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Changing interaction patterns among Dalits and Jat Sikhs in Doaba region of Punjab
Sharma, Shalini
Rural population of Punjab mainly comprised of Jat Sikhs and Dalits. The land owning Jat Sikhs were locally dominant and Dalits were dependent upon them. Off late with benefits from affirmative action program of government, NRI remittances and political mobilization, Dalits had improved their socio-economic status. This had impacted the interaction patterns amongst Dalits and Jat Sikhs of the region. The present study was conducted with specific objectives: to study the socio-economic status of the respondents; to analyze the changing socio-economic and political interaction patterns among Dalits and Jat Sikhs; to identify the conflict between both castes, if any, and the reasons thereof and to investigate state intervention in conflict resolution as perceived by Dalits and Jat Sikhs. The study was based on primary data collected from 320 respondents (160 Dalits and 160 Jat Sikhs) from Doaba. Study found that almost half of Jat Sikhs (49.3%) and Dalits (43.7%) had medium socio-economic status. Three fourth of the Jat Sikhs (74.3%) and Dalits (80.0%) were from 31-50 years of age. More than one third of the respondents were educated up to higher secondary level and 42.4 per cent of Dalits were doing semi-skilled and skilled jobs whereas almost three fourth of Jat Sikhs (73.2%) were engaged in farming. It was reported that 5.6 per cent of high status Dalits had moved to the village locality inhabited by Jat Sikhs without any resistance. A significant majority of Dalits (96.2%) reported no restriction on their entry into Jat Sikh kitchen and 58.7 per cent of them attended the social ceremonies of Jat Sikhs as guests. Economic dependence on Jat Sikh patrons was reported by 19.3 per cent Dalits. In 87.5 per cent of villages there was separate Dalit gurudwaras. It was Dalit sarpanch in forty three per cent of the villages. A significant majority of Jat Sikhs were apprehensive (88.7%) of Dalit dominance while Dalits were conscious and assertive (65.6%) of their newly acquired identity. Religious issues were found most responsible behind subtle form of conflict among both castes. Two third of the respondents felt that police personnel favoured their caste group while resolving the dispute. Socially mobile, economically influential and subaltern Dalits carry the movement of a separate Dalit identity and Jat Sikhs need to understand it and act accordingly to avoid any conflict.
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana