Jat - Orientation

Identification and Location. Primarily endogamous communities calling themselves and known as Jat live predominantly in large parts of northern and northwestern India and in southern and eastern Pakistan, as sedentary farmers and/or mobile pastoralists. In certain areas they tend to call themselves Baluch, Pathan, or Rajput, rather than Jat. Most of these communities are integrated as a caste into the locally prevalent caste system. In the past three decades increasing population pressure on land has led to large-scale emigration of the peasant Jat, especially from India, to North America, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and more recently the Middle East. Some maintain that the sedentary farming Jat and the nomadic pastoral Jat are of entirely different origins; others believe that the two groups are of the same stock but that they developed different life-styles over the centuries. Neither the farmers nor the pastoralists are, however, to be confused with other distinct communities of peripatetic peddlers, artisans, and entertainers designated in Afghanistan by the blanket terms "Jat" or Jaṭ; the latter terms are considered pejorative, and they are rejected as ethnonyms by these peripatetic communities. In Pakistan also, among the Baluchi- and Pashto-speaking populations, the terms were, and to a certain extent still are, used to indicate contempt and lower social status.

Demography. No reliable figures are available for recent years. In 1931 the population of all sedentary and farming Jat was estimated at 8,377,819; in the early 1960s 8,000,000 was the estimate for Pakistan alone. Today the entire Jat population consists of several million more than that.

Linguistic Affiliation. All Jat speak languages and dialects that are closely connected with other locally spoken languages of the Indo-Iranian Group. Three alphabets are used, depending primarily on religion but partly on locality: the Arabic-derived Urdu one is used by Muslims, while Sikhs and Hindus use the Gurmukhi (Punjabi) and the Devanagari (Hindi) scripts, respectively.

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