Beyond politics, the Bihar caste survey is a revolutionary document.
A public document, the first ever after 1931, allowing for people to stand up and be counted.
We go down to the wire, on what each of the numbers unveiled mean.
Who are the people referred to by percentages in the survey?
Today we look at Jutt (52,730 people).
In the previous parts of this series, we have discussed those caste groups of Bihar which are comprised of members who belong to either agrarian or artisan communities. Today, let us talk about a caste group members of which are neither farmers nor craftsmen but are artistes and performers. It is a caste whose existence itself is steeped in art, especially dancing and singing.
We are talking about the Jutt community.
Have you ever seen culture in corporeal form? I do not mean idols which are installed during Hindu festivals. In the villages of Bihar, gods and goddesses do not quite immediately mean idols. For them, every god and goddess resides in each body and place. But Jutts are not gods and goddesses. They are living people, who are culture incarnate. And the sweetness of their culture makes Bihar stand out.
The Jutts must not be confused with the Jatt community of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. Jatts are a farming community and although the Jutts of Bihar do work as agricultural labourers, their main occupation is not farming. They are people who dance and sing, especially during festivals. The women of this community, or Juttin, support the men in their performances.
There is no written record as to when and why their ancestors became performers. Perhaps they lived in the forests and brought the tribal culture from the forests to the plains. It is assumed because their style of dance is seen only in the tribal society where people dance, sing and play drums in the evening or during festivals.
One might ask why culture was not considered one of the key professional criteria in history. If it had been so, one would at least find mention of how their style of singing and dancing changed when their ancestors shifted from the forests to the plains.
Today, the people of the Jutt caste group reside only in a few districts of Bihar. According to the ‘Caste Based Census Report 2022’ of the Bihar government, they live in Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Araria, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Sitamarhi and Khagaria districts.
Interestingly, Jutts are both Hindu and Muslim, similar to the people of the Nutt caste in the state who belong to both the communities. There are many similarities between the people of Nutt and Jutt castes. One major similarity is that both of them are entertainers involved in performing arts – dancing and singing. But the Nutts mainly live on the other side of the Ganges. It is possible that the Nutts from the areas of Magadha, Bhojpur, etc. are members of Jutt community. But there is no way one can establish it.
Another similarity is that most of the people of both these castes are either landless or possess land only in name.
The total population of Hindu members of the Jutt caste is 7781 and they live in Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura and Araria districts whereas the Muslim population of this caste which is around 44949 lives in Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Khagaria and Araria.
Songs, music and dance have been an integral part of the lives of these people, whether they are Hindu or Muslim. They neither glorify any Hindu gods in their songs nor recite the Kalma in praise of a formless being like Sufis. These are worldly people and they dance and sing for the inhabitants of this earth.
As far as their political and social status is concerned, they are simply referred to as Jutt-Juttin. Even if the population of both Hindu and Muslim Jutts is added, it amounts only to 52,730. However, if the population of Nutt caste – 1,05,358 Hindus and 61,629 Muslims – is added to the Jutt population it comes to 2,19,717. But this number is still not significant for their voice to be heard on the political front.
Now, some more people have adopted their art in Bihar. They perform the traditional Jutt-Juttin dance on stage though they are not people of the Jutt community. This brings us to the fact that the Jutt people are now migrating not only from their native areas but also from their culture in search of livelihood.
The pain of migration also appears in one of their songs in which a Jutt man asks his wife to let him go to foreign countries so that he can earn money. He also tempts her by saying that when he returns he will bring her a gold chain and sweets. But in response his wife says that the gold chain is like the dust on his feet and upon hearing that he is leaving his culture, she calls him kulborna – destroyer – and asks him to always remain in front of her.
The question is, who will understand the pain of this exodus of the Jutt people?
Translated from Hindi by Naushin Rehman. Read the Hindi original here.