with the Rotary or Lion’s Club, confirmed a certain status in local middle-class society; many middle-class district residents, both Sikh and Hindu, today maintain memberships in the institution. But the college elections have become a springboard to municipal and state politics: once elected to the college committee, persons aspiring to be elected as state MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) can claim to have the support of – and thus to be representative of – local communities. Such people enter college politics with little interest in the appropriate running of the college but with an obvious interest in their own political gain. Adding to this problem is the fact that wealthy political hopefuls can buy the support of voters by purchasing committee memberships – a source of local prestige – for them. In 1998 the number of annual members (the type of membership category prone to vote-buying owing to its lower cost) exceeded the number of lifetime members by almost twenty to one,16 and both were provided equal voting rights in the committee elections. The situation had evolved in such a way that wealthy rural Jats with an interest in running in Rajasthan state elections had become predominant members of the committee. Meanwhile, Jats with educational interests in the college bemoaned the neglect of college affairs inherent to this situation. Some of the lifetime members with whom I talked said that the prestige of college membership was vastly undermined by the lower, less-educated status of persons by and for whom votes were being bought; indeed, the very

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process of political manipulation present in the practice of buying votes damaged the prestige of membership; the college faculty members, alumni, and other persons with whom I spoke argued that ‘such uneducated people should not be in a position to control the college. What can they possibly know about it?’ A small group of Ganganagar teachers and lecturers tried to ensure the educational integrity of the committee by invoking state regulations on propriety and influence in institutional elections. They had, late in 1997, filed a High Court writ in this regard, but at the time of the elections they had still not received news of a decision. A short time before the elections, when time was running out to expect or implement a decision on the writ, they decided to run their own team of committee hopefuls17 – which, in the common parlance of Jat factionalism, as noted by Pettigrew (1976), they called their ‘party’ – and worked a gruelling campaign schedule for a fortnight to try to educate and otherwise influence voters with annual memberships that the management of education should remain in educated hands.18 Ultimately, after a campaign of increasingly dirty politics, in which even the members of the educated camp, who had decried the practice, were forced to entertain the notion of buying votes, the elections were cancelled by the state, on the basis of a ‘fear of violence.’ A decision regarding the writ was still to be handed down and the elections did not take place while I remained in Ganganagar. Memberships, and thus voting privileges, in the committee elections were nebulously extended to all persons who professed a belief in the ten Sikh gurus and their teachings. The court case was launched to prevent the implication of college committee involvement in political machination, not because the voting privileges of Hindu members of the community were at issue. Indeed, membership was articulated as a matter of belief, and Hindu members who proclaimed a belief in Sikh gurus and doctrines, even if they might believe in other gods and practise their faith differently from Sikhs, were thus potential college members. But at the same time, some of the Jat Sikhs with whom I spoke expressed their dismay that ‘just anybody’ could vote in the college elections: in their interpretation, professing a belief in Sikhism was not the same as practising it. Karanbir Singhji told me that he thought one should have to practise Sikhism in order to vote: ‘It is not enough that people believe in Sikhism. But they should practice also, follow the five Ks, live by the Sikh philosophy, and attend the gurdwara.’ But he seemed to be in the minority. Indeed, when I joked, in the presence of

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my parents-in-law, fufarji, and several of their colleagues after the elections were cancelled, ‘good, now I have time to become a member so that I can vote,’ my father-in-law replied: ‘Surely. All you have to do is pay the fees and say you are a Sikh, that you believe in the 10 gurus and the Granth Sahib, that is all.’ Similarly, Satwant Singh told me that ‘members should believe in Sikhism, the ten gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib. So Muslims cannot be members. But Hindus can: they have 32 crore of gods, so they can also believe in ours too.’ It is not important here that the Sikh god (a singular entity19 referred to variously as rabb [god], Wahe Guru [great and praised guru], Akal Purukh [eternal being], and parmatma [supreme soul]) might be only one among 32 crore, suggesting that Sikhism is peripheral to Hindu concern, but rather the expression of Hindu acceptance of Sikh beliefs that takes precedence. There is no doubt some significance also in the fact that none of the explanations I heard suggested a corollary Sikh acceptance of Hindu beliefs. Other opinions of belief circulated, however, suggested an ongong interpenetration of Sikh and Hindu spheres. Balwant Singh told me: Anyone can become a member of our college. Just like anyone may become a student. But one must believe to vote … This means that Hindus can be members. They can believe in our gurus and teachings, and they do. You know there are far more gurdwaras than mandirs in Punjab, and it used to be that you would find Hindus attending all the gurdwaras. There are more Hindus than Sikhs and, before Pakistan was created, you could see this at the gurdwaras. But there are more Sikhs as members than anyone else.

Balwant Singh’s account articulates a recent and incomplete enunciation of religious exclusivity. The Sikh and Hindu communities are more bounded than they were prior to Partition, but their boundaries remain porous, and permit Hindu belief in Sikhism. I asked Balwant Singh ‘if the membership stipulated Sikh practice was important, rather than belief, could the membership be limited?’ He assented, telling me that practice is important in validating Sikh-ness. I then asked him, ‘but not everyone practises in the same way?’ His reply, given after a pause, reiterated the importance of belief in the college membership and in local understandings of Sikhi: ‘Yes, you’re right – that’s why belief is the important factor. People who believe in Sikhism will affiliate with the college, and so they should.’

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The boundaries of Sikhism thus are locally permeable, and the issue of belief complicates religious boundaries between the two main religious communities of Ganganagar and Punjab, as well as within the Jat community itself. Hindus are noted to entertain beliefs in Sikhism, and these beliefs are welcomed at local Sikh institutions. In marked contrast to Jat remarks concerning Arora religiosity and claims to Sikhism, which will be examined shortly, a privileged Jat Sikh belief is not claimed in this instance. The matter of exclusively shared religious beliefs is, therefore, not an unproblematic basis of coherence in either the Jat or the Sikh community. What was more important than a debate over the privileging of belief or practice to the educated Jats with whom I spoke was that in permitting Hindu members, the purported vote-bank available in the college membership became much larger and more politically meaningful. In this way college interests were taken out of the hands of those who felt themselves better qualified to handle them. Once again, differing notions of education, class, and progress divided Jat from Jat. Ironically, apparently modern distinctions reinforced Jat traditions of factionalism: conversations around the denouement of the elections noted the limits to community coherence posed by collective dissensions of historic and even mythical import among Jats. Shortly after the elections were cancelled, my father-in-law said to me: I want to tell you one very important characteristic about us that is illustrated by this election business. Whenever something is to be built, whether it’s a gurdwara or a school or whatever, Sikhs will work together to raise money, and work very hard to erect something. But when it is built, they begin to fight over who will run the place. They work together under pressure, when there is a need to build something, but then they quarrel amongst themselves. This goes back to the time of the misls (regional Sikh armies of the eighteenth century), before Ranjit Singh, and then after him also, when his sons, all from different mothers, fought. Had they remained united, we would have beat the British back all the way to Calcutta!

At his last remark, we both laughed. I replied: ‘I think this happens in Canada, too. Whenever a new gurdwara is built, it seems to be because there were political differences at the old one.’ He responded: ‘This is exactly right. We hear of cases from Toronto, Vancouver, New York, England, all over. It is something about the Sikh character that is international.’ I asked for clarification: ‘Is this among all Sikhs, or mainly

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Jats?’ He replied: ‘Well, it’s a Sikh characteristic, but it happens primarily among the Jats.’ Jat factions were immediately apparent in the election itself, which played out as a clash between more well-educated Jats assuming a position of service to the college and greater community, and wealthy and manipulative Jats, interested only in their own political gain. As well, the elections marked a discursive point by which to remark other, more historic factions that had overcome Sikh unity. In both cases, fractious intra-group struggle defeated collective action to the detriment of the community, and clearly illustrated the limits to its cohesion.20 Difference within the Sikh Community: Caste Although Sikhism might be construed as a set of shared beliefs and practices informing a common identity, attachments to it are complicated by caste. Setting aside the Hindu other, as well as the fact that Sikhism is doctrinally an anti-caste faith, Jat Sikh identity is frequently delineated against the boundaries of the Arora (or Khatri) Sikh community21; while both Jats and Aroras are Sikhs, Jats frequently point to religious differences between the two communities. Such distinctions certainly exist; however, Jat assertions of Arora difference also relate to the differential experiences of urbanity among the two communities. Jats, who are still admittedly adjusting to urban middle-class existence, project their own anxieties of identity severed from place onto the historically more urban Arora community. Aroras have always occupied a high status position as wealthy urban traders,22 while Jat social status is expressed in rural agricultural property, which today has little apparent bearing on the everyday lives of educated urban Jats. Jat and Arora Sikhs are differentially significant to Sikh hagiography and to the development of Sikh belief and practice. Arora influence is central to early Sikhism: the entire chain of Sikh gurus was of the Khatri trading caste. But in the eighteenth century, after the death of the last bodily guru, Jats converted to Sikhism in great numbers, and a vast majority of Punjabi Jats are now Sikh. McLeod (1976: 10) notes that Aroras came to Sikhism later than Jats, and still were not prevalent in the eighteenth century. This situation has perhaps encouraged a tension between Jats and Aroras, as Jats had become the dominant Sikh group prior to the Arora conversions. Just such a tension between Jats and Aroras is alluded to in the 1908 Imperial Gazetteer of India, which recorded that ‘the trading castes in the

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villages occupy a lower position than the landowning classes, but in the towns they rank higher.’ Thus the issue of rural versus urban place was significant in determining caste status among Sikhs even at this time. In her historical summary of Jat caste practices, Pettigrew (1975: 42) notes different social ideals between the two communities, stating that ‘Jat stereotypes regarding the Aroras and Khatris were a reflection of their economic antagonism to the urban sections of the population, whether Sikh or Hindu.’ She also states that Jats in Malwa often commented that they had never seen a Sikh shopkeeper prior to 1947, a reflection of the geographic association of Aroras with the northwestern areas of what is now Pakistani Punjab. Jats and Aroras are of different varnas, jatis, and gotras, and are therefore exogamous caste groups. As we know, Jats are the agricultural castes of northwest India, and although the urban middle class no longer actually farms, rent from agricultural lands often supplements family earnings from service, and while such income may support new class statuses, ownership of agricultural land remains an important marker of primordial Jat identity. The literature on Punjabi caste variously classifies Jats as ‘demoted’ Rajputs (and thus Kshatriyas with martial traditions), or Shudras (and thus farmers), but whatever the case, Jat Sikhs are clearly the dominant caste of agricultural Punjab. Aroras, however, are significantly higher than Jats in the caste hierarchy: along with Khatris, they are of the warrior varna, Kshatriya, the second of the four varnas. Their urban occupations may influence their contemporary caste status, too: predominantly merchants and business people, both Arora and Khatri sub-castes have apparently long enjoyed the wealth and cosmopolitanism of urban life. Jats assert that religiosity is an important distinguishing feature of the two groups. Arora Sikhs are admired by many Jats as being more observant in their religious practice. Early in my research, I was told by my assistant: They are very religious, these Hindu Punjabis, they do akhand path for everything. We might have them once in a while, if someone dies, or say if someone asks a boon from God, they might promise a path in return, and of course they will do it. But they have them all the time, kids are born, path, kids are named, path, kids have birthdays, path, kids getting married, path, and then it begins all over again.

This pattern certainly emerged from my interviews and observations.

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I also noted that Aroras are more likely to maintain external symbols of Sikhism such as kesh and to have made religious pilgrimages.23 But although Arora Sikhs are often more pious and fastidious Sikhs than Jats, and Jats readily admit that Aroras are more likely to take amrit or to keep kesh (and turbans), still Jat Sikhs refer to Aroras uniformly, and no doubt often disparagingly, as Hindu Punjabis. This phrase denies even fully baptized Aroras Sikh religious status, claiming Sikhism for Jats alone. This situation suggests an improbable and contradictory notion of religious purity in which Sikhism, however else practised, is purged of Hindu affiliation. In this paradigm, ‘good’ Sikhs, exclusively Sikh in their behaviours, can be only Jat. At the same time, it is frequently difficult to determine whether Aroras are Sikh or Hindu, for they may be either or indeed both. They consider themselves a mixed caste in which some people are Sikh and some Hindu, and caste-endogamous marriages take place between Arora Sikhs and Hindus.24 Several of my Arora informants could not tell me what they considered their religion to be; confused at the question, they typically answered ‘what should I tell you? Our families are mixed.’ One of my neighbours confided that her natal family had been much more Sikh in their beliefs and practices, while her in-laws were much more Hindu; she herself wore salwar-kameez while her mother-in-law always seemed to wear saris.25 Still other Arora families in Ganganagar are markedly Sikh. Another neighbouring family kept all of the five Ks, attended the gurdwara several times a week, and kept only Sikh religious images in their home26; the women in this household dressed exclusively in salwar-kameez, while the men maintained kesh. The existence of such religiously hybrid Arora families blurs the bounds of Punjabi – and Sikh – ethnic composition in Ganganagar further still. The categories of religious and caste identification overlap and intersect in Punjab; they are both difficult to determine and a source of tension. The complexity of local caste-based religious labels demonstrates this situation. Arora Sikhs are called ‘Hindu Punjabis’ by Jat Sikhs, while other Punjabi-speaking Hindus, are called Punjabi Hindus. Significantly, these terms – which are always spoken in the exact English of these phrases – deny Aroras a Sikh identity but do not create a singular group of Hindus. The term Punjabi Hindu implies that such Hindus are more fully and unproblematically Hindus of Punjab, while the term to ‘Hindu Punjabi’ seems to contain a more pejorative suggestion that Aroras are Punjabi, in their affiliations with regional place, but not in

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their affiliation with religion, for they are not in this designation associated with Sikhism.27 Paradoxically, it may be Arora proximity to the ritualism of Hindu practice that makes them ‘better’ Sikhs. While neighbourly, professional, and collegial relations between Jats and Aroras are routinely good, many Jats among themselves zealously differentiate their claim of being true Sikhs from Aroras. There are a number of probable dimensions to this inter-caste, intra-faith rivalry. Most likely, this sentiment arises from envy of Arora urbanity; Jat Sikhs are very aware that Aroras have been urbanites for a comparatively lengthy period of time, and attribute a number of social differences between the two groups to this urbanity, including greater Arora prosperity and ease with class distinctions. Jats themselves claim they are not fully reconciled nor tied to city life. Maninder Kaur, a middleaged Jat housewife, told me: ‘The Jat community is coming into the cities now, we are very new to them, while they have been settled in the cities for a while. And, whereas we go towards farming, they go towards business.’ Traditional notions of caste, based on occupation, are upheld in this view. Urbanity poses latent dangers to Jats, who not only must adjust family and community practices to city-living, but unlike Aroras, lose their caste-based primary mode of primordial affiliation in becoming urbanized. The frequently exaggerated articulation of Jat distinctions from the region’s most markedly urban caste thus bespeaks an ambiguity of sentiment regarding the urbanization of the Jat community. Besides the complex of differences connected to urbanity, there is also the matter of socioeconomic resources and related issues of prestige. Pettigrew (1975: 42) noted that in the Arora-Khatri Sikh community of the towns, the ideal was that of the educated merchant and director of a large business firm who had travelled abroad and who bestowed money on gurdwaras; the aspirations of the Jats were towards military service, large landholding and high administrative position.

To a certain extent, Jats envy Arora business sense as they recognize it permits them greater wealth accumulation and more opportunity for both advancement and conspicuous consumption. As well, the relative liquidity of Arora wealth is seen to place them at an advantage in pursuing commercial and professional opportunities elsewhere in India as well as abroad. Aroras have traditionally been better placed to

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enjoy the fruits of progress than Jats, and seem to have a firmer hold on middle-class wealth and position. Jats may seek to minimize this Arora advantage through pejorative references and dark humour. The term bhaape is typically used to refer to Aroras in Jat colloquial use. While the term has an apparently objective literal meaning, referring to members of the Sikh trading castes, Arora or Khatri, of northwestern India, when used by Jats this term also carries negative connotations of grasping and petty commercial practices, and a timid, obsequious, and even grovelling character. Bhaape jokes (those directed at Aroras by Jats) thus have a smaller audience and a more socially complex meaning than do the sardarji jokes which focus on Sikhs at large. As notions of tradition and modernity often coalesce around gender for Jats, images of Arora urbanity and contrasting ideas of Jat rusticity have particular implications for women. Jat women strongly feel that Arora women experience greater measures of domestic liberty and respect in family life and affairs. I was told that: In our [Jat] society, there is no equality between men and women. In the whole country, there is no equality. But in the Arora community, there is a little more equality; they have some freedom. In our society, men say women should not go out of their house, but they [Aroras] have some of this freedom. This is the difference, they say, you can go anywhere you like, you can take the children and go walking, you can enjoy your life, do everything, they have this freedom. But in our society, there are restrictions. These women can go here and there, but if we go, our people will criticize and restrict us. Their men give them some freedom, but our men criticize us. Theirs are more open-minded.

According to Maninder Kaur, increased freedom of movement outside of the home implies more enjoyment of life, society, and sociability after marriage. Jat women almost uniformly told me that of the limitations they experienced in their life, the lack of freedom to go here and there in the city, was the most strongly felt. I myself, although an outsider, experienced this limitation of married female life in a Jat household. For their part, Arora women do claim to experience such freedoms; for instance, Mrs Arora,28 the wife of a retired teacher, told me that she had had very few limitations placed on her movement, other than going out and about at night. She said that her husband sometimes told her: ‘you should not sit at home all day, you should go out more.’ She said: ‘I can do what I please, so don’t think that I’m restricted in any way. The

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problem would be for people where they want to do something and then they are forbidden to do so by their ghar-waale (husbands).’ Mrs Arora’s experience thus reinforces Jat perceptions of Arora lenience and relative freedom. Jat women attribute the relative lack of an autonomy of women’s movement in their community to the longstanding familiarity and comfort of Aroras with city life and city ways, as well as to the comparative permissiveness of Arora men. In marked contradiction, women’s strength to expect and partake in their own freedom is generally acknowledged to be more characteristic of Jat women, who are said to share the legendary bravado of the Jat man. Parminder, a young Jat man, described the differences between Jat and Arora women as follows: Between women, the difference seems to be in the matter of talking. Our women are bold (daler, daring, brave) compared to the others. Say one has to talk with a man, or there’s an argument at work for someone ‘in service,’ they don’t admit defeat. … In terms of ‘culture’ we’re also different; the way the marriages are conducted is different. They are more ‘broad-minded’ in the matters of allowing their daughters this and that. They do not bind their daughters,29 yet Sikhs impose more ‘restrictions’ on their daughters.

Significantly, Parminder used the term Sikh to refer to Jats, and thus in his perspective, the Arora claim to Sikhism is not supported. Moreover, Jat Sikhs are noted here to be less concerned with the daily formalities of religion, and more concerned with the issues of izzat reflected in purdah practices. Incongruously, Jat women’s bravado is admired by Jat men, but also demands that the community’s women be socially restricted, as bold women pose a greater potential threat to izzat. Jat women’s behaviour, significant in constructing both honour and self, thus also demands boundaries of Jat from Arora. Arora ideals of good family life are also noted to be different from those held by Jats. When I asked Gurmeet Kaur what were the differences between Jat Sikh and Arora Sikh women, she answered: Well, our women, they think in the long term, that if we separate, it will cause a lot of disrepute (badnaami, literally bad name, and by extension, bad reputation). We think, we have gotten married, we will live together [in a joint family], earn together, prosper together, after all, we are related, but they don’t consider these things much. They say, well now, although

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we are married, we want to separate [that the brothers in a family should live independently], so then they do that and make their own living. We think in terms of our father’s property [i.e. with regard to the patrilineage], but they don’t think that way … our families say that they should stay together and prosper together, live and grow together. They say that ‘we will separate and prosper.’

That Jat-Arora difference is so elaborated in terms of gender, kinship, and family values bespeaks a sense, among Jats at least, of fundamental distinctions between the two communities. The business orientation of Aroras is seen by Jats to have anti-familial connotations. Kuljeet Kaur similarly noted that the sons of her Arora neighbours owned a small factory, worked together in their business, but neither lived together nor with their parents. She shook her head rather incomprehensibly as she told me that they all had such big houses, and asked, apparently rhetorically, why they would choose to live in this way.30 To Jats, behaviours which privilege the collective promote izzat. In family life, those behaviours are the responsibility of women, and it is women who are blamed for dissension in and separation of joint families. In further expressing familial differences between the two communities, Jats may also refer to the Arora practice of cousin marriage. For Jats, there are overtones of Muslim otherness in this practice, marking Aroras as thoroughly different from Jats, who ideally marry into neither the patriarchal or matriarchal clan.31 Jats say, often slightly pejoratively, or perhaps with some envy, that cousin marriage evolved to guard Arora family wealth, which is considered overly concerned with individual units rather than the collective. This goes against Jat ideals in which family prosperity is increased through kin and community relations and bonds of friendship and mutual service, ideals which are rooted in Jat codes of generosity and hospitality, as well as perhaps in agrarian labour and codes of reciprocity. Significantly, although Aroras are noted to divide their families more readily than Jats – a social fact that is perhaps attributable to urban life – they are otherwise observed to maintain a greater social cohesion. This tendency again demarks Arora social difference from the Jat community, which notes its own factional nature in response. When the college committee elections were being held, I was told, apparently in casual conversation, by my father-in-law: ‘You know, Nicola, there’s two kinds of Sikhs, Jats and non-Jats. We call them bhaape, they are Khatris and Aroras, originally from Pakistan. The bhaape are smart. They do

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not fight amongst themselves. In this way they get on, gaining every advantage.’ Thinking of the other statements I had heard about Aroras, and knowing that the literature about factionalism in Punjab centres on Jats, I asked: ‘Do they stir up trouble so that the Jats will fight instead, and then come in later to clean-up?’ He laughed, and then replied: ‘Yes, yes, this is how things are! You have understood the Jat character. We like to fight. And in this way, others can take advantage of us.’ In this view, factionalism among Jats prevents the community from making a cohesive progress. There is also an unspoken sense of a characteristic indiscipline among Jats in these remarks. The colonial literatures certainly represent Jats in this manner – for instance as excessively fond of both liquor and litigation (e.g. Darling 1934) – and Jat depictions of themselves as passionate, earthy, and not a little wild, do little to dispute this characterization. In this way, the Jat observation of Arora regularity of religious practice and piety in maintaining the five Ks, becomes another indication of the relative significance of discipline. The making of such marked Jat distinctions from their closest Sikh affiliates reveal in their comparisons an implicit commentary on Jat hopes for progress and social status in the contemporary urban milieu, as well as expressing the present, uncomfortably ambiguous, position of urban Jats who are not yet reconciled to this setting. Jats, the Nation, and Migration Despite their engagement in an Indian middle class, Jats do not seem to cherish any strong commitment to India as a nation. While they watch national television and read national newspapers, are connected in practices of taste, status display and consumerism to the national middle class, and support the Indian cricket team, Jats are otherwise little interested or engaged in the nation. In my experience, Republic Day celebrations were (if at all) watched as exotic diversions, elections were participated in as expressions of self-interest, and politicians (including Jats) were seen as crooks having nothing representative to do with Jat aspirations. During my fieldwork, only occasional reifications of nationally-prominent Sikhs represented in the media, the testing of nuclear weaponry in a game of one-upmanship with Pakistan, and claims made at election time of participating in a democracy appeared to rouse any notion of national pride. Even the most apparent intersection of Jat and national interests – their participation in military careers

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– are perhaps better located in martial traditions of Jat Sikh identity and the guarantee of salaries, rather than in any inherent commitment to Indian defence. To Jats dreaming of progress, India is experienced most saliently as a set of limitations that middle-class Jats seek in everincreasing numbers to escape by emigration; where this is not possible, Jats seem merely to hope for enough autonomy to pursue their fortunes in ways they see fit. This situation is most obviously a minority response to the processes and contexts of marginalization in which they find themselves embedded, and Sikh national engagement must be related to a reconsideration of the complexities of Punjab’s colonial and post-colonial histories in national context. For the Jats of this study the absence of Indian nationalism does not simply correspond to the presence of Khalistani nationalism. The Jats I met describe their common future in terms of continued familial and community advancement – in middle class, modern terms – and not in relation to any hopes for the establishment of Sikh national polity or other governmental formations. These Jats are wary of fundamentalism in all of its forms, whether formented in the Damdami Taksal of orthodox and politicized Sikhs, by the RSS and VHP, in Muslim madrassas, or in the dogmatic and exclusive vision of Khalistan propounded by Sikh militants. They doubt that religious nationalism will protect their middle-class ideals, and moreover, fear that the idea and implementation of Khalistan would limit the ways in which one might be a Sikh, subverting their own good Sikhi to narrowly orthodox and zealously guarded forms of religious practice. Indeed, on the few occasions when Khalistan was discussed with me, it was articulated as an excessive nationalist position, bringing violence and difficulty to Punjab and to Jats, but not to its overseas instigators. Nationalist sentiment, whether Khalistani or Indian, was thus scarcely expressed among the Jats with whom I spoke, who instead focused their collective pride on a historical mythology of sacrifice and contribution towards the independence struggle, on the ongoing role of Jats in national defence, and on a nostalgic imagining of the Punjabi landscape. While it is possible that in this study’s focus on ethnicity the nationalist contexts of these particular constructions may be obscured, it is also possible that Jats have never been nationalists in a modern Indian sense. The nation has been interpreted as an imperial construct in the Indian setting, and the apparent nationalism of Jats and other Sikhs during the independence struggle might be interpreted as an anti-colonial and not a pro-Indian response; indeed a Sikh state was suggested

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even in the prolegomenon to Partition. But it is certainly against the received wisdoms of modern nationalist theory that the Jats could exist without any nationalist attachment, especially in their recent situation as victims of the Indian nation-state. We should perhaps understand the Khalistani and the apparently non-nationalist positions among the Jats of this study as differently placed on a continuum that is simultaneously affected by education and class, relative orthodoxies and heterodoxies of religious practice, the varied forces of transnationalism, and the changing and changeable impacts of national politics in India. Despite the looming inevitability of the nation, it is neither frequently nor directly remarked upon in the everyday lives of urban middleclass Jats. But just because Jats do not claim the nation does not mean that India does not claim them, and the national processes which position Jats within India are ongoing.32 Jats attempt to create meaning about the intersections of Sikh and national concern. Prominent Sikhs, such as M.S. Gill, the chief electoral official in the country, Joginder Singh, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) responsible for inquiries into high-level political corruption,33 and Bikram Singh, colonel and spokesman of Indian military operations during the time of the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in the spring of 1999, were often the subjects of conversation34; as well, Kiran Bedi, a Punjabi policewoman who had risen to prominence in the Indian Police Service, was frequently referred to by Jat women, both as an exemplar of a strong Punjabi woman and a representative of Sikh commitment to social justice (despite her religiously mixed Hindu-Sikh origin).35 Nevertheless, on the whole, direct statements of national integration and affiliation were comparatively infrequent. But however Jats may view it, the nation as state is central to the middle-class cultural formations in which they participate: it encourages and limits notions of class, social status, mobility, and identity; regulates Indian education; plays a large role in determining employment possibilities; legislates land, property, taxation, and even family law; and places limits, in consort with other nations, on Punjabi migration. Indeed, the nation-state is experienced perhaps most directly by the Punjabi middle classes as a constraint, to which compliance and resistance may be varied.36 There is also a real sense – most articulated in my presence immediately prior to elections – among Punjabis, and especially among Jats, that national government does not, or perhaps cannot, represent their interests. An exception to this estrangement occurred in May 1998, with the

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nuclear tests conducted at Pokhran, about 350 kilometres southwest of Ganganagar in the heart of the Thar desert. At the time, the Indian media reported that 90 per cent of Indians were in favour of the tests. My father-in-law was one such supporter. We became engaged in an impassioned debate in which my father-in-law argued self-defence on behalf of India, and I took an anti-nuclear position.37 This argument was instigated by my father-in-law, who looked up from his newspaper and declared to me, when I chanced into the sitting-room on my way to the kitchen: ‘Nicola, today I am so proud of India! We have shown the world no one can tell us what to do. Especially not these Americans and Chinese. Even you Canadians do not have this power!’ I reproduce a further part of our exchange, as recorded in my field journal here. I began: [It’s true that the US should not dictate what other countries can do and not do. But I am against all nuclear weapons, no nations should have them. I think a lot of Canadians would share this opinion.] But your country has joined in the condemnation of our government … That means you are a weak nation. You cannot stand up to the United States. [And you think India can?] We just did! All these so called veto countries, what gives them the right to tell us what to do? We are the world’s largest democracy but the US goes running to China, which has the worst human rights record in the world, to do business. But they shouldn’t do business there, they should punish it for its poor human rights record. [And India is such a great protector of human rights?] Surely it is. It is a democracy. I pause, then speak. [And what happened to your holiest shrine and your glorious youth only 14 years ago?] He pauses. Well that was the mistake of a few individuals. [Just like this latest action. Only five people knew about the test. And now the papers are telling us everyone in the country is in favour. But you’ve told me that the papers can’t be believed.]

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The papers are right. India has done something great and we are proud!

What is significant here is his wholehearted endorsement of this particular Indian venture, articulating an engagement with the nation that I never again heard from him during the course of my fieldwork. This engagement, at least momentarily, overlooked the historical suffering of Sikhs on which he at numerous other times expounded; it is possible that this apparently sudden national pride derived from an appreciation of the modernity and progress – scientific, national, and international – it might be taken to signal. That evening at dinner, I was to hear another endorsement of the nuclear tests, this time with a fully Sikh rationale. Meher Singh fufarji, who had overheard the exchange above, said to me: You know, Nicola, our Sikh philosophy is very modern and scientific. On this matter, it would support the government. It’s in all our prayers: peace comes through the sword. You have to be able to defend yourself and your principles. So doing those tests was the right thing to do.

This justification merges Khalsa doctrine with national interest: peace comes through the sword. The purportedly martial character of Sikhs is a matter of religious history and identity, and a mark of colonial (and post-colonial) privilege. Sikhs are perhaps most fully invested in the Indian nation in relation to their prominence in the armed forces, and frequently express pride in this position (as well as dismay over the caste reservations that supposedly limit it). Yet it was striking to hear that Sikh philosophy might be used to defend the politics of a nation that so often is said to go against Sikh interests and cause Sikh suffering. Of course the nation is as problematic a notion in India as elsewhere. It is something of a received historical truth that the Indian subcontinent, prior to British colonialism, was neither organized nor conceived of in nationalistic terms. Nationalist understandings in India date to the colonial period: the expression of Indian (and latterly, Pakistani) nationalism is intimately linked with the movement for Indian independence. In South Asia, as elsewhere, the colonized appropriated the language and social structures of the colonizer in order to better argue claims to self-determination. Various such formulations and contestations of nationalism, Indian and otherwise, have impacted the Punjabi community, writ large, over the past century. Sikhs feel they have made great contributions to India as a nation:

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they pride themselves on having played a large part in the Indian freedom struggle as well as on the pivotal national roles filled by Sikhs in contemporary Indian politics and the Indian military and civil services. In the popular song Putt Jattan De (described in chapter two), simple village behaviours are strikingly and simultaneously juxtaposed against the sacrifice of martyrdom for one’s country. More remarkably, that country is a unified – or perhaps pre-independence – India, for the village and the nation are part of the same sphere of reference and meaning; the Jat character is invested in both the sheltered and comparatively simple life of the Malwa village and in the larger concerns of his desh (country/nation). The village is joined to the nation in struggle: in the universal Sikh campaign against injustice, the ‘sons of Jats’ cannot extricate their village selves from the larger nation. An apparently simple folksong thus reflects the sentiment common among Jats of their history of sacrifice for the nation. However, quotidian Jat notions of identity remain more firmly linked to family, caste, and community than to the nation at large. Yet these very elements, and particularly caste, are coloured by the nation (and transnation). Notions of caste and class hierarchy limit Sikh community and also challenge national collectivity. Sikhism declares that all castes are equal: there are no rules of commensality, and Sikh gurdwaras accept voluntary donations from and serve langar to persons of any community. As members of the regionally dominant caste, however, Jats are particularly implicated in the persistence of un-Sikh notions of hierarchy and exclusivity (cf. Patwant Singh 1999). Contemporary local notions of caste status have developed in response to land wealth and related notions of social status; in colonial times, Jats are noted to have routinely reported themselves ‘Jat zamindar’ in response to questions about caste (Imperial Gazetteer of India v. XX, 1908: 287).38 As Jats occupy the dominant caste position throughout much of Punjab, wealthy in both land and social prestige,39 caste is peripheral to their local concerns, except when it is threatened. Nationally, however, the situation is very different. According to the Rudolphs, ‘caste has helped peasants to represent and rule themselves by attaching them to the ideas, process and institutions of political democracy’ (1967: 19). The central government has for years promised training and jobs to members of the communities it has called ‘scheduled castes and other backward classes’ by reserving spaces in university programs and the civil service. The number of caste groups being registered as backward is always rising, placing intense pressure on

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middle-class opportunity for the unreserved castes. Although middleclass Punjabis realize the national and social good of the policy, they do wonder why it must occur at their expense. And they question the process by which it is decided that a particular group is backward, arguing that this assessment is increasingly based on economic position rather than on any inherent caste-based social disadvantage. Among the agricultural castes of Ganganagar, hierarchies are reworked as local Hindu Jaats are now recognized as a scheduled caste and gain access to the attendant benefits of this classification. These Bagri-speaking Jaats of northern Rajasthan and southern Punjab were added to the reservation lists in 1998, based on a case made by educated, affluent, and politically well-placed Baagri Jaats.40 This development enables continued access to prime college spaces and civil service occupations for members of this community, spaces which come at the expense of local Jat Sikhs. For similar reasons, reservations are nationally contentious; indeed, widespread rioting accompanied the first implementation of reservations as based on the 1978 Mandal Commission Report.41 Caste, previously a condition ensuring regional security for Jats, is coming to have new and contested significations. While Ganganagar’s Jats feel that the poverty and poor social place of scheduled communities must be bettered – and indeed they are bound by religion to espouse ideals of egalitarianism and social justice – they are unsure that reservations are an appropriate means by which to do this. Balraaj Singh told me that he feels reservations do no good as they are merely votebanks for politicians. He also said ‘It is better to improve the economic lot of such people through education. Those groups who were originally scheduled are in a much better position today and do not need any further privileges … The Congress government thrived on reservations and minorities, and look where they are today.’ He asked me whether any such provisions exist in Canada, and I spoke briefly about the controversies of employment equity. Surprised, he responded: ‘But this kind of thing, where some groups are better than others, more equal, it shouldn’t happen in a developed nation.’ In his account, reservations are seen to form biased political advantages which are ultimately unviable, as the tangled fate of the Congress Party shows; moreover, he does not consider them compatible with the ideals of development in society. Articulating middle-class Jat experience in manifesting and participating in modernity, Balraaj supports education as the best means of social progress. He argues against the magnified ethnicity of reservations, for in his understanding, the situation of some being more equal than

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others remains long after the improvements intended by reservation are made. Indian reservations policy, by eliminating Jat privilege, and raising other groups to local and regional importance, thus contributes to perceptions of Sikh marginalization. Compounding these self-perceptions, the transnational affiliations of Jat Sikhs level the means and measures of progress current in the community against more global standards. The Sikh place in the modern nation, and its evolution within it, can be seen as much in signifying practices as in verbal explanations. For example, during my first trip to Punjab, in addition to visiting the Harmandir Sahib and the infamous Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, my inlaws insisted that we visit the national memorial site at Hussainewala of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, national martyrs to Indian independence. However, the reasons for making these visits, and the pride and pain that they might evince, were taken to be self-evident. Indeed, the only words accompanying our travels were rhetorical exclamations on a single discursive theme – ‘I simply wonder how we lived through those times’ – despite the fact that my in-laws had indeed lived through them. This muted and overwhelmed reaction is in keeping with the silences of narrative and memory observed around Partition (Pandey 1992: 33). However, Jats seem to engage quite avidly in mediated versions of these histories. Punjabi sacrifices to the nation have been a subject of considerable popular cultural interest in literary and historical writing, news features, and film, particularly since the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence.42 The roles of the martyrs Udham Singh and Bhagat Singh were recently commemorated in popular Indian films,43 while the film Shaheed-e-Mohabbat ‘Martyr to Love’ drew upon ‘apocryphal’ Partition tales (such as those related in Tandon 1968) centred on the severance of the loving relationships of Punjabiyat which occurred, despite religious differentiation, among Punjabis prior to – and amid – the multiple traumas of Partition. This latter film, produced by the well-known Jat singer Gurdas Mann, who also played the lead character, was much watched and praised in my extended family and the circle of our acquaintances44; it provided an opportunity for collective remembering of Partition through a recounting of fragments of family Partition stories and sometimes the expression of a long-subdued grief. The emotive hit song Main Rowaan Tarle Pawaan ‘I Cry, I Implore’ featuring the lyrics dil chori chori rowe (literally, my heart hides away like a thief and cries; poetically, my heart weeps silently and alone) and mere dil nu kuch kuch hove (something happens to my

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heart) was played repeatedly on our tape recorder in the months after we saw the film, and these lines were particularly pointed out to me by several family members as a means of approaching the incomprehensibility and anguish of Partition.45 Interestingly, Jats who lived through independence and thus Partition will often describe the joint watershed of events as the creation of Pakistan (Pakistan banan vele, at the time of Paksitan’s creation) as if to reiterate that Muslims were awarded their own state. This phrase suggests that the creation of India is an event of comparatively lesser significance; there is no voicing of national pride at India’s creation, and moreover, Jat sentiments regarding the nation are irrevocably related to the traumas of Partition and the loss of their homes and lands in undivided Punjab. Issues of nation, place, and person have resonated for many Punjabis since Partition. For Jats in particular, notions of land, home, and family were grievously disturbed in this national birth. In Balwant Singh’s family, while he and his brother were awarded a small amount of barely arable land in Ferozepur district, his cousin-brothers – part of the immediate joint family – were given land near Sirsa in what is now Haryana. He remarked to me in conversation, with some bitterness, that At that time, the government did not care to keep families together. The land was here and there, and none was very good, certainly not as good as we had formerly. So now we are spread all over the place, people have even moved out, abroad, and I may even leave the country myself some day.

Partition – and more importantly, the government’s role in attempting to mitigate its effects – thus severed Jat connections to land and family.46 In this process, which ignored local solidarities, Jat connections to the nation were also severed. The premise of the nation in the Jat construction of identity fluctuates in relation to the broader politics of the time. At times, most recently in the 1980s, territorial sovereignty and political self-determination are paramount to the Jat self, while at others, including in the later 1990s, Jat identity-making stretches and seesaws between the local and the global, with the nation paid attention only during cricket games, election campaigns, nuclear tests, and historical commemorations. In my experience, just as Khalistan was scarcely discussed, so too was the nation. Several informants, however, told me with some pride that, despite its ethnic composition and its promixity to the border(s), Ganganagar had avoided the bloodshed of both Partition and 1984. Still, although the

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Khalistani movement, as manifest in India, was predominantly rural and Punjabi, with few of its visceral struggles being witnessed in Rajasthan, Sikhs in Ganganagar were badly discomfited during the ‘crisis.’ It is worth exploring further the Khalistani issue among Ganganagar’s Jats. Although my research was not among Khalistanis, nor primarily among rural Jat Sikhs, a common theme of marginalization circulates throughout the Jat community. The Khalistan movement has assumed a pre-eminent place in recent analyses of Sikh identity (e.g. Axel 2001, Brass 1991, Gupta 1996, Mahmood 1996, Pettigrew 1995, Tatla 1999), which all acknowledge the increasing economic and political marginalization in Punjab. Despite the apparent agricultural wealth of the region, the inadequacies of the regional economy in addressing the trajectories of modern development and an evolving local – and global – materialism are linked to this minority consciousness. Jats are particularly implicated within Sikh marginality; rural Jat Sikh farmers and landlords, disadvantaged by development, are said to have been central to the Khalistani movement and the formation of its goals. The Khalistan movement coincided remarkably with the beginnings of the failure of the Green Revolution in Punjab. The early agricultural profits from Green Revolution farming were largely consumed by the more expensive methods of crop propagation, maintenance, and harvest demanded by this purportedly more advanced system of cultivation. Today, these ‘miraculous’ new agricultural methods are seen to have damaged the region’s famed but precarious fertility. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Punjabi farmers, overwhelmingly Jat Sikhs, were becoming increasingly indebted and impoverished as yields dropped, agricultural input costs soared, and environmental damage such as waterlogging, salination, and desertification laid waste to both land and its monetary value (Shiva 1989). Indeed, Pettigrew (1995: 55) has remarked that ‘the story of the rise and fall of the guerrilla movement is essentially and materially a story of what happened to a community of farmers as they experienced the effects of a process of economic change known as the Green Revolution.’ Despite both its religiously conservative agenda and its articulation of a sovereign vision that challenges Jat marginality within India, Khalistan is a global nationalism developed in response to the tranformations and concerns of Indian and globalized modernity. It has largely been supported among overseas Jats and other Sikhs, among whom nostalgic sympathies may be more pressing; like other nationalisms, Khalistan not only imagines, but also longs for, the restoration of an

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authentic and authoritative Sikh association with the land. Khalistan represents more than a nationalist goal of Sikh self-determination, which is perhaps why many Jats do not seem to support it; Khalistan is a utopian notion, a sort of promised land in which Sikh socioeconomic status and, more particularly, religious dignity will be assured, safe from the affronts of history, modernity, and marginality. Such transnational longings are more mythical than real. Although Khalistani and non-Khalistani Sikhs differ in their appreciation of class, status, and progress as the means of escaping marginalization, they share mythical and nostalgic longings. Urban middle-class Jats in India also long for the land, and their mythologies of rural life, too, are created at a remove from actuality. As well, the accounts of Khalistani militants provided by both Mahmood and Pettigrew suggest strong similarities in the foundational issues of Khalistani militancy and the sense of national dislocation and marginality apparent among middle-class Jats. Urban Jats feel a significant affinity to rural Jats: not only are many of their kin still living on the land, but many city Jats themselves have land and earn income from it.47 The Jat collective imaginary is replete with rural associations and strongly asserts the continuation of a shared culture. As well, Jat urban professionals and farmers alike feel the same pressures to fulfill material ideals and Westernized patterns of conspicuous consumption. The case can certainly be made that the Green Revolution brought a rapid and rapacious material modernity to Punjab’s villages. It has thus had profound effects on Jat values and culture: The Green Revolution package was not just a technological and political strategy. It was also a cultural strategy which replaced traditional peasant values of co-operation with competition, of prudent living with conspicuous consumption, of soil and crop husbandry with the calculus of subsidies, profits and remunerative prices. (Shiva 1989: 129)

Assessments of the economic position of Ganganagar’s Jats echo Shiva’s observations. ‘We want only our due share, but we do not get it,’ the Jat Sikhs I knew often complained. ‘Our lands are reduced, they are not enough to live from. They are waterlogged, too, and the costs of farming are too great. The theka we collect is hardly anything. Our grain feeds the whole of India, but we get nothing back. The government does not invest in the region. There is no industry here, and no jobs. Our children cannot find work. They must go overseas to get

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anywhere at all.’ Besides this litany of changes to the regional economy, the corollary social transformations wrought by the Green Revolution have been profound: Gurharpal Singh (1996: 118) has described its effects on ‘traditional village Punjab’ as ‘dislocating, atomising and shattering.’ The advent of modern consumerism in the villages of Punjab is one of the intense cultural changes associated with the Green Revolution. Not only has the material culture of the village been transformed, with a tractor at every farm, along with refrigerators, televisions, automatic washing machines, scooters, and even cars, but, land prices have greatly increased, along with farming costs, building costs, the cost of weddings and dowries, and other significant expenses suffered by all Jat Sikh families. As we have seen, the Jat solution to such economic pressure has traditionally been found in the educating of certain promising youngsters so that they might gain more lucrative urban employment and then remit monies to assist in the household budgets on their farms, but these professional opportunities have become scarce in the face of regional (and Indian) underdevelopment and the implementation of caste reservations. Resultingly, Jat migration is now directed from Punjabi villages and towns to cities in other parts of the world. While Jat anxieties of marginalization are largely directed towards family progress – whether in India or abroad – the apparently disparate impulse to a nationalist politics is a similar product of the growing Jat awareness of, and dissatisfaction with, their minority place in India. Transnational dreams, the apparently logical end of both the discourse of progress and that of marginality, as well as the counterpart to nationalist dreams of Khalistan, are constructed and practised wherever possible among Jats. Rural Jats may be as prone as their urban relations to negotiating the forces of transnational modernity with an ideology of progress. To illustrate, I will briefly introduce the Sidhu family. My account of this family here takes up several threads in my acquaintance with its various branches in India and Canada, and I do not tie them together neatly, for I wish to give some sense of the broad and potentially conflicting terrain from which Jat Sikh affiliations and identities have been created in the past two decades or more. The Sidhu family patriarch, Santokh Singh, had moved to Canada in his sixties, sponsored by his younger son, and was working as an agricultural labourer there; this son, Sukhwant, had travelled to Switzerland as a refugee during the period of disappearances in Punjab in the 1980s, and had gone thence to Canada, eating his documents on the

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plane. Sukhwant’s departure had been prompted by the murder of his cousin-brother, the son of an influential granthi (Sikh priest), who had met his death in what were known during the Punjab crisis as ‘false encounters’ – that is, charges invented against young Sikh men so that they might be imprisoned, tortured, and even killed, regardless of their being active in the militant movement, and often because their relatives were in some position of social leadership.48 The Sidhus’ village home in Moga district is filled with photos of its refugee son, and also of a daughter more recently married overseas, both of whom had helped with their remittances to build the spacious house.49 Having suffered the tragedies of the militant movement and its suppression first-hand, one might think that the family would be predisposed to Khalistani values, but in spite of the obvious potential for Khalistani sympathies in this family, I heard no evidence of such an association either in India or Canada. Instead, the family shows more concern with middle-class ideals; like a majority of Jat families, it seeks to gain social security in the modernist nexus of educational and occupational progress, material gain, and transnational movement. Even amid rural and Khalistani influence, the middle-class position is privileged, and the possibilities of progress are preferred to the difficult and potentially divisive assertion of nationalist claims. While the Jat middle class may sympathize with Khalistani issues, they are ultimately distanced from the concerns of their Khalistani brethren, for they have other means of progress and power at their disposal. Despite the conventional scholarly wisdom that Khalistan is a Jat movement, middle-class notions of progress and practices of modernity expressed the common ideal among the Jat Sikhs I met. Local and especially transnational means of middle-class progress offer both urban and rural Jats the promise of renewed positions of power and social advantage, and thus the potential, at least locally, to overcome their marginal situation, thus restoring traditions of family and community honour. For the Jat middle class, the most crucial element of the contemporary nation in Jat identity may be the urge to escape its confines, for the nation is perhaps most acutely experienced in terms of the desire for migration. This is believed to be the most reliable solution to the threats of economic, political, and religious marginalization among Jats, although it most directly responds to their middle-class economic concerns; indeed, migration is now the singular stuff of Punjabi dreams of family progress. Of course, migration has been a potential means

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of material progress since colonial times, but today there is a common perception that migration is the only means of ensuring its continuance. Education no longer leads necessarily to professional employment; even doctors are not guaranteed wealth, although they certainly gain status, by establishing themselves in Ganganagar. Among Punjabis, Jats seem particularly implicated in family migration as they feel their marginality keenly, even as they have the wherewithal to emigrate. Traditional, long-established kinship and marriage practices provide some measure of migrational flexibility: strategies to resist and counter migration constraints often use family sponsorships, adoptions, and arranged marriages.50 Since options for emigration are limited nevertheless, being able to migrate becomes imbued with status meanings. Migration has surpassed even a military career, that occupational staple among Jats since colonial times, in terms of prestige. During a visit from the Deols, accompanied by their son Sukhi who was on holiday from his job with the defence department in Delhi, a piece in the recent issue of India Today51 was discussed. This article detailed the caste- and class-based evolution of the Indian army, originally considered an upwardly mobile career choice among the upper castes; now the army was gradually being dominated by the lower castes as pay and benefits had deteriorated against middle class expectations (and upper caste applicants had also to contend with reservations). In the conversation that followed, Jats were classified as upper-caste elites, and were observed to prefer emigration for their children rather than joining the forces.52 Sukhi remarked: ‘It’s true. People don’t want to send their kids to the army any more. They want to send them to medical school, or for engineering, or these days, computers. Then they’ll be able to go overseas.’ I asked whether it had to do with the children choosing their own careers even though the parents might still value the army. He replied; ‘No, no. Children here generally do what their parents tell them. They take their parents’ advice on matters of education and career. And these days, the parents want that they should go abroad.’ In this process of migration-aimed education, the furtherance of Jat economic opportunity, their middle-class prestige, and their modern transnational identities are mutually constituted. In spite of the apparent modernity of this situation, demonstrated in profound changes concerning caste, class and mobility, family traditions were maintained in the authority of parents. In a similar conversation, Balraaj Singh assured me:

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People move from India for entirely economic reasons. [Don’t some leave for political reasons?] Well, there’s that too, but 99% are going for economic opportunities. [It’s interesting that the people who try to emigrate have some of the best living standards in India]. Yes, it is. People have good opportunities here but they still want to earn more abroad, even in factories or as drivers. But they keep their land and houses here in case they want to come back. [If they stay, and their children are born there, do their children sell off the family properties here?] This is true, it happens. It’s only those people from India, born here, who keep their ties here.

Experiences of home, nation, migration, and the transnation are intricately connected in contemporary Jat formulations of self. At a basic level economic and aspirational, these meanings are vastly overwritten with ethnically complex notions deriving from the intersection of faith and polity, as well as both locally and globally developed understandings of kin, community, home, land and place. Transnational movement and globalized relationships and representations have become part of the discourses of Punjabi and Jat selfhood I met with in Ganganagar. Meanwhile, the pursuit of economic progress and social status abroad is not without social and economic costs at home. Karanbir Singh, an elderly Jat, described to me his native street in Jalandhar (a Punjabi city of Doaba region, the long-noted epicentre of Punjabi emigration): ‘every home is occupied by only an elderly couple, with children living elsewhere, mostly overseas.’53 Migration is transforming the demography, topography, landscape, and homescapes of the Punjab region, making Jat attachments to homes and villages increasingly tenuous, and threatening the attenuation and loss of Jat affiliations with the region. Nevertheless, these attachments are ultimately located in people: as emigrant Sikh Nikki Singh acutely observed, ‘with Dad’s final departure from our house on the funeral bier, everything – my home, Punjab, India – would also be carried away from me’ (2005: xii). Amid these ruptures of the symbols of identity in the pursuit of transnational dreams, the Jat imagination develops and restores notions of a grounded self through rural nostalgias.

6 The Rural Imaginary

We are all educated and we want our families to progress, but we are still connected to our land. It is our roots, where we come from. We keep our land to remember where we came from. – Balraaj Singh

I was repeatedly told by the educated and urbane informants amongst whom I did fieldwork that if I wanted to understand ‘the real India,’ and, by extension, ‘real’ Jats, I should take myself out to the villages, as only here would I come to appreciate their culture and ways. I came to understand these suggestions as commentaries on the complex interrelationship between notions of rural and urban, local and global, tradition and modernity, and the related ambiguities of sentiment and loyalty that my local advisors themselves felt in creating their personal and collective identities. These assertions reflect a discontinuity of Jat participation in an authentic culture that has arisen in the deterritorializations of urbanization and transnationalism. There is a mutable quality to the caste affiliations of urban, educated Jats which suggests a re-evaluation of their understandings of identity in light of their contemporary lifestyles. A telling exchange occurred with Jasleen, who had repeatedly referred to his family and community as Jat Sikh in both casual conversations and interviews. [What is it that makes you a Jat?] A Jat Sikh? [Yes.] Nothing. Nothing.

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[In the way that you keep saying, ‘we are Jat Sikh,’ in what way are you?] As I told you, I’m not Jat. (He laughs). Because I think the moment you get separated from your land and start doing something else, I think you also start losing that spirit. That means, you have some storehouse of that spirit when you live on the land, and as soon as you get away from that land, the power of that spirit gets diluted. Maybe we hold some part of it, but it is second generation now. [You said earlier, when you talked about the kind of wife you wanted for Jeet [his son], you said she should be a good Jat Sikh girl. So is there some sense of –] (He interjects). Respect for that spirit. [Yes, perhaps a common value that you have]. Respect for that spirit. When you live on that land.

Jat identity is forfeited in leaving the land. Jats have left traditional, caste-contingent, land-based formulations of self in becoming educated and taking up urban, professional, and modern lives. Jasleen’s deliberate use of irony – as I told you, I’m not Jat – suggests an awareness of the inescapability within the Jat community of an increasingly diminished sense of the Jat self.1 Here, then, I examine how a self-proclaimed rural people understand and represent themselves when they are no longer living rural lives: how can one be Jat if one is no longer a farmer? I argue that Jats reclaim their identities through the construction and assertion of a rural imaginary,2 a symbolic and discursive project in which urban and diasporic Jats variously create, deploy, and commemorate a romanticized rural identity as a means of negotiating the impacts of development, modernity, and transnationalism. Although modernity supposedly creates a radical break between past and present, tradition and modernity, the Jat project of modernity seeks continuity of these elements, and the relationships that exist within them, for as Connerton (1989: 6) has remarked, ‘the absolutely new is inconceivable.’ The poetics of the Jat rural imaginary re-inscribe traditional, landed identities for urban and transnational Jats, re-embedding their modernities in autocthony. Imaginaries and Nostalgias Imaginative practices produce both modernity and the traditions from which it distinguishes itself and on which it depends.3 Gaonkar (2002: 4) suggests that imaginaries are ‘first-person subjectivities that build

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upon implicit understandings that underlie and make possible common practices. They are embedded in the habitus of a population or are carried in modes of address, stories, symbols and the like.’ According to Taylor (2002: 106), imaginaries refer to ‘the ways in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations,’ and are expressed in images, stories, and myths. The modern imagination is a ‘form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibility’; images and imaginaries visualize ‘the constructed landscape of collective aspirations’ (Appadurai 1996: 31) which informs everyday life as well as the creation, negotiation, and contestation of collective futures – and pasts – in imaginings of community. Being modern is about wanting the intellectual, material, and social changes that are possible in circumstances of modernity, about acting on imaginings of their potential, but the modern transformations that people desire destroy ‘the physical and social landscapes of our past and our emotional links with these lost worlds’ (Berman 1988: 35). By unsettling time and place, as well as corporate (and corporeal) experiences, modernity makes fixed identities and homes elusive and throws up ghosts of past solidities and attachments, which are often primordial in nature. History and memory thus become essential to modern identities and experiences and to the construction, adaption, and reconciliation of forms of modernity.4 The social and psychological transformations of modernity, and its ambiguities, fragmentations, and anguishes, contribute to historical and mythical nostalgias which imagine arcadian and utopian pasts as means of modern adjustment. Derived from the Greek, nostalgia means homesickness, a longing for past times as well as places; early psychological analysis viewed it as a melancholic ‘disorder of the imagination’ (Wilson 2005: 21–3). Contemporary theories suggest that nostalgia is ‘a strategy of survival, a way of making sense of the impossibility of homecoming’ in modern and diasporic lives (Boym 2001: xvii). As a strategy, nostalgia has potentially different meanings and usages, whether in maintaining the status quo and notions of self and subjectivity, or in realigning the past with the present in a process of self-refashioning (Ritivoi 2002: 6). Such nostalgic idealizations of the past suggest a ‘crisis of values’ (Williams 1973: 35) in the present: the act of hearkening back to a natural or moral economy calls into question the present order of things, yet conceals ‘the actual and bitter con-

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tradictions of the time’ (45), both past and present. Nostalgia is also ‘a bricolage of fragments of the past’ which ‘in their resurrected and reconstructed union, are distorted, sacrilized or trivialized’ (Axel 2001: 214) despite their momentous connotations of home, land, community, nation, and identity. Nostalgia and memory are active elements of history, just as historiographies become mythic through remembrance and representation (cf. Samuel 1994, Samuel and Thompson 1990). History, myth, and memory are hugely significant in conceiving of, or imagining, ethnicities, nations, and other collectivities of identity attached to land and landscape. Land, landscape, and notions of home and place have renewed importance in contexts of movement and exile. The remembrance of place anchors displaced people to nostalgically imagined lands and territories (cf. Gupta and Ferguson 1992: 11). Huyssen (2001: 72) notes the particular links between deterritorialization and the modern practice of memory: One of modernity’s permanent laments concerns the loss of a better past, the memory of living in a securely circumscribed place, with a sense of stable boundaries and a place-bound culture with its regular flow of time and a core of permanent relations. Perhaps such days have always been a dream rather than a reality, a phantasmagoria of loss generated by modernity itself rather than by its prehistory.

Nostalgias created in response to this ‘phantasmagoria of loss’ are a reaction to the impossibility of returning to the past and ‘the loss of an enchanted world with clear borders and values’ (Boym 2001: 8), as well as transparent and knowable social relations (Williams 1973: 165). While landed nostalgias may be ‘self-consciously designed to express the virtues of a particular political or social community’ (Schama 1996: 15), no such community can be realized, for the migrant is eternally separated from the land, as well as the people remaining on it, by urban or transnational experience. Urbanization and its cognate processes and affects are highly significant to nostalgic rural imaginings of land, place, and identity. According to Williams’ (1973)5 study of British rural nostalgias imagined in literature and art, ideas, and representations of rural life – senses of organic character, knowable community, temporal fixity, and traumatic loss – are metaphoric constructions created from within urban and classed locations that seek to fix ‘country’ and ‘city’ in both place and time. Intersected in these rural nostalgias are elite and subaltern visions

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of the land. The landed gentry construct the rural as a place of country estates, in which the certainty of their wealth and their ensconcement and domination in traditional peasant social structures are assured.6 Meanwhile subaltern former farmers, in a ‘whole emotional range from the picturesque to the bitter’ find in rural nostalgias ‘a spiritual selfsubsistence’ both ‘creative and destructive’ and in ‘which much more than the actual system of ownership is the decisive social mode’ (1973: 269). In their nostalgias, neither urban workers nor rural labourers create for themselves an easy or realizable community, and remain drastically separated from the elites by class. Thus the nostalgic notion of a bucolic rural order is both socially integrative and ‘bitterly contested’ (269). Rural nostalgia posits ‘a romantic attachment to a way of life in which the people are merely instrumental’ (Williams 1973: 203); with farmers mere figures in a landscape or a ballad, socioeconomic issues and political conflicts are obscured. Remembrances of past lands and times are utopian idealizations,7 and do not reflect embittered histories of struggle over land and identity.8 Among farmers, landlords, urbanites, and, increasingly, transnationals, it is not surprising that Jat social imaginaries, and nostalgias, are particularly developed with regard to land. While we do not find among Jats what Nora (1989: 7) describes as a ‘fundamental collapse of memory [in] the disappearance of peasant culture,’ the desire for and repercussions of modernity render it all but impossible for Jats to maintain their traditional land and caste-based identity. The invention and commemoration of Jat imaginaries of place and landscape fulfils particular social and emotional needs related to the experiences of modernity and diaspora. In a fascinating study of early twentiethcentury Punjabi immigrants to California, Leonard (1997) suggests that formulations of landscape variously expressed nostalgia for the homeland, asserted a continuous sense of belonging there, and at the same time articulated an integration into diasporic life by declaring that the environment was familiar.9 Control over land – deriving from Punjabi positions as farmers and landlords – was also exercised. Leonard interprets the construction of ongoing connections to land as strategies seeking to erase and resist the racial distinctions and oppressions (including anti-miscegenation laws and land ownership prohibitions) that were otherwise characteristic of diasporic lives by recreating rural California as a Punjabi place and space. The issue of land control and ownership suggests authority, dominion, and even sovereignty: if one cannot possess one’s own land – by living daily upon it; producing, reaping, and

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consuming its yields; directing its landscape, cultivation, growth, and the activities that take place upon it; not to mention by owning it – one can, at least, imagine its possession. In the remainder of this chapter, I explore some of the potential meanings of land and home, and their nostalgic imagining among Jats. Like other diasporic peoples, the relationships they construct to particular homes reflect a search for security in a globalizing world and are ‘imagined from childhood or some idealized past’ (Low: 2003: 10, 230). Senses of home are constructed through sociality; although places are not naturally or unproblematically identified with singular communities, they are constructed from and made socially significant by ‘particular constellation[s] of social relations’ (Massey 1994: 154) with important historical contexts. Schama (1996) offers the notion of landscape as palimpsest, in which land is an apparently blank text underlain with layers of earlier meaning which are both personal – for adults often remember how they experienced particular landscapes as children – and collective. Therefore, personal imaginings of land and place can be collectively politicized and historicized in the notion of a homeland. For Punjabis, the homeland has porous borders and has been envisioned, erased, and reimagined with ponderous frequency: as Ballantyne questions, does the notion of Punjab refer to ‘the Punjab of the Mughals? Ranjit Singh’s kingdom? British Punjab? The post-1947 Indian Punjab?’ (2006: 161). And what of the post-1966 Punjab, or the post-1984 Punjab? In hearkening to a pristine, Jat-centric landscape, Jat rural imaginaries may thus also reject historical experiences of colonization and division. Jats long to reclaim a cultural authenticity and an autocthonous identity they fear lost through symbols of the rural imaginary and practices of rural nostalgia. Urban Jat ruralities are engaged in processes and representations of both local tradition and global modernity, and posit Punjabi understandings of self, time, and place in new ways, although remaining oriented by the traditions of these notions. Their rural nostalgias depend on transnational dreams, for as Dawson and Johnson have argued, ‘the imagining of migration and exile become constitutive parts of the construction and experience of place and landscape’ (2001: 319). The rural imaginary articulates feelings of celebratory pride in the past, and at the same time is associated with a sense of loss – of a simpler and slower way of life, of family and cultural traditions, of the land itself and the possibility of returning to it – regardless of the actuality and scope of these bereavements. For urban and transnational Jats, the village becomes a lieu de mémoire (Nora 1989); there is no return

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to the foreign country (Lowenthal 1985) that the past becomes in the ongoing temporal and spatial displacements of diasporic Jat life. The rural imaginary mitigates the cultural transformatins of modernity, and also responds to Jat concerns of marginality. Gupta recently commented that ‘the kind of control the Jats once exercised in villages can no longer be worked up with any degree of authenticity. Land holdings have shrunk in size and investments in agriculture are no longer as lucrative as they used to be even twenty years ago’ (2004: xviii). Rural nostalgias thus also recall the former prosperity and regional power of Jats. As well, the emplacing and centring strategies of urban and transnational Jats respond to historical and political affronts: ‘If, as they say, the past is a foreign country, then what does it mean to encounter a past that is your own country reterritorialized, even terrorized by another?’ (Bhabha 1995: 328). The rural imaginary, in this context, may suggest alternative and imaginatively sustainable, but ultimately unattainable, notions of Jat sovereignty. Land and Landlords An inherently rural and caste-based identity remains important among today’s urban Jats, and is visibly exercised in Jat assertions of cultural pride and claims to cultural authority. In Ganganagar one meets older Jat men who have not engaged in agriculture since childhood yet who eagerly and with great pride claim themselves to be farmers, and younger men who have never lived in the villages who sometimes wistfully, at other times boastfully, declare that the best and truest Indian lifestyle is to be found there. Whenever two Jats are meeting for the first time, whether in India or abroad, soon after the mandatory greetings of ‘Sat Sri Akal,’ one will inquire as to the other’s pind10 or village. One’s pind has a hallowed quality: regardless of whether one has ever lived there – or even visited this place within the span of memory – the name maintains its cultural currency as a marker of identity in place. The exchange of pind information is undertaken reverently (although it may be undertaken with more humour among men who are drinking) and the exchange is always followed by a search for shared associations of kin or friendship in the pind and its environs. The pind thus is considered an essential point of personal, familial, and social origin. Although nostalgic and mythical, Jat relationships to the land remain real. Family wealth is held in land, and family status is marked by it. Urban families choose to maintain land-holdings, to experience zamind-

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ari (landlordship), and sometimes to work on their farms even if they are educated, working in professional service and have been resident in cities for a generation or more; as well, family incomes continue to be subsidized with theka from rural holdings. Most such families still have close relatives living as farmers and maintain strong familial ties to them; weekend and holiday visits to family farms are common, and happily discussed afterwords. Moreover, as Fox (1985: 38) has observed, land carries notions of family honour, and thus has never become a mobile commodity in the Punjab region. Pettigrew (1975: 55) noted among Jat farmers of the 1960s that: Attachment to the land was glorified. It was a Jat’s dearest possession, which he was committed to secure and enlarge. This was his main preoccupation, but connected with it were two other dominating concerns: the marriage of his sisters and daughters and the development of influential contacts. All three were interrelated; all contributed to achieving family power, family honour.

Land is thus prized for reasons of financial security, family reputation, tradition, and identity. It is land, rather than money or other forms of capital, which is inherited in the Jat community,11 so the amount of zamin (land), or jaidaad (property), of a potential groom’s family is scrutinized when arranging marriages. The significance of land for Jats is linked in many ways to the region’s precarious history of invasion, oppression, and enforced movement. As land was the only means of making a living in the Jat past, a situation has developed in which there is ‘much insecurity’ regarding property in the region, and this has created a ‘feeling of a lack of rootedness of home and [a fear of] its possible loss’ (Pettigrew 1975: 5, 32). In the years since Pettigrew undertook her fieldwork, the importance of the land has altered little. Improvements in family fortunes and prosperity – if not saved to finance the marriage of a daughter, to construct or renovate a city dwelling, or to channel towards family migration – are typically invested in the improvement of existing land or the purchase of more land.12 Traditional Jat understandings of honour and social status are encoded in zamin and zamindari and attachments to the land are gendered. Land is a patrilineal inheritance; although Indian law today awards equal inheritance rights to women, in practice exceedingly few women claim this right. Women prefer to maintain good relations with their brothers by signing their shares over to fraternal control.13 This practice

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ensures a woman’s fond nostalgia for the land and village of childhood memory, while also emphasizing that a woman’s experience of land comes indirectly, through her kin relations. Despite this, and in spite of the cultural identification of women and Jat tradition, I met far fewer women than men who spoke longingly of village life. Jat women prefer their urban lives, which demand less work, and are also happily modern in terms of convenience, fashion, and lifestyle. Life in the city also encourages thoughts of other potential lives, beyond marriage and Jat tradition. Simmi, who had just completed her urban education, told me: I am really afraid of going back to the village. I really hope I can get some job and stay in the city, maybe even some other city. My father comes and goes from the village doing business, but my dadi will always be there. My mom, she indulges me, but with dadi, I will have to watch my every move. And life is much harder there. You cannot keep the place clean, you can’t wear nice clothes, the cooking is much more difficult, and there is nothing to do. What will I do there? There is nothing for it but to get married, and I don’t want to do that either. But my dadi will be agitating, and my dad really listens to her. Already they have been showing me photos of this boy and that. How long can I live there like that? It is not good for a girl to just stay at home and not be married … there will be lots of pressure. Oh, yaar, I just don’t want to go back there!

To Simmi, the village is a place of narrow and gendered limitations: unmarried daughters in their twenties have no sanctioned social place, their behaviours are closely monitored and their movements are restricted. ‘Smart,’ modern girls who are educated in the city and accustomed to its refinements have little interest in living in villages or being married into village families. Moreover, if we construe Jat women’s marital lives as a form of exile, as VƯƷe-Freiberga (2001) does for Latvian peasant women, village life would heighten the separations and losses of this condition. Ganganagar has not always been such a site of urban modernity. In the late 1950s, when my parents-in-law were married, it was a very small town, with few of the amenities it currently presents, and moreover the district did not yet have the good agricultural reputation it now has. When their marriage took place, people in the small Punjabi city where my mother-in-law grew up are said to have chided her father: ‘Sardarji, to where have you married your daughter? You can’t even

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find water in that place!’ My mother-in-law told me that she initially found it rather difficult to adjust to the more rural locale. She considered herself a city woman, and today prides herself on having persuaded my father-in-law to stay in the city after retirement. She told me that they had always been thrifty with their money over the years, and when the time came to decide what to do with their savings: He wanted to buy land. As you know, the land, his father’s land, was lost in the Partition, and what they were given by the government, those plots were not so good. The land was no good for farming, dry. It is all the way in Haryana, as well. So we sold it, and we did not get anything from that … as you know, there were other family matters that demanded money in those days … Since then, we have bought land and as you know it is on theka, earning money for us. This is a good thing, we should have some land. But this theka is enough for us, I think. But your daddyji wanted more land … but I thought, even if we buy more, what do we know of farming? Even if we live there, what is the use? Your daddyji, he really thought we should buy land. He said, we must have some farm, this is what we must do. I tried to get him to build us a house in the city. He did not want to. He wanted land, a farm. What good is being so emotional about it? Everytime we discussed it, we could not agree. Challo (let’s move on), we would leave the matter. But it always came up again. In the end, I refused to go. I said to him ‘fine, you buy your land, you live on your farm. I will stay in the city!’ And so, we have bought our plot, and built this house, and we enjoy our life here. I have no problems here. You know, at the time of our marriage, those persons around who came to the wedding, when they heard that the boy was from Ganganagar, they said ‘where have you married your daughter?’ It was just like a village here then, and very remote, not like today at all. But as you have seen, these days we have everything we like, everything we need. The life is good here, people choose to live in Ganganagar, to send their kids to us for education. Why do I want to spend the rest of my life on some farm? How will I be able to do all the work there? Now we are staying in the city, and things are going on nicely for us.

The admission by my mother-in-law that she had challenged her husband’s wish is most unusual, but the difficulties of village life prevent Jat women from experiencing the same nostalgia and yearning to reestablish bonds with that land that Jat men do. A grateful appreciation

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of the lesser toil of their city lives thus informs women’s rural nostalgias. In this instance, my mother-in-law positions herself as pragmatist and realist, acknowledging the wisdom of purchasing a small amount of land to provide an income from rent, while my father is said to exhibit the emotional tendencies that are otherwise typically and chauvinistically attributed to Punjabi women. Like me, Jat women enjoy visits to villages, but their enjoyment is apparently based more in the renewal of kin ties rather than in any notion of recapturing a landed identity (although women like men share an aesthetic appreciation of the landscape). Moreover, urban Jat women, who otherwise embody the physical identity of the community and its izzat, do not need or feel the associations for the land that urban Jat men, removed from their fields and ploughs, do; after all, the domestic nature of women’s work and life is less changed by urbanity. But this account also reveals a thorough engagement in modern urban life, as well as a pride in having settled in a remote place and having participated and become invested in its progress. The association of villages with tradition and cities with the modern appears nowhere this simple in the Punjabi equation (cf. Ferguson 1999). Village homes may be comprised of older groupings of kaccha rooms, but there is a clear trend towards urban-style pakka homes which may be larger and considered finer than city homes. Urban Jat visitors admire the more attractive gardens, large grounds, spacious rooms, pleasant and unpolluted hawa (air) of rural homes, as well as the ability to enjoy the undertaking of many activities outside of the house, including sleep. A key feature of Jat visits to village homes, in my experience, is the outdoor preparation and serving of food and refreshments, often on a tawa (griddle) set over a cotton-brush fire. City visitors, when the weather permits, are entertained outdoors in the compound. They will be offered chairs to sit on (if the home is so-equipped) but may prefer to sit on the traditional Punjabi string manja;14 in many village homes manjas litter the courtyard, or are stacked against the compound walls. Materially, village homes may be quite as contemporary as city homes: radios, televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, mixies (a hardy Indian blender), gas stoves, steel almirahs, bicycles, scooters, and even cars, and of course tractors are all typically present; farmhouses often also have sitting rooms furnished similarly to those in city homes. Material modernity may also be invoked in the additional architectural elements of farms, such as rooftop water tanks, which are often built in the shapes of cars, footballs, and airplanes. The relatives who farm our

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land in Ganganagar district were nearing completion of their new pakka house at the time of my visit, although they still lived in the older kaccha residence at the time. They spoke eagerly when we visited of the installation of the telephone line for which they had applied, and the new washing machine that they had ordered. Not even thirty years before, the washing machine that was given in my father-in-law’s sister’s dowry was such a novelty of labour-saving modern equipment that it was used in her rural affinal home for churning butter. My mother-in-law told me, with a certain amused incredulity, It was more useful to use it in that way. The clothes could easily be washed by hand, but churning butter was a big job, taking so much time and effort! And your bhooaji, coming from the town, she did not have so much experience with these heavy kinds of farm jobs. So, they washed the clothes by hand and churned the cream in her washer! (Laughs). Just like that, you plug it in, leave it, and you have makhan (butter)! (Laughs). It was the practical thing to do. That washer was just like the one I had when you first came here. You remember, it was very simple, only a chamber with a motor. The ones we have now, they could not be used in this way! (Laughs).

This story – fondly told – was not intended to poke fun at the apparently mistaken use of the washing machine, but rather to indicate family progress from an earlier naïveté regarding modern technology and to illustrate ingenuity in the face of rural circumstance. The anecdote further suggests that modern advances are to be shaped to local requirements, even to be used in the service of tradition. The rapid mechanization of Punjabi farming in the early years of the Green Revolution noted by Leaf (1984) similarly suggests that the corelation of the rural with traditional methods and ideas – and thus with notions of backwardness – is misconfigured. Imagining the Rural Media and popular cultures are particularly important in the imagining of modernity, through the creating of relationships both among and between strangers (Gaonkar 2002: 5). Village life and rural tropes are rhapsodized in popular songs, in features in the regional Englishlanguage newspaper, The Tribune, as well as in Punjabi and Bollywood films.15 Internet websites such as mypind.com and 5abi.com also showcase purportedly essential and timeless portrayals of rural Pun-

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jabi traditions.16 Punjabis at large are implicated in these representations, although Jats feel themselves central to the rural imagery of the region. These representations, perhaps paradoxically, present village life as timeless and unchanging but at the same time are rooted in and reinforce the transitory and ephemeral nature of village life for urban and transnational Jats. Mediated imaginings may distort the village and its ways in sanitized farms and palatial homes, or subsume the rural entirely in new significantions of class and global preoccupations. The authenticity of the rural self is profoundly challenged by such representations, which do not realistically depict the frequent hardships of the rural life of Jat farmers,17 yet in these exaggerations and falsifications, urban and transnational Jats may find new sources of rural pride. The rural imaginings and longings of the urban middle classes are often expressed in popular cultural forms in India as a whole. Traditional values and a preference for rural homescapes are evinced in a number of recent Bollywood films aimed at urban and overseas audiences. In them, there is no equal to the pleasures of the homeland and particularly of the emotional satisfaction of the family bonded in the homeland/home and land. Punjab has a special presence in many such films. For instance in Yash Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, ‘romance flourishes in Swiss idylls but reaches a state of passion only in rural Panjab, whose fields full of yellow mustard and village girls trailing their scarves becomes a place of the family and love, rather than a location for terrorism’ (Dwyer 2000: 141). In The Dream Merchants of Bollywood, journalist Kazmi evokes the fondness of the Indian middle classes for the rural trope in film: Here was a traditional society poised on the brink of globalisation. Quite, quite modern, and yet not so. For somewhere in the midst of the concrete jungle, the ever-swelling horde of urbanites was nurturing the smell of the soil, somewhere in their hearts that waltzed to western beats were the swaying mustard fields of pastoral grandeur, and somehow, deep-down, despite the onrush of modernism, the values were still the time-tested, homespun swadeshi18 (homemade) ones (1998: 181).

Perhaps no image moves my Jat relatives and friends quite like the Punjabi fields during the lush yellow flowering of the spring mustard crop, as depicted in the opening scenes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Indeed, the image of sarhon fields in flower is so powerful that I found

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myself responding to it with a surge of emotions when I returned from my fieldwork, although perhaps not for the same reasons as Jats. Songs are also important means of expressing rural imaginaries and nostalgias among Jats. As Ballantyne (2006: 124) has observed: Through music we learn about place and displacement. Laments for lost places and narratives of exile and return often inform, inspire, and incite the production of popular music. Songs build engagement in audiences at least in part through references that tap memories and hopes about particular places.

The hit song by Gurdas Mann, Apna Punjab Hove (‘Let Our Punjab Be’), and its accompanying video reveals how Punjabi popular culture represents, sentimentalizes, and authenticates Jat village associations. Mann, who hails from the small Malwa town of Gidderbaha, is a singer, songwriter, and actor of international repute.19 Apna Punjab Hove is a cheerful paean to the simple and homely pleasures of village life: archetypal Punjabi foods, makki di roti, sarhon da saag, and ghar di sharaab (home-made liquor), sitting on manjas, socializing on the village common, being among family and loved ones. The lyrics pay homage to the love of one’s mother in the village setting; the mother, like the village, is a site of nurture, succour, and home. In its final sobering verse, Apna Punjab Hove invokes the pain experienced by Punjabis at the separation of their beloved land of five rivers at the time of Partition; indeed, the song locates the present ‘disintegrated’ state of Punjab (and Punjabiyat) in territorial and riparian separation, and pleads for the reunion of Ravi and Chenab rivers: I ask my fellow villager about the village’s condition Why, O woe befallen Mann, is Punjab disintegrating? Never from any Ravi, never from the Ravi, may the Chenab be severed.20

At this point, a line from the first verse gains new meaning; ‘The Jat atop the manja will sit like a nawaab!’21 rather than being merely a humorous expression of local caste dominance, also portrays a notion of Jat regional sovereignty. Indeed, we might read a hidden transcript (Scott 1990) of Jat sovereignty in the song’s very title (and the refrain of its chorus): let our Punjab be. In the video of Apna Punjab Hove, Mann is depicted as a soldier returning to his village on leave. He is shown at the outset walking

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down the lane to his village home. Still in his army uniform, he joins in a card game on the village common and is ‘pulled by the ear’ by an elder for revealing the cards of some of the players in his excitement to be back in the village and enjoying its society. At home, he greets his mother by bending to touch her feet, and spends the duration of the video in restoring himself to his peasant roots by tending his animals and fields, reaping the harvest, and processing his crops. Meanwhile, his mother cooks vast quantities of sarhon da saag and makki di roti, and in a humorous sequence Mann consumes a towering stack of makki di roti.22 Between these sequences are short chorus sections in which Mann’s army companions, some of whom are turbanned Sikhs, collect around a campfire to drink, dance, and sing together of the pleasures of their village homes, pleasures which are shared in the Jat imaginary. Other portions of the video feature brightly dressed villagers in traditional rural clothes23 dancing bhangra in fields ripe with yellowblossomed mustard plants or green swathes of young wheat. Occasionally, an apparently unrehearsed clip is featured, usually in long-shot, depicting villagers going about their business, emphasizing the impression that the video was in actuality made in rural Punjab. In the song’s final lines, those which lament the division of Punjab at Partition, Mann joins the bhangra dancers in the fields. The sadness of the lyrics is visually overcome by an image of the simple, shared pleasures of Punjabi village life; the audience is invited to imagine that other Punjabi farmers, now beyond the border, join them in celebrating their beloved land and sharing in an ongoing Punjabiyat. Throughout the video, Mann characterizes himself as a local, a son of the soil, resolutely rural in his concerns, despite his character’s apparent national life in the army; for their part, the viewing audience suspends their knowledge of Mann’s transnational life and reputation. The land of which Mann sings has a local immediacy in its familial and social meanings but it also suggests intersecting issues of territory, history, memory, and identity. The song and the accompanying video provide a useful snapshot into the complex nature of contemporary Jat identity. Since colonial times, Jat locality has been challenged by army careers and international migration. Still, the images used in the video are archetypal features of rural Punjab, and are common visual devices in the popular cultural representations of the region in other music videos, Punjabi and Hindi films, as well as in advertisements and print media. In comparison to the performance by non-Jat singers of the song Putt Jattan De, which seems to express and accede to Jat

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dominance in the region, Mann’s Apna Punjab Hove, infers a broad Jat claim to regional centrality and identity by equating Punjabiyat with Jatpana. Paradoxically, in celebrating such broad claims to the region, perceptions of marginality may be cultivated. But although rural roots – and the autocthonous sovereignties we might attribute to them – are prized within the popular imaginary, the village itself is largely incidental to everyday Jat life in the city. Despite the many connections of Ganganagar to its rural surroundings and beginnings, Jats living here view their daily lives as modern, urban, and removed from the village. They are typically educated professionals, living in nuclear or occasionally extended families rather than traditional joint family settings, dwelling in recently built, fully-enclosed brick houses, rather than earthern village-style houses with courtyards, using a variety of electronic appliances and gadgets in the home and mechanized forms of transportation outside of it, and travelling for marriages and holidays among a broad circle of friends and kin in north India and even overseas. They often read the daily news in three languages (English, Punjabi, and Hindi), watch television – in these same three languages, as well as occasionally in cross-border transmissions in Urdu – programmed in Delhi, Bombay, Lahore, and beyond, send and receive letters and phone calls from elsewhere in India and abroad, increasingly use packaged foods and cosmetic products produced by multinationals, and frequently dress in Western clothing either given by relatives visiting from abroad or purchased locally. Computer academies dot the city and late in 1999 Ganganagar received internet connections.24 Amid these preoccupations of urban life, Jats are distanced from rural traditions. But Jat ‘traditions’ too are constructed alongside modernity. Indeed, in an argument that renders primordial identities historically contingent, Caton (1999: 175) suggests that the colonial construction of Sikhs as farmers depends on nostalgic ‘English intellectual formulations of ideal rural societies.’ While this argument denies the importance to Jats of an essential rurality, it does open the received primordial categories of Jat identity – farmer, landlord, soldier – to a fuller analysis. This was well-illustrated by the celebration of Baisakhi, a Punjabi harvest festival which is marked on and around April 13, the day on which the Khalsa was founded by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Although it is of profound religious importance, it also has secular and rural connotations. In 1998, The Tribune carried a commemorative feature article on the festival. It was accompanied by a large colour picture of a group of bhangra dancers, presumably farmers, in the midst of a ripe wheat

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field. The bhangra dancer celebrating his fields and harvests is accepted as an intimate and archetypal image of Jat rural life, and is a central motif in popular cultural representations of Punjab, symbolizing the region throughout the subcontinent and its diaspora. Yet this rural icon is remote from contemporary Jat life, and moreover is significant only as an idea. When I asked my in-laws whether there would be bhangra out in the villages were we to drive out to them within those few days, my father-in-law replied: No, no. That was mostly a Muslim custom.25 It hasn’t happened around here since 1947 or so. Not for a long time. There would be one drummer, just one instrument, a dhol, and the farmers would dance in a circle around him as he went from field to field. He was doing it to earn grain; they’d give him some small portion of the crop. This was how things used to be.

His response clearly renders historical the image of the Jat celebration of harvest and further raises doubts about the Jat claim to bhangra by presenting the tradition as a Muslim one. Indeed, contemporary bhangra appears to be an assemblage of previously differentiated regional dance traditions. The heightened association of Jats and bhangra may thus reflect their increasing distance from local rural traditions, signifying a nostalgic attempt to assert an unchanging, if unauthentic, self against transfigurations of time and place. I also asked about the Baisakhi mela, another means of marking Baisakhi that I was familiar with from Toronto.26 The mela is associated in popular Indian media and in its international version27 with the rural setting of the spring harvest. My mother-in-law responded to this question: The melas, they don’t happen any more. It used to be that people would go to them to get the things that we can get anyday now from the bazaar. They would have money from the harvest, and they would go to the mela to buy things. I remember we walked several miles to one once when I was a child. I think we got some bangles, we sisters, and we would eat something good there. Otherwise, we had to wait for some traders to come around. Now, no one bothers with melas. Everything is available in the towns, and the farmers come into town anyway for fertilizer and other things. As you have seen at Singh Stores, farmers go there to buy soap and neel (a chemical brightener for white fabrics) and packet biscuits and custard, and all other things the family needs, all the things that we also might buy. And, they come in for cloth and even stitching!

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This reveals a modern and consumerist view of melas at odds with the apparent historic reality.28 When I told my mother-in-law we still had Baisakhi melas in Canada, she replied insightfully: ‘Well, they are away. They want to remember things at home. There is no need for that here.’ This suggests that commemoration for the rural is a trait of overseas Punjabis alone; urban Jats still resident in India apparently do not need the memorative and identity practices that are essential to the diaspora. The fields of Ganganagar’s Jats are nearby, and the presence of their rural past echoes daily around them as local foodstuffs are consumed, manjas are reclined upon, lands are discussed, village visits are planned, and Punjabi dialects are spoken. Simultaneously, urban Indian Jats participate in and enjoy the nostalgias manufactured by the media, and their newspapers and televisions thus project images reflecting their own close affiliations with a mythic Jat authenticity. Thus on Baisakhi of 1998, nothing out of the ordinary took place. The local gurdwara did not put on any special programs, or parades featuring the panj piare, although the congregation was perhaps slightly larger than it might normally have been on a Monday morning. While the following year’s Baisakhi had far greater religious significance – owing to the Khalsa tercentenary – and was much more widely celebrated, that April I could only note in my journal the commerical deployment of the festival: 13 April 1998 (Monday) Today is Baisakhi. It seems an entirely secular celebration here. The only references to it seem to be seen in the local newspaper, with portraits of men in what I can only describe as bhangra outfits (having only seen such clothing in filmic and stage representations, and never in a ‘natural’ setting) advertising the Punjab State Lottery, BPL televisions, and various Baisakhi programs at hotels (mostly up around Chandigarh), as well as a couple of ‘season’s greetings’ messages from banks, insurance companies, etc. There are also a few such greetings from Punjab state politicians, large ads placed by Badal et al.

The festival was marketed and promoted as thoroughly Punjabi, or more specifically Jat: after all, the bhangra outfits depicted, which recall the traditional springtime outfits of farmers, featured turbans and the men in them had beards, and it is well accepted that the Sikh farmers of Punjab are primarily Jat. Sketched in this way, the Jat identity of the

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bhangra dancer celebrating Baisakhi seems highly tangential; nevertheless, for Jats the image is both iconic and authentic. The commodification of Baisakhi is in keeping with theories of a globalized modernity. Punjab is a wealthy consumer market, and the urban middle class of Ganganagar is today scarcely without televisions, insurance plans, and a disposable income to spend on special programs. Apart from the rural imagery used in the advertisements, there is little in the contemporary urban experience of Baisakhi to indicate that it is a harvest festival, and perhaps even less to mark its significance in marking the birth of the Khalsa29 (which also suggests something of contemporary Jat Sikh identity). The purported Jat tradition of dancing bhangra in the fields in celebration of the harvest has become part of a mythological and transnational imagery of rural Jat roots. In this sense, and despite its power, the rural imaginary is exposed as artifice. Village Visits and the Reconstruction of Jatpana While living in Ganganagar, I visited a number of villages in my various forays into rural Punjab and northwestern Rajasthan.30 These visits are valuable in demonstrating urban Jat perceptions of the village; I hope they will give some sense of what my hosts tried to communicate to me on these jaunts as to the nature of their rural roots and essential selves. These conversations also reveal something of the entangled nature of their present relations with the land and village. My own experiences of village life, like those of the urban Jats I accompanied, were fleeting, yet they were weighted with a sense of reverence and heightened cultural significance. I use these terms deliberately to evoke the venerated rural nostalgia that is expressed by urban Jats. I had been in India for less than a month when my in-laws took me out to see their land – about twenty-eight acres, in two separate plots – located an hour’s drive from the city. We were accompanied by my father-in-law’s elder brother who had independently purchased land next to that of my father-in-law. We walked the length of the first field, rented and planted with mustard by my sister-in-law’s husband; as we did, we picnicked on bananas, a fruit only available from the city market, which we also took as a gift to our village relatives. We then drove to the second field, which was farther down a kaccha path from the main road. My mother-in-law remained in the car and I stayed with her; she assured me that the second field was much the same as the first, and thus need not be seen. Later, visiting the home of

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the relatives who work these plots, my parents-in-law were asked for assistance in finding a marriage match from among their large urban network for one of the family’s younger members. As we returned towards Ganganagar, we visited the ‘ancestral’ land and village farm of Meher Singh fufarji, which was being farmed by his wife’s distant cousins; my father-in-law shared in the responsibilities of a keenu orchard on the property, although his part of the work was largely comprised of giving monthly assessments of crop health and advice on chemical application. Here, sitting on manjas in the bricked courtyard, we ate a typical Punjabi village meal of dahi (yogurt), mattarpaneer (peas and cheese) and tandoori roti. The tandoor, traditionally a clay-oven, is a village specialty and regional tradition, but had been created in this case from a discarded oil drum that had been lined with clay and heated especially for our visit; the daily bread of contemporary Jats, both urban and rural, is cooked on a griddle over a gas stove in the kitchen (or occasionally over a cottonwood fire). After our meal, we drove to Meher Singh’s nephew’s home, a mere ‘one big house over,’ to have tea with his sister-in-law, her son and daugherin-law, who had a new-born son. While the men were entertained elsewhere, we ladies sat together on the large bed in the darkened post-partum bedroom, and drank from small china teacups decorated with an image of English fox-hunters on horseback. I was repeatedly invited to use the bathroom, and after twice declining, wondering if I ought to accept the offer simply to be polite, I decided to wash my hands. Surprisingly, as most homes I visted in Ganganagar had both Western and Indian style latrine facilities, I found that they had only a Western toilet, and that this, along with the other features of the bathroom, were sparkling and newly installed; their exhortations to use their bathroom seemed to suggest their desire to be understood and noted as a modern, progressive, and wealthy family. This day on the land, and particularly our village meal, were discussed fondly and at length over the following days, particularly by my father-in-law, who always represented himself as a farmer in these conversations. I asked him why, if the land is rented out and the rent is fully paid, he still wished to visit the land. He replied: It is to check on the land, to see how it is being taken care of, how it is producing. So we can get an idea of how much rent it is worth. And also, to show ourselves in the village as the owners of the land, to meet the neighbouring farmers and so forth. This is very important, we must do it regularly.

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Visits take on a ritual connotation: land visits are undertaken with careful planning and an almost ceremonial expectancy, as well as an understanding that the practice is an essential requirement of being Jat. Yet despite the importance of Jat land in terms of social identity, prestige, and rental income, the next time we collectively were to visit those particular villages in which we had a land interest was more than a year later.31 Even visits intended to mark our social connections to particular villages in the region seemed to occur only on ‘special’ occasions.32 Urban preoccupations eclipse the necessity of returning to the land, and fictitious filmic simulacra may ultimately replace ritual rural visits. Visits to villages, and indeed Jat affiliations with the land, may be related as much to the bonds of kinship as to any essential desire to experience the land (and this is certainly the case for Jat women). Living abroad causes the land, and the Jat sense of being at home on it, to be further reified. Distance curtails the opportunity for visits to villages and imbues such experiences with a heightened symbolic value. A few months after my initial visits to the Ganganagar villages with which we were affiliated by kin, we went to visit a number of families in Punjab. The trip was prompted by the visit of Gian Singh Uncle, who had lived in Canada for fifteen years. Although in kinship terms my father-in-law’s mama, they are close in age, and have a relationship that is more akin to a friendship. Gian Uncle and his wife were vichola to my parents-in-law, so their relationship is a particularly close and esteemed one. Uncle visited the Ganganagar branch of his family, staying with us, before we returned with him to the Punjabi village where he was staying with his wife’s brother. While we drove, I asked him how he compared India and Canada: ‘Well, Canada has a better standard of living but there are certain things about India that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Sitting around at home, talking to your relatives. Also, the food and pace of life and everything here.’ This reply was similar to other comparisons I had heard both in Canada and India. So involved was Uncle in the discourse of nostalgia that his account disregarded his daily diet of dal-roti (literally, lentils and bread, colloquially, food in general) in Canada, as well as his difficulty with Indian comestibles, which forced him to eat only carefully cooked food and drink only bottled water. A few days later, as we returned to Ganganagar from visits to our own relatives, we stopped at the village to bid him farewell. I noted upon arrival that Gian Uncle, clad in kurta-pyjama and a sloppily-tied safa (length of cloth worn around the neck or loosely on the head in place of a turban), in sharp

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contrast to the Western clothes he has until now worn, is sitting in the strengthening sun on a manja out back with his brother-in-law and two nephews. The first thing he says to me, after greeting us with Sat Sri Akal, is: ‘You were asking about the difference between India and Canada, well this is it. You simply cannot have this experience in Canada, such sitting around in the company of your family, at home.’

I had witnessed Gian Uncle sitting with his family – indeed, with his closest relatives, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren – in a similarly relaxed fashion in their home in Canada, but in some important sense he was not at home. The unspoken difference implied land and traditions. The rustic, and primordial, setting was not possible in Canada, nor was being spoiled by one’s wife’s family. This nostalgia was exalted: in being ‘at home’ Gian Uncle was restored to Jatpana, fully bound in an essential, local, and autocthonous experience, a reverie from which his urban Canadian life and foreign affinal niece could not, at least temporarily, detract. Leaving the Land: Alienation and Authenticity Although visits to villages are pleasurable experiences for urban Jats, the earlier experience of leaving the land is both painful and ambivalent. Sentiments of alienation have long been noted of Jats who have left their rural lives, even temporarily. Early in the twentieth century, Darling (1930: 9–10) remarked on the difficulties Jat Sikhs experienced in returning to their lands after becoming educated and living for some time in an urban setting. For example, a letter he had received from ‘a Sikh Jat,’ said: I left … College last week. Here I am back in the midst of original elements of my making, but I feel as an utter stranger. The people of the village look upon me as an intruder. I am adapting myself to the requirements of the place and situation by calling every old man ‘uncle’ and every old woman ‘mother.’ I try to agree with the young when they praise the good qualities of the wine they illicitly brew at home. And I patiently listen to the cavilling of my neighbours. In fact I am behaving like a perfect hypocrite. I am trying to submerge my ‘Varsity’ education into the life of a farmer.

This passage suggests that in becoming educated, Jats are estranged from their lands and rural lifeways, and as a result their lives and

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identities become fitful, fragmented, and subject to rupture. This sense of remove is not only physical, but mental and psychological, as village traditions, values, and attachments are subsumed in an educated modernity. Contemporary Jat assertions of their authentic nature as farmers reveal a similar potential for ambiguity and even conflict. Early in my fieldwork, accompanied by my parents-in-law and masarji, I visited the orchards and small vegetable farm of Arjun Singh Maan, a retired schoolteacher. He lived with his wife on a small property just north of the city. Relatives who had not left farming lived in a cottage on the property and kept the farm for them, while he and his wife lived in a pakka bungalow, filled with reminders of their nowCanadian children, nicely set behind a garden on the plot’s southern periphery. While visiting, we took a tour of the farm. We were shown the carrot and keenu crops, and the farm’s few cows and buffaloes. As we walked, plans for future crops were eagerly discussed, my father-inlaw’s advice on keenu was occasionally solicited, and the taste and quality of home-grown sabzi (vegetables) and phal (fruit) were repeatedly praised.33 Maan Uncle and Auntie took a visible pride in the crops and general orderliness and productivity of the farm, while my parents-inlaw were appreciative and perhaps even slightly envious of the spacious environment, clean air, relative quiet, and picturesque landscape of this farm within the city. Indeed, my father-in-law remarked to me as we drove home: ‘This is our ideal, to have a small farm just outside of town instead of so far away in another village. How I would love it – I would drive my own tractor! … It is my dream to be a farmer, a gentleman farmer.’ Yet my father-in-law took little interest in the small vegetable plot kept by the family’s Nepali servant, and certainly undertook none of its actual labour. His remark does not suggest a particular interest in agricultural work, but glorifies the idea of being a farmer (and one wealthy enough to own farmland on the outskirts of the city). It also emphasizes an appreciation of the land and the Jat place on it that is far removed from the often harsh reality of farming in the region. Thus nostalgic expressions attempt connections with Jat traditions of the rural, but also reinforce urban and modern separations from it. While we wandered Maan Uncle’s fields, strolling up and down the rows of vegetables, suspended momentarily in an agrarian utopia, the pleasant nature of our rural visit that afternoon was shaded by the remorse of urban distance from it. As we slowly returned to the house, Manpreet masarji said wistfully and in a low voice, apparently to no

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one in particular, ‘I am a bad farmer.’ I turned to him and asked him what he meant. ‘My land just lies there and I don’t do anything with it. I don’t look after it.’ He shrugged and then smiled at me. I asked him: ‘Does that mean you are a bad Jat?’ He laughed, and replied: ‘Hahn. Everyone always says, Manpreet Singh, he always goes here and there, he doesn’t look after his land. I should have done more for it. But now what can I do?’ Manpreet masarji is a man caught up in the contemporary interplay of tradition and modernity in Punjabi life. Although relatively wealthy in land, a marabbianwalla, he no longer farmed. In the past two decades, the deaths of his two younger brothers had tripled his family responsibilities, and he was frequently called away from the farm to act as the head of his family in village matters and land dealings, and as the honoured family representative at social functions. The ‘always going here and there’ to which he referred was an expression of the magnitude of his family responsibilities. He conveyed a genuine regret that he had not been able to fulfill the destiny of his Jatpana, but I also wondered that he was not discontented with farming as a living. His concerns of class and upward mobility ensured the education of his children in the best English-language schools he could afford. The issue of suitable hostels for his four children was difficult, and he had, for the most part, lived, along with masiji, with the children in town rather than having them boarded. Then, faced with their college educations, and the marriage of his daughters, not to mention assisting his brothers’ rapidly growing children, he had sold a chunk of his property, moved to another Rajasthani city, and gone into business for himself. The education of his children meant that they would not remain on the farm in any event. Unfortunately, his business was not prospering, and when I met him, he was considering selling more of his land to allay losses. My parents-in-law opined that he should have stuck to his farm. My mother-in-law once told me: ‘We Jats don’t have the intelligence for business. We can’t do it. Just look at your masarji, he is a good example that we Jats just don’t prosper in business.’ This remark underscores the common Jat understanding that land should be inalienable. Progress and prosperity are to be gained by education aimed at the guaranteed incomes of civil service or other professional employment; business, and other endeavours which require putting the land at risk, are just too precarious. Throughout my visit, masarji’s failing business venture was a source of family distress, for once a quantity of land is gone, it is extremely difficult to restore its value in a climate of spiralling inflation

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and increasingly poor farm returns. Beyond the immediate concerns of his losses in business and agriculture, masarji’s rueful comments displayed remorse at his increasing alienation from the traditional Jat way of life. Jat estrangement from rural pursuits is viewed as an inevitable part of progress, for upward mobility can scarcely happen without engagement in modernity and urbanity. Later, two of masarji’s nephews from the village, whose responsibility he had taken on upon the death of their father, also sold a great portion of their land and, lured by urban pursuits, set off for Chandigarh to go into business. The improbability of their prosperity in this venture,34 and the adoption of bania (a Hindu trading caste) pursuits were both ridiculed and rued within the family, for they raised the spectre of the loss of Jat identity that occurs in leaving the land. Jats who no longer live rural lives may respect the Jat spirit, but their homage takes on elements of a merely ancestral regard. Urban Jat accounts of their lands and villages demonstrate a duality in the nature of their relations to the rural as being simultaneously real or primordially authentic and mythical or imagined and constructed. Jasleen spent many of his weekends and holidays with his wife and children out at his family’s village home, where his chacha farmed their land. Jasleen explained to me why the village remains important to him: We have grown up from there, and still, practically, most of our stakes lie there. A good chunk of property lies there. And my father is almost retired, so their bread and butter lies there … We have not sunk into the complexity of city life, I mean the politics and so on, we have not really integrated into that while we are here, and we are part of that in the village, so we know its ups and downs more, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that more. Of course I always knew only the plusminus points till now, but now I am learning about, say disputes, about land partition, or disputes of living quarters, or property distribution, or one-upmanship.

Although Jasleen spent only parts of school holidays in the village as a child, he claimed that he had ‘grown up from there.’ This lifelong connection with the village clearly affects his investment in local political affiliations. Despite his middle-class upbringing, education, and urban lifestyle, Jasleen is becoming increasingly involved in the village where he has land interests, and is learning the responsibilities of an elder in his village community. Jasleen’s words also suggest that his relations to urban political formations and social networks are more ephemeral.

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The village however is also an invented tradition. When I asked him about his perception of the permanency of the village, he replied: It’s more permanent of course. Because this house is only twenty years old. Of course, we have been living here for about forty-five years or so now. But this house itself is twenty years old, the property we own here. The property we own in the village is three generations old.

This remark emphasizes the invented nature of the village identification, as Jasleen’s father had purchased both their local agricultural land (on which their village lies) and their city house in Ganganagar within his own lifetime. He also brought his brothers to the district; Jasleen’s grandfather had farmed in the Majha region. In this sense, Jasleen’s reference to the three generations applies to his father (a city teacher), himself (a civil servant), and his young son. But his narrative nonetheless confirms that village attachments remain highly valued by Jasleen, whose frequent visits to the village form an important, or perhaps the only, source of his identity as a Jat. Indeed when I had questioned him earlier about his identity, he claimed that he was not in fact Jat at all. Nostalgia’s Global Contexts and Challenges Despite their long history of emigration, the profound disruption and forcible migration suffered at the time of Partition, and the fact that most of Ganganagar’s urban Jats are regional migrants, Jats today remain profoundly altered by their adjustments to rapidly changing concepts of family, home, and identity. Even as they participate in transnational networks of kith and kin, Jats today must accommodate ever more global trajectories of family displacement and alienation from traditional relationships, roles, and practices. In the city in India, Jats are caught between two desired other places: on the one hand are the emotional comforts of home and tradition in the context of affectionate – and idealized – extended or joint families in the pind or village; on the other are the opportunities for progress and the possibilities of family reunification outside of India, baahar. Although personal bonds to the land and family may be continuous throughout locations in India and abroad, only the option of migration, leaving the land and moving away, seems pragmatic to middle-class Jats today. Jats were among the first to leave India for other parts of the Brit-

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ish empire more than a century ago, and they pride themselves on being adventurous and broadly travelled. A popular and well-known sardarji joke has it that when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, a Punjabi taxi-driver drove up to him and asked him if he needed a ride somewhere; in other versions of this joke, a sardar running a dhaba (roadside diner) offers Armstrong tea, or an entire sardar family runs a Sher-e-Punjab ‘hotel.’ Jokes aside35 even comparatively wealthy middle-class families today consider emigration with some urgency. Economic forces similar to those of population pressure and fragmenting land resources, which spurred Punjab’s Jats in migrating out of the central Doaba villages in the last century, are again at play in regional underdevelopment and large-scale unemployment of all but the most qualified, mobile, and often wealthy of youth. Jats are again encouraged, indeed they are urged, to global movement. Their lands are effectively lost: farming becomes annually more difficult in Punjab as the ‘miracles’ of the Green Revolution reveal their temporary and environmentally unsound gains. Moreover, priding themselves on their modernity and professional accomplishments, moving back to the village, while emotionally rewarding, appears quite incomprehensible and even backward to the urban Jat.36 Indeed, a series of conversations I had with Amardeep confirmed this conflict. One Monday evening, she told me: We went looking at properties yesterday. We want to buy our own land and build a house outside of the town. The place we looked at was near a canal and had so many trees! It was so beautiful, the air was clean, the kids could play there and we could grow our own food. It would be so good for the kids to grow up there. Jasleen is going to take Daddy also to look it over. It was really beautiful. It would be so nice to live there.

Her rhapsodic tone evoked the mythical ideals of returning to the land. The simplicities of village life, its clean air, homegrown food, and playground qualities are understandably appealing, but they ignore the fact that neither her natal nor her affinal familes had farmed for two generations. There is no acknowledgment of the exigencies of earning a rural living in her words, having no experience of the rural, it has become mythical to her. Amardeep is, at the same time, well aware of the practicalities of upward mobility, and looks abroad for progress. Several weeks later, she asked me:

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What kind of job do you think Jassi could do in the States? He could be a teacher, no? I am really thinking we should move there. He had his immigration and everything all approved before, he and Pinkie [his younger sister] both did, through their cousin there, but he did not want to go … neither of them went. That was fine, he was alone then, and it was his decision. But I worry about the kids. The opportunity for Jeet to go to a good school. Now is not the time to think of ourselves, but to make things better for the children. Their lives will be limited here, they may not get good jobs. And what else will Jeet do? He doesn’t see this, but I do.

Here, Amardeep is clear that returning to the land is not an option. Although she is deeply nostalgic for a rural home, she also longs for the possibilities of life elsewhere, in cities far beyond Ganganagar. In this, she is profoundly at odds with Jasleen’s vision of the village and its significance. Like other Jats living in the city, Amardeep is caught between the village and the transnational, the past and the ultimate place of upward mobility for Jats. Poised between the appeal of a village home and the urgency of familial progress; yet now distanced from both, her nostalgia looks to the future as well as the past. Just as Jat life in the city encourages bivalent nostalgias, overseas experience forces new understandings of Jatpana and its traditions. Mandeep Kaur developed a new understanding of rural distinctions after spending several years in Canada with her son. Her reconsideration of village traditions of hierarchy is also situated in a refamiliarization with Sikh scripture that is somewhat common in older Jats who no longer fill their days with the responsibilities of work and family: From the beginning, what we have heard from our elders, about how society is, that has left an impression on my mind. Having gone over there [to Canada], a lot of these things have become clearer. When we used to go to the village, when the servants, carpenters, and so on used to come, they would never sit on the same level as us, but would always sit lower. There we were the jagirdaars, and we would also feel ‘yeah, we are the jagirdaars’! (She laughs). But having gone over there, we saw that nobody’s an officer, nobody’s special (laughs), not like it is here in India. Then I realized that in those days, these boundaries were created unnecessarily. Matlab, if we were jagirdaars, so what, what difference did it make? We didn’t get a palace, we didn’t get anything, it was only sardari (being a sardar, a Sikh, here with connotations of egotism and pretension). Some people took land, whereas my babaji (an honourific for father, grandfather or any elder male37) took jagirdaari, and when Pakistan was created, he lost it.

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People who had old lands, they went further ahead, but my babaji had only the title, which was lost. Others still have that mindset … all these people, they all knew us as Jagirdaar. But a lot of people had accumulated a lot more land and property than us, they had better houses, and I used to laugh at this when I would come to the village. Nothing was like this in my village … I asked biji (an honourific term for mother, grandmother, or any elder female),38 and she said, ‘well all these families are jagirdaars and they are just eating for free’!

Although local traditions and memories persist for Jats, in Mandeep’s account, the experiences of Partition, post-colonialism, urbanity, and emigration reveal that nothing is as it was. Furthermore, uninformed nostalgias glorify non-modern and non-Sikh practices. Her narrative captures one of the paradoxes of Sikh identification and practice among Jats: the persistence of hierarchy despite theological exhortation to egalitarianism. Read against other, idealized nostalgias, Mandeep’s account suggests that longings for the landed traditions of Jatpana, including the unquestioned dominant rural caste position of the Jats, prevent a true understanding of Sikhism. For Mandeep, her stay in Canada provides a key contrast to traditional, land-based Jat notions of social hierarchy and status, and inspires a renewed vision of Sikhi. The laughter which punctuated her narrative also implies a measure of ridicule of the family’s title; others who were materially further ahead had made their gains without titles, and without the free labour to which the jagirdaars felt themselves entitled. Ultimately, jagirdaar families dependent on the whims of traditional labour are disadvantaged in a modernity in which industriousness – another core Sikh value – is enjoined and indeed necessitated. Reliance on religiously false local traditions of social distinction are little help in obtaining the prosperity and progress at the heart of middle-class and increasingly transnational modernity. Mandeep provides a cautionary tale: dreams of returning to the land depend on religiously inappropriate social distinctions as the narrative of progress among many urban Jats is based in class privilege. Re-emplacing Jat Authenticities Contemporary Jat identity is hybrid in nature, engaged in mythic and memorative traditions of the land while at the same time enmeshed in a narrative of urban and global progress of similarly mythic dimensions. The essential, primordial, and traditional Jat identity – based in owning,

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living on, caring for, and loving the land – today demands practices of ‘remembering and forgetting, inscription and erasure’ which are characteristic of the diasporic imagination, creating identity, nostalgia, and the future from both the homeland and elsewhere (Shami 2001: 221). Jat rural imaginaries operate across regional and transnational spheres, in Indian cities as well as abroad. In this sense, to become diasporic for Jats is to leave farming. Having done so, however, techniques of ‘territorial emplacement’ along with ‘memories of belonging to particular landscapes’ (Lovell 1998: 1–2) renew Jat identity. Ongoing, imaginative occupation of place, if not physical territory, is one such important technique. During my first trip to Punjab, I encountered a moving instance of Jat placemaking. Gian Singh, my father-in-law’s mama, had come to India to settle a property matter with his elder brother, who remained in their ancestral village, as well as to consider whether or not to build a new, larger house for himself. He already had a small village house, which he invited me to see. After visiting the three-roomed house, I noted: Unsurprisingly, the abandoned furnishings, mostly stacked off to the sides of the rooms, were covered with a thick layer of dust. There was a deep silence in the rooms as Uncle escorted Mummy and I around, and when we spoke, it was in hushed tones. The surroundings perhaps made us subdued; being shown around the cobwebbed shuttered rooms with sparse, packed up furnishings, it was difficult to know what to say. There was a sadness to the event that was perhaps best left mute. Uncle himself merely told us how the rooms had been occupied and used. Suddenly I noticed, something which seemed to break the silence: an enormous, decorated trunk. Beneath its coat of dust it is painted with flowers in a folk style that I’ve not seen before, more reminiscent of German or other European folk art than anything Indian. The trunks I’ve seen in other houses are ubiquitously of dull polished tin. I admire it aloud, and am told it was a favourite part of Auntie’s dowry. She apparently left the things that could not be carried in it when the family went abroad.

A jumble of rather bleak associations occurred to me. That the trunk remained there in the family home, full of once-useful, perhaps treasured things, testified to the family’s continuing relations to their shutup home. But its presence in the dim, shuttered house did not mark these relations in a tangible way or with any suggestion of the oncepleasant memories that the family must hold, the material reminders

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of which lay here in sad remnant. The trunk – like the land? – could not be carried, and so it was left behind to gather dust, and eventually be forgotten. I was transfixed by the trunk for several moments, but Turning, I noticed that there were a few photos set out on a shelf. One or two were lying loose, others were framed, all were gathering dust, but they seemed to have been deliberately placed out in this way, as there was little else lying out exposed. One was of chachaji as a child, and there was also one of him and bhooaji, as well as some old photos of Uncle and Auntie. I wondered why they did not take them to Canada with them, or pack them away in the huge trunk to save them from the dust. When I asked, Uncle said, ‘yes, we have left them there, I don’t know why we haven’t put them away.’ Were they left here to designate this small deserted and dusty house as still part of the family’s social space?

Indeed, the photos, even more than the trunk, marked the family’s ongoing connections to the house. There were photos of each of the members of the nuclear family, of all who have a claim to the home. This assemblage suggested the active nature of these claims, that in some way the family continues to occupy this village house and mark its roots there, even as it lives in transnational motion. There was a sense of permanence about the photos, a timeless and placeless signification of the solidities and solidarities of family and home, and their bearing – perhaps because they were such a surprise in the empty house – was not as melancholy as the trunk. But still they spoke mournful sentiments of severance and loss. Gian Uncle’s son, Jeevan chacha (father’s younger brother), had once told me that they did not have lots of decorations in their house in Brampton because, having moved so much in their lives,39 they needed to move easily, and did not want to get settled there. I had thought at the time merely that they were thinking of moving house, but it now seems that a deeper, more nostalgic sentiment, tinged with sadness at the recognition and loss of what is truly ‘home,’ may have been behind this admission; as well, the expression of a need to move easily evokes traumatic histories of forced movement. Having thus left their lands and occupations, there is no easy place of return for urban and transnational Jats. Although the photos appeared to re-emplace Gian Uncle’s family in their ancestral village home, it nevertheless became a mythological place, only able to be occupied in the ritual and symbolic spaces of nostalgia. Our visit to this house was short, not more than ten minutes long,

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but in retrospect it was among the most meaningful visits to Punjabi houses I made. Other houses were informative – demonstrating modernity’s influence on material cultures, architectures and social relations – but few were poignant. In this house, I felt we were all gripped with a reverential nostalgia. But this was to dissipate in what happened next. As we emerged into the sun-baked courtyard, and walked through the courtyard and towards the gate, I noted: At the bottom of the stairs to the roof, chacha’s name is marked into the cement. The house will be his, even though bhooaji’s photo is inside. I say to Uncle ‘it is a nice house. Its is small, but enough for when you visit India. And your things are here.’ But then he says ‘well, I’ve decided to tear it down and build another one. Bigger, better. I signed the deal with the architect this morning.’ After a moment’s pause, he adds, wistfully, I think, ‘I’m glad you could see it.’ I ask, ‘are you going to move back here?’ His response: ‘No, no, nothing like that. It’s just for when we visit.’

Attachments to land and home encode transnational sentiments of territorial detachment, nostalgic loss, and transfigured authenticities. Ultimately, however, the exigencies of progress, of upward and transnational mobilities, may reterritorialize Jat homelands. Although he had no intention of returning to Punjab to live, Uncle’s concerns with izzat proposed that he tear down his unused house and build an occasionally lived monument to his transnational wealth and status.40 This gesture would reinscribe his family’s traditional identity in place, but was also fully engaged in Jat modernity.41 The issue of Jat authenticity does not arise in Gian Uncle’s house. Jats in Ganganagar and Punjab, surrounded by rural reminders in their daily lives, seem more subject to immediate crises of authenticity, whereas Jats overseas take authenticity upon themselves. Being Jat, with all of its attendant and potential meanings, moves abroad with Jats; indeed, to them, authenticity may be something best not left in India. The year after I returned to Canada, I visited Gian Uncle’s family. He and his son Jeevan had recently returned from a short trip to India where they were overseeing yet more business in relation to their house. Jeevan is an established professional, the main financial support of his family, and a protective father of three daughters, duly concerned with preserving his family’s honour and Jat traditions. In the course of conversation with the family, I asked him how he had found India on his visit. He replied:

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India is losing all of her traditions. I’m telling you, everything is changing there; nothing is the same as before. They are all watching all the western examples, from the TV and movies, and all our Punjabi culture is dying out. They all want English-language education. They are all watching cable TV. There is more money but they want so much as well. Everyone has a Maruti, or even a Ford or an Opal or an Indica. Two-wheelers just aren’t good enough any more, even if that’s all you can afford. And all the Western fashions! The youngsters, they all are wearing jeans, just like in the movies.

I asked him if he thought this loss of culture was an urban phenomenon, or were his descriptions symptomatic of villages as well. He responded: They also watch television. You just see, in no time, these things will be lost. They will be buying ready-made along with everyone else. Things have changed so much since I grew up. My mother’s generation will be the last to know such things, and they will die with her. These things, geet and giddha, will die out with my mother, I am telling you. India is not the same place and what they do remember now will also soon be lost. Things are changing too much. Just look at my girls. What do they know? And they wouldn’t know much more if we were in India I tell you.

His statements, often repeated for emphatic effect, were punctured by tuts of agreement from his wife, sister, and parents. He emphasized that Jat tradition, amid a proliferating absence of authentic local culture, must now be guarded abroad. In formulating this position, the pressing and difficult emotions of transnational nostalgia may be avoided and even transcended: in the face of culture loss at home, the family should continue to make its fortune abroad. It is nevertheless linked to its rural Punjabi origins by modern practices of remembrance, as demonstrated by the photographs left out as sad and forgotten testament in the family’s village home. Rural nostalgia and pride in Jat progress as an urban, middle-class, and transnational community are constitutive at different times and in different places of the contemporary Jat identity; that is to say that Jats engage contemporaneously in mythic discourses of nostalgia and progress. These are not antithetical, although the poles of rural, urban, and transnational, not to mention tradition and modernity, cannot be

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discarded. Engaged with aspirations of migration and maintaining global affiliations of kinship and culture, Jat nostalgia marks a messy and unfinished ancestry to progress. Local and traditional notions of an authentic Jat self are challenged in urban, modern, and transnational positions and discourses, while the memories produced and popular cultural representations consumed across these sites are a nostalgic lens on the loss and reclamation of Jatpana. Collectively, these representations, narratives, and discourses among middle-class, urban, and transnational Jats comprise a nostalgic schema which implies that, even amid efforts to revivify them, the local traditions inherent to the rural past are irretrievably lost.42 In this loss, the authentic Jat self – variously celebrated, aggrieved, cast-out and re-emplaced, and thus thoroughly transformed – is implicated.

7 A Wedding Phulkari and Other Gifts

Towards the end of my stay in India, my mother-in-law presented me with an heirloom phulkari, a gift that has great symbolic meaning. Phulkaris are important signifiers of relationships, and their presentation at marriage marks intimate kinship bonds between women. This particular gift was an ethnographic one as well, accompanied by an emotive narration in which the phulkari represented a powerful expression of pride in Jat traditions even as it spoke a longing for stable formations of family and home. This short chapter examines, autoethnographically, this poetics of Jat identity-seeking amid transnational cultural transformations. The literal meaning of the term phulkari – from phul (floral) and kari (stitched work or embroidery) – is imbued with a deeper meaning; phulkari are also called baagh, a similarly evocative term which means garden. Kari refers to a chain, literally of embroidered flowers, but more significantly, of the relationships symbolized in phulkari prestation. Phulkarian (plural), large field embroideries with flowers as their central motif, are perhaps the best-known handicraft of Punjab.1 Traditionally, the mothers and grandmothers of the family would stitch several such pieces for each daughter to be given in dowry at the time of her marriage.2 Mothers also passed on phulkarian stitched by their own mothers and grandmothers at this time, so these gifts were also heirlooms. Usually stitched on blanket-sized pieces of heavy khadi (handloomed woven cotton) dyed naturally in reddish and other earthen tones, phulkarian made up part of the bistre (bedding sets) of the dowry, but were often also worn as shawls. At marriages, phulkarian were often used in place of dupattas, a usage which continues today, particularly in the bodily-focused ceremonies

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leading up to marriage.3 Female relatives hold a phulkari aloft over the bride, designating as sacred the small space in which the rituals take place Having auspicious and beautiful meanings, phulkarian are still considered to be a precious symbol associated with marriage, femininity, and fertility. Today, however, there is said to be little want or need of bistre – which were often given in sets of twenty or more – by modern girls going to urban families, and more especially to those going abroad. Girls, their parents, and more particularly, their new in-laws, ensure that dowries are comprised of more practical modern items and consumer goods, such as washing machines, televisions, and even cars. Phulkarian, neither in Punjabi villages or cities, are no longer worn in everyday use, except in machine-made reproductions. During my first trip to Punjab, my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and I had ranged the bazaars of Moga and Kot Kapura, two of the small cities near to where some of our relatives lived, searching for phulkari dupattas. I had shown an interest in purchasing a number, both for my own use, and as souvenirs. My parents-in-law had whole-heartedly endorsed this venture, saying that I must be sure to take truly Punjabi gifts for my friends in Canada. They had told me that in Ganganagar, I would not find quality phulkaris, as the more prevalent local crafts were Rajasthani, but that in Punjab, quality phulkaris were to be had in plenty. These trips to the bazaar took place in an atmosphere of anticipation and also pride: my sisters-in-law wished to show me the best that their towns had to offer. Although we were shown a large number of phulkarian, the variety of patterns on display, and more especially the workmanship and materials used, were considered of markedly inferior quality by my companions: this one was stitched on too coarse a chiffon, that one used mismatched remnants of thread, still another was poorly stitched, one more was too simple in design, yet another was far too gaudy.4 Despite their reservations, my companions anxiously suggested that I take one phulkari or another, fearing that my trip to Punjab would be disappointed by the failure to purchase any of these quintessential local handicrafts. In the end, I purchased none of the phulkaris, settling instead for a single mukaish (a chiffon dupatta shot through with tiny, shimmery pieces of silver metal in a regular pattern) which I later had dyed to match a new suit. Back at home, when my father-in-law asked had we purchased any phulkarian, my mother-in-law told my father-in-law of our disappointment:

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Those phulkaris were all of bad quality, or design. Neither the cloth was good nor the stitching, all machine-made. They were mostly bridal, red, but not of good quality. From where they are made, I don’t know. Better she take things back that are nice … For herself, she has taken one mukaish dupatta, of good quality and of a good price. It was good that she found something nice in their bazaar. But perhaps we should go to Ludhiana or somewhere to shop.5 Good phulkarian will be found there in so many shops.

An apparently uncomplicated trip to the bazaar had become yet another test of my social assimilation. My mother-in-law appreciated my discernment, which perhaps suggested to her a sense of my growing appreciation of Punjabi sensitivities. Although I thought that I had merely been dissatisfied with the aesthetics of the phulkaris we had been shown, my mother-in-law felt that I had in some way recognized that the phulkaris I was shown were not authentic. It was also important to her that I had not squandered money on these inferior representations of a beloved Punjabi art; she believed I had shown thrift and restraint in my spending habits, crucial qualities for a daughter-in-law as she will eventually come to manage the household. Finally, I had realized the import of affirming the pride of my sisters-in-law in their home towns, or saureh (in-law’s residences or places of marriage). It is significant, then, that my mother-in-law’s gift of a phulkari was not made until near the end of my time in India. I was not to be entrusted with the precious heirloom cloth until I had demonstrated an adequate – if approximated – understanding of how a bahu should behave. Indeed, early entries in my field journal repeatedly record the gendered and familial nature of my culture shock, noting my dismay at demands that I touch my elders’ feet,6 cook, sing, paint or demonstrate some other feminine talent, as well as my being upset over commentaries and instructions revealing the public nature of my physical self and my in-law’s frequent admonitions that I would become ‘a good Punjabi girl.’ But by the end of my time with them, I had apparently learnt much more about being a bahu and had to some extent displayed this knowledge, even if this process seemed to me more about endeavouring, not always successfully, to sublimate my own ego to the family good. Perhaps this is precisely the discovery a bahu is expected to make in her adjustment to her saureh. Tellingly, by this time, my mother-inlaw had witnessed my behaviour as a wife as well. One evening, late in my husband’s visit to his family, with the four

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of us unusually alone, my mother-in-law called me into the storeroom and said she had something she wanted to show me. My father-in-law and husband were occupied with whiskeys and a cricket match. From the largest chest in the storeroom, my mother-in-law pulled a number of dhurries, rummaging for something else. She eventually pulled out three reddish-brown folded lengths of khadi, dotted with small points of brightly coloured thread. Carrying them to the bed in the adjacent room, she gently unfolded each one and spread them out, overlapping, so that their embroideries might be seen. In showing her small collection of phulkarian, she told me: My mother stitched these phulkari and several more for my marriage. We sisters all were given a few. It took her so much time to stitch for so many girls! She also made dhurries and bistre, so many sets for each of us. You can see, these, my sandooq (chests) are filled with so many dhurries, still they are good although they are so old. Today, we cannot take such time and do such fine stitching. We also don’t need them as they did in the villages. When a marriage party came, so many people in the baraat had to be entertained, we had to find places for them to sleep, so many manjas we kept at home! When a girl came to the house, she brought beddings with her to add to the supply in the home. These days, there are not so many visitors, the baraat comes and goes in one day, or they stay in some hotel, bas. Even the village people are marrying in the towns.7 As you can see, these trunks are filled with bistre, and so many things, and we hardly use any of it any more. So no one makes such things these days. Besides, they are all there in the bazaar, all of these beddings and all. I have given one or two of mine [away] already. On the marriage of your bhooaji, who lived with us like a daughter for some years, I gave one phulkari. Also on the marriage of Navjyot. These girls too will not use them … what use have they for bistre and all, going abroad? These three, I have left with me. I have no daughters, so they are yours, yours and Harwinder’s. You will not use them in your marriage, but somehow you will use them … They are very fine, and they are a gift from me, as they have belonged to my mother, and they were made by her. [Pauses]. I hope you will also pass them on some day … [Trails off]. These days, phulkarian are in very high demand.8 People from abroad want them like anything! They buy them from shops and hang them on their walls. As you can see, they are very beautiful things to have. Perhaps you will do that too. They are yours now to do as you will, in Canada. I know you will keep them nicely. Now you choose which you like. You

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may take all, if you like, they are yours. I am keeping them in my trunks only now. But now I should give them to you.

We sat on either side of the phulkaris while my mother-in-law spoke. At some point, the men had joined us, but remained quiet, understanding this was an important moment of bonding between two women. Phulkaris given by mothers-in-law forge relationships to new brides that extend beyond the immediate patriline of the marital family. Upon marriage, Punjabi women are automatically incorporated into the households and families of their husbands; and while patriarchal kinship structures privilege the male side of the saureh, daughters-in-law gain new relationships to the nanke of their husband in the guise of their mother-in-law’s place in the saureh. In making this gift, my mother-inlaw welcomed me as an extension of her nanke, marking their relation to me and any children I might have. At the same time, the gift symbolized that the family accepted me as a daughter, that my ‘adjustment’ had been adequately demonstrated. In asking me to choose from her phulkarian, indeed in offering me all three, my mother-in-law also conveyed a hope that I had by now come to appreciate the significance of her gift. I was as moved by the moment as she. I selected the phulkari with the least embroidery – suspecting that this might least be prized by her – and hugged her in return. The story of my phulkari, captures in words and threads many of the issues of Jat identity-making in new urban, middle class, and transnational contexts. The phulkari itself is a material piece of tradition dispossessed, locally displaced, and globally decontextualized. From their richly textured, personal histories as important parts of the lives of women in the villages of Punjab, these precious embroideries find themselves transported to the trunks, living-room walls, and even museums of the West. The journey is something less than what was hoped for, as my mother-in-law’s apparent sadness suggests: the reasons for which phulkarian are now prized are often entirely separated from Punjabi tradition. The phulkari signifies that little remains of the Jat’s traditional rural place in a world now characterized by global movement of things and people. As Jats themselves travel in similar trajectories to their phulkaris, their traditional practices and affiliations are transformed in relation to the broader processes of modernity and globalization. Village ways are dying out in the face of pervasive urbanized social practices and globalized modes of production. Life in the city eradicates what were formerly central cultural practices and

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replaces them with little more than convenient consumerism. In these processes, women’s traditions and their place in Jat families and communities are also changed. Along with the disappearing practices of phulkari production and the dissolution of the rites and ceremonies that traditionally accompanied their prestation, other women’s traditions are profoundly changed and often evanesced in the city. In recording my mother-in-law’s words here, I wish to suggest the immediacy of the emotional response to the phulkari and the impact she hoped this gift would have on me. She is only too aware of the musealization of traditions she holds dear, and hopes that her own phulkarian may avoid such a fate. She is aware of my presence in her home as a foreign daughter-in-law who speaks Punjabi poorly, whose roti-making skills are inadequate, and who has an uncertain grasp of the nuances of Punjabi culture. Still, by her gift she expresses the hope that I will overcome these limitations, that I will engage with my Punjabi family in all its formative branches in whatever ways I can, and always for the greater good. From urban, modern and global threads, Jats today stitch together new ways of being themselves and marking their traditions, and I am part of that nascent embroidery. The stories of my fieldwork do not follow ethnographic convention: I entered the field long before going to India, and I did not leave in any conventional manner. Although ‘in an interconnected world’ ethnographers ‘are never really out of the field’ (Gupta and Ferguson 1997b: 35), my fieldwork occurred within a temporarily physical contiguity of a series of what I hope are permanent personal proximities. As a member of kin in a community enmeshed in global flows of commodities, information, technology, and people, I remain tied to the field, virtually and in reality, as a continued participant in family and community life. My phulkari was not meant as a gift of parting, but of welcoming and acceptance. Both these ends of meaning carry a great deal of emotional significance. They involve practices of memorialization and significations of respect. The daughter given a phulkari on her marriage is to remember and honour her family whenever she uses it; I am to remember what I have learnt of being a bahu in a Jat family, to respect my Jat affines and all that they have shared with me. Something of what it means to be a Jat, and more particularly a Jat woman, is communicated in each of these remembrances. My mother-in-law’s own memories, as she spoke of them in her narration, present her ‘self caught between its roles as subject and object of memory, the telling and the told’ (Antze and Lambek 1996: xix). Indeed, her words are almost a eulogy for the

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traditions of the phulkari. In this sense, a gift of gold, also a marital tradition in families, would not have had a similar import, nor would it have been accompanied by such evocative words. For all its beauty and value, gold is mutable, subject to the dictates of circumstance and fashion, melted down as style or the practicalities of household finance dictate. The gold my mother-in-law owns today is not the gold passed on through her nanke to her. Her phulkari is not as physically subject to transformation: although she anticipates that its use may be transformed in use in its new home, she knows when she gives it that I will not interfere with its physical integrity, honouring what it represents too much to create a pastiche of cushion covers and cloth bags from its cherished embroideries.9 In other ways too this gift of a phulkari resonates with modern and global influence. In some senses, I was physical proof of the impact of this global modern in Jat social life. Gupta and Ferguson (1997b: 13) have argued that the conventions of writing up the ethnographic arrival in a field away from home tend ‘to minimize, if not make invisible, the multiple ways in which colonialism, imperialism, missionization, multinational capital, global cultural flows, and travel bind these spaces together.’ In this context, my ongoing ethnographic presence speaks of a number of such binds that link the locations of field and home. As a ‘Britisher,’ as I was sometimes referred to in the community, my very presence said something of the shifting power relations, social identifications, and ethnographic locations inherent to the imperial histories of Sikh and Indian colonization. It also spoke to the intrusions and affects of modernity: notions of class, progress, place, and identity, the demands and impositions of multinational capital, and the global circulation and transformation of culture, as well as Jat participation in and travel through each.10 But I am only the latest manifestation of the Jat engagement with things modern and international. Members of both of my in-laws’ families took to the pursuit of lives beyond their villages quite early in the twentieth century. A grand-uncle of my father-in-law went to Singapore, where he found work as a police officer and settled his own family.11 My father-in-law’s father worked for some time in his youth in east Africa, and according to family lore almost remained there to marry a German woman who had a farm; there is romantic speculation among some of the family’s younger members that there may be ‘distant’ cousins abroad. My mother-in-law’s grandfather too went abroad, late in his life, to Australia, sending sporadic remittances home, and ultimately

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dying overseas; a fellow sardarji brought back his watch and chain and a few other relatively measly belongings. In leaving the land, education became as important as overseas remittances. Both of my parents-inlaws’ fathers became doctors, no doubt assisted by the monies earned and sent from abroad, and both served in the British army.12 My fatherin-law’s family had the misfortune of having lived in Bahawalpur District, and lost nearly everything at Partition; my mother-in-law’s family, who did not suffer this fate, took the unusual step of assisting with the expenses of my father-in-law’s higher education. Both my in-laws are teachers, and fluent in English. Their son was educated at solid middleclass institutions with the expectation that he secure solid middle-class employment, and continue to build the family’s fortune. The life-threatening events which unfolded in the aftermath of 1984 prompted a joint decision that he forgo the civil service admission exams he had meant to write and go overseas; had he stayed, however, the increasingly rigid class and caste structures of the contemporary nation-state might have thwarted the family’s efforts, as it has that of other members of my saureh.13 Much as my parents-in-law mourn their lost vision of family progress and unity within the Punjab region, they still pride themselves that they had prepared their son well for taking up a modern, fully global life overseas. They often boasted, both in my presence and in company, that he had become thoroughly modern in his views, evidenced by his marriage to a Britisher, and a well-educated one at that – two things I was told his grandfathers would greatly appreciate. ‘Our son,’ they would often say, is a Canadian, an American, or an Englishman; the term used varied at any given moment depending on the particular qualities they wished to ascribe to him. When linguistic ability and marriage to an English wife were key features, he was described as being English, and as Canadian when his prestigious emigrant status and its confirmation of familial social success were discussed. Both labels also signified his open-mindedness and his abilities to integrate in non-Indian cultures. Interestingly, in the instances in which the label American was assigned, an excessive modernity, increasingly foreign nature, and cultural estrangement were the characteristics under discussion. He continued to be described as a Punjabi or Jat boy when local cultural features such as family sentiment, cultural pride, and Jat character were to be illustrated. In relation to these identifications, my presence in the family was proof of Clifford’s adage that ‘difference is encountered in the adjoining neighbourhood, the familiar turns up at the ends of the earth’ (1988: 14).

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Set against this family’s modern trajectory, my presence, as ethnographer and daughter-in-law, both wanting to learn about Jat society and to record its values and traditions, may in some ways mitigate the bindings of our differentially empowered histories. In this minor epic of family history, while Jat Sikh identifications are naturalized against the background of community history, we can read ‘shifting locations rather than bounded fields’ (Gupta and Ferguson 1997b: 38). Jat identity emerges as much from migration and the fluxes and changes it responds to and precipitates as from the local relationships and attachments maintained throughout and despite wide movement. The boundaries of self, community, and identity are animate, transformational, and transformative. The phulkari in this sense becomes a metaphor for Jat identity-making: different communities – and threads within communities – are bound in shifting patterns against the rich, sturdy earth of Punjab. My phulkari, until now, has travelled through a number of sites of careful and loving women’s work. Stitched in a Malwa village, it travelled from Punjab to Ganganagar upon my mother-in-law’s marriage, and moved thence to Toronto after it had been given to me. It has moved with us through several homes in Canada. It travels in a box, in which it is kept when we are not on the move. We have not yet had a wall we deem worthy of its display, nor I an opportunity to wear it. Perhaps I am uneasy to musealize or essentialize it in such ways. Although the words with which the phulkari was given was the richest gift, and its signification of my acceptance as daughter-in-law (bahu) and daughter (beti) is also precious, I find myself unequal to its material reality. As I complete this book, in the midst of yet another move, I am reminded that while I have found a place for the evocative narration of this prestation, I am yet to find an appropriate home for the phulkari itself. Like my mother-in-law – indeed, following her example – I keep it packed away, so as not to harm this physical symbol of the relationships and traditions it signifies, but in so doing, I fear I relinquish it nonetheless to an unsettled, unintended, and unwelcome obscurity.

Epilogue

I returned to Ganganagar, with my husband, during the winter of 2006–7. While some of the Jats with whom I shared conversations, celebrations, commiserations, and daily life in 1998 and 1999 still went about their urban occupations and middle-class preoccupations, a good number had gone abroad. From their new vantage points, I am sure they imagine their village homes, lands, and identities with renewed longing and fervour. For both urban and transnational Jats, life in the village is lost, and yet it is eminently present. Indeed, I began to meet with further rural knowledges and nostalgias when I told people in Ganganagar what I had written about in this book. They seemed gratified that, amid their everyday modernity and dreams of emigration, their rural nostalgias had been understood. The attachment to notions of home, land, tradition, and identity remained important. As during 1998 and 1999, we continued to eat the best of locally-available, seasonal foods, and to get our wheat, mustard, and many of our carrots and oranges from either our own land or the land of others known to us; indeed, it seemed that in some ways tastes had become more traditional, as this winter, makki di roti was more common, as was bajra roti, bread prepared from a local millet. When we had a few moments of spare time, we watched nostalgic commemorations of the rural on television, and on several occasions, including Lohri, which celebrates the mid-winter harvest of the rabi crop and hopes for the land’s renewed fertility, we danced to songs celebrating Jatpana and Punjabiyat. We visited several villages, and were privileged to participate in several intriguing village rites, including the jowar path, in which a reading of the Sukhmani Sahib over seven days accompanies the sprouting of a pot of barley – which is then either planted or immersed – in the hopes of agricultural fertility and prosperity; despite the SGPC’s

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directive that Sikhs leave such ‘meaningless rituals,’ for Jats the jowar path has ongoing significance if not necessarily efficacy. Meanwhile, my father-in-law was busy overseeing an irrigation project on the poorer of his plots – where he had entered into a crop-sharing arrangement with a new tenant farmer – in order to improve the quality and profitability of the land, even as he hoped for a renewed chance at migration. And, in a monumental act, Simranjit’s father, a marabbianwalla, had sold off the family land in order to raise capital to secure emigration. This was not quite as drastic an action as it seemed, however, as soon after he purchased a sizeable plot of land adjacent to the prosperous, modern farm of one of his nephews so that it might be farmed, overseen, and kept profitable to fund his travels between India and abroad. Nevertheless, his wife commented that he had purchased it so that he might continue to call himself a Jat. There was at times a palpable sense of impending – and ongoing – loss, and as my parents-in-law braced themselves for yet another branch of their immediate family to move abroad, an akhand path was organized. Thus, the family reunion promised almost a decade earlier finally took place. But middle-class urban life remained the order of the everyday. I found that among my cohort of friends and kin, now entering their forties, lives had improved, both professionally and materially. Jasleen had received several promotions through various departments; Amardeep had returned to work as a lecturer and was beginning to put further studies into place; Radha now managed one of her husband’s family businesses. Their children, despite fears they sometimes voiced over the parochialism of local schools, are good students (and speak fine English); Jasleen and Amardeep will perhaps send their children to universities abroad (although after a lengthy trip to Australia, where they witnessed diasporic life and its pressures first hand, they have abandoned, for the present at least, the idea of emigrating). Even Parminder had been working for several years in a government job in one of the district’s other towns, where his wife also found employment, and they now had a son to make their family complete by urban middle-class Jat standards. Simranjit had left India: she had gained an Australian master’s degree, as well as an Australian husband. All of her siblings had now also gone abroad, and hoped that their parents would be issued residency visas shortly so that their dream of family reunification might be fulfilled. These members of good Jat (and Jaat) families pursue, and are in many ways rewarded with, good fortunes. Urban middle-class material life continued apace and the project of modernity imagined, invented, practised, and aspired to by Jats

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remained largely unfractured. The incursions of multinational, and local, modernities were evident in everyday life in everything from chocolate to packaged soup to birthday cake, although dal-roti remained the staple foods. Middle-class stomachs had developed new habits: we no longer had to lug water about, as sterilized and bottled water was served at every social event we attended. Most people now had water filters or purification systems at home, and were thus also susceptible to impurities in the local water supply. Meanwhile, middle-class mouths had discovered new tastes: Nescafe coffee was offered and served with far more frequency than chai at functions, on visits, and even in the customary hospitality served while shopping in the bazaar. Ganganagar families holidayed and shopped in Chandigarh, but could now meet almost all of their material needs in Ganganagar itself. Just about everyone now has a cellular phone, and DVD players, computers, and digital cameras are also common; all are readily purchased and serviced in Ganganagar. My husband’s new tailor showed me his recent efforts in ladies business suits, apparently worn by a Ganganagar ‘lady-doctor’ when she visits Delhi and other cities on business, and indeed made several Western garments for me. My own tailor, who sat alone at his sewing machine on a small wooden platform outside a cloth shop eight years ago, had opened a busy boutique, and now has several tailors and embroiderers working for him. Billboards around town advertised the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale – apparently released simultaneously with Europe and North America – playing at the Azad Theatre, and promoted the development of several gated communities to be built in park-like settings south of the city. Several huge petrol stations are now clustered just over the Punjab border, and Ganganagar residents often drive there for cheaper fuel; as if to differentiate between stations, huge hoardings, variously festooned with images of bhangra troupes and local maidens wearing red traditional clothing amid yellow fields of ripe wheat, welcomed drivers to Punjab. A sizeable and beautiful mandir was being completed at the local school for the blind; several people with whom we spoke deemed it a spectacular attraction, a place to take out of town guests to visit, and a sign that tourists might now come to Ganganagar (and thus of Ganganagar’s arrival in middleclass modernity); we ourselves were taken to visit the temple late one afternoon after lunching on the lawn of a newly built resort hotel at the invitation of several of my husband’s college friends. Although evening prayers were taking place inside, our group of both Sikhs and Hindus wandered about as tourists, posing for photographs taken on digital

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cameras and cellular phones. And in a charming example of localized modernity, on Christmas Day of 2006, two young men rode about town on a motorcycle handing out candies; one was dressed as Santa Claus (and wearing a white mask), while his friend the driver joked with us, in English, ‘he’s Santa and I’m Banta,’ referring to the names of the two bumbling subjects of an entire catalogue of sardarji jokes, and asked for our e-mail address so that we might send the photograph that we took of the pair. Western modernities continue to meet with local traditions, to be selected, rejected, transformed, and indigenized. But however inexorable their progression, regional and transnational modernities are by no means universal or complete among Jats. Charges of Sikh marginalization continue, especially with regard to Jat agricultural concerns. There is little financial return on agriculture today in Indian Punjab, and for many farmers, only remittances from sons and brothers abroad can facilitate the intensification or expansion of the family farm. As well, the fabled fertility of Punjabi soils faces ruin: technologically intensive Green Revolution methods, including the use of genetically engineered seeds and the application of chemicals, both of which rely heavily on irrigation, have caused waterlogging, salination, erosion, the collapse of local groundwater tables, pollution, soil nutrient deficiencies, and increases in regional cancer and miscarriage rates. This has led to farmers’ indebtedness, often resolved only by selling off land, or even suicide. Although the impacts of these issuses are certainly more grievous on rural Jats, urban middle-class Jats also suffer these losses in both economic and symbolic ways. In one of the Janam Sakhis, the allegorical folklores which illuminate the life and teachings of the Sikh gurus, a wealthy marabbianwalla named Karoria, meets Guru Nanak. In one interpretation of this tale, Karoria proudly tells Guru Nanak that the fields stretched out before them are his. Guru Nanak asked Karoria who had owned the fields before him. To Karoria’s answer – his father – Guru Nanak repeated the question, asking who had owned the fields before Karoria’s father. Karoria came to understand that the land did not truly belong to him, and donated his fields for the founding of Kartarpur, the first Sikh settlement. This tale is a succinct metaphor on the ultimate impermanence of land ownership, and thus landed identities, for the eternal reality of such attachments is the threat of loss. Fortunately, in that threat, there is also promise.

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Glossary

Rather than use conventional orthographic symbols for the transliteration of Punjabi terms, such as af for the long vowel a, I approximate here and throughout this text, how these words might best be pronounced by English-speakers. accha, acchi good; used interchangeably with chunga, chungi Adi Granth early compilation of Sikh texts by Guru Arjan Akal Takht seat of temporal authority for Sikhs Akali Dal foremost state-level political party of Punjabi Sikhs akhand path a continuous, uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, which takes place over about three days, often as part of the ceremonies leading up to marriage, commemorating a death, or marking some other life passage amrit literally, nectar; refers to the Sikh initiation ceremony (also known as khande di pahul) in which ‘nectar’ blessed by the guru is consumed amritdhari Sikhs who have been initiated or ‘baptized’ in the consumption of amrit anand karaj literally, the ceremony of bliss; the Sikh wedding rite ‘Apna Punjab Hove’ song title translated as ‘Let There Be Our Punjab’ ardaas congregational Sikh prayer which articulates the articles of Sikh faith; recited at the conclusion of narrations from the Guru Granth Sahib ashirvaad literally, blessing; refers to auspicious gifts given as tokens during a number of marriage rituals baahar outside, external; abroad, overseas; the term baaharwalle desh, overseas country, is also used bahu daughter-in-law, also known as nuh Baisakhi/Vaisakhi a spring harvest festival, now celebrated by Sikhs as the day on which Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib on 13 April 1699

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baraat groom’s wedding party/procession; traditionally comprised the groom’s male relatives, who travelled to the bride’s village for the wedding ceremony; baraats may still be preponderantly male, and men may be more active and visible in the public celebration of the wedding, although women have commonly participated in middle-class baraats for several decades bas enough; ‘that’s it’ besharam without shame, immodest bhaape members of the Arora Sikh caste bhabhi brother’s wife bhainji sister bhaji brother, or more commonly, brother-in-law (sister’s husband); contraction of bhai (brother) ji bhakti Hindu devotional practice; a form of yoga bhangra a form of Punjabi men’s singing and dance, which corresponds to the female form giddha, but now used as the ubiquitous term for Punjabi popular music bhooa father’s sister bistre sets of bedding, given in dowry chacha father’s younger brother; chachi, father’s younger brother’s wife chai tea chai-pani literally, tea-water, but referring to any nature of refreshments and usually snacks ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’ film title translated as ‘Stealthily and Quietly’ chunga, chungi good; used interchangeably with accha, acchi chunni charaana pre-wedding ritual wherein the groom’s family adorns the bride with a dupatta, presents her with jewelry, cosmetics, and other items of wari, and feeds her sweets; these rites mark her bodily incorporation into her saureh cousin-brother kin term for male cousin(s), whether first, second, or so on; son of one’s taaya, chacha, bhooa, mama, or masi cousin-sister kin term for female cousin(s), whether first, second, or so on; daughter of one’s taaya, chacha, bhooa, mama, or masi crore ten million dada & dadi father’s father and mother dahej dowry dal lentils, split pulses dhol a double-ended drum beaten from both ends with a stick; essential to bhangra rythym dhurrie a large, heavy and thickly-woven expanse of cotton cloth, used as part of a bedding set to pad the strings of a manja or alternately, as a carpet

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‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ film title, translated as ‘The Ones with Hearts Shall Take the Bride’ Doaba the central region of present-day Punjab, lying between the Beas and Sutlej rivers dupatta a length of transparent or opaque cloth most properly worn over the chest of a woman wearing a salwar-kameez; traditionally used as a veil, ghund; also known as a chunni five Ks (panj kakke) the five physical or bodily articles of Sikh faith: kach, kangha, kara, kesh, and kirpan fufar father’s sister’s husband; married to bhooa, father’s sister geet song ghagra long blouse; traditional attire of Punjabi peasant woman, along with lehnga ghar house, home giddha women’s song and dance form gotra clan granthi person who narrates the Guru Granth Sahib in gurdwaras; temple officiant; Sikh ‘priest’ gurdwara Sikh temple Guru Granth Sahib body of Sikh scripture; composed in the Gurmukhi script; Adi Granth is another name for the collection of Sikh religious texts (and is more properly used in referring to the compositions prior to Guru Gobind Singh’s final and definitive version) hahn yes; hahnji, yes, respectfully Harmandir Sahib literally, God’s Temple (God’s [Har/hari] Divine/Esteemed [Sahib] Temple [Mandir]); colloquially, refers to the Golden Temple; also known as Darbar Sahib (Divine/Esteemed Court [darbar]) izzat honour, respectability, reputation jagir estate; frequently used to connote a colonial title to land or a cash award given for service to the state jagirdaar lord of an estate; also a person awarded a colonial title to land or a jagir grant jati caste, as an occupational designation Jatpana Jat-hood; state of being Jat; the rustic, rural, simple characteristics of a Jat ji yes; when used as a suffix, connotes respect ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ film title translated as ‘Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad’ kaccha unfinished, under-done; in the context of houses, refers to unfired mud/earth construction

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kach breeches; worn by Sikhs; one of the five Ks; also known as kachha, kachhera kangha comb; worn in the hair of Sikhs; one of the five Ks kara the iron bangle worn on the right wrist of Sikhs; one of the five Ks keenu a variety of orange kesh hair; the Sikh practice of maintaining uncut hair; one of the five Ks keshdhari Sikhs maintaining uncut hair and a number of other Ks, but not having taken amrit, and thus not orthodox khadi indigenous cotton cloth spun and loomed by hand khalsa orthodox or ‘baptized’ Sikh, having taken amrit initiation; term dervied from khalas, meaning pure, unadulterated, genuine formalized community of Khalsa Sikhs, created by Guru Gobind Singh on Baisakhi, 1699, and including all Sikhs having taken amrit since kharif crops sown before the rains and harvested late in the summer and early in winter kirpan sword; typically worn as a small dagger by Sikhs; one of the five Ks kirtan hymn-singing; gurbani (guru’s words) set to music ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ film title translated as ‘Something Happens’ kurta-pyjama (long) shirt-pants; the traditional dress of Punjabi men lakh one hundred thousand langar the Sikh communal meal, prepared and served by sevadars, regardless of caste commensality, in the egalitarian and humble manner of having its participants sit beside each other on the floor; the term also refers to the communal kitchen/hall where the meal is prepared lehnga long skirt; traditional attire of Punjabi peasant woman, along with ghagra, but now largely worn at weddings and particularly by brides Lohri a winter festival, occurring in mid-January according to the Indian lunar calendar, marked by the lighting of bonfires and the consuming of special foods; in the Punjabi context is particularly celebrated to mark the births and marriages of boys in a family during the preceding year lunghi a length of cloth worn by men around the lower part of the body; a traditional form of dress Majha the northernmost region of present-day Punjab, lying between the Ravi and Beas rivers makki di roti unleavened cornmeal bread Malwa the southernmost region of present-day Punjab, lying south of the Sutlej mama mother’s brother; mami, mother’s brother’s wife mandir temple; colloquially refers to Hindu place of worship manja wooden cot with woven cord or string webbing; known as charpai in Hindi

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marabba land measure of 25 acres, when the property is part of a coherent square or rectangular plot marabbianwalla literally, one with marabbas; colloquially, a ‘big-landlord’; plural from marabbianwalle masi mother’s sister; masar, mother’s sister’s husband matlab literally, meaning; used, as ‘I mean …’ as a time-gaining feature of speech often followed by a pause mehndi literally, henna; refers to the application of henna to the bride’s hands and feet in the days before marriage, which typically occurs in conjunction with other ceremonial activity, such as the ladies sangeet mela fair, exhibition miri-piri Sikh doctrine of the indivisibility of faith and politics; miri refers to political affairs or power and piri to religious matters naam simran recitation, meditation, or prayer on God’s name nana & nani mother’s father and mother nanke mother’s family/matrilineage nawaab a Muslim feudal leader or noble; akin to the English terms ‘king’ or ‘prince’ nazdiq close; nazdiqi, closeness pag turban, also known as pagri pakka proper; finished, completed, or done (particularly in reference to buildings constructed of fired brick); also used as an emphatic affirmative and an expression of appropriateness and suitability panchayat five-membered village council, traditionally of village elders; today also refers to an elected substructure of municipal government panj piare literally, the five beloved ones; refers to the first five volunteers, of various castes, baptized by Guru Gobind Singh in the ceremony of amrit on Baisakhi, 1699; today, Sikh ceremonial events are lead by five amritdhari volunteers meant to represent the panj piare panth religious order, sect, or community, e.g. the Khalsa Panth pariwar family patka a small square of thin cloth worn over the top knot of young boys who do not yet wear a turban patwari village level official; records land holdings, surveys crops, and calculates land revenue peke a married woman’s parental home/natal family paerh di jutti literally, the shoe (jutti) on the foot (paerh); a colloquial reference to women’s subordinate social position phulkari traditional Punjabi embroidery, also known as baagh; plural phulkarian pind village Punjab ‘land of five rivers’ (panj, five, aab, water/river); term refers to the

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undivded region as well as to post-independence states in both India and Pakistan; at Partition, the rivers were also divided Punjabiyat Punjabi culture purdah literally, curtain, but referring in a social context to practices of veiling and gender seclusion/segregation; also known as ghungat (Hindi) and ghund (Punjabi) ‘Putt Jattan De’ song title translated as ‘The Sons of the Jats’ qaum nation (carries religio-political meaning) rabi crops sown after the rains and harvested in late winter and spring Rahit Maryada Sikh Code of Conduct, colloquially referred to as Rahit rishta relationship; also refers to engagement; plural rishte rishtedaar relative(s); kin roti unleavened wheat bread; also known as phulka and chapatti sahejdhari a Sikh with cut hair; also referred to as mona or patit, connoting renunciation of khalsa codes of identity Sakhis hagiographic anecdotes relating to the lives of the gurus; in essence, morality tales salwar-kameez pants-(long)shirt; the contemporary dress of Jat women sangeet gathering of women prior to a wedding at which songs (geet) are performed sant saint sant-sepoi/sant-sipahi saint-soldier Sardar; Sardarji literally, leader; a term used colloquially as a respectful (particularly with the suffix ji) form of reference/address for turbanned Sikhs; the term is also applied humorously to the genre of sardarji jokes sarhon mustard sarhon da saag cooked mustard greens sas-saurah mother- (sas) and father- (saurah) in-law; also referred to as saureh ‘Sat Sri Akal’ universal Sikh greeting; translated approximately as ‘God is truth,’ ‘God is the ultimate truth,’ or ‘God’s truth is eternal’ saureh parents-in-law or parents-in-law’s home seva social service performed for religious purposes; sevadar, one who performs seva Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Central Gurdwara Management Committee shagun, sagan an auspicious token of money given in conjunction with marriage, birth, or other ceremonies; also refers to the ceremony in which representatives of the bride’s family visit the groom’s family to present gifts in the days before a marriage shaheed martyr; shaheedi, martyrdom

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‘Shaheed-e-Mohabbat’ film title translated as ‘Martyr of Love’ or ‘Martyr to Love’ sharam literally, shame, but better understood as female modesty and propriety Sikhi ‘Sikh-ness’ or the condition of being a Sikh; the ongoing process of religious learning and becoming encapsulated in the term Sikh, which means learner or student (and is derived from the Sanskrit shishya) suba province, state taaya father’s elder brother; taayi, father’s elder brother’s wife theka rent, collected from land varna the fourfold hierarchic schema of caste, within which castes are designated Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (traders), and Shudra (cultivators); those falling outside these categorizations are traditionally called Untouchable, but are now typically called Dalits vichola matchmaker vigha/bigha a land measure used in Rajasthan; approximately equal to 0.625 acres, as Punjabi land units ‘Yaadein’ film title translated as ‘Memories’ yaar friend (including colloquial meanings e.g. pal, chum, buddy); also lover zamin land; zamindar landlord; zamindari (the state of) being a landlord

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Notes

Chapter One 1 The importance of studying the Indian middle classes is noted by Rachel Dwyer in the introduction to her study of the contemporary Indian cinema: ‘Academic research on India has focused on elites or subalterns rather than on the seemingly universally despised middle classes. … [This middle class] is actively producing and consuming a new public culture. This class has a good deal of economic capital but is regarded as low in cultural capital by the old middle classes, who see its members as vulgar and nouveau riche’ (2000: 1). 2 The lower, elected house of the Indian parliament. 3 According to ethnographic convention, all of the names in this text, other than my own, are pseudonyms. 4 In the work of Crooke, for example, and as portrayed in numerous colonial gazetteers. 5 Many authors from colonial times on, often influenced by a worldreligions perspective that gives legitimacy to only six major faiths, have sought to deny the unique aspects of Sikhism and the Sikh community, although if for no other reason, the contemporary politicization of Sikhism makes this almost impossible to argue at present. 6 The assault on and occupation of the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June, and the anti-Sikh rioting and killing that continued for days following the assassination in October, of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. 7 Many of these discussions occurred in the presence of my father-in-law who frequently suggested alternate topics of study to me. While he was, no doubt, wishing to be helpful, my field journals note that his manner of suggestion often struck me as appropriative. A struggle of egos initially

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Notes to pages 12–35 ensued, as I had not yet learned that to successfully accomplish fieldwork in my situation of modern-day purdah meant accepting the indignities of my position as daughter-in-law. Regardless of my father-in-law’s intentions, he clearly wished to steer me away from any topic that might suggest a dilute Jat identity. ‘Adjustment’ to the marital family is a social requirement of all potential and new daughters-in-law. These arguments discount the frequently religious nature of political phenomena such as nationalism. Indeed Geertz’ classic definition of religion as ‘(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic’ (1973: 90) might be applied just as readily to nationalist and other ideologies. In referring to a situational component to ethnicity, I recognize that this term is sometimes categorically distinct from primordialist and constructivist approaches, but like Brass (1991), who treats situationalism and constructivism together (as instrumentalism), I wish here to underline only the differentiation of the primordial and the constructed in the making of ethnic affiliations and claims. Similarly, in his argument that ethnicities are symbolic rather than structural entities, Cohen (1985) also blends the situationalist and constructivist perspectives although he does not refer explicitly to either. Such as the appeal to being members of a martial race. This concept, which emphasizes the fearlessness and righteousness of the community, has developed under Muslim and then British colonization. He continues: ‘hence that tradition itself only comes into being, in a certain sense, along with modernity and hence, along with its own demise’ (2004: 59). Many of my informants, proud of their own modernities, might dispute this assessment. In a powerful essay, Oberoi notes the troubled irony of having been ‘terrorized for belonging to the Sikh community’ during the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in Delhi, and several years later, by Sikhs themselves, ‘For not properly belonging to the Sikh community, or at least in the form of a good/proper/authentic/militant Sikh’ (2001: 188). This idea that post-colonial cultures do not merely or simply adopt modernity and its cohort Western influences appears in Chatterjee’s (1993) critique of Anderson (1983).

Notes to pages 35–6

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16 The border is barely marked; once one drives out of the city on the Abohar Road and across the Gang canal, one has entered Punjab. One day early in my fieldwork, my parents-in-law suggested that we take a local tour and visit Punjab that day; this curious visit to Punjab consisted of driving across the border to the first spot in the road wide and low enough to safely turn the car around and returning almost immediately to Rajasthan, while they made a point of telling me that the two sides of the border were just the same, with Jat farmers growing the same crops on both sides. As a holdover from the 1980s, a small military check point, now apparently used to primarily police inter-state taxes on long-distance lorries, is found just north of the canal; other routes into Punjab farther away from large cities are neither marked nor manned. In a dozen drives in and out of Punjab in 1998 and 1999, we were not stopped at the border – although once, returning from a visit to the Harmandir and Goindwal Sahib after dark, we were stopped at a checkpost on a village road in central Punjab – nor were we stopped on numerous train journeys. Of course, this situation was significantly different in the 1980s, although I was told proudly by several Ganganagar residents that the various troubles of Punjab during that time did not occur at all in Ganganagar despite its large population of Sikhs, although a number of Sikh soldiers stationed at the district’s Lalgarh cantonment reportedly deserted their posts in the aftermath of the attack on the Golden Temple. Today, one is more likely to be stopped for bribes: in 2006–7, travelling in and out of Punjab in a sport utility vehicle bearing Rajasthan plates, we were stopped several times for this purpose. 17 The 1839 map appearing as the frontispiece of Stronge’s The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms (1999), is blank around Ganganagar and its environs. The southern Punjabi cities of Abohar, Muktsar, Malout, and Bathinda, which are today north of Ganganagar, and south of Ferozepur, are also not detailed. Anupgarh and Suratgarh, today just south of Ganganagar, are depicted on the road to Bahawalpur winding from Delhi through Rohtak and Hissar in present-day Haryana. Ganganagar, Abohar, and Muktsar remain absent from British maps of 1908 (The Imperial Gazetteer of India v.XX 1908). 18 The map marks neighbouring Hanumangarh, a smaller city to the east of Ganganagar, now seat of its own administrative district. 19 An earlier settlement, Ram Nagar, of uncertain antiquity, is still recognizable in the town in the neighbourhood known as Purani Abadi, or old habitation, which is comprised of densely packed streets and low, small dwellings. 20 The canal colonies remain part of the public imagination: in Ganganagar, for instance, Lyallpur Farms is the largest farm operating on the outskirts

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Notes to pages 36–8 of the city, and Lyallpur Cloth House is an oft-recommended shop in the central bazaar. According to the Indian census, the 1991 population of the city was 161,482. The 2001 gave census the population of Ganganagar city as 222,858, while the district as a whole had a population of 1,788,487. According to a 2004 article in The Tribune, the district has over 441,000 Sikhs (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040921/nation.htm#19; accessed June 2007), meaning that Sikhs comprise approximately 20 percent of the district’s population. The Gang canal, at the time of my fieldwork, was unlined and leaky; at the time of the February 1998 elections, a large number of Ganganagar district villages were waterlogged, and farmers threatened to abstain from voting in protest. Both the Gang and the more recent Rajasthan canal emanate from the Harike barrage at the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers in Punjab, and the cutting off of the water supply – threatened sporadically by Punjab for a number of years – is an on-again, off-again election issue in the district. The district’s agricultural productivity thus rests on a somewhat precarious foundation as the district is too dry for secure agriculture in the absence of irrigation, and farming may be severely curtailed given the state of the canals at any given time. It is a significant grievance among Punjabi Jats that Rajasthan pays nothing for the irrigation waters said to be appropriated from farms in Punjab; this issue is exacerbated by the comparative thirst of Green Revolution grain crops. It is particularly remote from Western tourist routes, as one cannot travel from Amritsar to Bikaner – the cities of interest to tourists that it is located between – with any efficiency; indeed in 18 months in Ganganagar, I saw only three Westerners in the bazaar, and received a single report of two more who had been spotted buying fruit near the railway station. This contemporary practice mimics more traditional practices of village exogamy, although it is not as strict. Mazhabi Sikhs are of low-caste status (Dalits) and are scheduled within the government of India’s caste reservation schemes. Bahadur – literally brave – is a caste name that in the north Indian middleclass context refers to Nepali servants, whether or not they are members of this caste and regardless of their personal names. One of the sweepers employed in our house left Ganganagar for six months to farm her village plot in Maharashtra. Even migrant workers of long-term resident status may eventually leave Ganganagar for good: our enterprising Bahadur had lived and worked in the town since the 1970s, establishing himself with my in-law’s assistance in a college peon’s job

Notes to pages 38–49

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which he does during the day, and remaining in home service in the mornings and evenings. Since his family lives in Nepal, he visits once a year for a month, and is buying land there for his eventual return. First cousins, that is the children of parents related as brothers and/or sisters, are considered siblings in Punjabi kinship, and address each other as brother or sister. This terminology commonly extends among grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, of grandparents, or great-grandparents – who refer to each other as siblings. It is recognized, however, that these labels do not distinguish real (asli) kin relationships, and the term cousin-brother or cousin-sister is often used in English. Kumari, in her study of Haryanvi women, also noted difficulties in interviewing, and these without the interposition of interpreter: ‘direct questions often resulted in a yes-or-no type of answer, often underplaying or masking the truth. Questions of a personal nature often did not elicit a response’ (1998: 170). While my fieldwork proposal passed the University of Toronto’s ethics review before SSHRC introduced its new regulations for ethical research with human subjects, I returned from the field as these codes were being uneasily debated and deliberated by anthropologists and others. In this climate of uncertainty, my research and writing about Jat society as a daughter-in-law within it has on rare occasion been viewed with what I consider undue suspicion; I read this challenge in terms of the generalized disciplinary anxiety and sense of caution that pervades Canadian ethnography and its policing under SSHRC’s revised regulatory guidelines. I noticed that other visitors, Punjabis from abroad, were also subject to questioning of this nature. And in the absence of their son, as a sometime proxy representative of filial voice and social role.

Chapter Two 1 Memoirs of colonial life, such as Elsmie’s Thirty Five Years in the Punjab, also exist. Although this work purports to be a remembrance of British service in the area, Punjab and Punjabis are mentioned only incidentally, and the work is more a study of British colonial officials and an expression of their prejudices. 2 To cite one instance of Eurocentric bias, the 1963 reprint of Temple’s Legends of the Punjab describes his longheld ‘favourite theory that the average villager one meets in the Punjab and Northern India is at heart neither a Muhammadan, nor a Hindu, nor a Sikh, nor of any other Religion, as such

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Notes to pages 49–54 is understood by its orthodox – or to speak more correctly authorized – exponents, but that his “Religion” is a confused unthinking worship of things held to be holy, whether men or places; in fact, Hagiolatry’ (1884–5 [1963]: xxi). Guru Gobind Singh, who promised to turn ‘sparrows into hawks’ in creating the Khalsa, is attributed with the saying sava lakh se ek laraaoon, literally meaning, one will be inspired to fight against one hundred and twentyfive thousand, with the implication that the one (Sikh) will be victorious. It is worth noting here that Seal (1973) has argued that the nationalist vision of a united India was based as much in the need of the raj to treat India as a single entity as in any extra-colonial notion of nationhood among Indians. Bonarjee’s writing, which emphasizes the ‘wild’ and ‘lawless’ characters of the ‘fighting races,’ provides an example of the adoption by the colonized (elites) of the prejudices of the colonizer. The issue of whether or not to eat langar at tables and seated on chairs in the Sikh temples of Vancouver, which was featured prominently in the Canadian media in the late 1990s, in essence re-articulates the eternal debate of liberal and orthodox positions in Sikhism. And incomplete, for the nuances of everyday and celebrated identities cannot be apprehended adequately in textual form. The original date of this reprinted publication is unavailable, but in his preface Crooke makes reference to the census of 1901. Ibbetson tempers this assertion with the proviso: ‘I do not mean, however, that he is turbulent: as a rule he is far from being so. He is independent and he is self-willed; but he is reasonable, peaceably inclined if left alone, and not difficult to manage’ (1883: 102). The misuse of alcohol is a problem of some severity in the Jat community, where men as young as 40 die of alcoholism with some frequency. The tradition of drinking among Jat men is one of machismo and bravado, and is often accompanied by an all-or-nothing mentality that encourages binge drinking. At least 10 middle-aged men in my in-laws’ Jat social network have died as a result of alcoholism, or had an otherwise alcohol-related death, in the past five years. However, among the more educated of the Jat middle class, a fledgling convention of moderate social drinking is witnessed. It is rarer still to hear Jat women articulate a sense of being Jat. Women affiliate as fully as men with their caste identities, but they do not appear with any frequency to engage in discussions of community borders. It was my experience that ethnicity in the Punjab is formulated by men and embodied by women.

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12 Sikhs may be particularly incensed by the adage sardarji, baarah baj gaie (literally, respected Sikh, it’s twelve o’clock) which is often used humorously to suggest that Sikhs become insane at this hour. This usage obscures and, to Sikhs, belittles the origins of the phrase. Popular history has it that when undergoing Muslim attack, Sikhs using stealth as a guerilla warfare tactic would fight back (or take revenge) under the cover of darkness. The frenzy and force of Sikh combat is legendary, and thus it has been said that Sikhs become crazed at twelve o’clock. 13 Sardarji jokes are a genre of Indian humour that have Sikhs as their subject. The genre takes its name from the term sardar or leader, which is a respectful form of address for a turbanned Sikh; the suffix ji confers additional respect on the subject, and is somewhat incongruous with this humorous usage. Sardarji jokes are often composed, and even more often recited by Sikhs; their gentle mocking of the apparently Sikh traits of simplicity and dullwittedness are in congruence with many portrayals of specifically Jat characteristics. This is a typically self-deprecating example: ‘A funeral procession is moving along one of the main roads in Delhi. The bier is followed by a rather garrulous group of Sikhs who are dancing bhangra to the drumbeats of an accompanying dhol. Shocked at this ireverence, a passerby demands of the nearest Sardar what they are doing. The Sardarji replies: “We are celebrating a very joyous occasion. It is the first time a Sikh has died from a brain tumour!”’ 14 Indeed, I have been told recently that the SGPC has filed a court case against the Bollywood film industry appealing for more positive representations of Sikhs. 15 As I have noted, there is much resemblence between colonial accounts of the Sikhs and the self-descriptions that Jats make today. The construction of Sikhs as a martial race is particularly noteworthy in this regard: the physical descriptions provided in colonial texts intersect with local portrayals of the ‘splendid’ Jat physique (e.g. Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. xx, 1908: 288). 16 In this, we may see a veiled reference to the Punjab situation of the 1980s. 17 As well, also against the guru’s gender directives, Sikh brides are still occasionally burned – as newlyweds, rather than widows – for dowry and may be spurned in false or sacrificed in real but unsuitable transnational marriages. 18 Carrier notes that ‘a claim that a particular practice is customary or traditional, has survived from the past, is not simply an empirical assertion that it is old. It is also frequently a claim of moral pre-eminence’ (1996: 184). Class is also significant in the relating of women and tradition (cf. Sarkar 1998). 19 According to Handrahan (2002: 38), this linkage is theoretically underexplored.

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20 In ‘pure’ Punjabi, veiling is known as ghund. The practice of women veiling from their elder in-laws is in marked decline. I use the term purdah instead as this word is also used for ‘curtain,’ thus hinting more at the separation of men’s and women’s social spaces in particular circumstances. Many of my own experiences of veiling had more to do with the social separations dependent on our living-room curtain than with veiling per se. Slimbach (1996: 158) has also noted that ‘the seclusion of Baloch women is maintained by the drawing-room curtain.’ 21 Household economies and class positions have always mitigated purdah, which has been essentially a middle-class concern: ‘in one study after another, it appears that although lower-class women are affected by patrilineal assumptions, they are rarely as rigidly controlled as upper-class women’ (Maynes, et al. 1996: 19). 22 As well as their male counterparts. 23 Known in Punjabi as Teeyan. This women’s summer festival, marked by the return of young women to their natal homes, where they are said to enjoy visiting their families and friends, is no longer observed by urbanites. Teeyan, characterized by young women singing and swinging together in trees in the fields, remains depicted in videos and films – such as the Hindi-language film Silsila, and as the video concept of the Manmohan Waris’ hit song Aaja Bhabhi (‘Come Along Sister-in-law’) – and overseas, it is reconstituted as yet another cultural, and commodified, icon of home. The Punjabi Women’s Association of Toronto has presented a Teeyan da Mela for several years now. 24 Upon my first visit to one of the villages in which my father-in-law has relatives, I was presented with three suit pieces – from which to have salwar-kameez stitched – and three home-loomed kambals; grooms are traditionally given turban cloths or blankets upon marriage, and these were given to me in the absence of my spouse. Urban women do not maintain many of the arts that their village sisters still pursue. On another visit, to the village of my father-in-law’s elder sister, various handloomed and handstitched items, including khes (blankets), pakhiaan (rotating hand-held fans), gaddian de gilaaf (cushion covers) and other decoratively stitched items such as handkerchiefs and table linens were shown off by the young women who had been preparing them for their own dowries. Their proud mothers encouraged them to pull these items from their tin trunks which were full of such works. 25 My father-in-law and an uncle once told me that they would not dream of going out of the house in kurta-pyjama, however nicely stitched and pressed, and regardless of how cool and pleasant this might seem in the

Notes to pages 62–4

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summer months. I was told that such dress was far too casual, and would not look ‘nice’ to other people, the implication being that their social position was primary in this restriction. Young Hindu women with cosmopolitan notions often prefer salwarkameez, which are said to be both more smart or modern, and acknowledged as easier to move about in. Radha told me that her mother-in-law had insisted that she ‘pierce [her] nose, wear more jewelry, and leave western clothing behind.’ Sindoor (vermillion) is worn in the centre hair part (just above the forehead) of a married Hindu woman, who also wears red bangles, typically of glass, and a bindi or tikka (dot) on her forehead. Hindu women wear these symbols of their marital auspiciousness daily, in addition to their gold jewelry, whereas Jat women typically wear only their gold. They may add bangles and bindis for special occasions, more as fashion accessories than for any overt symbolism of marital position. An important exception is that Jat brides wear their wedding bangles, choora, a special set given by their nanke (specifically, by their mama, mother’s brother) and worn on the day of their marriage, for forty days after the anand karaj. Children may be exempted from community identifications in other ways, such as not covering their heads in the gurdwara. At one family wedding, I was told that my niece did not need a rumaal (kerchief) to cover her head, as ‘she’s only a kid.’ On the other hand, covering children’s heads – even toddlers and infants – is common practice in Canadian gurdwaras; young children more interested in playing and visiting among seated groups of kin than sitting piously and quietly with their head coverings intact are a constant challenge to their parents in this demonstration of respect. The adoption of Western clothes is not uncontentious. In 2001, for example, the Delhi gurdwara management committee ordered that all Sikh girls attending Delhi gurdwaras wear only salwar-kameez. Although ‘in a strict sense there can be no such thing as a perceptible beginning to Sikh history, for like all religious systems, Sikhism has antecedents which defy ultimate scrutiny,’ the Sikh community certainly traces its origins to the birth of Guru Nanak in 1469 (McLeod 1989a: 1). McLeod draws our attention to Wilfred Cantwell-Smith’s argument that Sikhism ‘is the evolved product of subsequent centuries, a complex system of beliefs and practices which Guru Nanak certainly did not “found”’ (1989a: 17). There are certainly quite profound differences in the philosophy of Sikhism as developed through the imprimateurs of the ten gurus. McLeod has – contentiously, for Sikhs – stated that ‘Guru Nanak may have founded a new panth or religious community within the larger Hindu

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Notes to pages 64–8 fold, but he neither violated nor abandoned the Hindu tradition’ (1989a: 16). The bhakti movement itself was based on the earlier Vedanta tradition (Leaf 1972). This statement been misinterpreted to argue, in a viewpoint prevalent among world religions scholars, that Sikhism is a deliberate syncretism of Hinduism and Islam. Meanwhile, one Sikh explained to me that it reveals a universalistic and humanitarian worldview. There were ten Sikh gurus. Their names and lifespans are cited here after Oberoi (1994: 48): Guru Nanak (1469–1539), Guru Angad (1504–52), Guru Amar Das (1479–1574), Guru Ram Das (1534–81), Guru Arjan (1563–1606), Guru Hargobind (1595–1644), Guru Har Rai (1630–61), Guru Har Krishan (1656–64), Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621–75), and Guru Gobind Singh (1666– 1708). It is legendary among Sikhs that when the ninth guru, Tegh Bahadur, and his followers were killed defending Brahmin rights against the Mughals, no Sikhs came forth to claim their bodies. Some years later, Tegh Bahadur’s son, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh instituted the khalsa physical code, which Sikhs believe was intended so that no Sikh could henceforth deny their identity and community responsibility. I use the formulation ‘Khalsa’ to indicate the community of Sikhs intended by Guru Gobind Singh, and ‘khalsa’ to describe the particularities of orthodoxy (and appearance) which are contingent on initiation into the Khalsa community. In addition to the five Ks, amritdhari (baptised) Sikhs do not drink alcohol, smoke, or use tobacco or other intoxicants. Among non-baptised Sikhs, the prohibition on smoking is maintained by the vast majority, while the prohibition on drinking is frequently overlooked; drinking is a common practice among male Jats, and claims to Jat identity may be associated with this habit. For instance, in a 2006 debate on the internet forum Sikh Diaspora, one Sikh opined – and later shared with me – that the Khalsa was created to comprise a military wing of Sikhs at a historical juncture when defence was essential; however, both Khalsa and non-khalsa were part of Guru Gobind Singh’s sangat (congregation). Thus there was perhaps no intention on the part of Guru Gobind Singh that the Khalsa become the singular Sikh form: not all Sikhs were meant to join the army and wear its uniform (the five Ks). Arora Sikhs, predominant in early Sikhism as the caste from which the gurus derived, have developed as a mixed caste whose members may be predominantly Sikh, predominantly Hindu, or indeed, observe practices of

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and articulate affiliations with both religions. Their relationship to Jats will be examined in chapter 6. However Fox (1985: 120) details the adoption of the Sikh identity as a means of rural protest in the 1930s, thus disputing the simple and unified recreation of local characteristics in engagement with colonization. After independence, Sikh marriage was once again subsumed under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, although the marriage rite itself remained the anand karaj. This body oversees the management and maintenance of the Sikh gurdwaras in India, and also administers rulings from the Akal Takht, the font of temporal authority. Dietrich (1987: 126) notes ‘that the Shiromani Akali Dal … emerged as the leading Sikh political party is not only due to its role in temple and national liberation: it is also a uniquely Sikh party in the sense that it was founded on a basic premise in Sikhism of the unity of religion and politics. … Its organisation is panthic in that it is supported by the entire community: the SGPC which controls the temple donations of Sikhs resident in India and all over the world, uses these to fund its missionary, educational and welfare institutions as well as the Akali Dal. The party had preserved its original form of organisation and agitational tactics which also involve the community to a significant degree. It has a far-flung network of local party workers who set up Akali Dal branches everywhere, even outside the country. The heads of the two organisations, SGPC and the Akali Dal, carry equal weight in Sikh politics and religious affairs.’ In his 1993 article, Gupta argues that the affects of Partition were less prolonged and pronounced among Sikhs, whose settlement in a landbased economy occured more readily and quickly, even in the absence of full reimbursement of land-resources, than did the resettlement of urban refugees who did not have a landed economy. Anecdotal evidence from my study suggests that this is an uncertain matter: Jat Sikhs with whom I spoke certainly still articulate the bitterness over Partition that Gupta assigns to Hindu refugees, and this bitterness was often related to landassignments poorer than pre-Partition holdings. Pettigrew (1975: 93) astutely suggests that the widely-disputed eviction in 1959 of Jat Sikh refugees from the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, where swamplands had been offered to them after Partition, only to be reclaimed by the state after a decade once the Jats had converted jungle into cultivable land, further emphasized the importance of Sikh polity within the community. And there was little cohesion among Sikhs on the issue. According to

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Notes to pages 71–7 Leaf (1972), Master Tara Singh, the pre-eminent spokesman and political leader of Sikhs since prior to Partition, argued for the Punjabi Suba (state) based on precisely the sort of Sikh rule that Nehru opposed, while Sant Fateh Singh, who was involved with the SGPC, argued that the Punjabi state should be based on the ideals of religious tolerance inherent to Sikh philosophy. Such as those outlined in the 1973 Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which attempted a new formulation of political power so as to reconfigure the centre-state relationship for Punjab. This term is deconstructed in chapter 6. While Anderson’s premise that the sharing of vernacular language texts promotes the development of the imagined communities that become nations has been hugely influential in theorizing nationalism and identity, the question of what constitutes the vernacular language of the Indian nation does not cohere with regional, often religiously-informed language claims in much of its territory, as the case of Punjab makes evident. The Congress Party of Indira Gandhi. Until recently myths persisted that Bhindranwale has merely gone into hiding and will emerge to lead Sikhs in a new attack on their enemies. Damdami Taksal, the religious seminary of which Bhindranwale was leader in 1984, admitted his death and claimed his martyrdom in 2005. The making of pilgrimages to the Golden Temple is a common practice among Sikhs, regardless of their apparent orthodoxy and political persuasions. Sikhs thus recount the event in terms of a governmental massacre of thousands of innocent Sikhs, as the attack occurred during the gurpurab (festival marking the birth or death anniversary of a guru) marking the martyrdom of Guru Arjan. This term is contentious; many Sikhs refer to the event as a genocide. The pogroms were especially bad in Delhi. (See Oberoi 2001 for a personal account of 1984; see Das 1990, 2007 on the gendered aftermaths of the violence.) The role of the global Sikh community in promoting Sikh nationalism is complex. Activities are focused on the gurdwara and political support for Khalistan is cast in a religious light, as the duty of the orthodox. Overseas Sikhs do not fear the reprisals that their co-religionists face in India. Even as the situation in Punjab is significantly defused, Khalistan remains a rallying cry for many emigrant Sikhs, as evidenced in ongoing battles at a number of North American gurdwaras. Meanwhile, Khalistan forms a nostalgic utopia within diasporic Sikh imaginaries. Of Punjab’s five rivers, only the Beas and portions of the Sutlej and Ravi

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remain in Indian Punjab today; the Chenab and Jhelum, and large portions of the Ravi and Sutlej, went to Pakistan at Partition. The widest Punjabi occupation of the north-west regions of the subcontinent occurred during the early nineteenth century reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The leadership crisis among the Sikhs after his death in 1839, and the looming Anglo-Sikh wars of the 1840s in which the Sikhs were defeated, ensured that the full scope of Punjabi dominion was never again to be realized. ‘Before his death in 1839 Ranjit Singh’s authority over all the conquered and subordinated territories between the river Satlej and the mountain ranges of Ladakh, Karakoram, Hindukush and Sulaiman was recognized by the rulers of Kabul as well as by the British rulers of India’ (Grewal 1990: 103). Crooke’s ‘true’ Sikhs seem to correspond with the keshdhari formulation of practice that I most often observed. Neufeldt (1987: 283) notes that ‘the Khalsa initiation, in particular, requires renunciation of all former preoccupations with caste, status, birth, country, religion, gods, goddesses, incarnations, and prophets.’ Not only does this hint at the mixture of Punjabi folk beliefs that might pervade everyday religious belief and practice, but it suggests that the nationalist aspirations of the Khalistanis, who are predominantly orthodox, are without foundation. At the same time, Cole and Sambhi’s translation (1995 [1998]: 203) states that ‘whoever sits in attendance of the Adi Granth during a service (diwan) must be a Sikh,’ thus the Rahit reiterates exclusivity. The issue of belief became locally contentious in the spring of 1998 against the context of management committee elections at a Ganganagar college. I give a fuller description of this incident in chapter 5. McLeod (1999a: 66) has stated that ‘whether clean-shaven or trimmed diaspora Sikhs are still Sikhs depends on the individual’s antecedents or on continuing contact with the gurdwara.’ Relatively few Punjabi Muslims remained in Punjab, or in Ganganagar for that matter, after Partition, and I did not formally do research with Muslims. However, Pakistani Punjabis that I have met in Canada share many linguistic and cultural similarities with their Indian Punjabi neighbours. I speak here of Sikhs in general, as the literature pertinent to the perception of marginalization in the religious community at large does not make caste distinctions; Jats are certainly implicated in these perceptions, however. Kinnvall’s argument is problematic in that Sikh remembrances of historic traumas are not used for primarily nationalist purposes, in my observa-

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Notes to pages 82–7 tion. Rather, trauma invokes a common identity, in which a history marked by both glory and trauma is implied. According to Ballard, Ranjit Singh’s rule may inspire contemporary Sikh nationalism, but even his ‘kingdom was in no sense a theocratic state. The Maharaja’s own orthodoxy was notoriously lax, and the easy-going influence of traditional Hindu custom and ritual was widespread among his Sikh subjects’ (1986: 6). In chapter 5, I briefly note a contemporary instance of such historical conflation at the Anglo-Sikh war site of Mudkee. Despite the persistence of caste distinctions. The BJP, although a purportedly secular political party, is closely aligned with the Hindu-fundamentalist VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), and is thus often interpreted as a Hindu conservative organization which supports Hindu interests above all others; for example, the BJP has repeatedly been cited in encouraging Muslim-Hindu unrest. In 2002, the Congress Party ousted the SAD-BJP combine in perhaps a significant commentary on Sikh reconciliation, and more certainly, an expression of disillusionment with regional political corruption and Akali factionalism. This statement rather obscures the prominent position of Sikhs in the Indian national struggle during the colonial period, and moreover the articulation by Sikh leader Master Tara Singh of a demand for a separate Sikh state that was made in the 1930s and 1940s amid the communal regional politics which culminated in Partition. As history makes plain, the Sikhs were not to be considered in the division of Punjab with independence. The major English-language Punjabi daily, and arguably its most modern; published in Chandigarh. The Tribune is widely read and is a daily feature of life in many middle-class homes in Ganganagar. The particular article referenced here (‘Shaheedi Samagam Ends’) appeared on December 22, 2004 in the online edition.

Chapter Three 1 In Punjabi: Sada chiriyan da chamba ve, babal asaa uud ve jaana. Sadi lammi udaari ve, babal kihre des jaana, sadi? Sada chiriyan da chamba ve, babal, asaa kihre des jaana? Chiriyan da chamba ve, babal, kihre des jaana? Both the first and second lines of this verse were sung twice. 2 Hereafter undistinguished by quotations, my use of the term throughout

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this chapter follows local Punjabi usage and is neither ironic nor attempting an unnecessary thnographic distance. ‘Kitty parties’ are significant in the social life of many middle-class Punjabi women. Although there are several variations, a kitty party is essentially a socially sanctioned gathering of women, at which time a small amount of money is collected and redistributed to a single woman, in effect serving as a small savings arrangement for the women involved. Kitty parties are also important social events at which women gather to chat, share information, eat, and gossip together. Women are generally introduced to extant kitties by an older family member, often in their in-laws’ family and shortly after marriage; the kitty provides a means of making some local friends who are sanctioned by the family. ‘Couples kitties,’ which eliminate financial exchange and are more like Western dinner parties, are also becoming common. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to further one’s material prosperity as a professional in India is through bribery and corruption, and while some of Ganganagar’s middle class, and most of those that I interviewed – Ranvir Singh and Jasleen included – abhor the practice, it certainly is prevalent in other Sikh families. At different times during my fieldwork I heard, that Jasleen had been presented with opportunities to engage in corruption, opportunities that he had refused. Such refusal, although formed in moral virtue, can attenuate career potential and create difficulties in gaining progress in an honest way. Wherever quotation marks are used, the narrator used the English term indicated rather than any Punjabi or Hindi equivalent. Although some of the family ceremonies and activities surrounding Jat marriage, such as the mehndi and sangeet, are practised in common among Punjabis, and notions of social status incorporated in marriage arrangements and displays are a shared cultural feature. Upper and middle-class positions are perhaps best predicted by the prior existence of family land or property wealth. In local usage all unmarried women are referred to as girls. I was told by students at one College for Women in Punjab that they were actively campaigning to have the institute renamed as a College for Girls. The use of the term tolerance suggests that the difficulties for the girl in adjusting to her marital family are noteworthy. Additionally, each of these terms implies (and is expressed in) modesties in speech, dress, and behaviour that are expected of daughters-in-law. Extracurricular remunerative tutoring, a common – if at times ethically questionable – form of income supplementation among Indian teachers.

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12 Love relationships are frequently featured in Bollywood films, e.g. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham; to name only three of those which have been hits. The Punjabi film Shaheede-Mohabbat, set at the time of Partition, also features an inter-religious love marriage. 13 Interestingly, in response to the original schema of my research, which had intended to study the occurrence of Hindu-Sikh marriages, Beniwal Uncle told me that ‘we know of several intermarriages. At least four. And our niece is marrying a Sikh later this summer.’ Upon further questioning, however, these marriages all fulfilled the modern criterion of being ‘love cum arranged’ marriages. 14 Had the couple been particularly devoted to this tradition, they might have employed biotechnological means – sex determination tests and abortion – to ensure that they had already given birth to a boy. About 10 months after Deol Auntie’s account, the couple had their baby boy. When we visited, to give mother and child the blessing of sagan, the daughter-inlaw said, although perhaps to please her mother-in-law, and certainly to the approval of both her mother-in-law and my own, ‘You know how it is for us Jats. We love our girls, but we do not feel that the family is complete until a boy is there. Now, I am happy.’ 15 The fact that all of these films feature Hindu ceremonies is interesting and contentious. The wedding ceremonies on film often do feature Sikh guests, but Jat Sikhs remark on these actors, asli Sardarji nahin hann, not real Sikhs, and treat them with irritation or derisive laughter. Sikh characters are often the brunt of humour in Hindi films, a fact which Sikhs themselves both enjoy and deplore. Sikhs, particularly in Canada, have occasionally commented to me on the appropriation of Punjabi culture by the Bollywood film industry, questioning why Sikh families are never part of the popular Punjabi focus in Hindi films, and why ‘real’ Sikhs cannot portray themselves. Punjabis are accustomed to notions of themselves as central to the Indian nation and its imagination, and their viewing of such films reinforces this perspective. This apparent dominance of Punjabi culture in the nation at large of course contributes to the problematic of Sikh marginality. 16 As a means of marking status, middle-class weddings are always videoed. Videographic and photographic crews are highly visible in the midst of the various marriage proceedings as they seek to record all of the essential parts of the wedding, and all the important guests who must figure prominently. Indeed, the importance of the videographer is such that he and his team have great influence in directing the various components of the marriage. Videocassette and now digital video recordings of marriages are dis-

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tributed widely among kin and friendship networks in India and abroad. National and transnational relations are affirmed and perhaps indeed renewed as videotapes are sent to rishte absent from wedding ceremonies; they are eagerly scrutinized for favoured and other known relatives on their receipt. Videos may also be watched by immediate family members as a means of assuring that the wedding was everything that it should have been, and particularly in the bride’s family, of mitigating feelings of loss and nostalgia over the woman now absent. Wedding photographs and videos also may be used as tools in arranging further wedding matches. The associated practice of wari refers to the presentation to the new bride of gold and clothing by the groom’s family. Although the wari will typically include fine and costly items, it in no way approaches the prohibitive costs of dahej, which must be distributed to an entire family, as well as to the bride in question. The expense of a daughter in fact continues until her death, when her remaining brothers or other male relatives from her nanke must provide her funeral shroud. This particular boy was from a rather less-well educated family than those urban Jats of my sample, who criticized this demand. Dowry is widely reported by urban and educated Jats as being more prevalent among rural Jat families, who use it as a means of raising money as both capital and as the means to engage in the forms of prestige spending inherent to consumer culture, and are often noted to make demands for cars, jeeps, and even tractors. Practices of fetal sex determination and sex-selective abortion have taken the place of female infanticide historically recorded in Punjabi ethnography. The ratio of women to men in Punjab, despite the relative wealth and education of its inhabitants, is consistently among the lowest in India. Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers (1999) fictionalizes the financial situation of Punjabi farmers and small landlords in the 1930s. Her moving and well-researched narrative describes the effect on the marriage of a family’s second daughter after a last-minute dowry demand following the marriage of her elder sister. Traditionally, land inheritance was the son’s alone and daughters inherited only moveable property in the form of dahej. In addition to its prestigebearing status, the gold of the dahej was expressed as a security for the bride in the event of economic or social calamity. Today, despite equality in women’s land inheritance rights, legislated since the 1950s, almost all women sign their inheritances over to their brothers. It is said that this is done in exchange for the brother’s continued protection. This practice is

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Notes to pages 106–12 frequently justified by the assertion that girls have had money spent on both their education and their marriage, so that, in fairness, the brother has more economic right to the land. Education thus complicates the dowry problem. One of our neighbours, a lawyer, once offered to take me to the local jail to meet some of the women he represented. I asked him what types of women were there, and what types of crimes they had committed; he observed that most of them were jailed for dowry-related crimes and were middle class, although not particularly well-educated. What has been described to me as middle-class craze for English-language education, even in the primary classes, may have had some impact on Parminder’s inability to find work, as his studies were primarily done in Punjabi. The birth of girls has not been traditionally celebrated in Punjabi families owing to a complex of features attributable to regional patriarchal kin structures and preferences, of which dowry is only one component. Parminder predicts inflation. At the time of interviews, fifteen lakhs was equivalent to C $60,000. The average cost of marriages among the middle class was at the time two to six lakhs, with particularly wealthy and socially prominent families spending more. Parminder’s narratives often used English words, indicated here in quotation marks, although he was not educated at an English medium school. The complex connections between language, colonization, and modernity, and the meanings and echoes of these relationships in contemporary Ganganagar, are further explored in the next chapter. Most couples with two daughters are expected to try for a son, and may be under significant pressure from their parents to do so. Families with two or three daughters and then a son are thus still common. In the most extreme instance I encountered, albeit from a village family and with children in their thirties, seven daughters were born before the elusive son.

Chapter Four 1 This is perhaps not unsurprising as the Khalistan movement itself is argued to have grown out of an awareness of losing economic place amid the expectations of material prosperity characteristic of Punjabi modernity. However, it must be stated that rural Jat politics all too often voices genuine difficulties over land and farming, particularly related to modern farming technologies and economies, and thus a sense of aggrieved agricultural failure in a region and from a people that prides itself on its skill, industry, and even primordial capabilities in these areas.

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2 Based on my small sample, and on the received history of Punjabi migration, Jats from the area of Doaba to the north of Malwa were inculcated into education and migration earlier than Malwa’s Jats, often from the late nineteenth century. Doaba is said to have had greater population and land pressures, and was also located more centrally to British administration in the region. 3 The loss of land at Partition is often significant in the rural-urban transition in these instances. 4 Today, emigration often follows a similar pattern, using marital and family-class sponsorship, as well as adoption, to bring relatives abroad. In Toronto and Vancouver, entire extended families may be reconstituted, often within a decade or even less, on the basis of chain migration sponsorship (Mooney 2006). 5 This was the case at least in the 1960s and 1970s, until political turmoil and better opportunities in Britain and North America drove the South Asian diaspora from Africa. 6 The English term ‘in service’ is used to denote paid employment, often with some specificity referring to a civil service position, although the term is often used by others in white-collar occupations such as bank work. The related term ‘service class’ refers to persons, however well-remunerated, in professional service positions. A bank clerk would thus be covered under this designation, while a shop clerk would not, regardless of their comparative incomes. The shop clerk would fall into the working-class category, which is a rather ambiguous appellative for all manner of low-skill occupations, including factory jobs, construction work, rickshaw pulling, and various other types of wage labour. The factory foreman, or manager, however, could legitimately claim to be service class. There is also a perceived categorization of the business class, which includes factory and shop owners; any self-employed person such as a chai-walla (teastall proprietor) might claim membership in this group but would be scornfully rebuffed by business-class persons with larger, more lucrative, and purportedly more legitimate concerns. Such hierarchical differentiation by type of occupation, although now spoken of in terms of class, and perhaps permitting greater social mobility, essentially continues the categorizations and concerns of the caste system. 7 This preference may also be related to the nature of professional opportunity in the educational field, which was particularly open to Jats in the period following independence. It should be noted that medicine is by far the most esteemed of these professions among most Jats. 8 Dahej de raule (dowry problems) can encompass criticisms of the new bride

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Notes to pages 117–25 for having brought inadequate dowry, the making of additional dowry demands, and assaults and even killings based on dowry disagreements. This phrase is widely used to indicate the poor social position of women, and was used against women in the past. The notion that women are paerh di jutti, lowly and entirely replaceable, was common in women’s narrations of traditional family life; however, almost all the women interviewed note a pronounced social change regarding gender equality and attribute this terminology to earlier times. That the juttis were worn at the ‘bottom’ of the body was symbolic of women’s social position; this phrase conforms to a generalized hierarchy of the body in Indian culture, in which feet, because they are often in contact with either the ground or with polluting leather, are unclean and inauspicious parts of the body. See Mooney (2010) for a fuller analysis of this phrase. Radha later told me that as a young woman, whenever her marriage was discussed, she had expressed a desire to ‘marry into the army.’ She imagined that this would have entailed ‘having a good life! Moving around and seeing new places. Lots and lots of parties, and living very nicely and easily. Army wives are all very “smart” and lively. It would have been fun.’ English is essential for army personnel as a means of communicating across India’s many regional vernaculars; it is also important for their wives, if they do not wish to be isolated from the social networks of the armed forces camp, especially among the upper ranks. Men were more likely than women to indicate that I could interview them in English, and were very adept at expressing themselves. The usage follows the British terminology in which a ‘public’ school is what in North America would be considered ‘private.’ Colonial influence, quite changed from the original purpose, may be observed in apparently obscure corners of Indian education. For example, a small English-medium primary school, located in our neighbourhood and run by apparently Hindu women was called the Good Shepherd English Medium School. This name perhaps attempts to market the school to the middle-class preference for convent schools. That is, to read and write Punjabi, his mother tongue, as he had been educated in Hindi in his intial grades. In addition to English, middle-class Jats are also fluent in Hindi, which they may use at work, in the bazaar, or among friends. Of course, among the vast majority of Gangangar’s Jats, Punjabi remains the everyday language. I later discovered that the word is paap. In this light, the family’s attempts to encourage me into behaviours appro-

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priate to a Jatti (Jat woman) may become local expressions of transnational resistance. Many rural Jats are also well educated, with training at agricultural colleges particularly common. That is, completed ten years of formal schooling. Of course, status often contributes to the family wealth by making higher levels of education and better positions possible, and thus Ganganagar society is not as permeable nor achievement-oriented in determining social standing as these feature might otherwise suggest. A landed Jat elite also exists: my father-in-law sometimes referred, with what seemed to be a mixture of admiration, envy, and perhaps a little disdain, to the big landlord (marabbianwalle) families of Ganganagar. This relatively small number of Jat families had lands in excess of two or three marabba and monetary wealth as a result; status is ascribed to these families in terms of their property and position as landlords. Of course such an option as moving back to the land presumes a vast and detailed knowledge of Punjabi agricultural practices and conditions and thus is no real option for many. Not only are there not enough professional positions for educated Jats, but it is claimed that the necessity of paying bribes in order to get a job also limits employment possibilities. In effect, the educated unemployed form a lower middle class, materially disadvantaged in comparison to the employed, or upper middle class. These lower Jats participate in family events and large social gatherings among their upper relatives and neighbours, but appear otherwise to remain at the margins of everyday hospitality and sociability. Still more marginal is the working class, which includes both local and floating migrant populations, whose members can be found employed as peons in the major institutions, as underlings in shops, in food and beverage services, in construction work, home service (laundry, utensil washing, sweeping), or casual labour. The working class may also be self-employed, in small vehicle operation (tempos and rickshaws), in vegetable, cloth, trinket or housewares sales, having their own mobile cart, or they may have a tea-and-snack stand in close proximity to the major transit junctions. The moniker is affixed to persons who are socially beyond the pale of the general middle class. Having a different conception of the working and the middle class, my in-laws found it difficult to comprehend that I was from an entirely working-class family by British or Canadian standards. The Indian media, and especially Bollywood films, are particularly implicated in the manipulation of class desires and the changing understanding

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Notes to pages 127–33 of middle-class values and aspirations. Dwyer (2000) makes just such a claim in her deconstruction of the contemporary Hindi film, tellingly titled All You Want Is Money, All You Need Is Love. The remaining three interviewees to offer class qualifiers were young, and rather recently married women, all housewives educated to bachelor’s or master’s level, who told me that their families were upper-middle class. It is possible that the marital family’s social status is particularly important to new wives, not only because they must adjust to the values and conditions of their new home, but also because they find few other avenues of determining and expressing personal status (such as a job might provide). Visiting practices express both social proximity and social solidarity. Although a ubiquitous nuisance, visits to poorer, more crowded and less well-maintained neighbourhoods were particularly plagued by this pest. Glasses are the typical drinking vessel of Punjabi villages, while cups have more urban associations. Interestingly, when we visited Ganganagar in 2006–7, such a reunion was indeed held in the form of an akhand path; as well, now well into his eighties – and carrying a cell-phone – taayaji visited us. The use of the term rickshawpullers might be seen to establish a compensatory social position for my father-in-law’s unfortunate nephew: rickshawpullers run their vehicles manually (typically by cycling) while auto-rickshaw drivers ply more modern, motorized vehicles, and additionally have the possibility of higher earnings due to the increased number of trips they can make (despite their greater costs). Land division and inheritance disputes were not features in the examples just cited. These tend to be problems between patrilineal family members related more immediately; furthermore, most of the members of this extended family lost their land at Partition and after redistribution owned distant and entirely separated plots. However, a number of other situations of land and property dispute read over with class conceptions were described to me. Pettigrew (1975: 38) notes that wealth, as reflected in land possession, has always been a fluctuating entity in Punjab. See note 3 of chapter 3 for an explanation of this term; note 8 of chapter 4 also addresses kitty parties. A more typical amount for an ashirvaad of this nature among the urban middle class would be 100 Rupees. Ashirvaad is a ritual prestation given with the view to blessing the recipient. It is given to couples upon their marriage and to various parties to the marriage at particular ceremonies within the marriage itself.

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36 My use of italics for the entire term denotes the colloquial Punjabi currency of the English term in this phrase. Chapter Five 1 Diwali is also known among Sikhs as Bandi-Chhorh Divas (Prisoner Release Day), and marks the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment at Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir, as well as his role in freeing a number of Hindu rajas with whom he had been detained. Although for Sikhs Diwali conjures meanings of righteous and just struggle, it is celebrated in many of the same ways as is Diwali among Hindus, with displays of candles, lights, and fireworks, and the exchange and consumption of sweets and other rich foods. 2 The Sikh festival Hola Mohalla, which occurs the day after Holi, and is described in the Imperial Gazetteer of 1908 as a kindred festival to it (v.XX: 294), was not apparent among the middle-class Jats I knew closely in Ganganagar, who had the day before played Holi with colours just like their Hindu neighbours. 3 The punishing temperatures – in the mid-40 degrees Celsius range – experienced during both Baisakhis I spent in India doubtless had some role in this. 4 The locally used expression for a coalition of political parties. 5 Significantly, the party was re-elected in 2002. 6 Sikhs stand out both in the sense of being predominant in particular national fields, as well as in the sense of being an often visible minority. 7 The larger and more spectacular of the two productions, which was followed by a great fireworks display, was sponsored by the Bank of Punjab. It was widely advertised beforehand, and people were invited to register for tickets to the VIP section, which was not a little incongruous with the egalitarian stance of Sikh doctrine. The show was very well attended, by both Sikhs and Hindus alike, and most of the audience was decked out in its finest clothing; indeed, the whole proceedings was not unlike a wedding in that some of the audience appeared more interested in the statusmarking and social aspects of the event than in the show itself. 8 Darling (1930: 34) noted that ‘beyond the observance of a few rites, mainly on special occasions, religion hardly enters’ into Sikh daily life, ‘and even these rites are more the concern of women than of men.’ My own research supports the premise that Sikh women are more religious in their daily lives than men; they often engage in daily prayer and regularly attend the gurdwara, most often in the company of female friends and neighbours; as

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Notes to pages 141–3 well, women may belong to kitty party circles which feature group prayer. Darling argued that ‘the peasant is absorbed in the primary task of earning his living,’ a truth that apparently continues today, although now under the influence of class, in the pursuit of family progress. While there is no formal proscription against tobacco, alcohol, or drugs in the five Ks which mark the Khalsa community, those who have taken amrit pledge not to smoke, drink, or take drugs. The urban community of keshdhari and sahejdhari Sikhs is liberal in its interpretation of the limitations on alcohol consumption – indeed, among Jat Sikhs, drinking is routinely expected of men and is a practice interwoven with both masculinity and modernity – but remains firm on the taboos of smoking and drug use, and is scandalized on hearing of either practice in the community at large. Sikh women are very rarely mona, with short hair, although this perhaps has more to do with traditional South Asian notions of femininity and female beauty than any overt orthodoxy. When the Guru Granth Sahib is kept at home, it must be accommodated in a separate room, and must be ‘awoken’ each morning and ‘retired’ each evening with particular prayers. No alcohol must be kept in the house, nor meat. Families who keep the Guru Granth Sahib at home are thus quite orthodox, but are not necessarily or ubiquitously amritdhari. A strict interpretation of Sikh women’s observance, apparently more prominent among Sikhs in North America (Mahmood and Brady 2000) than among middle-class Sikhs in India, is the covering of the hair with a turban by Sikh women; however, the more orthodox associations of the turban are also in this case influenced by feminist claims to what is widely perceived as a masculine symbol of Sikh religiosity and identity. One of the most successful bhangra-pop singers (of a genre akin to bhangra but also influenced by Bollywood film and Indian pop music), Daler Mehndi, is a portly man with a penchant for brightly coloured, mismatched clothes and turbans; both his clothes and his music are a subject of considerable derision among Jats, although he has had broad success and made significant crossovers into the Bollywood film industry. A number of popular and well-regarded Jat bhangra singers, on the other hand, are sahejdharis, including Gurdas Mann, A.S. Kang, Jazzy Bains, and Harbhajan Mann. Surjit Bindrakhia (born Bains), another well-known Jat singer, often wore a turban for village scenes in performances, but not in videos set in urban settings, nor in reality. Of the younger generation of Jat singers, who specialize in a hybrid form of bhangra, a great majority are sahejdharis. Recently, Sukhshinder Shinda, a British bhangra producer and

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performer and turbaned Sikh has become very popular and is generally admired by Jats (although he does not seem to be one). There is, of course, evidence for the negotiated construction of Sikh identity even among those Sikhs claiming an essential and primordially religious affiliation, as illustrated in the various circumstances of Sikh political history which have influenced the production and reproduction of community identity. The late nineteenth century’s founding of the Singh Sabhas, the gurdwara reform movement of the 1920s, the regional language-based political aspirations of the 1950s and 1960s, and the recent involvement of Punjabi and overseas Sikhs in the Khalistan nationalist movement are all examples of context-dependent identity shifts. Among Jat Sikhs, the more militant orthodoxy of Guru Gobind Singh is favoured. His founding of the Khalsa is considered to have set Sikhs apart as a unique community in the Punjab, and many of the associated characteristics he declared for Sikhs in general have been incorporated by Jats as exclusive to their particular form of Sikhism. In 1998 lifetime membership cost 1,200 Rs (C $48) while annual membership cost 60 Rs ($2.40). Significantly, no women candidates were part of either party. Although reservations are provided for women’s seats in local government, Balraaj Singh, of the educationist camp, said to me: ‘There are no women in the party because no one will vote for them. And besides, they are too busy in the home.’ Interestingly, much of the ‘campaigning’ took place via phone as others were enlisted in the educationist cause, many of them village kin who would enjoin others to vote for their relatives in a contemporary display of factionalism. That is, Sikhs are monotheists. Which no doubt limits the possibility of a Sikh nation. Other Sikhs have remarked that they have no interest in Khalistan, which they fear would become a Jatistan, and thus subject to the fractiousness and factionalism for which the Jat Sikh community is renowned (Tatla 1999). Although a number of other Sikh castes exist, distinctions from Aroras are most developed and exercised by Jats in Ganganagar; this situation occurs in spite of, and perhaps because of, the fact that Jats and Aroras are most prominent in the city’s Sikh middle class and most likely to be part of the same social networks. Although as many Aroras also farmed to supplement their village trades – as evidenced in the life of Guru Nanak as recounted in the Janam Sakhis – it

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Notes to pages 151–4 is possible that the Jat-Arora distinction is over-rehearsed. Of course, this possibility also speaks to Jat notions of marginality. Hershman (1981: 88) similarly notes the greater religiosity of recent Sikh converts, who at the same time retain occasional Hindu practices but ‘are in many ways more orthodox and fervent Sikhs than the Jats.’ As explained in my introduction, it was this incidence of caste-endogamous, inter-religious marriage that I originally envisioned as the subject of my research. Many of the ethnographers on Punjab, both colonial, and post-colonial have noted the practice. But after being firmly told by a number of Jat Sikh elders that ‘Sikhs don’t marry Hindus,’ and that this practice had originally only occurred in a geographically limited region of Punjab in what is now northern Pakistan, and even then prior to Partition, I gave up on the idea. It was interesting, then, to say the least, to encounter at least half a dozen Arora families in the course of my further research who claimed to have both Sikh and Hindu members through intermarriage. In discouraging me from pursuing this line of inquiry, Jats asserted that they have always been more purely and fully bounded from Hinduism than Aroras, and that this was in fact a more acceptable project for me to seek to understand. She told me that this was a cause of family difficulty and unhappiness for her. Sikh religious images were ubiquitous in the more orthodox Arora homes that I visited, while several Jat Sikh families were observed to have images of Hindu gods at home. Although this is perhaps an aesthetic choice, the non-particularity of these Jat homes is notable, especially as in all such instances, Sikh images were visually predominant to Hindu ones, always occurring in hierarchical relation to them. In one instance, a more orthodox Sikh in the visiting party told me in an aside that such images were doubtless put there by the children of the family, who after all were not yet fully educated. Dhooleka Raj, without reference to these caste nuances, nonetheless notes that the term Hindu Punjabi is: a striking term of identity. In the late nineteenth century the British census officials asked about Hindu identity in the Punjab (Ibbetson 1883) and marked the religious and geographical boundaries of identity. The same questions of identity and representation are asked in contemporary Britain. ‘HP’ [the slang short-form among British Asian youth] is a specific response that is a product of the Britishborn generation. This ascription is possible because the slippage

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between ‘community,’ ‘culture,’ and ‘ethnicity’ in nominal identities such as ‘Punjabi,’ ‘Hindu,’ ‘Asian,’ or ‘HP’ is unmarked. Unless the various terms of identity are questioned, Punjab is rendered a faraway and exotic land, an essentially timeless land, important only insofar as it becomes an ethnic cultural adjective. (2003: 6) 28 The use of ‘Arora’ here is not only as a caste title, but a marital patronym of a particular Arora clan. 29 Apni larkiyan nu ‘bound’ nahin karde: their daughters are not ‘bound.’ 30 It is possible that such notions of residence form part of the complex of Arora notions of modernity and progressiveness. Indeed, while Aroras are less likely than Jats to emigrate, they often move to work or do business in other parts of India. In my small sample, Aroras were somewhat less likely than Jats to live in joint or extended family settings, but even among Jats this practice becomes increasingly less possible as a result of economic migration. 31 Until recently, marriages occurring within clan were considered quite inappropriate and even scandalous, regardless of the familial distance of the spouses. In one instance I was told of, a number of guests refused to attend the 1970s marriage of an entirely unrelated Sidhu-Brar couple. In some areas of Malwa, only a few large Jat clans predominate which had made arranging paternally and maternally exogamous marriages difficult; today it is becoming more common for clan endogamous marriages to occur. 32 Debates concerning the representation and attempted incorporation of Sikhs as Hindus in Indian legislation and curriculum, for instance, are reported frequently in the Punjabi media and both noted and opposed by Sikhs. 33 One case in the news during my fieldwork was that known as the fodder scam in Bihar, in which the state’s Chief minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, was implicated. 34 Other prominent persons, regardless of religion – such as the highly popular singer Jagjit Singh, who was born in the district, and political scientist, pundit, and television election commentator Yogendra Yadav, who was educated there – who were in some way connected to Ganganagar were equally a subject of local scrutiny and pride. Several Ganganagar residents voiced a sense of relation to and ownership over the successes of such individuals. 35 Bedi is most well-known for crime prevention initiatives as well as for instigating prison reforms. 36 Taxation is one area in which the state might be resisted by individual

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Punjabis. In my preliminary questionnaire, I asked a survey-style question on income ranges to get a better sense of the class positions of the people that I was intervewing. This question, like no other, caused marked anxiety among a number of people, thus suggesting that they did not pay taxes of an appropriate amount. I later asked several people about this, and was told that under-reporting income is a common occurrence among persons with businesses, as is salaried employees accepting bribes, although such explanations are possibly a result of some local social jealousy. In so doing, I discarded my supposed ethnographic objectivity – a habit sometimes encouraged by my position as bahu – and perhaps lost some particular insight into my father-in-law’s national sentiments. The 1908 Imperial Gazetteer of India also noted that the importance of caste in Punjab as a whole was reduced in comparison with other Indian regions. Darling (1930) also records his assessment that untouchability and other caste practices were on the wane in Punjab. Jats are nonetheless a dominant jati. The concept of caste dominance follows Srinivas (1966: 10); dominant castes ‘own a sizable amount of arable land locally available, have strength of numbers, and occupy a high place in the local hierarchy’. The dominant caste position of Jats is noted elsewhere in Punjab; for example, in the town of Rayya in Jalandhar District, Jats are second only to Brahmins in the local caste scheme, coming above Kshatriyas, Aroras, and Baniyas, and clustered in higher prestige occupations (D’Souza and Gill 1996). Of course, the fact that Jats are demographically prominent in present-day Punjab may also have significant influence over local notions of caste prestige and standing. Curiously, colonial accounts detailing the backward position of the Bagri Jats were very supportive in building this case. Mr Beniwal of Jaipur, one of the men who put together the case for Bagri reservation, told me that he used Ibbetson’s description of the ‘puny Bagri Jat’ (1883 [1994]: 103) in formulating his arguments. This 1978 report, which guaranteed that 27 percent of the nation’s civil service positions would be reserved for scheduled castes, is merely the latest in a series of special rights and protections awarded since 1935 (Bose 1972). In 1990, reservations were increased to 35 percent. Currently, the government is considering increasing reservation levels still further. The notion of sacrifice is claimed by Sikh militants. Das notes that Bhindranwale ‘liked to tell … [a] story … that an agreement had been reached during the discussions on the national flag in a Congress session, that the saffron colour as a symbol of Sikh martyrdom would fly over and above the other two colors – green for the Muslims and white for the Hindus.

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He attributed this agreement to the “fact” that it was always a Sikh who [during the independence movement] led the procession of satyagrahis (Gandhi’s term for the nonviolent protestors, literally signifying adherence to the truth) as Hindus were too cowardly to do so’ (2007: 116). These two martyrs are also noted in the song Putt Jattan De. Two films on the life of Bhagat Singh were released in 2002, and in 2006–7, I observed a proliferation of popular art depicting the young Bhagat Singh in Ganganagar and Punjab. Meanwhile in the media, it was critically acclaimed as the first Punjabi ‘crossover’ film hit. For a further analysis of this film, see Mooney (2008). As Gupta (1993) suggests, urban reettlement, which was largely focused on other castles, was somewhat easier. This income might be supplementary, or it might be an urban family’s only source of income. It was not uncommon that these charges were laid after other Sikhs raised false suspicions. Rivalries and vengeance were significant undercurrents of the Punjab situation in the 1980s: land disputes and old political scores could be settled or otherwise assuaged by making false reports to the police. These intra-caste, and even intra-familial, animosities are an unsettling and painful aspect of the crisis and are very rarely discussed. The film Hawayein (‘Winds,’ 2003), which depicted an intra-familial land grab targeting the lone remaining son of a wealthy family in the aftermath of 1984s pogroms, created a small opening for the discussion of these issues. Similarly, but in an inter-religious context, Das (2007) describes the 1984 Delhi riots as a site of struggle over local disputes and antagonisms. The house, like an increasing number of others in Punjabi villages, was built in a fully-enclosed urban style, and featured fine stone tiling, large windows with wrought-iron screens, a well-equipped and airy kitchen, and a large bathroom with western-style toilet. Outside the living room, and rather unusually for a farm, was a small lawn edged with rose bushes. All of these characteristics are typical of fashionable middle-class homes in Punjabi cities. In this sense, marriage continues its traditional role in establishing and furthering family status and progress. A weekly Indian magazine, akin to Time. Often mentioned in conversation, it is published in several regional vernaculars as well as English; the English version was of most currency among the more educated middle-class homes I visited.

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52 There are instances even of military personnel having left their careers and emigrated. 53 Jalandhar, in the Doaba region, has been a major site of Punjabi emigration for a century; most of the early overseas migrants hailed from there. As for Karanbir Singh, who also does not live with his children, he is, unusually, happy not to do so: ‘I like my independence, I don’t want my children controlling the house, dictating when and how I do this and that!’ This statement perhaps reflects the tipping of the age balance that occurs in most Punjabi families wherein elderly parents are gradually removed from all but ceremonial authority over household affairs, and may in some way connect to the renunciant stage of life remarked to be of importance for Hindus. Chapter Six 1 Our conversation continued in this vein. I remarked that I had been joking with my father-in-law, saying to him: ‘How are you a Jat Sikh? Aren’t you more like a pandit or a Brahmin?’ Jasleen answered with a laugh: ‘You see, that’s it! That’s absolutely what we are doing now, the work of a pandit.’ 2 Although this term is my own, I have since conjuring it up noted its usage in a few other publications. Selim (2004), a literary critic, rehearses a notion of the rural imaginary with regard to the relationship between Egyptian peasants and tales of modernity in the village novel of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; such novels express the contested terrain of Egyptian modernity through a literary imaginary that is about politics rather than peasants. Schnell (2005) utilizes the term ethnographically in a treatment of village and tradition in Japan. As well, a Google search reveals that several graduate students are now working with this terminology and its use is apparently proliferating. 3 For instance, Asad (2003: 13–14) suggests that modernity is ‘a product of nineteenth-century romanticism, partly linked to the growing habit of reading imaginative literature – being enclosed within and by it – so that images of a “pre-modern” past acquire in retrospect a quality of enchantment.’ 4 Meanwhile, those conditions and phenomena construing themselves as post-modern disregard and deny history, crediting themselves with eternal novelty and invention; post-modernism ‘strives to cultivate ignorance of modern history and culture, and speaks as if all human feeling, expressiveness, play, sexuality and community have only just been invented – by the post-modernists’ (Berman 1988: 33).

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5 Interestingly, before producing his study of the multiple potential meanings of British rural life amid a century of urbanization, social change, and familial upheavals and dispersals, Raymond Williams ‘came from a village to a city: to be taught, to learn, to submit personal facts, the incidents of a family, to a total record; to learn evidence and connection and altering perspectives’ (1973: 6), as might many Jats. 6 Curiously, it is on such English nostalgias of a rural ideal that Caton (1999) has suggested that colonial notions of the ‘yeoman’ Sikh peasant rest. 7 However, we must note Taylor’s (2002: 110) suggestion that utopian appeal derives from a notion of possibility. 8 In the British case, these struggles took place over tenure and labour arrangements linked to end of the feudal order. 9 Axel’s discussion of Glassy Junction, a Southall pub which thematically re-constructs rural Punjab even as it ‘appropriates and transforms familiar and powerful signs of Englishness’ (2001: 184), provides further insight into diasporic nostalgia and the transnational production of identity. 10 The derivative term paindu, meaning ‘of the village,’ is sometimes used to connote old-fashionedness and excessive rusticity. 11 My informants assured me that the importance of the land to the Jat farmer remains pre-eminent after emigration for at least a generation. In another instance, Karen Leonard’s discussion of the creative understanding of local landscapes as depictions of nostalgic places among early Punjabi immigrants to California (1997) suggests that the Punjabi relationship to the land, particularly in the role of landlord, was important in differentiating Punjabis from their fellow Mexican farmers with whom they were otherwise lumped as members of a ‘brown’ race. 12 Education among Jats is by now such a necessity that it is an ongoing expense rather than an occasional budgetary requirement for which one saves. 13 This practice complicates the issue of dowry, for if women receive no land inheritance, as well as no dowry, they are effectively disinherited. This is an often-stated proviso in the dowry debate as it is locally expressed. 14 The song Apna Punjab Hove features the line manje utte baitha jat oye baniyaa nawaab hove: sitting on a manja, the Jat becomes a king! 15 Such as in the Bollywood blockbusters Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Veer-Zaara, the transnationally-nostalgic films (Jee Aayan Nu, Asa Nu Maan Watna Da, and Dil Apna Punjabi) starring Harbhajan Mann, and in the Punjabi epic Shaheed-e-Mohabbat. The 2001 Academy Award nominee Lagaan similarly celebrates traditional (but colonial) village life in Gujarat. 16 Although such sites may be aimed primarily at transnational Punjabis.

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17 At least they do not show those farmers of middling status whose lands are measured in vighas rather than marabbas, nor indeed small-scale or tenant farmers. 18 This term is historically tied to Gandhi’s anti-colonial campaign, which sought to refuse reliance on British merchandise, particularly in cottons, while drawing the Indian masses into the independence movement. 19 Mann is known for his renditions of traditional folk music, as well as for pop-styled bhangra, and more recently, for acting: he acted in, sung for, and produced the Punjabi film Shaheed-e-Mohabbat (‘Martyr of Love’); he also starred in Des Hoya Pardes (‘One’s Country Becomes a Foreign Land’), a film reflecting on the traumas of the 1980s among Punjabi rural youth. 20 In Punjabi: Apne graayin kolon haal puchhaan pind da Mar jaane Maanna kyon Punjab jaanda khind da Kade kise Ravi kolon, kade kise Ravi kolon vakh naa Chenab hove 21 Oye manje utte baitha Jat oye baniyaa nawaab hove; a nawaab is a Muslim feudal leader or noble, however, the English term king is a good approximation here. 22 Eating them slathered in butter (makhan), without counting (bina gine). 23 For the men, this means a white kurta (long shirt) with lunghi (a length of cloth wrapped around the lower body in the fashion of a skirt) ‘like the Hindidhoti,’ and pag (turban), while the women are dressed in salwarkameez. The salwar-kameez is not indigenous to Punjab, although it is considered to be the more practical and proper form of dress for women, who are known instead to have worn lehngas (long skirts) with their kameez or ghaghras in times past. The salwar-kameez is a Muslim form of dress that has been adopted widely in Punjab and is now known in English as the Punjabi suit; J.P.S. Uberoi suggests that the salwar-kameez is an Afghani import to Punjab (1998 personal communication). Punjabi forms of dress are therefore constructs or inventions of tradition rather than having historical veracity. 24 Although friends and relatives keep us appraised of material and social changes in the region, when we visited Ganganagar and Punjab in 2006–7, we were nonetheless surprised at the ubiquity of cellular telephones and broadband internet service; as well, the city seemed to have as many internet cafés as STD (subscriber trunk dialing)/PCO (public call office) phone booths, suggesting that internet use is no longer only a middle-class phenomenon. 25 This suggests that the musicians were perhaps mirasis, the regional Muslim

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caste of minstrels, and raises the possibility that although bhangra is heartily claimed as a Jat art, it may have had less definite caste origins. Ballantyne confirms this interpretation; he notes that the ‘western parts of Punjab’ (i.e. Pakistani Punjab) ‘were the cradle of bhangra’ (2006: 129). Baisakhi is commemorated in Toronto in both ritual and secular ways. A parade of Sikhs led by the panj piare, representing the first five Sikhs to receive Guru Gobind Singh’s amrit, re-enacts the founding of the Khalsa while demonstrating religious and cultural distinction and claiming a civic Sikh space; this is preceded or followed by a langar or communal meal. Besides the religious celebration of Baisakhi, the festival is also marked by a proliferating number of Baisakhi melas (fairs), which celebrate and sell the secular features of Punjabi foods, forms of dress, music, and other forms of popular culture. In this interpretation of the Baisakhi mela, I rely on the marketing of these melas in Canadian print and television advertisements and also in The Tribune’s promotion of Baisakhi celebrations in and around Chandigarh. Both emphasize the possibility of experiencing the enjoyment of the Baisakhi mela as a tribute to the harvest and a commemoration of the rural way of life, utilizing the stock images of bhangra-dancing farmers, of young women, their hair in long braids, wearing bright ghagras as they play on swings slung in trees (an image more reminiscent of the late-summer festival of Teej than of Baisakhi), of productive and fecund buffaloes, and of carts and haystacks piled high with the harvest. This notion of the mela is promoted in bhangra videos, which frequently portray it as a fun-fair, with rides, games, and various stalls. I must note here that the following day in the newspapers, the celebrations at Anandpur were described in a photo-essay, and that in the following year, 1999, there was far more Baisakhi activity among Sikhs in general, owing to the Khalsa tercentenary celebrations. While once again, few persons among my circle went out of their way to mark the festival in Ganganagar, we heard of several others who journeyed to Anandpur Sahib for the event, and were surprised to see a photo of my eldest sister-in-law at Anandpur in the special supplement produced by The Tribune to mark the occasion. The question of religiosity in the commemoration of Baisakhi is too complicated to pursue here, particularly as the notion of ritual in Sikhism is a problematic one, but I do not wish to suggest that simply because my various contacts in Ganganagar did little to mark Baisakhi that the event was not religiously important to them, nor still that they are generally irreligious. Their reasons may be entirely more pragmatic: the fact that we experienced early heatwave conditions in both of the Aprils

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Notes to pages 191–204 I spent in Ganganagar, with temperatures well over 40 degrees, certainly may have influenced this situation. I spent the majority of my time in the city, but made a number of visits to villages, and on a few occasions, stayed overnight. Most often, these were social visits to meet various relatives and extended family members or were in conjunction with family marriages; on a couple of occasions, we travelled out to survey the family land, and in the course of this and other travels, stopped en route at a relative’s village for tea or a meal in an effort to maintain and renew family ties. When we visited in 2006–7, an irrigation project was being undertaken on one plot of the family land; we visited twice in two months, and my fatherin-law and fufarji visited more frequently. Such as the first round of visits I undertook when I was introduced to rural members of my extended affinal family; thereafter, we visited only for weddings or when other persons living at distances came with some intention of visiting their own local lands. Upon leaving, we were presented with a half-sack of red gajjar (carrots) that had been grown on the property. It is difficult not to endorse Jat food nostalgias once one has tasted these intensely sweet and delicious carrots. Happily, when I inquired after their venture in 2006, I was told it was doing well. In fact, these jokes are often made serious by the lunar Sikh’s relaying to Armstrong that they moved there at the time of Partition; this destination makes a profound statement of Sikh sentiment on divided Punjab and the Sikh national place thereafter. Several quotes from Darling’s Rusticus Loquitur (1930) cited elsewhere in this work suggest that this tension was apparent even in the 1920s. The generation and thus the timeframe of the family’s jagirdaari is unclear, as is whether the babaji was of the peke or saureh. The fact that this particular biji voices resistance against the tradition of jagirdaari does not help us to determine how she is related to Mandeep. Gian Singh had worked in a national corporation and the family had moved through repeated regional postings in India. The practice of building bigger, better homes with transnational monies has a long history in Punjab. In this sense, the chronicle of Uncle’s house became perhaps a measure of my own transnational alienation; the performance of emotions that this small house provoked in me may say as much about my own engagement with modernity and distance from a home place as my Jat companions for I am not nearly as firmly tied to my own place of origin or home.

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42 In my observation, both in Ganganagar and abroad, younger Jats – especially those under the age of forty – are more likely than older Jats to admit to lost traditions (and indulge in rural nostalgias); this would seem to comment on the scale and pace of increasingly globalized social change in which they are enmeshed. Chapter Seven 1 Indeed, the Punjab State Cottage Industries Emporium in Delhi is called ‘Phulkari.’ 2 In this way, phulkari may be classified as nanki-shak, a category of gifts from the nanke which mainly includes all of the items given to a couple’s first girl child at different stages throughout her life. The goods, which are given into the care of her mother, are for her use, and the use of her sisters. The nanki-shak, in essence a sort of trousseau, may include clothes, utensils, bedding, jewelry, money, or other gifts. Today, the nanke is more likely to give gifts of money, jewelry, and clothing at girls’ marriages, as the other goods are less useful, and thus less desired and prestigious, in urban homes with cash budgets. Still, a symbolic material item or two will typically be given at a birth. 3 These rituals include bathing, adorning, and feeding rituals. 4 This last criticism was mine and my young, fashion-conscious nephew’s alone. Punjabi women generally favour bright colours, and even contrasts of such colours are appreciated. 5 A shopping trip to Ludhiana, the largest city of Malwa region, and the largest industrial centre of Punjab, came to be mentioned many times during my field visits, but was never undertaken. Curiously, this far more cosmopolitan centre was said to be a mecca for high Punjabi fashion, as well as for the traditional Punjabi arts and crafts. Punjabis in Canada, meanwhile, have since told me that phulkaris are a dying art, produced only specifically for the tourist market. 6 Paerhi paina, touching the feet of one’s elders – and for women, affines – is a common practice of respect in India. 7 Once again, my mother-in-law articulated sound reasons for the apparent demise of phulkari. In another vein, Naik (1996: 108) has noted that: ‘Girls are now attending the schools, leading to greater extent of social mobility, availability of wide variety of fabrics, modification of traditional stitches into much simpler forms, increased demand, shortage of time to meet the demand and so on, have adversely affected the traditional art of Punjab.’ 8 Irwin and Hall (1973: 162) state that phulkaris ‘were made only for use within

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Notes to pages 210–14 the family. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, in times of hardship from famine, the phulkaris were found to be attractive to collectors of embroidery and many were sold in circumstances of necessity. More recently, they have been produced and marketed as commodities.’ The 1908 Imperial Gazetteer notes that large numbers of phulkari were exported to Europe for use as table-covers and hangings (v.XX 1908: 316). It is a common local practice of thrift to have the embroidered, or more rarely, beaded, portions of old suits and other textiles stitched into cushion covers, shopping, storage and a myriad of other bags and pouches, and even bedspreads, as well as used to adorn bazaar-bought towels and pillow cases. Middle-class women may set up these types of embroidery reuse businesses in their homes. One such woman spent 10 minutes with us showing us the inventory of items we might choose to have stitched from remnant embroideries, and was still not finished when we, thoroughly overwhelmed at her fast-paced pitch, stopped her. There is little indication that such local reuses of phulkari would take place, but the Punjabi cottage industry shop in Delhi is full of phulkari cushion covers from whence their name is derived. Curiously, my own position, privileged over my in-law’s by race and Western location, is subordinate to theirs in terms of my class. By Western standards, my family is working rather than middle class, and I am the first woman of my family to attend university, having been preceded only by a single male cousin who went as a mature student. The ideology of social progress is here mitigated by the relatively strict demarcation of classes in English society. From there, the family moved to the Philippines and eventually to the United States, while other descendants in this branch of the family found their way from India to Canada. My father-in-law’s father was a reknowned anglophile, and my in-laws both frequently told me how ‘he simply loved the English,’ and would be glad that an English bahu had come into the family. My father-in-law himself was also something of an anglophile, in common with others of his age who had lived during the raj, fond of praising the organization and order that the British had established in various Indian systems, while lamenting the disappearance of these civic ‘traditions.’ He had visited England once in his life, in 1977, and liked to discuss the England he found at the time of the Queen’s silver jubilee with me and question me as to how things had changed. I remarked to him, once, ‘you certainly remember a lot from your trip to England.’ He replied: ‘Oh yes, I sometimes feel I am more English than the English. I appreciate their way of life very much.’

Notes to page 214

265

13 He has also said he had misgivings even before the Punjab crisis erupted, wondering how he would manage the corruption, political machinations, and monied hierarchies of government service, and the limitations that this would place on his own advancement if he were to not broach involvement.

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Index

1984, 8, 11, 33, 73–4, 139, 166, 178, 214 adoption, 171, 247n4 agriculture, 8, 82, 179, 197, 219, 246n4. See also farming Akali Dal (AD/SAD), 38, 70, 76, 84, 138–9 alienation, 5, 11; class-based, 120, 126; Jat, 72, 194, 197, 198; Sikh, 68, 72 amrit, 66, 79, 142, 143, 144, 145, 153, 252n9 amritdhari, 79–81, 144–5 Amritsar, 65, 165 anand karaj, 63, 69, 133, 134 Anandpur Sahib Resolution, 38 ancestry, 19, 59, 114, 192, 197, 202 Anglo-Sikh War, 69, 140, 241n58 Apna Punjab Hove, 186–8 armed forces, British, 50, 69, 214 armed forces, Indian, 8, 83, 139, 162, 171; and marriage, 248n10; and social class, 98, 107, 121,171; popular representations of, 187 Arora(s), 151–8; and gender, 155–6; and marriage, 12, 81, 157; and urbanity, 151–2; Arora-Jat solidar-

ity, 133–4; as ‘Hindu Punjabis,’ 72, 153–4, 254n27; as Sikhs, 78; Jat perceptions of Arora-Jat difference, 72, 131, 139, 151–8; Jat perceptions of kinship among, 156–7; religiosity among, 150, 152–3. See also bhaape; Khatri Arya Samaj, 69–70, 72 authenticity, 10–11, 19, 22–3, 123, 178–9, 185, 190, 194, 204; and gender, 61, 155–7; and Jat identity, 11, 34, 195, 197; and Khalistan, 167–8; and primordialism, 19, 197; and the rural, 11, 61, 197; loss of, 173, 204–6; in popular culture, 61, 190–1; social construction of, 19, 22–3 autochthony, 52, 178, 188, 194 autoethnography, 40, 44, 207 Baagri (language), 38, 98, 132, 120, 164 Baisakhi, 137, 188–91, 261n26–9 belief, 7, 79–80, 137, 141–6, 148–51, 153; vs. practice, 144–6 bhaape, 136, 157; bhaape jokes, 155. See also Arora

288

Index

bhakti, 47, 64, 144 bhangra, 55, 143, 187, 188–9, 190–1, 218 Bhindranwale, Jarnail Singh, 73, 85, 240n52 BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), 84, 138, 242n70 border, 8, 68, 74, 76, 166, 187, 188, 218, 231n16. See also boundary boundary: and caste, 51; and ethnicity, 14–15, 20, 23, 59–62, 137; and gender, 59–62, 92; and Jat identity, 7, 12, 193–4, 254n24; and nation, 70, 74, 77; boundary-crossing, 134–5, 176; boundary-making, 13; historical geography of, 77; in contemporary ethnography, 215; rural-urban, 11, 24; Sikh-Hindu, 69–70, 83, 138, 141, 149. See also border; endogamy British in India, 4, 17, 29, 32, 36, 38, 48–51, 67, 68–70, 84, 113, 114, 115, 129, 140, 150, 162, 176, 178, 213–14, 230n11. See also raj caste, 7–8, 8–9, 47; and class, 35, 112, 115, 125, 128, 132–5, 171; and education, 113, 115; and gender, 57–9, 155–8; and identity, 11, 24, 34, 58, 78, 163, 173–4; and land, 52–3, 163, 177, 179; and marriage, 87, 92, 99; and religion, 70, 153; and urbanization, 154; colonial construction of, 50–1, 53, 70, 163; commensality, 15, 163; cultural construction of, 82, 163; divisions, 14, 78–9, 151–8, 163; dominant, 48, 52, 82, 83, 152, 163, 186, 201, 256n39; egalitarianism, 64, 65, 85–6, 163; in Sikhism, 10, 48, 64–6, 82, 151, 200–1;

intercaste relations, 132–5, 151–8; occupation, 8, 12, 82, 114, 126, 30–1, 154, 171; politics of, 163–4; social practice of, 10, 12, 65, 81, 125; solidarity, 10, 78, 136, 163. See also Arora; endogamy; exogamy; gotra; hierarchy; inequality; Jat; jati; reservations; varna centre-state relations, 18, 38, 76–7, 85, 140–1. See also marginality/ marginalization Chandigarh, 63, 96, 99, 190, 197, 218 Chandigarh Tribune, 96, 184, 242n72 charhdi kalaa, 5 children, 87, 88, 92, 93, 110, 111, 115, 120; and community identity, 137, 237n29; as duty, 110; challenges of unemployment among, 168, 171; ethnography as historical record for, 46; female, 104, 246n28; marriages of, 93, 98; photos of, 97, 203; socialization of, 110; village, 122. See also education cinema, 34, 102. See also film citizenship: and education, 17, 113; and nation, 15–16, 18; transnational, 94 civil service, 83, 113, 116, 120, 127, 139, 163–4, 196, 247n6, 256n41 civil society, 113 clan. See gotra class: among Jats, 9, 11, 24, 34–5, 51–2, 68, 112, 136, 150, 158–60; and caste, 125, 128, 150, 164; and dowry, 96, 105–7; and education, 24, 112, 113–25, 126; and gender, 2, 94, 117–19; and marginality, 84; and marriage, 88, 91, 92, 95, 100; and materialism, 90, 126–7; and modernity, 8, 30–1, 34–5, 112, 126,

Index 132; and nation, 113, 135, 136, 158, 160; and progress, 98–9, 126; and status, 89, 126; and urbanization, 115–16, 125–6, 151, 154; aspirations, 30, 32, 38, 113–14, 120, 170, 196–7; colonial construction of, 29–30; differentiation of, 127–8; elites, 113, 115, 176–7; limitations of, 107–11, 126–7, 128–32; privilege, 11, 114, 125, 201; ‘service class,’ 247n6. See also middle class clothing: and modernity, 95, 188; and religious identity, 62–3, 66, 153; children’s, 62, 127; in popular culture, 56, 60–1, 187; men’s, 127; middle class, 127; traditional, 56; 62,187, 260n23; women’s, 60–3, 66, 95, 153, 207–9. See also phulkari colonial ethnography. See ethnography: colonial colonialism, 16, 25, 26, 29, 213; British, 162; and nation, 16. See also post-colonialism/coloniality communalism, 70, 81, 83, 113, 141; and violence, 30, 71 community, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 24, 71, 77, 113, 175–7. See also ethnicity; identity; Jat; Sikh Congress (Indian National Congress Party), 18, 72–3, 138–9, 164, 242n70 constructivism, 22, 24, 230n10 consumption, 28, 30, 35, 87, 102, 126; conspicuous, 51, 103, 154, 168 corruption, 30, 242n70, 243n4 cosmopolitanism, 30, 120, 152 cricket, 158, 166 daughter-in-law (bahu): adjustment of, 13, 43, 88, 91, 93, 94, 95, 118, 209, 230n8; expectations of, 13, 60,

289

95; preferences for, 93; social role, 58, 101 daughter-in-law ethnographer, 10, 12, 13, 43, 45, 209, 211, 212, 215; ethical issues, 39, 43–4; fieldwork limitations, 40, 42, 230n7; fieldwork opportunities, 41, 42; writing issues, 44, 46 Delhi, 39, 42, 63, 77, 107, 188 democracy, 10, 16, 25, 72–4, 76, 158, 163 development: agricultural, 32; and environment, 26, 199; and modernity, 25–7; and nation, 27; as discourse, 27; as marginalizing, 167, 174; inequitable, 85; regional, 85, 167, 199; socioeconomic, 83; underdevelopment, 33, 199; Western, 27. See also Green Revolution; progress diaspora, 22, 174–5, 202; and identity, 4, 24; and modernity, 30, 136, 177; city as site of, 37, 202; Jat, 46, 178–9, 190, 202; Khalistani, 74, 240n56; Punjabi, 177; Sikh, 46; South Asian, 30, 48. See also transnational difference, 85, 214; among Jats, 68–77, 84, 85, 136, 141–6; among Sikhs, 7, 70, 74, 77, 84; and identity, 15, 19, 23, 113; caste, 10, 151–8; class, 114, 122, 127; gender, 58–9, 62; Hindu-Sikh, 11, 66, 68–73, 78–9, 80, 82, 138, 141, 143, 145, 146–50, 152, 153–4; politics of, 85, 136, 150. See also caste displacement, 21, 22, 176, 179, 198, 211; after Partition, 166. See also emplacement/placemaking; place divorce, 45

290

Index

Diwali, 137, 251n1 Doaba, 172, 199, 247n2, 258n53 dowry, 30, 45, 103; and honour 111; as female inheritance, 105–6, 111, 259n13; as gift, 96, 105–6; as indication of class, 102–11; as social issue, 96, 104–6; costs of, 104, 105, 109; crimes, 246n23; deaths, 30, 117–18, 235n17; impacts of education on, 111, 245n22; impacts on men, 110–11; impacts on women, 117–8; in marriage transactions, 93, 96; items entailed, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 207; prestige of, 108, 109, 111; refusal of, 106–7. See also inheritance; wari economic discrimination, 68, 167–9, 170. See also marginality/ marginalization economic loss, 76, 219; fear of, 180 economic progress, 120, 168, 172 economy: agricultural 47–8, 55, 74, 105; and ethnicity, 21–2, 172; and migration, 170–2, 199; and power, 30, 32, 37–8, 168; and rural nostalgia, 177; colonial, 51; global, 127, 167; national, 19, 55, 71; regional, 37, 74, 83–5, 167 education: and class, 30, 87, 112, 126, 131, 132; and colonialism, 29, 113, 248n13; and ethnicity, 9; and identity, 24, 30; and marriage, 115, 116–17, 119; and migration, 120–1, 171; and modernity, 25, 34, 87, 113, 126; and nation, 16–17, 113, 135–6; and progress, 119–20, 121, 131, 196; and social change, 48, 114–6; economic imperative of, 114; elite, 17, 113, 115, 121; in Ganganagar,

37; and Jat middle-class, 89, 91, 110, 113, 125, 146, 150, 160, 214; limitations of, 126; public school, 107, 113, 120, 124; university, 112, 117, 126, 194; women’s, 93, 100, 111, 116–19. See also class; English; middle class egalitarianism, 7, 30, 164. See also caste; equality; Sikhism elections, 10, 137, 138, 158, 166; local (college), 146–51 embodiment, 58–9, 63, 74, 234n11. See also women, bodily practices of empire: British, 38, 50; Mughal, 32, 65–6, 69, 178; Sikh (see also Ranjit Singh), 69, 248n50, 248n51; and nation, 16 emplacement/placemaking, 22, 178, 202–4. See also displacement; place employment, 84, 89, 94, 98, 131, 160, 169, 196, 247n6 employment equity, 164 endogamy, 81, 92, 102, 153. See also exogamy English (language): and colonialism, 162; and elite education, 17, 113; and gender, 94, 116–17, 119–20; and progress, 120–2, 196; impacts on Punjabi, 124–5, 205; media, 120, 184; middle-class education, 30, 113, 115, 127; schools, 115, 127; usage, 90, 110, 121–2; vs. Hindi, 122–3 equality, 45, 146; as social and religious value, 64, 81, 89, 146, 163; gender equality, 45, 57–8, 117–19, 155, 245n22, 248n9; in arranging marriages, 95. See also caste; egalitarianism; gender; inequality; Sikhism

Index ethics (anthropological), 27, 39, 41–4, 233n30 ethnicity, 9, 11, 13–24; and boundary, 14; and education, 9, 17, 113; and gender, 59, 234n11; and identity, 14; and nation, 15, 19, 159; circumstantial, 9, 19, 22; definition(s) of, 15, 20; diasporic/transnational, 21; instrumental, 22, 230n10; Jat (Sikh), 8, 16, 24, 48, 52; situational, 20, 230n10. See also constructivism; primordialism ethnographer, daughter-in-law, 42– 6 ethnographic methods and conventions, 5, 41, 43, 128, 207, 212–13 ethnography: at home, 6, 42; autoethnography, 40, 44, 207; colonial, 48–51; modern, 25; of Punjab, 47–8; postmodern, 22, 39–40; reflexive 39, 44 exogamy, 37, 92, 152, 255n31. See also endogamy factionalism, 48, 148, 150–1, 157–8, 242n70, 253n20 family: and fieldwork, 6, 12, 39–46; honour, 40, 88, 103, 107, 111, 118, 126, 131, 204; notion of ‘complete,’ 88, 110; extended, 41, 88, 108, 125; ‘good,’ 88–91; joint, 47, 58, 83, 88, 156, 188; ideal, 58; life, 58, 59, 90, 91, 95, 110, 137, 155, 156; migration, 171; nanke, 104, 211, 263n2; nuclear, 88, 103, 108, 188, 203; peke, 90; progress, 40, 101, 131, 169, 170, 184, 214; saureh, 12, 41, 90, 209, 211; status, 110, 111, 131, 179; tradition, 63, 143, 171; transnational, 8; values, 81, 88, 102, 116, 157. See

291

also kin; marriage; men; networks, social; relations, social; women farmer, 53, 74, 82, 174, 188, 192, 194, 195, 196, 259n11 farming, 32, 36, 47, 48, 53, 82, 83, 86, 105, 114, 154, 167, 168–9, 182, 184, 195, 196, 199, 202, 246n1. See also agriculture femininity, 208, 209; religious, 57–8. See also gender; women feminism, 45, 46, 57, 79, 119, 252n12 field, ethnographic, 215; entry and departure, 212–13 fieldwork, 6, 12, 212; ethics of, 43–4; in the family, 6, 12, 39–46, 230n7 film, 35, 61, 63, 103, 127, 165, 184, 185, 187, 193, 218, 249n25. See also cinema five Ks, 66, 79, 142, 144, 148, 153, 158 foeticide/infanticide, female, 45, 57, 345n20 food, 35, 55, 81, 102, 104, 127, 134, 137, 138, 183, 186, 188, 190, 193, 199, 216, 218; and farming, 192, 195, 216 friendship, 40–2, 55, 56, 76, 125, 127, 130, 132–3, 134, 157, 179 Gandhi, Indira, 8, 73 Ganganagar, Sri, 10, 35–9; ethnic composition of, 38; population, 36–8 gender, 12–13, 45, 47, 57–63; and caste, 155–7; and ethnicity, 14, 59–60; and identity, 58–9, 62; and marriage, 100–2; and modernity, 59, 155; and social change, 116–20, 248n9; and tradition, 57–63, 155, 181; embodiment, 58–9; equality, 45, 57, 117, 155, 180, 245n22;

292

Index

inequality, 45, 58, 101, 118, 155, 248n9; in Sikhism, 57–8; limitations, 108–11; oppression, 47, 118; norms, 47, 58, 60; roles, 59, 92. See also clothing; daughter-in-law ethnographer; dowry; education; family; femininity; feminism; honour; marriage; masculinity; men; purdah; women globalization, 21–3, 25, 28, 30–1, 51, 82, 127, 167, 185, 191, 211 globalized identity, 32, 39, 44, 46, 125, 165, 167, 172, 175, 213, 240n56 Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), 8, 65, 70, 73, 165 gotra, 92, 152 government: central, 72–4, 127, 163; colonial, 17, 70; Indian, 32, 161–2; legislation/policy, 83, 120; regional, 72; role after Partition, 166, 182. See also Akali Dal; BJP; centre-state relations; Congress; nation; nation-state; politics Green Revolution, 32, 51, 83, 105, 167–9, 199, 219, 232n22 gurdwara, 57, 65, 66, 69–70, 76, 103, 133, 140, 141–2, 148, 149, 150, 153, 154, 190 Gurmukhi (language), 72 Guru Amar Das, 57, 238n35 Guru Arjan, 65, 66, 238n35 Guru Gobind Singh, 57, 66, 67–8, 70, 79, 141, 144–5, 188, 238n35 Guru Granth Sahib, 66, 118, 141, 145, 149, Guru Nanak, 64–5, 67–8, 70, 76, 144, 219, 238n35 Guru Tegh Bahadur, 69, 238n35 hair. See kesh

hierarchy: caste, 66, 86, 152, 163, 256n9; class, 86, 122; gender, 60, 79, 248n9; religious, 66, 79; rural, reconsideration of, 200–1. See also inequality Hindi (language), 38, 71, 120, 121, 123, 188; and linguistic reorganization of Punjab state, 72, 138 Hindu(s), 47–8, 51, 53, 64–6, 78–9, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 88, 119, 134, 136–8; and Partition, 11–12, 70–1, 76–7, 139; colonial views of, 50; Jaats, 164; pacifism, 11; pantheon, 145, 149; personal law, 32; women, 62 Hindu nationalism (Hindutva), 17, 84, 138 Hindu Punjabi. See Arora Hinduism, 48, 51, 69, 137, 141, 145, 238n34; intersections with Sikhism, 64–6, 69, 80–1, 86, 137, 149 historical awareness/consciousness, Jat Sikh, 5–6, 68, 84, 140 historiography, 18, 24, 33, 69, 176 history, 25, 28, 39, 46, 69, 168, 176, 258n4; and Jat identity, 9, 11, 24, 68, 140; Indian, 18; Punjabi, 35, 71; regional, 68–77, 180; Sikh, 18, 33, 49, 54, 57, 69, 74, 82–3, 136, 140, 145–6, 163, 237n31. See also 1984; memory; myth; nostalgia; Partition Holi, 137, 251n2 home: affinal, 37, 58, 95; ancestral, 192, 202–3; and social values, 88; amid modernity, 175, 199, 200, 205; amid transnationalism, 172, 176, 177, 190, 193, 198, 205; as gendered space, 60, 119; as site of nostalgia, 175–6, 202–4; being at home, 193–4; construction of, 178; home-

Index grown, 195, 199; ‘homely,’ 94, 122; home-made, 185; homescape, 172, 185; India as, 5; in everyday life, 30, 183, 188; popular representations of, 60, 185, 186–7; rural vs. urban, 199; village/land as, 13, 180, 186–7, 197, 199 homeland, 24, 34, 74, 76, 78, 85, 177, 178, 185, 202 honour (izzat), 10, 45, 56, 81, 87, 134; among Jats, 157, 170; and class, 128; and gender, 118, 156; and men’s status, 58, 111, 204; and modernity, 112; and shame, 58–9; and social change, 89; importance in marriage arrangements, 92–3, 95, 98, 100–1, 105; in Sikhism, 66, 68, 89; of community, 76, 81, 170; of family, 40, 88, 103, 107, 111, 118, 126, 131, 204; significance of land to, 180; women’s responsibility for, 58–9, 60–3, 76, 118–19, 156, 212. See also gender; purdah; shame identity, 5, 7; and ethnicity, 13–24; and gender, 58–9, 62; and language, 16, 52, 72, 81, 84, 120–5, 137–8, 240n50; and marriage, 87–8, 92; and modernity, 25, 28, 30, 35; caste, 7–8, 34; class, 125–35; colonial construction of, 49, 51, 69, 188; construction of, 9, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20–2; formation, 8, 72, 74, 211, 215; hybrid, 201; Indian, 75; individual, 101; in place, 204; Jat, 7–8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 19, 24, 46, 52–6, 87, 112, 124, 125–8, 151, 152, 159, 163, 166, 170, 172, 173–4, 177, 187, 188, 201–2, 238n38; primordial, 19, 21–2, 23;

293

regional, 67, 85, 136–40; rural, 174, 179, 198; Sikh, 8, 9, 14, 33–4, 50, 52, 65, 66–7, 69, 70, 75, 76–7, 86–7, 136, 141–6, 162, 238n36, 253n14; sovereign, 82; transnational (Jat), 13, 14, 190, 202, 215. See also authenticity; caste; class; community; constructivism; difference; ethnicity; Jat; khalsa; nation; nationalism; primordialism; Sikh imaginary, 174–9 imperialism, British, 18, 38, 213 independence, Indian, 12, 53, 56, 70, 75, 83, 114, 139, 159, 163, 165, 166. See also Partition India, 9, 11, 17–18, 18, 29, 30, 33, 70, 71, 73, 76, 77, 84, 85, 113, 141, 158– 9, 160, 161, 162–3, 166, 168, 173, 205, 230n1, 234n4; ethnography of, 47–8. See also colonialism; history; independence, Indian; nation; nation-state; Pakistan; Partition Indian National Congress. See Congress inequality: and ethnicity, 19; and modernity, 31; class, 128; gender, 45, 58, 101 inheritance, 180, 245n22, 259n13. See also dowry irrigation, 36, 82, 217, 219, 232n22 Islam, 51, 238n34 Jaat, 9, 38, 98, 107, 119, 133, 164, 217 Janam Sakhis, 140, 145, 219 Jat(s): and Aroras, 11, 34, 150, 152–3, 156–7, 195, 197; and boundary, 7, 12, 193–4, 254n24; and caste, 48, 52, 82, 83, 151–8, 163, 186, 201, 256n39; and class, 9, 11, 24, 34–5,

294

Index

51–2, 68, 112, 136, 150, 158–60; and ethnicity, 24; and gender, 57–63, and land, 8, 10, 24, 87, 125–6, 152, 163, 168, 173–4, 177–9, 180, 187–8, 191–4, 197–8, 201–2, 256n39, 259n11; and modernity, 7, 8, 12, 13, 31–2, 34, 112, 159, 199, 205–6, 217–18; and work, 121, 130–1; as landlords, 7–8, 82, 163, 177, 179–80, 188; as Sikhs, 7, 9, 10, 82, 139, 156; colonial constructions of, 53; diaspora, 46, 178–9, 190, 202; education, 89, 91, 110, 113, 125, 146, 150, 160, 214; exclusivity, 146–51; identity, 7–8, 9, 10–11, 14, 19, 24, 38, 46, 52–6, 87, 112, 124, 125–8, 151, 152, 159, 163, 166, 170, 172, 173–4, 177, 178, 180, 187, 188, 189, 198, 201–2, 205, 206, 238n38; Jat-Arora difference, 72, 131, 139, 151–8; Jat-Arora solidarity, 133–4; popular representations of, 55–6, 163, 187, 257n43; stereotypes of, 10, 49, 54–5; transnationalism, 7, 9, 13, 14, 30, 162, 165, 169, 174, 178, 185, 190, 202, 205–6, 215. See also Arora; caste; difference; ethnicity; gender; historical awareness/ consciousness; history; honour; Jatpana; landlords; marginality/marginalization; migration; modernity; nation; nationalism; pro-gress; Punjab; rural imaginary; rural nostalgias; Sikh; tradition; transnational dreams jati, 92, 152 Jatpana, 10, 34, 55–6, 188, 191–4, 196, 200–1, 206, 216 jokes, 138; bhaape, 155; sardarji, 10, 55, 199, 219

kesh, 63, 66, 79, 143, 144, 153 keshdhari, 80, 141, 143 Khalistan, 5, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18, 32, 69, 74, 85, 136, 141, 159–60, 167–70, 241n56, 241n61, 246n1, 253n20. See also nationalism; Sikh nationalism khalsa (orthodox Sikh identity), 50, 67, 68, 69, 79, 80, 85, 144, 145, 191, 238n37. See also amritdhari Khalsa (formalized religious community of khalsa Sikhs), 49, 50, 57, 58, 66, 67, 68, 70, 79, 143, 162, 238n37; as hegemonic, 67, 80; as Sikh army, 238n39; founding of, 66, 188; tercentenary of, 140, 143, 190. See also Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, 39, 146 Khatri(s), 12, 51, 151–2, 154–5. See also Arora kin(ship), 9, 11, 16, 89, 97, 125, 157, 168, 179, 188, 193; and class, 130, 135; and friendship, 132, 134; and gender, 58–9, 60, 181, 183, 207, 211, 246n25; and identity, 20; and marriage, 87, 92; and migration, 171–2; Indian, 81; Punjabi, 137, 233n28; terms in English, 122; transnational, 8, 34, 198, 206. See also family; marriage kirtan, 64 kitty party, 89, 133, 243n3, 251n8 Kshatriya. See Arora land: alienation from, 194–8; and Jat identity, 8, 10, 24, 87, 125–6, 152, 163, 168, 173–4, 177–9, 180, 187–8, 191–4, 197–8, 201–2, 256n39, 259n11; and Khalistan, 167–8; and prestige/status, 91–3, 108, 163; and wealth, 180, 243n7; as aspect

Index of imaginary, 176–9; as colonial legacy, 36, 69; inalienability of, 196; attachment to, 204, 216; despoilation of (see also Green Revolution), 167, 219; division of, 115, 131, 250n32, 257n48; gendered attachments to, 180–1, 245n22, 259n13; impermanence of, 219; income from (theka), 37, 126, 169, 180, 182; loss of, 33–4, 76, 166, 178–9, 199, 239n45; meaning of in diaspora, 193, 203; myth of return to, 199–200; ownership, 24, 152, 177, 192, 219; purchase of, 180; sale of, 196–7, 217. See also home; village landlords, 91, 126, 200–1, 196, 249n21; and caste identity, 53; and class, 84; and Jat Sikh identity, 7–8, 82, 163, 177, 179–80, 188; marginalization among, 167 landscape, 159, 172, 175–8, 183, 195, 202, 259n11; psychological, 77 langar, 65, 163, 234n6 language, 9, 15, 16, 19, 20, 34, 56, 58, 70, 81, 162, 188; linguistic division of Punjab state, 72, 78, 138; vernacular, 16, 52, 72, 81, 84, 137–8, 240n50. See also Baagri; English; Hindi; Punjabi Lohri, 216 loss: at Partition 75–6, 166; as phenomenon of diaspora, 203–6, 217; as phenomenon of modernity, 176, 178; of attachments to region, 172; of identity, 124; of land, 180, 196–7; of status, 131; of territory, 138 Malwa, 36, 39, 56, 114, 152, 163, 186, 215, 247n2 Manak, Kuldip, 55

295

mandir, 145, 149, 218 Mandal reforms. See reservations Mann, Gurdas, 165, 186–8, 252n13, 260n19 marginality/marginalization, 5–6, 7, 68, 168; and development, 32, 219; and ethnicity, 19, 24; and rural imaginary, 179; caste reservations and, 165; Jat, 140, 167, 168–9, 170–1; Khalistani response to, 168; manifestations of, 68; religious, 52, 83, 84; Sikh, 32–3, 74, 80; socioeconomic, 32, 52, 83, 167. See also alienation; centre-state relations; minority marriage, 45, 87, 137; and caste, 8; and education, 115, 116–17, 119; and ethnicity, 11–12; and gender, 100–2; and izzat, 92–3, 95, 98, 100–1, 105; and kinship, 211; and modernity, 8, 13, 98, 99–100, 102; and Sikhism, 66, 69; arranged, 87–8, 90–1, 97; as duty, 92; as identity practice, 34, 92, 96; as migration strategy, 94, 171, 235n17, 247n4; between cousins, 157; costs of, 104, 105, 169, 246n26; hypergamy, 103, 104, 106; intermarriage (Hindu-Sikh), 11, 244n13; locality/ residence, 37; love, 8, 98–9, 132; love cum arranged, 98–9; networks, 92, 92, 244n16; process of arranging, 92–4, 95–6, 180; role of matchmaker (vichola), 95, 96. See also anand karaj; dowry; endogamy; exogamy; family; gender; home, affinal; kin; matrimonial; ritual; wedding martial race, 49, 53, 55, 162, 230n11, 235n15

296

Index

martyrdom, 65–6, 67, 85, 140, 144; and Indian independence, 56, 165; Khalistani, 85, 141; of gurus, 66, 69, 76; popular representations of, 163, 165 masculinity, 10, 56, 57–8, 92, 111, 252n9 material culture, 30, 35, 137, 169, 204, materialism, 25, 90, 110, 127, 136, 167 matrimonial (advertisements), 94, 96 media, 16, 25, 33, 54, 60, 106, 120, 143, 158, 161, 184, 187, 189, 190 memory, 11, 21, 74, 75, 165, 175–7, 181, 187, 212. See also nostalgia men, 54, 56, 57–60, 62, 73, 91, 93, 94, 97, 102, 103, 106, 111, 116–18, 120, 141–2, 143, 155–6, 170, 179, 183, 190. See also gender; masculinity middle-class: everyday life, 30, 34–5, 37, 80, 127, 142, 217–18; institutions, 147; migration, 120, 170–2, 198–9; modernity, 30, 89; rural nostalgias of, 184, 199; Sikhism among, 142–6; social networks, 89, 112, 125, 197; solidarity across, 7, 112, 125, 132–5, 136; values, 91, 94; weddings, 102–5. See also class migration, 13, 21, 117, 135, 160, 172, 198; and kinship, 171; and land/ place, 172, 176, 178, 198; and marriage, 93, 94, 171, 235n17, 247n4; and status, 171; as strategy for progress, 44, 136, 170–1; as strategy of resistance, 33, 170–1; history of, 199; Jat Sikh, 53, 169, 172, 198, 215; transnational, 114, 120, 169, 170–2 minority: consciousness, 6, 66, 82–3, 159, 167; status, 70, 71, 75, 140, 169. See also marginality/

marginalization miri-piri, 65–6 modernity, 21, 22, 24–35, 132, 258n3; alternate/multiple, 27, 29; and agency, 30–1; and class, 8, 30–1, 34–5, 112, 126, 132; and development, 25–7; and diaspora, 30, 136, 177; and education, 16, 25, 34, 87, 113, 126; and gender, 59, 155; and home, 175, 199, 200, 205; and honour, 112; and identity, 25, 28, 30, 35; and inequality, 31; and Jat identity, 8, 13, 34, 159, 199, 205–6; and loss, 176, 178; and marriage, 8, 13, 87, 98, 99–100, 102; and nation, 25, 29, 135; and nationalism, 17; and power, 26, 31; and progress, 112, 113, 126, 131, 162, 213; and rural nostalgia, 174; and Sikhism, 53, 64, 162; and transnationalism, 22, 35, 116, 169, 171; and the West, 26, 27, 28–9; as produced in the imaginary, 174–9, 184; colonial construction of, 29; construction of, 7, 13, 27, 30, 175; experience of, 25; family, 89; fractured, 30; globalized, 26, 178, 211, 213; incomplete, 219; Jat construction of, 7, 8, 12, 31–2, 112, 217–18; liquid, 26; localized meaning of, 25, 48; middle-class, 30, 89; relation to tradition, 27, 28, 52, 174, 178, 184, 188, 196, 205; regional, 34; resistance of, 24, 27, 28, 122; urban, 7, 17, 34, 112, 181. See also cosmopolitanism; development; globalization; materialism; postcolonialism/coloniality; postmodernism/modernity; progress; tradition monotheism, 64

Index Mughal(s), 65–6, 69 Muslim(s), 50, 64, 66, 68–9, 71, 73, 77, 81, 82, 136, 157, 159, 189, 242n70; and Partition, 71, 76, 77; Sikh struggle against, 69, 235n12; women, 62 myth, 21, 24, 28, 72, 75, 81, 83, 168, 175, 176, 197, 199; and history, 8, 15, 18, 24, 83, 175–6; and memory, 18, 175–6, 201, 203; and nostalgia, 168, 175–6; mytho-history, 8, 15, 141, 150, 159. See also history nation, 14–18, 23; and gender, 59; and Jat identity, 8, 24, 136, 158–72; and modernity, 25, 29; and region, 9, 163; imagining of, 176; Indian, 74, 75, 136, 159, 160, 162; Sikhs as, 14, 50, 74, 83, 140; Sikh contributions to, 140, 162–3, 165, 168. See also ethnicity; India; Pakistan; Partition; qaum nation-state, 29, 32, 70, 71, 75, 85, 160 nationalism, 15–17, 23–4, 25, 160; and colonialism, 17–18, 29, 113, 162; and Partition, 71; and religion, 17, 18, 230n9; as imagined communities, 16; construction of, 14, 15, 159; dual, 77; Hindu, 84; Jat, 136, 159, 160, 169; Indian, 18, 159, 162, 234n4; linguistic, 16, 72. See also ethnicity; Hindu nationalism; Khalistan; Sikh nationalism networks, social, 84, 89, 112, 125, 142, 197, 253n21; familial, 34, 192; marital, 92, 192, 244n16; transnational 8, 34, 198. See also family; marriage nostalgia, 11, 175–8, 191, 193–4, 200, 203–5, 206; childhood 178;

297

women’s, 181–2. See also memory; rural nostalgias nuclear test (Pokhran), 161–2, 166 orthodoxy, 14, 50, 66–7, 68–70, 73, 78, 79–80, 85, 137, 141–4, 159, 160 orthopraxy, 142 Pakistan, 3, 12, 35, 36, 76, 77, 78, 83, 149, 152, 158, 160, 162, 166, 200 panj piare, 66, 190 panth, 14, 65 Partition, 3, 11, 38, 71, 72, 78, 165, 166, 198, 239n45, 262n35; and 1984, 33, 74; and Hindu-Sikh relations, 11, 12, 71, 77, 139, 149; and loss, 71, 75–6, 166, 182, 201, 240n57; and nation, 71, 75, 166; and regional politics, 70, 71; and Sikh identity, 11, 71, 75, 77; and Sikh marginality, 32, 33, 74, 76; and trauma/ violence, 75–6, 166; history of, 71, 75; Jat Sikh experience of, 165, 166; popular representations of, 165–6, 186, 187; women’s experiences of, 59 patriarchy, 52, 57, 58, 91, 115, 180, 211 peasantry, 24, 47, 49, 53, 55, 163, 168, 177 peripheralization. See marginality/ marginalization phulkari, 62, 207–15 pilgrimage, 65, 73, 127, 153, 240n53 pind, 179, 259n10 place, 11, 21, 25, 26, 34, 166, 186, 198, 213; and culture, 78; and identity, 135, 151, 177–8, 179; and memory, 176; and migration, 172, 176–8; as site of nostalgia, 176; being in, 72, 194; notions of, 25, 26; relations to time, 175–6, 178, 189; rural vs.

298

Index

urban, 152, 176. See also displacement; emplacement/placemaking politics, 72; of difference, 139; regional, 71, 146–7, 166; religion and, 17–18; rural, 47, 197; Sikh, 64–6, 139, 140. See also centre-state relations; colonialism; communalism; democracy; elections; factionalism; government; history; India; Khalistan; nationalism; secularism popular culture, 32, 33, 55, 123, 184 popular religion, 67 post-colonialism/coloniality, 18, 19, 25–30, 48, 113–14, 159, 162, 230n15. See also colonialism post-modernism/modernity, 22, 27, 44, 258n54 prayer, 9, 66, 83, 141, 142, 162, 218 primordialism, 15, 20–4, 27 progress, 32, 34, 112, 113; and class, 142, 150, 201; and education, 112, 113, 115, 118, 120, 126, 164, 196; and gender, 45, 59, 95, 119; and migration, 120, 169, 170–1, 172, 198; and modernity, 112, 113, 126, 162, 213; and nature of Jat community, 98, 158, 197; and nature of Punjabi community, 103; and Sikhism, 64; and tradition, 184; as an alternative to nationalism, 136, 169, 170; discourse of, 40, 201, 205; English language as marker of, 120–2, 196; familial, 89, 101, 103, 114, 115, 116, 131, 159, 183–4, 192, 200; limits on, 109–11, 159; practices marking, 204. See also development prosperity, 36, 38, 68, 88, 95, 154, 157, 179, 180, 196, 197, 201, 216 Punjab, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 34, 35; borders

of, 68, 178, 231n16; crisis, 4, 72–4, 83, 85, 170; demography, 16, 84; ethnography of, 47–9, 51–2; history of, 69–74; imagining of, 77–8; Jats in, 52, 54; linguistic division of Punjab state, 72, 78, 138; maps, 36; popular representations of, 186–8; regional culture of, 81; state, 77. See also border; centre-state relations; home; Khalistan; Partition Punjabi (ethnicity/identity), 8, 9, 11, 35, 52, 53, 67, 77, 78, 81. See also Punjabiyat Punjabi (language), 37–8, 52, 71–2, 78, 115, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 138, 188, 190 Punjabi Suba, 71–2, 138 Punjabiyat, 34, 77, 86, 134, 138, 165, 186–8, 216 purdah, 60, 63, 117, 156, 236n20. See also gender; honour Putt Jattan De, 55–6, 163, 187, 257n43 qaum, 14, 50 race, 15, 19, 20, 50, 132, 177. See also martial race Rahit Maryada, 79, 241n61 raj, 18, 49, 69, 75 Rajasthan, 35–8, 77, 120, 123, 147, 164 Ranjit Singh, Maharaja, 69, 76, 77, 82, 150, 178, 241n58, 241n59, 242n67 relations, social, 96, 97, 131; and place, 176, 178 religiosity, 67, 144, 150, 152 remittances 170, 213–14, 219 reservations (caste; aka Mandal reforms), 32, 83, 127, 139, 162, 163, 164–5, 169, 171, 256n41

Index resistance, 32, 33; of modernity, 24, 27, 28, 122; of nation, 122–3, 186; Sikh, 65–6; women’s, 63, 101 return, myth of, 176, 178–9, 186, 199–200, 201, 203 ritual: and women, 251n8; in Punjab, 81; in Sikhism, 64, 217; initiation (amrit), 66, 79; marriage (anand karaj, etc.), 69, 133–4, 208; visits to land/village, 193, 203 ritualism, 154 rivers, 71, 77, 85, 186 rural imaginary, 174, 178–9, 191, 258n2 rurality, 139, 188 rural nostalgias, 7, 9, 32, 46, 49, 85, 112, 172, 216; and transnational dreams, 178; construction of, 14, 176–7; women’s, 183 rural-urban transition, 8 sahejdhari, 79–80, 141 Sanskrit, 47, 123 sant, 64, 65 Shaheed-e-Mohabbat, 165 sant, 64 sant-sepoi, 65 secularism, 18, 25, 26, 113, 141 seva, 64, 89, 134 sex ratio, 245n20 shame (sharam), 58–9, 60, 118. See also honour Shudra, 152 SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), 70, 79, 85, 217, 235n14, 239n44 Singh Sabhas, 69–70, 253n14 Sikh(s): amritdhari, 79–81, 144–5; and marriage, 66, 69; and modernity, 53, 64, 162; colonial representa-

299

tions of, 49–51; community, 14, 50, 66, 74, 75, 82–3, 136, 140; diaspora, 46; difference, 68–77; doctrine, 64–5, 162; exclusivity, 146–51; history, 18, 33, 49, 54, 57, 69, 74, 82–3, 136, 140, 145–6, 163, 237n31; identity, 8, 9, 14, 33–4, 50, 52, 65, 66–7, 69, 70, 75, 76, 77–86, 136, 41–6, 62, 238n36, 253n14; keshdhari, 80, 141, 143; khalsa, 50, 67, 68, 69, 79, 80, 85, 144, 145, 191; marginality among, 32–3, 68, 72, 74, 80; middle-class, 142–6; nationalism, 16, 23, 71, 82, 85–6, 139, 240n56, 242n67; politics, 64–6, 139, 140; sahejdhari, 79–80, 141; tradition, 84, 134, 140–1; values, 10, 89–90, 91, 145–6, 162–3, 201. See also 1984; Arora; Baisakhi; belief; caste; Diwali; egalitarianism; ethnicity; gurdwara; Gurmukhi; Guru Amar Das; Guru Arjan; Guru Gobind Singh; Guru Granth Sahib; Guru Nanak; Guru Tegh Bahadur; Hinduism; honour; Jat; Khalistan; Khalsa; martyrdom; Muslim; orthodoxy; orthopraxy; panj piare; panth; Partition; prayer; popular religion; qaum; Rahit Maryada; religiosity; ritual; ritualism; secularism; trauma; turban sikhi, 10, 34, 134, 140, 144, 146, 149, 159, 201 Sikhism, 48, 64–8, 72, 78–9, 80, 137, 139, 140, 141–6, 148–50, 151, 163; and gender, 57–8, 79; and Jats, 6, 10, 52, 54; caste in, 82 Sikh festivals. See Baisakhi; Diwali; Holi; Lohri; Teej Sikh practice. See anand karaj; amrit; five Ks; kesh; kirtan; langar; seva

300

Index

Sikh nationalism, 16, 23, 85–6, 139, 240n56, 242n67. See also Khalistan; nationalism Sikh studies, controversies in, 33 Sikh theology. See charhdi kalaa; martyrdom; miri-pir; sant; sant-sepo; sikhi Singh, Bhagat, 56, 165, 257n43 Singh, Manmohan, 139 Singh, Udham, 56, 165 Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), 70, 85, 216–17, 239n44 social change, 25, 34, 48, 113 social imagination, 32, 35, 168, 174–9, 188 social status, 51, 58, 84, 88, 92, 103, 128, 151, 158, 160, 163, 172, 180, 250n26 social values, 13, 89–90, 91, 97, 142 soldier, 53, 186, 188 sovereignty, 14, 16, 24, 78, 85, 166–7, 177, 179, 186, 188 Sufism, 64, 144 taboo: against tobacco, 79, 142–3, 238n38, 252n9; against alcohol and meat, 142–3, 252n11 Teej, 61, 236n23 territory, 9, 34, 187, 202, 240n50; and identity, 15, 20; and Khalistan, 74, 166–7; and nation(alism), 140; and Partition, 70–1, 76, 78, 186; deterritorialization, 6, 13, 173, 204; Punjabi, 77, 138; reterritorialization, 204; territorialization, 15, 24 theka (land income), 37, 126, 169, 180, 182 Toba Tek Singh, 3

tradition, 8, 11, 46, 52, 211; and gender, 57–63, 155, 181; and Jat identity, 174, 178, 180, 189, 198, 205; and marriage, 92, 102; and rurality, 183, 191; as ethnic marker, 19, 144, 180; colonial construction of, 29, 49; folk, 137; great and little, 47; in relation to modernity, 27, 28, 52, 174, 178, 184, 196, 205; invention of, 190–1, 198, 260n23; local/regional, 52, 137, 178; maintenance of, 92, 205; performative, 56; reification/ romanticization of, 178; Sikh, 84, 134, 140–1. See also modernity transnational: aspirations, 99–100, 114; citizenship, 94; family networks, 8; identities, 21; limitations, 32; locations/positions, 34; marriage, 94; migration, 114, 120, 170–2; modernity, 22, 35, 116; nostalgia, 205–6; politics, 21 transnational dreams, 7, 32, 46, 112, 172; and rural nostalgias, 178; construction of, 14, 178 transnationality: among Jats, 7, 9, 13, 30, 162, 165, 169, 174, 178, 185, 202, 205–6; and class, 68; and deterritorialization, 173, 176, 204; and Khalistani nationalism, 68, 160, 168; as progress, 68, 165, 169, 170. See also diaspora trauma, 5–6; and loss, 176; and Sikh history, 18, 74, 75, 136, 165–6, 203, 241n66; and Sikh identity, 82–3, 136. See also violence turban, 62, 67, 79, 143, 153; and women 63, 79 unemployment/underemployment,

Index 32, 40, 83, 108–11, 126, 168–9, 199, 249n24 urban: and rural, 169, 174, 205; anxiety, 12, 151, 158; as site of diaspora, 203; caste, 70; class, 125, 201; cosmopolitanism, 37, 152; Jat identity, 10–11, 24, 38, 206; life, 89, 114, 188; modernity, 7, 17, 34, 112, 181; perceptions of rural, 191; prosperity, 38; Sikhs, 80, 142, 143; values, 90; vs. rural, 114, 125–6, 132, 152, 176–7, 188, 194, 195; women, 60–1, 181, 183. See also rural; village urbanity, 52, 126, 146, 151, 154–5, 183, 197, 201 urbanization, 7, 25, 48, 126, 154, 13, 176, Urdu, 188 utopia, modern, 32; religious, 17, 146; rural, 175, 177, 195; sovereign, 240n56 varna, 152 village, 10, 11, 13, 47, 48, 50, 82, 113, 114, 116, 135, 173; and identity, 179, 197; as site of memory, 178–9; as site of tradition, 183, 200–1, 211; authenticity of, 10–11, 173; caste in, 152; development in, 168–9; diaspora from, 172; life, 48, 119, 181, 182, 184–7, 191, 199; popular representations of, 60–1, 163, 184–8. See also home; pind; return, myth of; urban violence, 6, 14, 74; at Partition, 71, 76; communal, 71; gendered, 59; Khalistani, 159. See also trauma

301

wari, 245n17 water, 32, 72, 182, 219, 232n22. See also Anandpur Sahib Resolution wedding, 102–4; ceremonies, 133, 134; photos, 97; popular representations of, 102–3; rites, 69, 133, 134; videos, 103, 244n16 women, 59, 212; and education, 93, 100, 111, 116–19; and identity, 59, 62, 234n11; and tradition, 57–63, 155, 181; and village, 108, 181–3, 236n24; bodily practices of, 141–2, 207, 237n28, 252n10, 252n12, 263n6; bonds among, 207; caste among, 155–8; class among, 236n21; exemplary, 160; girls, 243n8; in Sikhism, 57–8, 79; limitations on, 116–17, 119, 155, 181; religious practices, 251n8; representations of in media, 60–2; sociability among, 133, 243n3; social expectations, 88, 91, 93–4, 103, 119, 157, 180; social position, 45, 116–18, 211, 248n9; social roles, 58, 89, 119, 183; veneration of, 47; work of, 62, 89, 93, 102, 111, 117–18, 119, 181–3, 207, 215, 264n9. See also clothing; embodiment; gender; phulkari; purdah work, 30; as familial duty, 109–10; as middle-class Jat value, 121, 130–1; as object of education, 114, 115; as Sikh value, 55, 82, 89; ethic, 150; rural, 108, 114, 180, 195

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL HORIZONS Editor: Michael Lambek, University of Toronto Published to date: 1 The Varieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses / Edited by David Howes 2 Arctic Homeland: Kinship, Community, and Development in Northwest Greenland / Mark Nuttall 3 Knowledge and Practice in Mayotte: Local Discourses of Islam, Sorcery, and Spirit Possession / Michael Lambek 4 Deathly Waters and Hungry Mountains: Agrarian Ritual and Class Formation in an Andean Town / Peter Gose 5 Paradise: Class, Commuters, and Ethnicity in Rural Ontario / Stanley R. Barrett 6 The Cultural World in Beowulf / John M. Hill 7 Making It Their Own: Severn Ojibwe Communicative Practices / Lisa Philips Valentine 8 Merchants and Shopkeepers: A Historical Anthropology of an Irish Market Town, 1200–1991 / Philip Gulliver and Marilyn Silverman 9 Tournaments of Value: Sociability and Hierarchy in a Yemeni Town / Ann Meneley 10 Mal’uocchiu: Ambiguity, Evil Eye, and the Language of Distress / Sam Migliore 11 Between History and Histories: The Production of Silences and Commemorations / Edited by Gerald Sider and Gavin Smith 12 Eh, Paesan! Being Italian in Toronto / Nicholas DeMaria Harney 13 Theorizing the Americanist Tradition / Edited by Lisa Philips Valentine and Regan Darnell 14 Colonial ‘Reformation’ in the Highlands of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, 1892– 1995 / Albert Schrauwers 15 The Rock Where We Stand: An Ethnography of Women’s Activism in Newfoundland / Glynis George 16 Being Alive Well: Health and the Politics of Cree Well-Being / Naomi Adelson 17 Irish Travellers: Racism and the Politics of Culture / Jane Helleiner 18 Writing and Colonialism in Northern Ghana: The Encounter between the LoDagaa and the ‘World on Paper,’ 1892–1991 / Sean Hawkins 19 An Irish Working Class: Explorations in Political Economy and Hegemony, 1800–1950 / Marilyn Silverman 20 The Double Twist: From Ethnography to Morphodynamics / Edited by Pierre Maranda 21 Of Property and Propriety: The Role of Gender and Class in Imperialism and

22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

Nationalism / Edited by Himani Bannerji, Shahrzad Mojab, and Judith Whitehead Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Ascetic Community / Anne Vallely The House of Difference: Cultural Politics and National Identity in Canada / Eva Mackey The Hot and the Cold: Ills of Humans and Maize in Native Mexico / Jacques M. Chevalier and Andrés Sánchez Bain Figured Worlds: Ontological Obstacles in Intercultural Relations / Edited by John Clammer, Sylvie Poirier, and Eric Schwimmer Revenge of the Windigo: The Construction of the Mind and Mental Health of North American Aboriginal Peoples / James B. Waldram The Cultural Politics of Markets: Economic Liberalization and Social Change in Nepal / Katherine Neilson Rankin A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams, and Events in the Australian Western Desert / Sylvie Poirier The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood / Lindsay DuBois Youth and Identity Politics in South Africa, 1990–1994 / Sibusisiwe Nombuso Dlamini Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse / Andie Diane Palmer Beyond Bodies: Rain-Making and Sense-Making in Tanzania / Todd Sanders We Are Now a Nation: Croats between ‘Home’ and ‘Homeland’ / Daphne N. Winland Rural Nostalgias and Transnational Dreams: Identity and Modernity among Jat Sikhs / Nicola Mooney Kaleidoscopic Odessa: History and Place in Post-Soviet Ukraine / Tanya Richardson Invaders as Ancestors: On the Intercultural Making and Unmaking of Spanish Colonialism in the Andes / Peter Gose From Equality to Inequality: Social Change among Newly Sedentary Lanoh Hunter-Gatherer Traders of Peninsular Malaysia / Csilla Dallos Dimensions of Development: History, Community, and Change in Allpachico, Peru / Susan Vincent