When a new state was carved out of Punjab in 1966, ‘Haryana’ was the preferred name, even though history tells us there was another option.
There is reference to this area in the 1828 Gazetteer of the East India Co. It says of the region from just north of Delhi, extending southwards to Narnoul and “the sandy desert”, which today would include most of south Haryana, “Although situated on the verge of the desert, it is celebrated for its verdure, probably by comparison, from which the name is derived, Hurya, in Hindostany signifying green. The chief towns of Hurriana are Hansi, and Hissar, venerable for their antiquity; Rotuk and Bhowani; but it also contains a large number of large villages, and in the vicinity of which lions are sometimes said to be discovered.”
The publication compiled by Walter Hamilton also states that in the eastern quarter of this region lived the ‘Jauts’ and on the western side the ‘Rungurs’, which was the name given to the Jats who had “embraced the Arabian prophet’s religion. Both tribes are ferocious and uncivilised”. Of the geographical features of the region, one that strikes the author is “the depth to be penetrated before water can be reached”.
As Mughal power declined, and the British had yet to establish full authority, “Hurriana was accepted and abandoned in whole or in part as jaghire” and given to the likes of Nawab Bhumboo Khan or Bhai Laul Singh, but “the difficulties which so many chiefs found insurmountable, arose from the martial and refractory spirit of its inhabitants”.
Time and again, the Gazetteer refers to the “barbarous” nature of its people. It was, the book says, “A scene of incessant rapine and confusion. Its inhabitants, from necessity, had become warlike and ferocious, unused to control, and totally unacquainted with the advantages of a just and regular government.”
Hamilton would have been aware of the situation in what was then India’s, and is today Pakistan’s, Wild West, because, he writes of Hurriana, “It is also occasionally named the Lesser Baloochistan.”
Though never considered for obvious reasons, this could have been the other choice for a name for the region. But despite the occasional incidents of gang wars, court shoot-outs, serial killings, kidnappings, robberies, and an alarming decline in the sub-soil water table, the area that boasts of India’s new ‘millennium cities’ is no longer recognisable as the Chhota Baloochistan of yore.