Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Farm and Forest

J&K: “Tribals Bachao” protest intensifies over govt move to declare upper castes as ST

The Gujjar and Bakerwal nomad communities are carrying out a 500km march throughout the UT to voice their concerns against granting ST status to Paharis

Sabrangindia 16 Nov 2022

Kashmir
Image: NDTV


The discontent amongst the Bakerwal and Gujjar nomadic tribe community has been simmering ever since became cognizant of Centre’s decision to declare Paharis as Scheduled Tribe (ST). The Tribal Bachao (Save tribals) March, is a 500 km march from Kupwara to Kathua covering all the 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The rally, which started from Kupwara on November 4 under the banner of All J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Joint Action Committee—an amalgam of various tribal organisations headed by president Haji Mohammad Yousuf in the Union Territory—reached Hill Kaka in the border district of Poonch on Monday—after passing through tribal areas of Baramulla, Srinagar, Pulwama, Ganderbal and Shopian districts, reported Indian Express. Holding placards and raising slogans like “Markazi sarkar, Hosh mein aao, Hosh mein aao” and “ST status se chher-chhar, Nahi chalegi, Nahi chalegi”, the protestors took out a rally in areas pre-dominantly inhabited by Gujjars and Bakerwals.

The All J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Coordination Committee has also given a call for protests during visits by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda in Udhampur district and other places during November 17-18.

After the delimitation exercise culminated in the Union Territory, Shah had, at a rally in Rajouri on October 4 said, “The Jagdish Sharma Commission had recommended that reservations be granted to Paharis, Gujjars and Bakarwals. Prime Minister Modi has a large heart and he will ensure that as soon as all formalities are completed, Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis will get all benefits of reservation”. In an attempt to allay the fears of the Bakerwal-Gujjar communities he continued, “I assure you, Paharis getting their due will not affect Gujjar Bakarwals by even one percent.”

After the delimitation exercise was carried out in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Delimitation Commission reserved nine assembly seats for the ST population. It included three assembly seats of Poonch, two out of five in Rajouri, and one each in Reasi, Anantnag, Ganderbal and Bandipore districts. Since then, the Pahari-speaking population, around 9% of the region’s total population, amplified their reservation demands.

Implications of ST status in J&K

ST status paves the way for 10 percent reservation in government jobs and access to a host of social welfare schemes. Pahari Speaking People (PSP) already enjoy 4 percent reservation in some select social schemes. But Gujjars and Bakarwals are reportedly opposed to the move to grant them ST status, as they say Paharis are a linguistic group and don’t hail from any single tribe or ethnicity, and granting them Scheduled Tribe status would dilute the nature of the ST tatus and related welfare schemes. They further argue that Paharis, unlike Gujjars and Bakarwals, do not belong to socio-economically backward communities. 

Who are Paharis?

Paharis are a heterogenous socio-linguistic group of people residing in the Pir Panjal range, mainly in Poonch, Rajauri, and even some parts of Kashmir Valley including Baramulla, Kupwara and Uri. While over 55 percent are Hindus, rest are Muslims. They engage in agriculture and animal husbandry. They have been seeking ST status as they too live and work amidst harsh conditions in a rugged terrain just like Gujjars and Bakarwals. It is also noteworthy that Gujjars and Bakarwals form the third largest ethnic group in Jammu and Kashmir after Kashmiris and Dogras.

As per Gujjars and Bakerwals, Paharis are a group of over 50 religious communities, including upper castes from both Hindus and Muslims, like Brahmins, Rajputs, Syeds and Mirzas.

The granting of ST status to Paharis has been so contentious, that in the recent past some of the senior most Pahari political leaders including Mushtaq Bukhari, a senior National Conference leader from Rajouri, Mohammad Ehsan from Peoples Democratic Party, and several others, have resigned from other parties to support BJP’s bid to grant the community ST status.

Woes of the Bakerwal-Gujjar community

According to the 2011 Census, Gujjar and Bakerwals constitute as many as 15 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir and were included as ST in 1992. They are found residing in districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Kishtwar, Anantnag, Bandipora, Ganderbal and Kupwara. They currently 10% reservation in education and government jobs and post the recent delimitation of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies, nine reserved seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

Despite having reservations, the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities claim that they are facing harassment from the authorities as many of the members have been forcefully evicted from their residential areas since last year. Many have also accused the government of delaying the implementation of the Forests Rights Act (FRA) that empowers them.

After recommendations by a commission to grant ST status to Pahari-speaking people, Kohlis and Gadda Brahmins, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has reclassified "Pahari-speaking people" as "Pahari ethnic group" to pave way for their inclusion in the ST category. The reclassification will avoid any legal hurdles since no reservation can be given on linguistic grounds, reported NDTV.

In late October, the J&K government amended its Reservation Rules, extending the benefits of 4 per cent reservation in jobs and admissions in professional colleges of the UT to the “Pahari Ethnic Group”, in place of the “Pahari Speaking People”. The amendments have been ordered by the Lt Governor in exercise of the powers conferred by the first proviso to clause (o) of Section 2 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act-2004. This was followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) approving inclusion of Paharis in the list of STs in J&K, reported IE.

While the government has been trying to placate them by saying that giving ST status to Paharis wil not dilute their reservation, the Gujjars and Bakerwals have their concerns and rightly so. Their apprehension is that since Paharis are ahead of them in literacy and economic conditions, they will usurp the reservation benefits, leaving nothing for the rightful benefactors as themselves.

Javed Rahi, founder secretary general of the Tribal Research Foundation – an organisation working for the welfare of Gujjars and Bakerwals in J&K — said that granting ST status just on the basis of ethnicity, ignoring other associated factors like socio-economic and literacy factors will open a Pandora’s box, as there were nearly 48 ethnic groups in Kashmir and almost an equal number in Jammu division such as Kashmiris and Dogras. “They, too, may demand similar reservation,” he told IE.

Related:

Uttarakhand: A Van Gujjar committee Revives an old Fight to Claim Land Titles in the Shivpuri Range

Shepherds in Maharashtra send 10,000 postcards to CMO demanding repeal of Indian Forest Act

No time for Kashmiri Pandits, but Paharis to get ST status

Gujjar-Bakerwals Protest Ahead of Amit Shah's J&K Visit Fearing Dilution of ST Status

J&K: “Tribals Bachao” protest intensifies over govt move to declare upper castes as ST

The Gujjar and Bakerwal nomad communities are carrying out a 500km march throughout the UT to voice their concerns against granting ST status to Paharis

Kashmir
Image: NDTV


The discontent amongst the Bakerwal and Gujjar nomadic tribe community has been simmering ever since became cognizant of Centre’s decision to declare Paharis as Scheduled Tribe (ST). The Tribal Bachao (Save tribals) March, is a 500 km march from Kupwara to Kathua covering all the 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The rally, which started from Kupwara on November 4 under the banner of All J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Joint Action Committee—an amalgam of various tribal organisations headed by president Haji Mohammad Yousuf in the Union Territory—reached Hill Kaka in the border district of Poonch on Monday—after passing through tribal areas of Baramulla, Srinagar, Pulwama, Ganderbal and Shopian districts, reported Indian Express. Holding placards and raising slogans like “Markazi sarkar, Hosh mein aao, Hosh mein aao” and “ST status se chher-chhar, Nahi chalegi, Nahi chalegi”, the protestors took out a rally in areas pre-dominantly inhabited by Gujjars and Bakerwals.

The All J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Coordination Committee has also given a call for protests during visits by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda in Udhampur district and other places during November 17-18.

After the delimitation exercise culminated in the Union Territory, Shah had, at a rally in Rajouri on October 4 said, “The Jagdish Sharma Commission had recommended that reservations be granted to Paharis, Gujjars and Bakarwals. Prime Minister Modi has a large heart and he will ensure that as soon as all formalities are completed, Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis will get all benefits of reservation”. In an attempt to allay the fears of the Bakerwal-Gujjar communities he continued, “I assure you, Paharis getting their due will not affect Gujjar Bakarwals by even one percent.”

After the delimitation exercise was carried out in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Delimitation Commission reserved nine assembly seats for the ST population. It included three assembly seats of Poonch, two out of five in Rajouri, and one each in Reasi, Anantnag, Ganderbal and Bandipore districts. Since then, the Pahari-speaking population, around 9% of the region’s total population, amplified their reservation demands.

Implications of ST status in J&K

ST status paves the way for 10 percent reservation in government jobs and access to a host of social welfare schemes. Pahari Speaking People (PSP) already enjoy 4 percent reservation in some select social schemes. But Gujjars and Bakarwals are reportedly opposed to the move to grant them ST status, as they say Paharis are a linguistic group and don’t hail from any single tribe or ethnicity, and granting them Scheduled Tribe status would dilute the nature of the ST tatus and related welfare schemes. They further argue that Paharis, unlike Gujjars and Bakarwals, do not belong to socio-economically backward communities. 

Who are Paharis?

Paharis are a heterogenous socio-linguistic group of people residing in the Pir Panjal range, mainly in Poonch, Rajauri, and even some parts of Kashmir Valley including Baramulla, Kupwara and Uri. While over 55 percent are Hindus, rest are Muslims. They engage in agriculture and animal husbandry. They have been seeking ST status as they too live and work amidst harsh conditions in a rugged terrain just like Gujjars and Bakarwals. It is also noteworthy that Gujjars and Bakarwals form the third largest ethnic group in Jammu and Kashmir after Kashmiris and Dogras.

As per Gujjars and Bakerwals, Paharis are a group of over 50 religious communities, including upper castes from both Hindus and Muslims, like Brahmins, Rajputs, Syeds and Mirzas.

The granting of ST status to Paharis has been so contentious, that in the recent past some of the senior most Pahari political leaders including Mushtaq Bukhari, a senior National Conference leader from Rajouri, Mohammad Ehsan from Peoples Democratic Party, and several others, have resigned from other parties to support BJP’s bid to grant the community ST status.

Woes of the Bakerwal-Gujjar community

According to the 2011 Census, Gujjar and Bakerwals constitute as many as 15 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir and were included as ST in 1992. They are found residing in districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Kishtwar, Anantnag, Bandipora, Ganderbal and Kupwara. They currently 10% reservation in education and government jobs and post the recent delimitation of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies, nine reserved seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

Despite having reservations, the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities claim that they are facing harassment from the authorities as many of the members have been forcefully evicted from their residential areas since last year. Many have also accused the government of delaying the implementation of the Forests Rights Act (FRA) that empowers them.

After recommendations by a commission to grant ST status to Pahari-speaking people, Kohlis and Gadda Brahmins, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has reclassified "Pahari-speaking people" as "Pahari ethnic group" to pave way for their inclusion in the ST category. The reclassification will avoid any legal hurdles since no reservation can be given on linguistic grounds, reported NDTV.

In late October, the J&K government amended its Reservation Rules, extending the benefits of 4 per cent reservation in jobs and admissions in professional colleges of the UT to the “Pahari Ethnic Group”, in place of the “Pahari Speaking People”. The amendments have been ordered by the Lt Governor in exercise of the powers conferred by the first proviso to clause (o) of Section 2 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act-2004. This was followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) approving inclusion of Paharis in the list of STs in J&K, reported IE.

While the government has been trying to placate them by saying that giving ST status to Paharis wil not dilute their reservation, the Gujjars and Bakerwals have their concerns and rightly so. Their apprehension is that since Paharis are ahead of them in literacy and economic conditions, they will usurp the reservation benefits, leaving nothing for the rightful benefactors as themselves.

Javed Rahi, founder secretary general of the Tribal Research Foundation – an organisation working for the welfare of Gujjars and Bakerwals in J&K — said that granting ST status just on the basis of ethnicity, ignoring other associated factors like socio-economic and literacy factors will open a Pandora’s box, as there were nearly 48 ethnic groups in Kashmir and almost an equal number in Jammu division such as Kashmiris and Dogras. “They, too, may demand similar reservation,” he told IE.

Related:

Uttarakhand: A Van Gujjar committee Revives an old Fight to Claim Land Titles in the Shivpuri Range

Shepherds in Maharashtra send 10,000 postcards to CMO demanding repeal of Indian Forest Act

No time for Kashmiri Pandits, but Paharis to get ST status

Gujjar-Bakerwals Protest Ahead of Amit Shah's J&K Visit Fearing Dilution of ST Status

Related Articles

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Theme

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Campaigns

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Videos

Communalism

Hate Speech is rampant while Free speech is criminalised | Teesta Setalvad

Eminent speakers like Justice Anjana Prakash, Saba Naqvi expressed grave concerns over the draconian laws, used to put down the struggles of the labouring masses and the manner in which the law enforcement have been taking down students, academicians, political and human rights activists, artists, Dalits, Muslims and tribal people.

Communalism

Hate Speech is rampant while Free speech is criminalised | Teesta Setalvad

Eminent speakers like Justice Anjana Prakash, Saba Naqvi expressed grave concerns over the draconian laws, used to put down the struggles of the labouring masses and the manner in which the law enforcement have been taking down students, academicians, political and human rights activists, artists, Dalits, Muslims and tribal people.

IN FACT

Analysis

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Archives