Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

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He had declared with immense pride that he had never let his elder sister Akhila, who is 23 years of age, go anywhere alone. Adolescence would have marked the end of their education, if they received one at all. It is considered that educated daughters are likely to find educated grooms from well-to-do families, and therefore have a higher chance of enjoying a more financially secure future and better quality of life.

A recent study by Nitya Rao suggests that investment in education from this perspective is in fact a growing trend in rural India. That these girls could pursue a career after their studies and make a mark for themselves is, however, not a consideration in most Jat homes. In the context of Shahpur Jat, the economic affluence of the Jat community is cited as a reason for the girls to stay at home even after pursuing higher studies. What is the need for girls to work then? Their plans and aspirations do not match those that their elders have for them.

Our interaction with adolescent girls and boys revealed that the girls are far more interested in pursuing higher studies in comparison to the boys who are satisfied with the cash flowing in from the rent earned by their families. Like Sonal, several of the girls we interviewed seem to be aspiring to pursue not only higher education, but also a career. By choosing their own partners, as some of them have done, they are also challenging conventional codes of marriage—in this case hypergamy and exogamy—and signalling that they are in full control of their sexuality.

This is an obvious threat to the preservation and continuity of the community and to hegemonic masculinity that is intrinsically entangled with it. Young Jat men like Naman chaperoning female family members, especially young women, is as much a manifestation of their attempts to re-assert their dominance and to reconstitute their masculinity such that it conforms to hegemonic masculine ideals as their roaming through the village by-lanes on motorcycles, eve-teasing young women.

Jat male landlords sexually exploiting Jatav female agricultural labourers was not an unusual happening. What the Jatavs also more subtly suggest is that Jat dominance is being reconstituted.

Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

Today, the reason for their dominance is their ownership of property, the rent they earn and their ability to manipulate the urban development machinery to suit their interests. The Jats have more space so they get more rent. They are moneyed. They suppress the SCs [Scheduled Castes].

They distribute alcohol for votes at the time of elections. They bribe the police personnel. This serves to challenge what has commonly been suggested about caste in urban India. Scholars like Ashis Nandy have claimed that urbanization provides opportunities for upward social and occupational mobility as a result of which caste-based distinctions are less visible in Indian cities.

Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property - Nicholas Blomley - Google книги

I argue that whilst urbanization affords anonymity and mobility to a range of castes, caste-based practices remain salient to segregation and to practices of distinction, discrimination and even domination in Shahpur Jat and other such places. They welcome them, giving them space to rent for commercial and residential purposes. Shahpur Jat has non-residential tenants who have opened boutiques, restaurants, NGO offices, small-scale workshops and shops.

Its residential tenants consist of migrants predominantly from the North East, Bihar and West Bengal. A constant refrain among our Jat informants was that they first lost their fields and now they are losing their girls. As newly married women, they were responsible for looking after the household chores. They would have had an opportunity to work in the fields only after a few years of marriage, in most cases after having given birth to a child or two.

But with the loss of the lands, these women never had that opportunity.

Unlike their daughters, who had the opportunity to step out of their homes to attend school and college, even if chaperoned, these women remained confined to their homes. These women are now middle-aged and complain of a life of monotony. Another practice that this generation of women appears to have quietly borne is domestic violence. As discussed earlier in the paper, alcohol abuse is common among their male counterparts.

Men consuming alcohol and beating up their wives is yet another instance of their trying to reconstitute ways of being a manly man. The women discussed this in a very matter-of-fact manner. It was not possible to gauge whether female infanticide too had been practised as a means to reduce the number of daughters in the family.

But they did show an awareness of contraceptives and of prenatal sex-determination technologies. But this was not so evident among the middle-aged women. Nonetheless, in the past few years, the veil has risen a little higher and some women now only cover their heads and not their faces. The joint family setup is gradually being replaced by nuclear families.

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While this is not unique to the urban village context, some interesting insights emerge when we examine how this converges with other changes in the village and the implications these have on the aspirations of different generations of Jat women. I am very happy since my parents-in-law have left. Now, I go to the malls to shop without a care araam se , I watch TV, I meet up with my friends from outside the village.

My mother-in-law did not approve of unnecessary roaming around fizul ka ghoomna phirna … As such my parents-in-law were both very nice and never said anything to me. I myself felt that I should maintain eye modesty ankh ki sharm in their presence…. But who would like to live like a village bumpkin dehati nowadays! When my mother-in-law was around, she would keep the rent with her, and one needed to ask her for money. Now, we get the rent and spend it the way we want to.