For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Bihar Caste Survey: The Who’s Who in the Data | Naalband

This caste group has been associated with the farming communities of the country.
Representative image. Photo: Flickr/murych_kun/CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Beyond politics, the Bihar caste survey is a revolutionary document.

A public document, the first ever after 1931, allowing for people to stand up and be counted.

We go down to the wire, on what each of the numbers unveiled mean.

Who are the people referred to by percentages in the survey?

Today we look at Naalband (11,900).


While Islam is in many ways different from Hinduism, many of its the followers in India are divided into various castes and families and few traverse these boundaries to form matrimonial alliances in a mark of similarity between the two religions.

If one compares these categories with the castes that exist in the Hindu religion, one can say that they are similarly mapped as the Savarnas, Shudras and those who were and are considered the ‘untouchables’ in India. However, the Bihar government has defined them as upper castes, backward classes and extremely backward classes.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

According to the caste-based census report released by the Bihar government, out of the total population of the state (130,725,310) the Muslim population is 23,149,925, or 17.7%. Among them, the population of elite class Muslims (Sheikh, Pathan and Syed) is 6,280,537. Although, traditionally Mughals are also included among the privileged classes, in the report of Bihar government, they have been categorised as ‘Others’. According to an estimate, their population in the Mithila region, including Darbhanga and Madhubani is around 10,000 to 15,000.

In the latter half of the 1990s, Bihar witnessed a new kind of movement – the Pasmanda Movement. Pasmanda is a Persian word which means ‘one who is left behind’, and is now used to describe those who have been neglected or suppressed. There has long been a struggle in the downtrodden section of the Muslim society regarding its identity and rights. But it took a new form in the latter half of the nineties, when Ali Anwar openly used this word with its political connotations for the first time.

Ali Anwar was made a member of the Rajya Sabha twice by the ruling Janata Dal (United) in Bihar. A journalist by profession, Anwar, tried to establish unity between the backward and extra backward classes through the Pasmanda movement. However, this movement was one to create a divide in the Muslim community of the state and its political impact was such that the JD(U) successfully made a dent in Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Muslim vote bank.

However, the Pasmanda movement is still a vocal movement. It has brought the Muslims in backward and extra backward classes closer to each other in the society. Together, the total population of Pasmanda Muslims (who are included in the backward class and extremely backward class) is 16,869,388.

It is also worth noting that most of the Pasmanda castes are included in the extremely backward classes. The share of Pasmanda Muslims included in the backward class in the total population of Bihar is only 2.1124% and the castes included are – Surjapuri Muslim, Malik, Naalband, Kagzi, Gaddi, Sukiaar and Rautiya.

Today, let’s discuss the Naalband caste. This caste group has been associated with the farming communities of the country. The members of this caste group fix shoes in the hooves of horses and oxen. When bulls and horses were used as a means of transportation, people of the Naalband caste used to roam from village to village carrying iron shoes for horses and oxen, hammer and nails.

The method of shoeing is quite painful for the animal. First, the bull or horse is overpowered by pushing it on the ground with the help of ropes. The farrier then removes the old shoe fixed in the hooves. Then the hooves are cleaned and flattened, sometimes with an iron sander, so that the shoe can fit easily. After this a new shoe is inserted. Generally, only the bulls used in bullock carts are shoed.

Apart from shoeing animals, the people of the Naalband caste group also used to castrate calves to convert them into bulls. Among Hindus, the people of Nat caste also perform this task but Naalband folk are considered masters when it comes to this job.

This caste group is included in the backward class in Bihar and its total population is only 11,900. The government report itself shows that out of a total of 2,461 families, 803 are poor. Here poor means those whose daily income is limited to Rs 200.

With time, the use of horses and bulls have declined. As a result, the traditional work of the Naalband caste members ended and they took up other professions. However, even now in rural areas where bullock carts and chariots are still in use, Naalband can be seen shoeing animals. But they are very few in number.

This is how human civilisation has evolved. First, professions were formed and then castes were created out of these professions. Now, traditional professions are dying out, but caste remains the same.

Translated from Hindi by Naushin Rehman. Read the Hindi original here.

Read earlier parts of the series on the following communities by clicking on their names: Ghasi Santrash Madaria | Koeri/Kushwaha | Chaupal | Nai/Hajjaam | Pasi | Rangrez | Chamar | Gorkan | Jutt | Yadav | Kamar | Chik | Bari and Bauri | Dhuniya | Donwar Sinduria Baniya |  Bhathiyara | Dabgar Kumhar Amaat | DhobiPaswanKevatBhishti | Bakkho | Noniya | Musahar | Kahar.

The series is available in Hindi here and in Urdu, here.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter