Gujjars demand legal safeguard for tribal courts

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, May 17:  Gujjar and Bakerwal communities of Jammu and Kashmir have appealed to the lawmakers to provide a legal safeguard to their tribal courts known as ‘Jirgas’ by introducing an Act at national and State level.
“We have written a letter, signed by Tribal dignitaries, to the Union Law Minister urging him to preserve and protect the tribal courts,” Dr Javid Rahi, Secretary of the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation (TRCF) said.
He said that “Jirgas” which are active in mountainous ranges of Northwestern Himalaya and were time tested and aged old traditional law institutions, will become extinct if steps were not taken to safe them under legal framework.
“We wrote to Union Law Ministry and informed it that this oldest popular system of justice is facing multi-dimensional threats from all sides and this tradition needs immediate legal recognitions otherwise it will become extinct in next few decades,” he said.
He said the TRCF made an appeal to the Union Law Minister for enactment of an Act to protect Jirgas in Jammu and Kashmir and other Northwestern States in the country where Gujjars resides.
The letter further reads that lakhs of Gujjar-Bakerwals in Jammu and Kashmir and other Northwestern States still believe and practice traditional Jirga system headed by ‘Muqadams’, an elderly tribal which takes decisions on various issues by consensus.
Some Gujjar women called “Mahries” also head Jirgas in some remotest pockets of the state, the letter read.
It further reads that these tribal courts are effective, powerful, prompt, inexpensive and available at doorsteps but lack legal sanctity.
Due to unavailability of legal protections, the Gujjar- Bakerwal Jirgas are unable to interfere into criminal cases but they decide almost all other major ticklish disputes, including lands and assets issues, family disputes, theft cases or other issues related to the tribes, the letter read.