Jatav, also known as Jatva/ Jatan/ Jatua/ Jatia, is a social group that in India are considered to be a part of the Chamar caste, one of the untouchable communities (or dalits), who are now classified as a Scheduled Caste under modern India's system of positive discrimination.
In the 1920s, the Jatavs of western Uttar Pradesh asserted a Kshatriya identity by claiming lineage from the ancient Yadu tribe. These claims were first made by Sunderlal Sagar, a prominent member of the Jatav Mahasabha of Agra, in Jatav Jivan (later published as Yadav Jivan in 1929). In 1946, Ramnarayan Yadvendu rehearsed many of the arguments made in Jatav Jivan, in his book Yaduvansh ka Aitihas.
According to M. P. S. Chandel
Jatavs pressed hard for their (Kshatriya) claim. But as is said many times earlier that in the caste federal system of India, changes seldom occur and in case of untouchables or scheduled castes as also established by M. N. Shrinivas there are no chances at all. So the caste of Jatavs went to a predestined end. It is unfortunate that such a powerful effort (Lynch 1969) could result nothing but the result in other fields were rewarding and exemplary. Jatav elites using cultural sentiments and striking the chord of psyche succeeded pursuing several strategies in getting political successes
In the early part of the 20th century, the Jatavs attempted the process of sanskritisation, claiming themselves to be historically of the kshatriya varna. They gained political expertise by forming associations and by developing a literate cadre of leaders, and they tried to change their position in the caste system through the emulation of upper-caste behavior. As a part of this process, they also claimed not to be Chamars and petitioned the government of the British Raj to be officially classified differently: disassociating themselves from the Chamar community would, they felt, enhance their acceptance as kshatriya. These claims were not accepted by other castes and, although the government was amenable, no official reclassification as a separate community occurred due to the onset of World War II.
Earlier pressing for the Kshatriya status, the new issues emerged among Jatavs in 1944-45. The Jatavs formed the Scheduled Caste Federation of Agra having ties with the Ambedkar led All India Scheduled Caste Federation. They started recognising themselves as Scheduled Caste and hence "untouchables". This acceptance is attributed to the present benefits and protections available to the scheduled castes.
According to Owen Lynch:
The change is due to the fact that Sanskritisation is no longer as effective a means as is political participation for achieving a change in style of life and a rise in the Indian social system, now composed of both caste and class elements.
- Singh, Kumar Suresh (1993). The scheduled castes. Anthropological Survey of India. pp. 326, 329, 331.
- Chandel, M. P. S. (1990). A Social Force in Politics: Study of Scheduled Castes of U.P. Mittal Publications. p. 51. ISBN 9788170991939.
- Rawat, Ramnarayan S. (2011). Reconsidering Untouchability: Chamars and Dalit history in North India. Indiana University Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-253-22262-6.
- Singer, Milton; Cohn, Bernard S., eds. (2007). Structure and Change in Indian Society. pp. 216–217.
- Berger, Peter; Heidemann, Frank (2013). The Modern Anthropology of India: Ethnography, Themes and Theory. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13406-118-1.
- Chandel, M. P. S. (1990). A Social Force in Politics: Study of Scheduled Castes of U.P. Mittal Publications. p. 52. ISBN 978-8-17099-193-9.
- Singh, Kumar Suresh (1993). The scheduled castes. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-19563-254-5.