A certain politician Himmat Singh Gurjar styled as a top Gujjar leader was interviewed recently by the Outlook Magazine. Mr Himmat Gurjar has made some really controversial claims regarding the ethnic identity of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan during the interview. Likewise his organisation (Akhil Bhartiya Veer Gurjar Mahasabha) claim that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a man of Gujjar blood which is again absurd at best.
Hence Rajputs historical figures such as Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan or Mihirbhoj Pratihar are not alone on the wishlist but there are others which are now being claimed as their own by Gujjars. These claims are mostly spurious and can be very easily dismissed upon a careful examination of relevant facts of history.
However, it is important to understand the serious ramifications of this identity-cum-history grabbing. Also, It is equally important to understand the ways & means of History & Identity grabbing as well as how major organizations like RSS have been fuelling it.
2 THE SOCIAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE GUJJAR POLICY OF HISTORY GRABBING
It must not be lost on us that the ethnic identity or self-image of a community is essentially moored to its unique historical evolution through time. And therefore history is sacrosanct and when it comes under attack, there are bound to be ramifications which may end up widening the existing fault lines within a society. These recent claims by the Gujjar intellectuals have led to a rather less than salubrious build up of bad blood, between the members of the two communities, which has the potential of flaring up into full blown violence anytime.
We have already witnessed the possibility of that happening on several occasions in the recent past. But this is a part of a larger trend which has been on the horizon of North Indian politics for quite some time now. There are over two dozen communities which have their own controversial claims of similar nature as Gujjars and that has led to inter-community conflicts. This trend is certainly unhealthy and even though political parties are exploiting it to further their own interest, it has already caused much harm to the social fabric of the society.
The Indian welfare state seeks to assist groups that were supposedly historically marginalized and, historically speaking, exerted little or no influence in the socio-political life of Indian society. This doesn’t always imply that the concerned groups were essentially oppressed such as the Dalits or Adivasis, but that they were not involved in the political administration of pre-modern states and arguably performed non-political social functions.However, there is an entirely new dimension wherein these newly dominant groups are encouraged by RSS & the Sangh Parivar to ‘invent a glorious past’ for themselves by appropriating the history of older traditional ones, thereby creating social fissures.
The basic idea is to decouple the target “individual” or “lineage” from its real historical context and then to graft upon it a newly carefully constructed pseudo-identity.
It is important to highlight that this double-speak of these organisations is inspired by RSS’s own policy towards Rajput history – where on one hand, it blames every invasion on Rajputs but at same time changes caste identities of commendable Rajput figures for co-opting different groups.
3.1. How did it all start?
Col Devanand Lohmaror, President of International Gurjar Forum
At the turn of the 20th century, some colonial Indologists fancied a phonetic connection between the words ‘Gurjara’ & ‘Khazar,’ and using that as a starting point, theorized that the central Asian nomads called Khazars entered the subcontinent along with White Huns sometime during early 5th century as their allies. These Khazars or Gurjars later rose to political prominence in North-western India and laid the foundations of the GurjaraPratihara empire. These Indologists further speculated that the nomadic tribe of ‘Gujjars’ are the original descendants of these foreign Gurjaras and that the ruling lineages of the Agnikula Rajput clans may have originated from the same Gujjar stock. This theory laid the foundations of all future Gujjar claims on Imperial Rajput lineages. However, this theory much like the popular “Martial Race Theory” is little more than a bundle of assumptions supported by other assumptions and it can be easily discredited with hard facts of history which it fails to account for, as we shall show under the next subheading. To understand the distinction between historical Gurjara & modern Gujjar, read here.
Today, the Gujjar community under the aegis of Akhil Bhartiya Veer Gurjar Mahasabha, and with RSS’s help not just appropriates Rajput clans and their history, but by doing so aggressively fuels caste animosity between the Gujjar and the Rajput community.
From 19th century, Arya Samaj started Rajputisation of many Dominant castes to assign them a Rajput past and co-opt them in Hindu communalism. Rajputisation is a form of Sanskritisation wherein non-Rajput castes are encouraged to adopt Rajput clan-names, and establish claims over various Rajput figures.RSS has furthered this Rajputisation by publishing fake histories, naming public Institutions and monuments, and erecting statues of local Rajput figures with altered identities.
Pathey kan, RSS’s Magazine- Jun’ 96 insinuating Maharana Pratap was a “Gujjar”. Gujjar form of Rajputisation involved two stages. First, it witnessed changing the ethnonym from Gujjar to Gurjar, which otherwise is a demonym and synonym for Gujarati. The second stage involved taking help of RSS and BJP to lay claims over all Kshatriya/Rajput clans of the ancient Gurjara region. Hence RSS driven Rajputisation of Gujjars results in Gujjarising Rajput past. RSS institutionally facilitates this History and Identity grabbing in various ways.
(I) RSS backed Gujjar Literature
Manoshi Sinha and her husband Yogaditya Singh Gujjar wrote a book “Saffron Swords” in which they claimed that Bappa Rawal was from the Gujjar community. Their book had the blessings of RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat and was a bestseller among rightwing organiations. This book also introduced fictional characters like Rampyari and Jograj gujar who allegedly defeated and repulsed Taimur-i-lang.
They also run a rightwing website “MyIndiaMyGlory” that perpetuates that every historical Rajput clan, including Chandels, Kalachuris, and Kachwahas, are indeed Gujjars.
(II) Installation of Gurjar Samrat Mihir BhojPratihar statues
In 1997, the BJP-RSS of Delhi-NCR used their political clout to get a certain part of NH-24 [ Sarai Kale Khan village Road(New Delhi) to Ghazipur Dairy Farm(Delhi) – U.P. Border Road (Ring Road)- Ghaziabad -Hapur bypass- Moradabad ] renamed as “Gurjar Samrat Mihir Bhoj Marg”. In 2010, a statue of PratiharMihirbhoj was installed at Akshardham temple. The inscription on the plinth of the statue reads “Gurjar Samrat Mihir Bhoj”.
Likewise, in the last decade, political clout was used to install similar statues in many places across the national capital region as well as in other states such as Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, and Madhya Pradesh.
BJP politician Mahesh Sharma’s letter to establish a new airport calling Mihirbhoj Pratihar a “Gujjar ruler”. Recently, they have also written letters to film-makers demanding that Rajput figures be recasted as Gujjars.
(III) Wikipedia Editing
Wikipedia maynot be an authentic source at all, however, it is the most easily accessible source of information for the masses.Read the first picture, the Wikipedia entry of Landhaura dynasty shows their clan as Parmar. But Parmar is a Rajput clan and do the Gujjars have the same clan? The second picture is from Saharanpur Gazzetter, that shows that the real clan of Landhaura dynasty is Khabar, not Parmar.
Contradictory Claims of RSS & ABVGM
Although, the RSS backed Gujjar Organiations’ attempt at Sanskritisation takes the route of Gujjarisinng Rajput past, it is contradicted by the reasons provided by them in memorandum (such as above) for including Gujjars in the Most Backward Castes category.
On one hand they claim that Gujjar organizations claim a Kshatriya past , on the other hand they assert nomadic pastoral origind to derive sociopolitical benefits from Government’s provision for Most Backward Castes.
Source: Memorandum submitted in High Court by Gujjar Community, Obc Commission Report Ch 4
The prominent Gujjar leaders like Col Kirodi Singh Baisla and Himmat Singh gujjar along with other Gujjar leaders submitted an affidavit in the High Court where they have themself claimed that the word Gujjar has been derived from “Gau-Jar” meaning Cattle being their source of livelihood and nowhere mentions their martial history
Sanskritization has engendered new social crises that present insidious threats to the internal stability and communal harmony of India. Sanskritization is a process whereby communities produce fallacious lineages connecting them to Vedic or feudal-era upper-caste figures. The construction of false history is not only problematic from a historical lens but also because it reinforces the misguided notion that people should be ashamed of their ancestral, traditional caste occupations. Sanskritization rests upon the internalization of caste-based bias, shame, and self-hate where the self is inherently tied to ancestry and social identity. Decades of modernization and the gradual expansion of markets have failed to ameliorate the supposed caste-divisions that democracy was meant to eradicate. Sanskritization has created caste issues where they had not existed prior. As community-based organizations appropriate the historical ancestors of other communities, conflicts are beginning to occur, and these conflicts are becoming increasingly common. Social media has only exasperated and intensified these conflicts and the involvement of political leaders in this phenomenon is cause for great concern.
RSS’s game has already pitted various castes against eachother, all of who see Rajput kings as their own. Recently, the Jat Organizations filed a case against Gujjar organizations because like the Gujjars they believe that the Rajput ruler Anangpal Tomar was from their caste. Hence RSS’s Sanskritisation has sown seeds destroying the social fabric of the nation.