The Janjua (also spelt Janjooa, Janjuha, Janjuah) is a caste often found among the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu Rajput communities of Pakistan and India.
Janjuas are spread throughout the Punjab and in adjacent regions. The vast majority of Janjua are Muslim and live in eastern Pakistan where they are addressed by their hereditary title of Raja. Additionally, there are Sikh and Hindu Janjuas who reside principally in north-western India.
The main branches of the Janjua are:
In the 16th century, Mughal king Humayun was usurped by the Afghan king Sher Shah Suri, who constructed the Rohtas Fort in Punjab to check Humayun's entry in India, and also to keep a check on the local tribes including Gakhars and Janjuas.
Janjuas and the Sikhs
Raja Shabat Khan, the great-grandson of Malik Darwesh Khan Janjua, allied with Maha Singh in many campaigns of the late 18th century. Upon his death, the Sikh chief Atar Singh Dhari assassinated Khan's heir, Raja Ghulam Muhi-ud-din Khan. The Janjua then rebelled, having realised that the intent was to replace the old aristocracies.
The expansion of the Sikh empire, spearheaded by Ranjit Singh, was met with a rebellion by the Janjua Sultan of Watli, Sultan Fateh Muhammad Khan. A six-month siege of Kusuk Fort in Watli followed and this was ended when the inhabitants ran short of water.
The Kala Khan branch of Rawalpindi Janjuas fortunes were also eclipsed by the rise of the Sikh Empire. The fiercely independent Khakha branch of the Janjua fought against the Sikh expansion into their Kingdom in Kashmir.
The bold and warlike tribes of Bombas and Khakhas who now and then carried out looting incursions into the Valley, were a constant source of anxiety and danger to the Sikhs. In fact many times during their rule Bombas and Khakhas looted the valley as far up as Pattan.[full citation needed]
When the Sikh Empire's attention turned towards Kashmir, they encountered another formidable Janjua branch of the Khakha Janjua warlords, described by Vanit Nalwa as "the most troublesome tribe of the region". Sardar Raja Ghulam Ali Khan and his brother Raja Sarfaraz Khan openly revolted against the Sikh Governor of Kashmir Dewan Moti Ram resulting in attracting the attention of Hari Singh Nalwa, the Khatri Sikh general, who was deputised to subdue the rebels. Raja Ghulam Ali Khan openly defied the repeated orders to pay revenues, leading to a fierce battle with Hari Singh Nalwa known as the Battle of Khakha at Uri. Both brothers were captured and taken prisoner by the Sikh general Hari Singh Nalwa who viewed the united Khakha Bombas uprising as detrimental to their peace and stability in Kashmir.
On 1 February 1821, information was received at the (Sikh royal) court that Hari Singh Nalwa had suppressed the uprising of Khakhas and captured their chief, Ghulam Ali. The Maharaja wrote to Hari Singh to lose no time in sending the captive with appropriate security to Lahore. There was great rejoicing in Lahore for this was a troublesome man. A celebratory firing of cannons was ordered.
Both Khakha Rajput chiefs were taken to Lahore under heavy escort, where they were later butchered alive by Nalwa in prison captivity for refusing to instruct their tribe to give up the rebellion.
The Khakha Rajas now intensified their raids in consequence to the weakening Sikh power after Ranjit Singh's death. Eventually, when Maharaja Gulab Singh assumed rulership of Kashmir, he managed to drive back the Khakhas with great difficulty. But knowing the reputation of the rebellious Khakhas, he immediately installed strong garrisons in the forts guarding the passes. Despite facing the most powerful Sikh chiefs attempts to subdue them, they still enjoyed a fairly privileged position, paying little if any taxes, openly wearing arms (despite orders banning them) and defying their orders where possible. Their predatorial raids during the Sikh age earned them a localised legend, that mothers would tell their children "..the Khakhas are coming ..." to frighten them.
By the time the British Raj took an interest in conquering the Sikhs in 1848–49, they were joined by opportunistic tribes such as the Janjua, Gakhars and Awans who had lost control of centuries-old ancestral kingdoms and sought revenge. Tai Yong Tan says that "Besides being impressed with their track record, the British saw in them, with their traditional and historical enmity against the Sikhs, an effective counterpoise against the latter."
The Janjua rebellion against the Sikh empire was not a war against the Sikh faith, but a political rebellion, as the Janjua were initially keen allies to the Sukerachakia Misl with some Janjuas actually converting to the Sikh faith.
The tribal system of loyalty to the clan is still adhered to, and they tend to only align with other tribes of equally high social rank and reputation.
During the nineteenth century, the British rulers of India acknowledged the martial potential of the Janjua, designating them as a martial race. Peter Karsten says that they "... were held to be among the best Muslim soldiers, and were also the only really pure Rajputs in the plains of Punjab ... the British preferred their Martial races to be as socially exclusive as they were themselves." During this period, due to their high aristocratic status, Janjua princes refused to serve in any regiment that was not commanded by either a Janjua or another commander of equal social standing. This preference was honoured by the British when selecting regiments for them.
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