Crime Pattern and Community Law
According to a saying in Punjab, 'money, wife and land'
are at the root of all quarrels. One almost invariably finds these, severally
or jointly, inspiring all quarrels, thefts and murders. The Jats of the
Punjab is known for being possessive. He would much sooner risk his life
than let anyone touch one hair of his wife. Distribution of land is another
vital factor which has often created enmity even among real brothers.
At the back of all this, is the fact that the Punjabi's are very headstrong
and sensitive. If anyone hurts their self-respect, they are ready to kill
or get killed. There are vendettas inherited from ancestors. In these
ancestral feuds, murders and abduction are sometimes committed out of
sheer desire for revenge. One generation avenges a murder committed by
the earlier one, the next generation avenges that murder, and the vicious
circle tends to go on. Ancestral feuds are sometimes found between two
pattis of the same village. Some decades ago these formed a normal crime
pattern in the village life of the Punjab.
Another incentive to crime till recently was the fact
that the Banias or money-lenders, virtually squeezed life out of the simple
villagers. Finding the Jat in a tight corner, the Bania loaned him a small
sum of money at an exorbitant rate of interest. For the rest of his life
the Jat and then his succeeding generations remained caught in his clutches,
for the compound interest went on multiplying. As a consequence, the Jat
and the money-lender were forever involved in litigation. The situation
has now improved a little. The Jat is no longer such a simpleton and the
new social order which is emerging is far more friendly to him.
There are some leading elders in every village
who are honoured and respected by all. Such an elder is called a Panch.
The institution of the Panch is very old, and for centuries it has been
sorting out many big and small frictions of the village, including disputes
over boundaries, right of way etc. After independence, the Government,
realising the importance of Panchayats in villages, gave them constitutional
recognition by passing the Panchayat Act.
In every village there is some common land called Shamlat.
No one can assert an independent claim to it. It is open to common use.
There is also a village platform (daira) where the old as well as the
young hold their meetings. Folk singers, minstrels and dancers also use
these platforms to entertain the village-folk. Punjabis being religiously
inclined contribute liberally towards the upkeep of Gurdwaras and Mandirs.
These community buildings are built out of the joint efforts of villagers.
When a man in a Village dies, his sons inherit his property. If they want
they can divide it among themselves or if they prefer they can continue
to live as a joint family.