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Gujjar Bakerwals

A tribe of unique identity

Gujjar Bakerwals

Shamsheer Hakla Poonchi
Gujjars Bakerwals live in Jammu and Kashmir State of India. They mostly reside in far flung, hilly mountainous areas near forests and on the Indo-Pak Line of actual control. There are two sects of Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir   viz. Gujjar and Bakerwal.  The difference amongst these sects is  that those who are  adopting Goat and sheep rearing  as their  main profession  for their livelihood are called  Bakerwals and those  who depend  upon  agriculture and  buffaloes and other animals  like cows  are called Gujjar. The sub-caste of Bakerwal and Gujjar are same. Bakerwals are about   10 lakhs in whole Jammu and Kashmir State of India and Gujjars are about 24 lakhs.
The Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir state are divided in three tribes : settled, half settled and homeless. The settled Gujjars are those who are settled at one place and staying in villages and they do agriculture pursuits and live with their animals like buffaloes, cows, goats and sheep. Half settled Gujjars are those who though live in villages and do agriculture profession and live with their animals like Buffaloes, cows, goats and sheep. For six months of summer, the half settled Gujjars go to the heights of hills, mountains and for winter months they move down to the plains.
As far the life of settled and half settled Gujjars of J&K state, is concerned, they construct their houses permanently and stay in them but they do agriculture and after  winter months, they leave for hill and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir along with their belongings as there they can have sufficient grazing fields for their cattle. These people’s way of life is different from Bakarwals. In all fields of life, Mostly, their houses are constructed of mud which are called ‘Kotha”. Oftenly, the condition of these Kothas is very bad. It contains one big room with only one door. There is no ventilation or window in this Kotha.  On one side of this big room they raise a small place enclosed by mud to serve as kitchen. Fire is kept burning uninterruptedly.
The nomadic Gujjars  (landless and Homeless) can be divided in two tribes, dodhi Gujjars and Bakarwal Gujjars. Among Dodhi Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir state one tribe of Gujjars is known as “Dodhi” or “Banyara” Gujjars. These people keep buffaloes and lead a nomadic life. In winter season, these people stay in Reasi , Udhampur and Kathua’s Districts of J&K.  Dodhi Gujjars go up to Jammu Distt. of J&K Pathankot and Gurdaspur Districts of Punjab state also. When the summer sets in, these people start moving to the heights of Himayalan Mountains where green grass is available  for their cattle. They sell milk and ghee for their sustenance. In this unsettled life it is very difficult for these people to educate their children. So these people cannot compete with other communities in the field of education and are far behind in respect of education.
The nomadic Bakerwals are homeless.  Other people live as social beings but these people live around quadrupeds all their life time. They do not have any house but only a tent and that tent is also made of several old pieces of cloth. Inside the tent there is family, tired and burdened by life’s chores. Children are lying naked and crying. They have kept some handmade woolen clothes. One wonders if their hardships are known to the world. The old man weakened due to sickness is lying inside the tent in old dirty clothes and coughing. The tent is all smoke. Eyes are swollen with smoke. Their animals are scattered over the hills and can get killed by harsh climate. Bakerwals come under first line and are famous for their courage, bravery and hospitality. Bakerwals Gotras (sub caste) are  same as  that of Gujjars like  Chauhan, Khatana ,Hakla ,Paswal ,Bagadi, Jagel,  Kalies,  Sood,  Kohli,  Dhakkar, Thikria, Gegi, Mesi, Bajran, kandal, Keela,Gorsi, Khari, Chenija, chechi, bajar  and   Kataria.  Most of Bakerwals are nomads. They are migratory When they move  from one place to another  with their  herds of sheep and Goat  head of  cattle and families they move sectwise and  live in pastures. Bakarwals are quite behind. During this period of science & technology, when communities are taking very active part in the developments, these people are lying far behind due to illiteracy and backwardness, because these people are living far away from the life of civilization on the heights of hills. They are also the victims of lack of self confidence, and do not proceed forward in the field of development along with other sections of society. The benefits of education have not reached them. They are also not well versed with the modern ways of looking after the cattle and agricultural pursuits. Thus the way of living is of olden days and backward.
Gujjar Bakerwals dresses are different from the local people of Jammu and Kashmir state. These are wonderful and not associated with any history of past. The dress of Gujjars Bakerwals, of J&K is almost of one pattern. The dresses of these people are most probably same. They wear black and blue coloured clothes, shalwar and qameez of blue, black and green colours. Some Gujjars wear trousers and loincloth (tehband) of the same colours. They wear turban of white of dark brown colour on their heads. These people wear the shoe of quite a strong type which is called “Jooti” fixed with iron keels at the bottom and are quite weighty.
Gujjars Bakarwals possess their own panchayat which is called “Jerga”. This is a body comprising some old, honest and responsible persons of the community. They decide their matters, keeping in view the welfare and prosperity of their tribe. Most of the litigations are based on grazing fields and women and off and on the incidents of theft and murder are also being reported.
The Gujjars Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir state of India is economically, socially, educationally and politically backward.
Gojri language is being spoken by Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir State and their mother language is Gojri.
Problems and needs of Gujjars Bakarwals are quite different from other communities of J&K state. That is why this community has its own peculiar position. Gujjar Bakarwal community is different and as such the community has a distinctive identity.
However, the Government must focus on their problems, and let them live a dignified life.

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