I am a Punjabi girl, married into a jaat family. The few days of protests for Jaat reservations saw my family getting quiet and staring at me confusingly whenever I walked into the TV room, where the media highlighted the ‘not so good’ behaviour of jaats. Obviously there were other castes of people as well with them committing the crimes but Jaats had to face the brunt of all those actions as they were on the face of it. So my family dig deep in me, inquisitively, silently.
They wanted to know on which side I was? I was their daughter in law. But I was not a jaat. They doubted this Punjabi girl would be mocking them inside on the menace Jaats have created for reservations. But, I kept quiet. I knew my stand would neither be easy for me to explain, nor acceptable enough for them to understand my reasoning. So, I kept mum.
Recently, my family and I attended a birthday event. I was standing amidst a couple of my friends and their family. Many a comments were thrown at me. “Hi Divya! Yaar, you (jaats) have made life miserable without water.” “Is your family in support of Jaat reservations?” “What have you (jaats) done?” “Did your family participate in the protests?” The funniest question that came across me was, “Why has your husband not attended the function today? Is he busy in protests?” As they made comments with a smile, they knew less that they have offended this Punjabi girl who is a Jaat bahu now.
I could have answered them back there and then and stop them humiliating me. But, I did not pay heed to those comments and brushed them aside with a smile saying, “Are you mad? My family is not like that. They are peace-loving people.” I took their comments on a lighter note because I knew they are pulling my leg. I knew them for over 10 years and they had been so nice to me for so long that I chose to ignore them and not ruin their function then.
However, I felt two eyes staring at me. Behind this group, my mother in law was standing with some people. She was part of that group but her eyes were filled with the same inquisitive look. She was waiting for my answer. I knew I couldn’t stay quiet now. But, how can I hurt these people today? It’s their function. As the images of this family’s nice gestures towards me crossed my mind, I contemplated the choice of words to say if anyone again made one more derogatory remark on Jaats or Jaat reservations.
They did and I jumped in at the next comment, “Yes, the Jaats sure did make a lot of noise for their cause but some un-social people also became free riders to commit heinous crimes of robbery, molestation, destruction, and rapes under the veil of Jaat protests. Such violence has left a deep scar on humanity, in totality. My family members surely are Jaats but they are humane enough to understand the difference between protesting for one’s rights and violating others’ freedom. Whether my family supports or does not support Jaat Reservations is a different story but they surely condemn and decry the way protests happened. It is sad that some people are responsible for this unedifying scenario, but the whole community of Jaats is getting blamed. As for me, I would like to live in a reservation free society. However, since I do not see previous reserved categories getting abolished in India, further reservations should be carefully given to those communities that truly deserve it and under stricter laws.”
The group, though got silent but, resonated with my reasoning. My friend’s father lightened the atmosphere and said, “Arre waah! hamari beti toh samajhdaar ho gayi hai”, and everyone started smiling.
However, across the shoulder of that uncle, my eyes searched for my mother in law. She gave me a mild smile and turned in another direction. I knew I had answered her on my thoughts about Jaat reservations and I had also kept my family’s head high.