A Koli woman
|Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Koli language, Konknni, and Kannada|
|Hindu, Muslim, Christian|
There has historically been some difficulty in identifying people as Koli or as Bhil people in what is now the state of Gujarat. The two communities co-existed in the hills of that area and even today there is confusion regarding their identity, not helped, in the opinion of sociologist Arvind Shah, by there being "hardly any modern, systematic, anthropological, sociological or historical study" of the Kolis. Sources from the medieval period suggest that the term koli was applied generically to lawless people, whilst British colonial studies considered it to be a vague collective noun for varied communities whose sole common feature was that they were inferior to the Kunbis. At some stage, koli became accepted as a caste and thus superior to the tribal Bhils.
Records of Koli people exist from at least the 15th century, when rulers in the present-day Gujarat region noted their chieftains as being marauding robbers and dacoits. Over a period of several centuries, some of them were able to establish petty chiefdoms throughout the region, mostly comprising just a single village. Although not Rajputs, this relatively small subset of the Kolis claimed the status of the higher-ranked Rajput community, adopting their customs and intermixing with less significant Rajput families through the practice of hypergamous marriage, which was commonly used to enhance or secure social status. There were significant differences in status throughout the Koli community, however, and little cohesion either geographically or in terms of communal norms, such as the establishment of endogamous marriage groups.
Through the colonial British Raj period and into the 20th century, some Kolis remained significant landholders and tenants, although most had never been more than minor landowners and labourers. By this time, however, most Kolis had lost their once-equal standing with the Patidar[a] community due to the land reforms of the Raj period.
During the later period of the Raj, the Gujarati Kolis became involved in the process of what has subsequently been termed sanskritisation. At that time, in the 1930s, they represented around 20 percent of the region's population and members of the local Rajput community were seeking to extend their own influence by co-opting other significant groups as claimants to the ritual title of Kshatriya. The Rajputs were politically, economically and socially marginalised because their own numbers — around 4 - 5 per cent of the population — were inferior to the dominant Patidars, with whom the Kolis were also disenchanted. The Kolis were among those whom the Rajputs targeted because, although classified as a criminal tribe by the British administration, they were among the many communities of that period who had made genealogical claims of descent from the Kshatriya. The Rajput leaders preferred to view the Kolis as being Kshatriya by dint of military ethos rather than origin but, in whatever terminology, it was a marriage of political expedience.
In 1947, around the time that India gained independence, the Kutch, Kathiawar, Gujarat Kshatriya Sabha (KKGKS) caste association emerged as an umbrella organisation to continue the work begun during the Raj. Christophe Jaffrelot, a French political scientist, says that this body, which claimed to represent the Rajputs and Kolis, "... is a good example of the way castes, with very different ritual status, join hands to defend their common interests. ... The use of the word Kshatriya was largely tactical and the original caste identity was seriously diluted."
The relevance of the Kshatriya label in terms of ritual was diminished by the practical actions of the KKGKS which, among other things, saw demands for the constituent communities to be classified as Backward Classes in the Indian scheme for positive discrimination. Kshatriyas would not usually wish to be associated with such a category and indeed it runs counter to the theory of Sanskritisation, but in this instance, it suited the socio-economic and political desires. By the 1950s, the KKGKS had established schools, loan systems and other mechanisms of communal self-help and it was demanding reforms to laws relating to land. It was also seeking alliances with political parties at the state level; initially, with the Indian National Congress and then, by the early 1960s, with the Swatantra Party. By 1967, the KKGKS was once again working with Congress because, despite being a haven for Patidars, the party leadership needed the votes of the KKGKS membership. The Kolis gained more from the actions of the KKGKS in these two decades than did the Rajputs, and Jaffrelot believes that it was around this time that a Koli intelligentsia emerged. Ghanshyam Shah, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, describes the organisation today as covering a broad group of communities, from disadvantaged Rajputs of high prestige to the semi-tribal Bhils, with the Kolis in the middle. He notes that its composition reflects "a common economic interest and a growing secular identity born partly out of folklore but more out of common resentment against the well-to-do castes".
The Kolis of Gujarat remained educationally and occupationally disadvantaged compared to communities such as the Brahmins and Patidars. Their many Jātis include the Bareeya, Khant and Thakor, and they also use Koli as a suffix, giving rise to groups such as the Gulam Koli and Matia Koli. Some do not refer to themselves as Koli at all.
As of 2012[update], various communities bearing the Koli name appear in the central lists of Other Backward Classes maintained by the National Commission for Backward Classes, although at least one is also in part recognised as a Scheduled Tribe. These classifications have been in force since at least 1993.
While the Koli are mostly Hindu, in Mumbai, Converted Native Christians include autochthonous Koli East Indian Catholics, who were converted by the Portuguese during the 16th century.
- Kanhoji Angre, Admiral of Maratha Navy of Shivaji
- Jhalkaribai, a woman soldier who played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857
- Yakut Khan, Admiral of Mughal Navy and Jagirdar of Janjira Fort
- Tanaji Malusare, commander in the Maratha Army of Shivaji
- Yashwantrao Martandrao Mukne, Maharaja of the Jawhar State
- Ramesh Patil, former member of Maharashtra Legislative Council and president of Koli Mahasangh
- Govindas Ramdas, Indian revolutionary
- Parshottambhai Solanki, former minister of Fishery in the Government of Gujarat
Notes and references
- "Jammu and Kashmir BJP in favour of reservation for people living along international border". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
- "Koli community hopeful of getting ST tag in Karnataka - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
- Nan, Huaijin (1 January 1997). Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism and Zen. Weiser Books. ISBN 9781578630202.
- Shah 2012, p. 168
- Ratnagar, Shereen (2010). Being Tribal. Primus Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-9-38060-702-3.
- Shah 2012, p. 169
- Jaffrelot 2003, pp. 180-182
- Fuller 1975, pp. 293-295
- Shah 2012, p. 170
- Basu 2009, pp. 51-55
- Shah 2004, p. 178
- Shah 2004, p. 302
- Shah 2004, p. 221
- "Central List of OBCs for the State of Gujarat" (PDF). National Commission for Backward Classes. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- "N.C.T. Delhi : DATA HIGHLIGHTS: THE SCHEDULED CASTES : Census of India 2001" (PDF). Censusindia.gov. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- "Madhya Pradesh : DATA HIGHLIGHTS: THE SCHEDULED CASTES : Census of India 2001" (PDF). Censusindia.gov. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- "Rajasthan : DATA HIGHLIGHTS: THE SCHEDULED CASTES : Census of India 2001" (PDF). Censusindia.gov. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- K.J SINGH, L.T General (5 November 2018). "As NDA cadet, I was witness to Vice Admiral Awati's kindness". ThePrint.
- Narayan, Badri (2006). Women heroes and Dalit assertion in north India: culture, identity and politics. SAGE. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7619-3537-7.
- Ali, Shanti Sadiq (1996). The African Dispersal in the Deccan: From Medieval to Modern Times. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 9788125004851.
- Hardiman, David (2007). Histories for the Subordinated. Seagull Books. p. 103. ISBN 9781905422388.
- Steinberg, S. (28 December 2016). The Statesman's Year-Book: Statistical and Historical Annual of the States of the World for the Year 1949. Springer. ISBN 9780230270787.
- "Mumbai: BJP rallies around fishermen opposing coastal road project". The Indian Express. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
- Krishan, Shri (7 April 2005). Political Mobilization and Identity in Western India, 1934-47. SAGE Publishing India. ISBN 9789352803071.
- "Koli leader Parshottam Solanki skips cabinet meeting, ups ante - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
- Basu, Pratyusha (2009), Villages, Women, and the Success of Dairy Cooperatives in India: Making Place for Rural Development, Cambria Press, ISBN 9781604976250
- Fuller, Christopher John (Winter 1975), "The Internal Structure of the Nayar Caste", Journal of Anthropological Research, 31 (4): 283–312, doi:10.1086/jar.31.4.3629883, JSTOR 3629883, S2CID 163592798
- Jaffrelot, Christophe (2003), India's Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North India (Reprinted ed.), C. Hurst & Co., ISBN 9781850653981
- Shah, Arvind M. (2012), The Structure of Indian Society: Then and Now, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-13619-770-3
- Shah, Ghanshyam (2004), Caste and Democratic Politics In India (Reprinted ed.), Anthem Press, ISBN 9781843310860
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Koli people.|
- Plants and animals important to the Koli-Agri community in Maharashtra on Biodiversity of India
- Indian Express. A community called Koli