In this post, I will give the breakdown of the population of the old Mirpur District of the princely state Jammu and Kashmir, roughly covering the current districts of Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, as well as a portion of Bhimber Tehsil which now forms part of the Nowshera Tehsil of Rajouri in Indian administered Kashmir. The results are from the Census of 1931. Ethnologically, Mirpur region has much in common with neighbouring Pothohar, in particular the Gujar Khan Region, with Jat cultivators, a smaller Rajput aristocracy and a group of castes connected with particular occupation often derogatorily refereed to as Kammi. Traditionally, landownership was associated with particular groups, such as the Jat, while the kammi were largely landless. Almost all the population, including the large ethnic Kashmiri population spoke Mirpur Punjabi, aalso referred to as Pahari or Pothwari. This language is extremely close to the Pothwari spoken in Gujarkhan.
The old district formed the heart of the Chibhal region, with the Tawi forming the eastern portion and Jhelum the west, Punjab in the south and Poonch and the Pir Panjaal in the north. This region formed the easiest route into the Kashmir valley along the Bhimber, Rajouri and Shopian route, also known as the Mughal Road. Over 80% of the population was Muslim, and most of the population spoke Pahari. After the first Indo-Pak War of 1948, the district was divided by the armistice line that later became known as Line of Control. There was also an exchange of population, with Nawshera now about 90% Hindu and Sikh, while the Mirpur Division is now entirely Muslim. About one third of the district was Jat, who belonged to all three religions. Most of the larger clans such as the Kalial, Nagyal and Thathaal had sections which belonged to all three religion.
Brief Description of the Muslim Groups
As I have said more then 80% of the population in the district was Muslim, of whom the Jat formed almost 40% of the districts Muslim population. In Mirpur, Jats still reside in their traditional heartlands of Chakswari, Dadyal, the city of Mirpur and the countryside surrounding Mirpur, which is overwhelmingly Jat. The main Jat villages near Mirpur are Ban Khurma, Chitterpury, Balah-Gala, Kas Kalyal, Khambal, Khroota, Purkhan, Sangot and Dheri Thothal as well as many villages around the Khari Sharif area.The Jat population was in term divided into numerous clans, all claiming descent from a common ancestor. Among the larger clans were Aasar, Bangial, Badhan, Dhamial, Kalyal, Kanjial, Kanyal, Karyal, Khabal, Manjaal, Matyal, Nagyal, Nathyal, Rachyal, Ranyal, Rupyal, Thathaal, Pakhreel and Punyal.
The second largest group were the Rajputs, almost 13% of the total Muslim population. The Chibs were the dominant clan in Bhimber, while the Gakhars (including Sakhaal sub-clan) and the Mangral in Kotli. Along the Punjab border, there were several communities of Bhao, Panwar and Sohlan. Included within the Rajputs were the Bains, who were heavily concentrated in the Mirpur tehsil, most of which now forms part the Mirpur District.
The 1931 Census of India was the last one that collected information on the various clans of the Rajput community. Below is a list of clans belonging to the Muslim Rajputs:
|Sao / Sahoo||834|
The Gujjars came third, making up almost 10% of the population. Most of these Gujjars were connected with those of northern Punjab, speaking Pothwari and not Gojri, the language spoken by the Gujjars of the rest of the state, including the Kashmir valley. Among the larger Gujjar clans we find the Banya,Bagri, Bajar, Bhumbla, Bjarh, Chandpuri, Chauhan, Chechi, Gorsi, Hans, Kallas, Kasana, Khatana, Khepar Poswal and Meelu.
The next community, the Bafinda, whose traditional activity was weaving, differ from the previous three. They were village artisans, practising there traditional occupation of weaving. There was not a single village that did not contain a few houses.
The other large groups associated with agriculture were the Awan, Arain, Maliks and Sudhans, the last two groups were found only in Kotli.
By the early 20th Century, the district was home to a substantial community of Kashmiri Muslims. Most of them had switched to speaking Pahari, as this was the language of the dominant Rajputs. By 1931 they numbered 8,554, and in the Mirpur region now formed a distinct caste, in status slightly above the artisan groups, but below the landowning community.
About 20% of the district population was made up of castes that were associated with certain occupations such as Tarkhan (carpenters), Jogi (labourers), Lohar (smiths), Nai (barbers), Jheer (water carriers), Darzi (taylors), Khatik (butchers), and Machi (bakers). Slightly seperate from these kammi groups were the Mussali (2,068) and Mirasi (1,235), who like the Chamars and Meghs among the Hindus, were communities of outcastes.
One point on the Badhan and Bhatti, most of both groups registered themselves as either Jat in the case of the Badhan and Rajput in the case of the Bhatti. The Bazigar, were an interesting tribe of peripatetic nomads provided entertainment to settled village communities. They were probably undercounted on account of there nomadic lifestyles.
Major Hindu Communities
Among the Hindus of Mirpur, the Jat, formed a significant elements, with the larger clans being the Aasar, Aassle, Bhatti, Bhangre, Chahal, Gill, Dhoor, Jhal, Kjaal, Nagyals, Nathyal, Ranyal, Pajhaal, Smotra, Thathaal, and Tohre. The Rajputs, mainly Bhao, Charak, Chib and Minhas formed an important element in Bhimber. Three interesting communities that were only found in the region were the Basith, Mahajan and Muhial. The Basith claimed a Rajput status, were generally cultivators and outside Mirpur were only found in Poonch. After the 1948 War, the Basith community was made refugees. The Mahajan or Pahari Mahajan were found in the all the towns such as Koti, Mirpur and Nawshera, and were largely traders. The Mahajan of Mirpur town were a particularly wealthy community. The Muhial Brahmans were the landowners and soldiers of the Pothohar region, and a substantial section found in the Mirpur region. In addition, the district was home to two large Dalit communities, the Megh (weavers) and Chamars.
Major Sikh Communities
Mirpur was the western most region that was inhabited by Jatt Sikhs. The Sikh population of Mirpur differed considerably from those of Poonch and the Kashmir valley, who are largely Brahman. In Mirpur, the Sikhs were divided almost evenly between the Jatts and the Khatri/Arora castes, who were traditionally associated with trade.
|Religion||Caste or tribe||Population|
|Mussali (Muslim Shaikh)||2,068|
|Basith (Vashith Rajput)||2,817|