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Khwar


Khwar a village institution representing the detention centre of the cattle causing damage to the standing crops in the field or homestead gardens, and also of the strayed cattle likely to cause such damage. Khwar is a Persian word meaning strayed and distrained cattle. Until the 1940s, this institution was commonly organized by every village community of rural Bengal. During the Mughal period, when agriculture was the main source of income for the government, the institution of khwar acquired significance. This was the period when livestock also acquired considerable importance in the economy. With the support and sanction from the government and zamindars, khwar was established almost in every village. It was meant for stopping damage to standing crops in the field and homestead gardens by strayed cattle. The khwar system allowed any affected person to take the stray cattles into the custody of the khwar until the losses caused by the strayed cattle were compensated.

The actual owners were called upon to take back their cattle on payment of a fine determined by the village elders. The system was a big check on the damage of cropland and homestead gardens by the stray cattle. Every khwar had a management committee consisting of village elders. Its maintenance cost came from fines. The khwar was also a feeding centre for those husbandmen who were unable to feed their cattle for some reason or other. Husbandmen sometime kept their cattle in the custody of the khwar committee while they were away from the village. This institution contributed a good deal to the preservation of village peace. Village crimes caused by cattle traspassing and damaging crops were greatly contained by the khwar system. The village chowkidar was commonly a member of the khwar committee. In view of the extensive changes in the agrarian system and production relations, the system is now almost extinct. [Sirajul Islam]