Gujjars- The cream of our society

Om Saraf
Gujjars have always struck me as the most fascinating people around us-a distinct ethnic entity with rich historic and cultural background, an utterly self-reliant community, a perfect example of a sound mind in a sound body. Let me confess it is a profound problem for me to consider them backward in any sense of the word. I may prove it up to the hilt that not a few so-called forward-looking people deserve this epithet rather more aptly. Seen in a larger context of familiar economic indicators, the self employed Gujjars are in no way responsible for the economic backwardness of Jammu and Kashmir State.
So far as our all embracing backwardness is concerned, again, the real culprit are the people belonging to other communities who consume most of the resource and produce most of the perpetrators of major and minor crimes in the society. Blinded by wealth acquired by means more foul rather than fair and using education simply to sharpen their criminal wits, they feel no qualms of conscience to organize murders, decoities, gang rapes, adulterations, black markets and what not. No wonder our hospitals are full of patients belonging to those classes. I have scarcely come across a Gujjar male or female begging, borrowing or stealing. He is occasionally accused of selling adulterated milk. I have surveyed the problem in some detail and found out that the Gujjars are often made to be part of such unethical practices.
There have been times when other communities in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have been in a state of frenzy and provoked to indulge in diabolical activities. But the Gujjars never. I can recall of no occasion when the Gujjars have collectively taken to the path of insanity. At any rate, they can’t think of harming any non Gujjar. Even at the hands of a callous establishment they prefer to continue to suffer silently. They are perhaps the only lot of people without a traditional beggar amongst them. Such deep-rooted is their commitment to peaceful and self-reliant way of life. Mutual litigation is of course their one minus point but even the moon is not without its spots.
No community can beat the Gujjars in treating their womenfolk so well. I have many non-Gujjar friends whose faith in women emancipation is unquestioned but, alas, only on a theoretical level. When it comes to translating their thinking in concrete action, they are found wanting with some thing always going wrong somewhere. The degree of equality of sex in operation amongst the Gujjars is not to be seen elsewhere. No wonder they are the healthiest limb of our society. I have yet to encounter a mental case in the community eventhough more and more Gujjars now appear to be going in for so-called modern life. It is for the Gujjar leaders to strike a golden mean in the tussel “tradition versus modernity” well in time before they become as rootless as most of us.
What strikes me particularly about the Gujjars is their cosmopolitan character. They are truly the citizens of the world. Local, regional and even national divisions have failed to affect their typical ethos. They may even belong to different religions (most of them are Hindus outside J&K) but bigotry is foreign to their blood. Their universal status must not be taken as an aspersion on their loyalty to the motherland. Let me say with all the strength at my command that they breathe patriotism and when it comes to the defence of the land of their birth, they are in the forefront of resistance. Nothing hurts them more than the vandalism of their environment of which they consider themselves an inalienable part. Ecological security is their very heart and soul and not something to be fashionable about. There are no statistics available on the point but I am convinced that betrayal may be a good pastime for mammonists in other communities but not the Gujjars who always love to live by the sweat of their brow.
The Gujjars have a keen practical sense leaving little time for them for any complicated mischievous or dangerous designing. They have their feet firmly on the ground. I am reminded of a global organization zealously working for spreading the message of “being rather than becoming.” The total membership of the world body is less than a couple of thousands. Here is a large sized community of Gujjars each one of whom whether male or female, young or old go about several routines rather effortlessly in peace within and without in complete harmony with the surrounding like the potters wheel which looks absolutely calm after attaining the maximum speed. I can’t think of a better example of being rather than becoming.
Years ago before 1947 Chowdhary Mohd. Din Barnalvi who enjoyed good reputation as a junior police official brought out a weekly newspaper Al-Insan after retirement. Like the universal name of his paper, his balanced and well written editorial comments impressed me much. We soon became good friends. He would insist that ‘Gujjar’ is a derivative of Gao-char and that Gujjars belong to the fraternity of Gopal (Lord Krishna). Neither a linguist nor a historian of sort I am not in a position to vouchsafe Barnalvi’s assertion. This was nevertheless my first impression how a Gujjar would seek to be at the best of terms with the fellow-human beings. Nothing has since happened to chance my perception in this behalf.
These rosy features of the Gujjar life are, however, not without thorny bushes of their own if one may say so. They may not be backward according to my way of thinking but I must say that they have been ill-awarded so far by powers-that-be. Their inclusion in the scheduled castes list is admittedly a step in the right direction. But where is the matching follow-up action? Not even a fraction of the Gujjar calibre and capacity has been yet pressed into service for our broader socio-economic advancement. In fact, no solid social gains can be achieved without the active cooperation of such an accomplished and valiant community of patriots. Let the Gujjar youth be involved in the service of humanity in a big way. Powerful subversive agencies are working overtime to destroy this beautiful region which is now gasping for breath. Let us re-arrange our priorities and make a purposeful beginning by using the talents and energies of the Gujjars in a sensibly conceived road-map of development which may bring glory to them and others alike.


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