History and origin
According to the traditions of the Farukhabad District Malkanas, they were originally members of the Hindu Rajput caste. They were converted during the reign of the Mohammed Shah Bangash, the Pathan ruler of Farrukhabad. They relate their story of their conversion to Islam to an incident. Once, Qassim Ali, the son of a local Muslim ruler visited Farrukhabad, and hunted peacock in the forest. A Hindu Rajput of the area, named Fateh Singh, murdered Qasim Ali, after being told the Qassim Ali had killed the peacock. The king, on hearing the death of his son, came to the locality, and challenged the Rajputs to battle. During the course of the battle, one of the Rajputs, Umroa Singh came in the custody of the Muslims. Once released, other members of the Rajput community considered him impure, and as result of this social ostracism, converted to Islam. He took the name the Amir Khan.
In Agra District, the Malkana claimed descent from a number of Hindu castes. Those of Kiraoli, where they occupy five villages, claim descent from a Jat. Other Malkana families in the district claim descent from Panwar, Chauhan, Parihar and Sikarwar Rajputs. In Hathras District, they were found mainly near the town of Sadabad. They belonged to Jat and Gaurwa communities that had converted to Islam. At the turn of the 20th century, the Malkana were a community that was on the religious faultline, as there customs were a mixture of Hindu and Muslim traditions. They kept Hindu names, used the salutation Ram Ram, and were endogamous. But the community buried their dead, practiced circumcision, and visited mosques on special occasions. This eclectic nature of the community led to attempts by both Hindu and Muslim revivalist to target them.
This has led to splits in the community, with many members of the community converted to Hinduism in the early part of the 20th century, during the course of the shuddhi movement. The shuddhi campaign among the Malkanas, was launched in early 1923 and led by the Arya Samaj under Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. This re-conversion campaign reached its peak by the end of 1927, by which time some 1,63,000 Malkana Muslims are said to have been brought into the Hindu fold.
The Malkana who have remained Muslim are an endogamous community, and practicing gotra exogamy, like other North Indian Hindu communities. Lately, they have also started to marry within the Pathan and Mughal communities. Uniquely, many Malkana still marry into families that are now Hindu, as a result of the shuddhi movement. It is not uncommon to have families, where close relatives are Hindu. Although the community is Sunni Muslim, they continue to observe many Hindu traditions, and celebrate the festivals of Diwali and holi. In Farrukhabad District, their main clans are the Bais, Chauhan, Gaharwar, and Rathore. While in Etah District, their main clans are the Bhale Sultan and Bhatti.
The Malkana are agriculturists, and have customs similar to other Muslim peasant communities of North India. They have a traditional caste council, which is losing its influence, particularly among younger members of the community.
- People of India Uttar Pradesh, Volume XLII Part Two, edited by A Hasan & J C Das, pp.1057-1060.
- Agra District Gazetteer, by H R Neville, p. 1057.
- Muttra District Gazetteer, by H R Neville, p. 81.
- Hindu-Muslim Relations in British India: a study of Controversy, Conflict and Communal Movements in Northern India 1923 to 1928, by Gene R. Thursby.
- People of India Uttar Pradesh, Volume XLII Part Two, edited by A Hasan & J C Das, P. 1060.