1931 Census and the Gujjar Community in J&K

Dr Javaid Rahi
The Indian Census has a long and memorable history that may be traced back to the earliest literary texts, such as the Vedas and other ancient scriptures. The Rig Veda, a very old Indian text, suggests that population counts existed as early as 800-600 BC. This census-taking practice was also a part of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, put out between 321-296 BC, where it was viewed as an essential tool for state policy and revenue management.
The Mughal era, particularly Akbar’s rule, saw an emergence of extensive administrative reports known as the “Ain-e-Akbari.” These reports contained an enormous amount of information about the population, industries, wealth, and other essential characteristics of the Mughal Empire’s territories. The regular practice of holding censuses in British India began in 1881, and it has been conducted every ten years since then. The sixth general census of India was held in 1931, and it was an important juncture in the subcontinent’s data collection history.
First Ethnic Census in J&K
The Census of 1931 had a focus on castes /tribes/races enumeration and is considered as first ethnic census of India. It had 18 questions covering a wide range of demographic, social, cultural, and economic subjects. Name, gender, place of residence, religion, caste, race, occupation, and literacy were among the basic inquiries. In addition, the census inquired about mother tongues, and for the first time, a question concerning “other language in common use” was introduced to gather information about second languages spoken.
The 1931 Census included Jammu and Kashmir, an area of tremendous diversity and historical significance. The entire state was treated as a single entity for this census, and data was collected across multiple areas. The coverage encompassed both the Jammu and Kashmir provinces.
The census was carried out in the Jammu Province. Jammu covered the Districts Jammu, Kathua Udhampur which includes Bhadarwah, Reasi , Mirpur District and Poonch Jagir and Chanani Jagir
The census was carried out in the Kashmir Province as well.It covered Srinagar District ( including South Kashmir) Baramulla District ( including North Kashmir) Muzaffarabad Frontier Districts (Ladakh District, Gilgit, and Frontier Elaqa)
The Jammu and Kashmir State Census of 1931 provided vital insights about the region’s population and its different characteristics. The total population counted in the state was 3,646,243, according to statistics obtained during this census.
This historical census data not only sheds light on the region’s demographic composition at the time, but it also serves as a valuable resource for researchers, historians, and policymakers interested in understanding the sociocultural and economic dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir in the early twentieth century.
1931 census data not only reflects the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir time but also serves as a valuable resource for researchers, historians, and policymakers seeking to understand the socio-cultural and economic dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir in the early 20th century.
Gujjars – the Second largest Caste of J&K
The 1931 Census of India is an invaluable source of historical information that provides significant insights on the castes’ and tribes’ demographic makeup at the time. Among the major castes, the Gujjars constituted a significant caste/ tribe among the various castes and groups. In terms of population, the Gujjars were the second most populous caste in Jammu & Kashmir in 1931.
The castes were mentioned in the 1931 Census Report in the chapter headed “Geographical Distribution of Some Important Castes,” the census particularly identified the following five castes in the state that had a population of more than one lakh people.
Kashmiri people both Hindu and Muslim, which were composed of numerous castes/classes, had the largest population in J&K in 1931. The Gujjars comprising of the single largest caste ranked second in terms of population size. Their significant presence demonstrates their cultural and historical importance in Jammu & Kashmir. The Rajputs, both Hindu and Muslim were included in this category, and their combined population exceeded one lakh. Brahmans: The Brahman community in Hindus and the Jats Hindu and Muslim, surpassed one lakh, demonstrating their numerical power.
Gujjars, with their significant position on the caste list, played an important role in the region’s social fabric. According to the 1931 Census, the total Gujjar population from all three regions was 402,781 (excluding Bakerwals, who were 5349). This figure depicts not only the overall population of Gujjars in the state in 1931, but also their broad distribution throughout provinces and territories. In that census, the Gujjar population was divided throughout many areas and the provincial split of Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir. In Jammu Province, there were 280,612 Gujjars. In Kashmir Province, there were 119,073 Gujjars. Despite being much smaller than their presence in Jammu Province, this statistic demonstrated their significant presence in the Kashmir region. Gujjars were concentrated in the Frontier Districts, which included Ladakh, Gilgit, and Frontier Elaqa. In these areas, there were 1,840 Gujjars. Bakerwals, a group among Gujjars, were counted as 5349 in the Census of India 1931 Pat II XXIV-218 (15299 in 1941) separately as a profession.
The Census of 1931 provides vital information about the composition of the Muslim community in Jammu Province. The Gujjars evolved as the largest single caste among the Muslim community made up around 35% of the Muslim population in Jammu Province and 18% of all Muslims in J&K.
Highest frequency of child marriages
The Census of 1931 provided a glimpse into child marriage that has long been a deeply rooted societal practice among various Muslim castes, with Gujjars appearing as the caste with the highest frequency of child marriages.
The Census also provides a ranking of the prevalence of child marriage among various Muslim castes. The Gujjars stood out among these, with 623 married females per thousand between the ages of 7 and 16. Within the Gujjar community, this ratio suggested a higher proportion of girls marrying at a young age. In descending order, the Gujjars were followed by the Yashkuns (586), Kashmiri Muslims (575), Rajputs (516), Jats (531), Sayed (443), and Baltis (273).
One Gujjar Woman found literate among one thousand
The Stark Gender Disparities in Literacy uncovered by the 1931 Census highlighted apparent gender disparities in literacy, notably across diverse castes and groups. The Gujjars, a traditionally nomadic and pastoral community, were at the bottom of the literacy ladder. According to the research, only one Gujjar woman out of every thousand in their community was literate. Among a thousand Bakkarwal women, none were literate.
For numerous other castes, the situation was significantly worse. There were just one or two literate women for every thousand Basith, Chamar, Hindu Jat, Megh, Muslim Jat, Kashmiri Muslim, and Buddhist Mangrik. In the census statistics for several communities, such as the Balti, Bakarwal, Shin, Yashkun, and Sansi, no women were registered as literate.
Gojri -the language of Gujjar -Bakerwals
Among the many languages spoken throughout the state , Gojari, sometimes known as Gujari, stood out as an important language spoken by a separate group of people. Gojari speakers were counted alongside speakers of Kashmiri, Dogri, Pahari, Punjabi, Chabhali (Lehnda), Pothwari, Balti, Ladakhi, and Shina in the census.
Aside from Gojari, the census data highlighted the multilingualism of the Gujjar and Bakerwal groups. While Gojari was their native language, the data showed that inhabitants of these communities also spoke in other languages as their second language. Among the secondary languages spoken by the Gujjars and Bakerwals were Dogri, Pahari, Punjabi, and Kashmiri.
( The author is working on Gujjars and Bakerwals of J&K)