Sir Chhotu Ram
 
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Sir Chhotu Ram was born on 24 Nov 1881 in Ghari Sampla in Rohtak district. Debts and litigation compounded the problems of his father, Ch. Sukhi Ram, who died in 1905. Chhotu Ram joined a primary school in Jan 1891, passing out four years later. He studied for his middle school examination in Jhajjar, 12 miles from his village. He left Jhajjar to be enrolled in the Christian Mission School in Delhi. The story goes that when the father and son approached the bania at Sampla mandi for a loan, the bania flung a fan at the father 'with unspoken indignation to cool his large perspiring semi-naked body'. This and other humiliating incidents left an indelible mark on his personality and world view.

He passed his intermediate examination in 1903 and then enrolled in St Stephens College from where he graduated in 1905. It was his stay at this college that he was drawn to the Arya Samaj movement started by Swami Dayanand. He studied Sanskrit rather than English, the preferred subject of most students. In 1905, he worked for Raja Rampal Singh of Kalakankar in the United Provinces, but left the job within a month.  He returned to Kalakankar in 1907 and worked for a few months as the editor of the English newspaper Hindustan and then proceeded to study law in Agra, where he took his degree in 1911. For his graduation and Law degree, Sir Chhotu Ram received financial help from Seth Chhaju Ram.

In an article published in the college magazine in 1907, he reflected on the ways to improve the life in rural areas and curb the monopoly of the village bania, whom he called 'the incarnation of Shylock in our times'. While teaching at St John's High School and reading law in Agra, Chhotu Ram studied the local conditions in the Agra and Meerut divisions.

In 1911 he became the honorary superintendent of the Jat Boarding House in Agra. In 1912 he set up his legal practice with Ch. Lal Chand. Both became involved in recruiting soldiers during the First World War. Owning to their efforts, the Jats provided about half of the total recruits in the Rohtak region. Recruitment figures rose from 6,245 in Jan 1915 to 22,144 in Nov 1918. Sir Chhotu Ram established the Jat Sabha at Rohtak in 1912. He founded educational institutions, including the Jat Arya Vedic Sanskrit High School in Rohtak and donated the first year's revenue of his grant of five squares of Colony Land to the school after the First World War. The Jat Arya Samaj from the Rohtak-Hissar region arranged a meeting in Rohtak on 1 April 1913 to discuss the establishment of the Jat School which was then established on 7 Sept 1913.

He encouraged Jat students to join the Young Jat Association and study at the Jat School in Rohtak and at St Stephen's College and provided support to them. He exhorted his friends to wear the sacred thread to establish their identity. He attached much social significance to the thread and saw it as 'a sign of Dwija or twice born. Between 1916 and 1919, he wrote against the bahis (account book) and the cruel manner in which moneylenders obtained decrees against poor and ignorant farmers. Sir Chhotu Ram worked as the president of the Rohtak District Congress Committee from 1916 to 1920. He resigned on 8 Nov 1920, because the  'Congress ignored the rights and claims of the rural population'. He made it clear that if he had to make a choice between an urban Hindu and a Muslim farmer, he would always sympathize with the latter. He also thought that a disadvantaged class like the Jats could not afford to fight against the government (and the Congress essentially stood for anti-government). He was emerging as the sole spokesman of Jat interests by this time.

After the war Sir Chhotu Ram extended his activities beyond Rohtak. He set out to mobilize Jats in present-day Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh, where they were already being organized by the Jat Sabha. During this period he developed links with Jat and Arya Samaj leaders, such as Chaudhary Piru Singh, manager of the Gurukul in Matindu. Soon he became Piru Singh's legal advisor. His association with the Gurukul also brought him in contact with Swami Shraddhanand and he began visiting him in Delhi. He tried to ensure that the British did not impose restrictions on recruiting Jats in the army. He was convinced that recruitment to the army was economically beneficial and helped Jats to emphasize their Kshatriya status. In 1925 he organized a Maha Sabha Jalsa at Pushkar in Rajasthan, a momentous event in Jat history. In 1934 he organized a rally of 10,000 Jat peasants in Sikar in Rajasthan to launch an anti-rent campaign. The campaigners donned the sacred thread, made offerings of ghee and read from the Satyarth Prakash. The rally was a major event and enhanced his stature.

After 1920, Sir Chhotu Ram tried to create a non-sectarian peasant group consciousness. He was associated with the Punjab Zamindar Central Association, established in 1917 to advance the interests of Hindu and Sikh Jat agriculturalists. This was the first step towards the formation of a homogeneous rural block based on economics rather than religious interests. The formation in 1923 of the Unionist Party (Zamindara League), a cross-communal alliance of Hindu Jats and Muslim agriculturists committed to the Land Alienation Act of 1900 was the culmination of this process.

He asserted that the poverty of the peasantry was itself the sole cause of indebtedness. He challenged official assumptions on 'overspending' on marriage, death and festivals. He insisted that land revenue was the principal cause of indebtedness and ruin. He rejected the advocacy of cooperatives as a method to curb moneylenders, arguing instead that market forces would not release the peasantry from debt. Nor did he agree with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru who regarded the peasants as a passive identity. He saw the peasant as the agent as well as the beneficiary of the change.

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