Jatav - Orientation

Identification. The Jatavs are an endogamous caste of the Chamar, or leather worker, category of castes in India. Because of the polluting occupation of leather worker they rank among the Untouchable castes close to the bottom of India's caste hierarchy. Some say the name "Jatav" is derived from the word jat (camel driver), while others say it is derived from "Jat," the name of a non-Untouchable farming caste. Many Jatavs themselves say it is derived from the term "Yadav," the lineage of Lord Krishna. They are also known as a Scheduled Caste because, as Untouchables, they are included on a schedule of castes eligible for government aid. Mahatma Gandhi gave to Untouchables the name "Harijans" or "children of god," but Jatavs reject the term and its connotations of Untouchable childlikeness and upper-caste paternalism.

Location. Jatavs live mostly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab, as well as in the Union Territory of Delhi in northwest India. This is a semiarid area with rainfall mostly in the monsoon season of June to August and lesser rains in January-February. Temperatures range from 5.9° C in January-February to 41-5° C in May-June.

Demography. Jatavs are not listed separately in the census of India but along with other Chamars. In the four states mentioned above Chamars numbered 27,868,146, about 9.9 percent of the those states' population (1981).

Linguistic Affiliation. Jatavs speak related languages of the Indo-Aryan Family of languages including Hindi, Rajasthani, and Braj Bhasha, all using the Devanagari script, as well as Punjabi using the Gurmukhi script. Chamars in other parts of India speak other languages of the Indo-Aryan Family and languages of the unrelated Dravidian Family, such as Tamil and Telugu.

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