WHEN THE HINDU JATS OF KAKRA describe their village to journalists, they most often use the adjective naram, or “soft,” to set it apart from the harshness of the surrounding region. The 1920 Muzaffarnagar Gazetteer described Kakra as an important village: “a flourishing place held by a large number of Jat proprietors, who are constantly quarrelling among themselves.”
Now a village of nearly 1,400 households 15 kilometres to the south-west of Muzaffarnagar town in western Uttar Pradesh, Kakra is still prosperous, but by their own telling, its Jats are no longer quarrelsome. They like to talk about their kabaddi stadium and their star kabaddi players, some of whom come from as far east as Chhattisgarh. They are proud that the village has almost a dozen schools, and of the fact that young men from the village are recruited to government service through the sports quota with fair regularity. These young men claim that they want nothing more than to join the police or the army. Criminals and strongmen have never disgraced Kakra’s name in the wider public record. No Vinod Bawla—the Muzaffarnagar criminal with a Rs 1 lakh bounty on his head who was arrested in Noida late last year—ever came from here.
Kakra’s people also talk, invariably, of the closeness of Jats and Muslims, their dependence on each other, and how they have always voted as one. Going by its own lore, Kakra’s existence began in the fourteenth century, as part of a Muslim fiefdom, and Muslims have always been a part of the village. Kakra’s Muslims say the village was a happy place, at least until their world was turned upside down in a day and night—24 hours which burned through Kakra in early September, as Hindu–Muslim riots engulfed Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, killing 62 people through the region, and displacing a staggering 40,000 from their homes in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat.