|Regions with significant populations|
|• India • Pakistan|
|• Urdu • Hindi • Gujarati|
|• Islam •|
|Related ethnic groups|
|• Banjara • Muker • Shaikh|
The Muslim Banjara or Muslim Lambadi are a Muslim community found in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in India. Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947, and have settled in Karachi and Sindh. They are also known as the Rahmani, especially in Uttar Pradesh, and they use Rahmani as their surname. The Muslim Banjara speak Banjari also called Lambadi language.
History and origin
The Muslim Banjara are Muslim converts of the larger Banjara community of India. In Uttar Pradesh, the community consists of twelve gotras, the Banel, Omraha, Tikhand, Charuna, Nauni, Kalishingh, and Kakri being the main ones. While in Madhya Pradesh, they have two sub-divisions, the Landhe and the Hundhe. They are said to have immigrated from Rajasthan about 300 to 350 years, and still speak a dialect of Rajasthani.
Another sub-group of the Muslim Banjara are the Baidguar community, who are found mainly in Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh, and the neighbouring areas of Nepal. The community is also known as Naik, and are strictly endogamous, not marrying other Banjara groups. Their name is an amalgamation of two communities, the Baid, who were historically involved in carrying grain on pack animals, and the Guars, who were cattle traders. Both the Baid and Guar are clans within the Hindu Banjara community. These two groups merged on their conversion to Islam, but by maintaining community endogamy, have remained distinct from other Banjara groups.
The community in North India are mainly cattle traders and breeders. Before the start of the agriculture season, they sell their cattle on credit, and are largely landless. The only exception being the Banjara Muslims of Rohilkhand, where the community were substantial landowners, particularly in Bareilly and Pilibhit districts, and are generally small to medium sized farmers. They are strictly endogamous, but no longer practice clan exogamy. While in Gujarat, the community are small scale farmers and agricultural labourers. A small number are also involved in the selling of milk.
The Banjara Muslim have a caste council (biradari panchayat), which settles criminal offences like adultery and rape. The caste council is headed by a naik, and consists of fifteen members. They also have set up the All India Banjara Muslim Federation, which is an India wide caste association. The community has been campaigning to obtain scheduled tribe status, a privilege already granted to the Hindu Banjara.
They belong to the Sunni sect, but like other North Indian Muslim communities, their practices incorporate a number of folk beliefs. They pay homage to the local deity, Gurgaon wali Mata. The Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Banjara speak Urdu, while those of Gujarat speak Gujarati.
In Uttar Pradesh, they are concentrated in Saharanpur, Bijnor, Pilibhit, Bareilly, Aligarh, Muzaffarnagar, Etawah, Moradabad, Tanda [Rampur], Mathura, Etah and Agra districts. A few are also found in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand. In Madhya Pradesh, they are found in the districts of Jabalpur, Chhindwara and Mandla. While in Gujarat, they are found in the districts of Panchmahal, Kheda, Ahmedabad, and Sabarkantha. Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and have settled in Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh.
The Banjara community is concentrated in the Rohilkhand region of western Uttar Pradesh. There settlements are generally known as tandas, which means camp, reflecting their nomadic background. In Pilibhit District, the main villages are Neoria Hussainpur and Bhikarpur,Barat Bojh,Nisra,Nagaria,Sardarnagar,Amkhera,Dang,harraipur and the Naiks or headmen of these villages were substantial landowners at one time. In neighboring Bareilly District, the community are found mainly in Baheri tehsil, where they were at one time substantial landowners. The main villages in Bareilly District include Town Richha Baheri Nawabganj Faridpur Dhora Tanda Jokhanpur Girdharpur Shheshgarh Tanda Dayanatpur, Tanda Chhanga and Tanda. The Largest Muslim Banjara populated town is Richha Baheriin district Bareilly Here population of muslim banjar is more than 40,000 and thi community presently work is Rice business Tanda, District Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. Here population of Muslim Banjaras is more than 30,000 (thirty thousand). Here All Muslim Banjaras are from sunni sects. But Banjara community in Tanda, Rampur is lagging in the field of education. No government school could be opened here after 1952. Education specially female educational infrastructure is non-existing. Shahabuddin Ghauri is the first person in Tanda, Rampur who got Masters Degree, He is a social activist and is trying to establish basic educational infrastructure in the town with the help of some NGOs.
- K S Singh. People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII. p. 1021.
- R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen (eds.). People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One. pp. 111–118.
- Abida Samuidin and R Khanum. Global Encyclopedia of Ethnography of Indian Muslims.
- "Muslim Banjara community victim of oppression". Banjara Times. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- K S Singh. People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII. p. 1023.