An account of Vann Gujjars

Shamsher Hakla Poonchi

Although I also belong to Gujjar community, but I had a chance to see the “Vann Gujjars” tribe and was eager to know about them.  I came to know from an elderly man of my village that “Vann Gujjars” were residing in the forests of Uttarakhand. On this, I asked the man whether these people were living a life of wild  animals therefore they were known by the name of “Vann Gujjars”. The man replied that he had not much knowledge about them. Since then I thought to write about those” Vann Gujjars” time and again, but I could not get a detailed knowledge to write down. I made up many mind to write about them. For this purpose I visited the house of a friend of mine who lives in Saharanpur of Uttar Pradesh. I entreated my friend to take me amid those “Vann Gujjars” tribes, so that I could see their way of life personally and bring those in writing. My friend took me along towards from Saharanpur to Hardwar Uttrakhand state. Both of us reached Nalwala near Hardwar Uttrakhand state at 8P.M. Nalwala is a forest area. We alighted the bus and entered the hut of  “Vann Gujjars”. He received us warmly. He did not know me but my friend. No sooner did we enter his hut he sought my introduction from my friend and then entertained us with tea etc.  At the very outset of entering that hut, I started looking at everything with exploratory eyes. Their way they spoke, way of living and other situations, I felt as if I were sitting in a typical family of Gujjars & Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir. After evening meals, is started talking to an elderly member of the family in connection with the forests coming and settling of “Vann Gujjars” in those. At this the elderly man told me that they were the descendants of their dead elders who lived in Distt. Jammu of J&K state. The old man told me that about 200 years from now the daughter of one of Rajas of Jammu and Kashmir was married to a prince of a Raja of Uttar Pradesh.
After a few days of the marriage the daughter of the Raja came back to Jammu to see her father. On her arrival the father asked his daughter if she had liked the land of her in laws and that she had felt cosy there. At this she replied her father that all was well. However, added that milk of good quality was not available. At this her father assured her that he would make proper arrangement of milk for her.
The Raja summoned some of the Gujjar families and ordered them to move to land of the in laws of his daughter to settle there and produce plenty of milk for his daughter. At this the Gujjars demanded that they should be granted liberty to roam in the forest of UP. Some 150 families of Gujjars agreed to migrate to UP along with their live stock. At this the Raja contacted the Raja of UP to which the Raja of UP acceded the proposal of the Raja of Jammu who dispatched these Gujjar families to settle in Up & sought Raja’s permission to let them roam freely in the forests of Uttar Pradesh. In this way about 150 families of Gujjars settled in the forest of Uttar Pradesh. Language, dress, way of life and social rites are similar as those of the Gujjars of Jammu.
Gujjars” tribes are mostly found settled in Hardwar, Nainital, pilibhit, Bijnor, Phori, Tehri, Chamoli, Garhwal and Utter kasha of UP state. About three lac of their population resedes in these districts. These tribes lead of life of freedom, roaming in the forest with a natural life away artificiality. They like to live away from thickly populated areas, mostly live in jungles and mountains. They are homeless and landless.
They are illiterate. Unlike the people living in the modern way of life, these “Vann Gujjars” like to go and live with animals.
They are in the pits of illiteracy and backwardness. They live in thatched huts inside which there lives a depressed family trampled by the people of worlds. Nude children weep and moan. The house owner is under the stress of depression due to want and poverty. The mother of children under utter poverty. Most of the women folk  fell prey to inferiority complex leading the life worse than animals. After giving birth  a dozen children, they have spoiled their health. A Gujjar is in the bad habit of marrying four wives at a time which results in producing 10-12 children. Such people are unaware of the benefit of family planning.