Zamindar - Orientation

Zamindars are from the Muslim Rajput castes who settled in rural areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, from Pakistan to Bangladesh. Horsemen of these lineages were of higher status, while the foot troopers were from the lower castes. The root words, zamin and dar, are Persian, together meaning "landowner." Relationships of the Zamindars with the premodern state varied from region to region, as did the origin of the Zamindar class. Among examples mentioned by Tom Kessinger are caste or lineage groups that conquered an area, or at least became the dominant settlers there; officials who were able to make their land grants hereditary; rajas who had held on to some land after being deposed; and the descendants of holy men (Sadhus) who had received grants of land. In each case the crucial factor was state recognition of a responsibility on the part of Zamindars to collect and transmit revenue from a specified area. From a local point of view Zamindars, wherever they existed, were always a force to be reckoned with; for not only did they have an official sanction to collect revenue, but they could commonly back up their position with fortresses and small contingents of armed enforcers. These Zamindars were in charge of supervising new immigrants to the village and of organizing lands for cultivation. In return for their effort a share of the product was taken by them. The right of ownership of the land was through Descent within the same family. Division of land was never marked specifically; therefore, land was jointly held and the income shared. Under the British, landownership was formalized for the organization of tax revenues. In 1857, permanent ownership was granted to those with land occupancy and Zamindars were held responsible to pay taxes to the government in cash and not in grain. In some areas, as in Dhanbad District, Uttar Pradesh, the amount of rent paid by cultivators to the Zamindars was not controlled by any law but rather was established at the will of the Zamindars. As time passed Zamindars gained power while the cultivators became weak and abused. Before the abolition of the Zamindari System in 1948, the Zamindars had the habit of spending money frivolously, often to the point of having to borrow more money to pay off their debts. The situation caused them loss of prestige and honor. In contrast to the district of Dhanbad is the village of Mohla in the district of Gujrat in Punjab State, where land and prestige go hand in hand. Zamindars there have certain obligations toward the farming people that make them trustworthy persons.

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