Hujra word is derived from the Arabic language means ‘room or cell’ in Bangladesh a room of Imam in Mosques. In Pashto, means a ‘specific public place to sit in’ In Punjab a ‘Deera’ word instead of Hujra.
History of Hujra
Hujra used to be a specific public place to sit in and is as old as the history of Pushtoon. It is equal to Greek, Rome city council and Aristotle’s Lyceum Academia. The “Hujra” word has a huge diversity in its meaning. It is due to its diverse contribution to the life of Pushtoon. Sheikh Milli Baba, a prominent Scholar designated Hujra as a basic management and development unit in Pushtoon society.
Hujra is the epic centre for a consultation to provide space for inter-family and intra-family groups. Which enhanced the unity and cohesiveness of the society. People living in the locality around Hujra participated in different ceremonies organized on daily basis. It plays a crucial role as a communal place for celebrating social and cultural events. Hujra has a permanent Jirga, always available to resolve conflicts between neighbours, which are quick, cheap, unbiased, and honoured by the people, because all the decisions are taken collectively with great collaboration and consultation.
It is acted as an information-sharing centre among the people. Hujra is a good contact place for all types of visitors. Hujra is an informal training institute. The elders educated the young in ethics, sociology, culture, planning, history, leadership development, and politics. Hujra provides space for guests during marriages, circumcisions, funerals, and other ceremonies in the community.
The resemblance with other community
Hujra is not only popular in the Pushtoon community but a similar community sitting place is used by others, in Punjab, Deera is used, in India Punchaiyt is doing the same function. But in the Pushtoon community, it has a very big role because it’s an epic centre in the locality which is used to be like a parliament, with full authority to repeal and make rules for the welfare of the community.
The Role of Hujra
The role of Hujra is very vibrant in nature because it covers all aspects of the life of a person or community. It is worth mentioning that role of Hujra is not confined to local disaster management and humanitarian assistance but also dealing with respect to local issues. Hujra is a permanent volunteer’s centre, where volunteers are available all the time and in any such disaster, it is used to help the people.
Volunteers rush to the site for possible relief, I remembered when I was a kid, my grandfather told me to call the neighbours for “Hasher (wheat cutting)” and to my surprised, all were gathered and did all the work voluntarily. The Hujra role is very vibrant and crucial in a time of needs like help the person socially as well as financially, as well as being a forum for discussion, planning, relief strategies, and rehabilitation. Human resource management is planned in Hujra. “What, how and who will do?” is discussed in Hujra.
The people of the surroundings share their resources and bring them to Hujra for distribution among the needy. In times of disaster, the relief goods, volunteers, contributors, and overall progress of rehabilitation work is checked in a community hujra. Discussions of success and failures are also shared in Hujra.
Living Example regarding Hujra
There were cases of adjustment or reallocation and release of the land from land mafias. The glaring example is a Jirga organized in Peshawar by the locals to get the land and its position. I knew I was a kid, my grandfather and father along with hundreds of people gathered in a community sitting place. They had decided to get back the land, and they did without any harm. The land is still with the Jirga and tried to distribute land peacefully among the true owners.
Though there are some people who stabbed a digger to Jirga from time to time. It was and it happened because the land mafias distributed money and bought them. It is human nature, if the devil is inside you, material gains bring it to the surface, and show your true face to the general public. These devils are still creating a problem but the strength of Jirga is as high as True God.
The impact of that Jirga is that the people who were living in other houses, now are living on their own. And that is because of that Jirga. The true owners get money, and they once said we have not any land because they were unable to stand against the mafias. Thanks to this system, a collective decision and strength make it possible to get back the land.
Jirga, an Important Pillar
It is considered the most prominent role of a Hujra. If I say, the whole Pushtoon community’s traditions revolve around it, it would not be false. That is why I give a separate place to it. Jirga is an elderly council used to settle disputes in the community. They have great powers to punish, reward or pardon the culprit. Mostly, the well-reputed, intelligent, aged, respectful and wise are the members of this voluntary Jirga. In Pakistan, even the decision of Jirga has been accepted in a court of law. The court cannot go against the verdict of Jirga if it is deemed just.
The glaring example is a Jirga constituted in Afghanistan to settle the Afghan disputes with the United States in a peaceful way. Recently a Jirga was convened by the Taliban to discuss the way out of the problems in Afghanistan in Qatar. So it is apparent in my view that Jirga is the most vital pillar of the Hujra or Pushtoon community which holds the Pushtoon traditions and customs tightly.
Its significance can not be diminished in this modern era. Because serving people in need in whatever situation is more necessary in this materialistic world. People who are having problems are advised to enter into a place where they can see and feel the right solution to their problems. The problems may be financial, minor disputes over relations, marriage, land, or any other type have the best solution in Hujra. In the best interest of the community, this institution of welfare needs to be as strong as it was before.
Impact on society
There is never ever seen a negative impact of Hujra in the Pushtoon community, that is why it is still used to settle disputes even at the international level. Pakistan Army has settled many problems in tribal areas with the Taliban through Jirga (Hujra). People mostly the Pushtoon community try to settle their disputes outside the court in Hujra because it is cheap justice, no need for a lawyer etc. so people are preferring to solve the problems in Hujra happily. Therefore, the impact of Hujra is still as high as the sky.
Fall of this Institution
Indeed the role of this glory place is decreased in this modern world. Because the community-based Hujra is diminishing now, the individual sitting system takes place, which is the main cause. But there are still areas in the Pushtoon community that have a community sitting system. In Peshawar, the capital of KP, Pakistan, still has a community-based sitting system. The glittering example is Laowara Hujra (high raised Hujra) in Tango Ada.
Alternative of Hujra
The beithic system is taking place of this system, but it can never achieve that much glory as did by Hujra. So we must need to strengthen this institute more instead to replace it with a nonfunctional beithic system.
In the closing para, I must say that this system is the most starlit institute in the world in the Pushtoon community. It makes Pushtoon more vibrant, wise, peaceful and democratic. Pushtoon is projected by the media oppositely like extremist, fundamentalist or fanatic. But in reality, they are above all these low words and that is because of HUJRA.