Shamsher Hakla Poonchi
About 34 lakhs Gujjars Bakerwals live in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Excluding Ladakh region Gujjars can be found in Poonch, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar Districts of Jammu Division and Srinagar, Badgam, Anantnag Pulwama Baramula & Ganderbal Districts of Kashmir Division. But they are in majority in District Poonch and Rajouri. 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 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 State and Gujjars are about 24 lakhs.All the Gujjar Bakerwal of J&K belong to Islam religion.
Bakerwals come under first line and are famous for their courage,bravery and hospitality. Bakerwals Gotras are same as that of Gujjars like Chauhans, Chenija, chechi, bajar and Aiwan. Most of Bakerwals are nomads. They are migratory. When they move from one place to another with their herds of sheep and head of cattle and families they move sectwise and live in pastures. Each sect of Khatana, Hakla, and Koli get together and march and live separately. They are staunch lovers of each other.They are reliable in friendship and better in enemity. Amongst those who are cultivators, live in the pastures of warm climate with their head of cattle and before summer migrate to hill pastures of Kashmir. Bakerwals don’t settle permanently in one place.Only a small tent takes the form of their house. Some Gujjars also go to the hilly pastures in summer and return in winter.Problems and need of Gujjar Bakerwal are quite different from other communities of the state . Language and culture of Gujjar community is also different than those of other communities of this state that is why community has its own peculiar position. Gujjr Bakerwal community is different and as such the community has a district identity.
Gujjar community mostly reside in far flung,hilly mountanious areas near forests and on the Indo-Pak Line of actual control. They are originals from Rajputana, Gujarat, and Kathiawar.They migrated from there due to famine. Historians could not fix exact date of their migration.But some historians are of the opinion that there is some description of these Gujjars in Raj Tarangni, the famous history of Kashmir. They are mentioned as living on borders of Kashmir in 9th and 10th centuries.After some time most of them converted to Islam were divided into two sects viz.Gujjars and Bakerwals.
Gujjars are more educated than Bakerwals.There are very few literate people among Bakerwals. In the struggle of Gujjar leaders Mian Bashir Ahmed Larvi,Ch. Wazir Mohd Hakla of Poonch,Ch. Mohd Aslam of Lessana Poonch,Ch. Fateh Ali Sarwari Kisana,Ch. Mohd Shafi Khatana of Mati Badiar Anantnag,Ch. Mohd Hussain of Darhal Rajouri,Haji Buland Khan, Ch Talab Hussain, Ch.Gulzar Ahmed Khatana, Abdul Rehman Badhana of Karnah Kashmir,Ch. Ghulam Rasool Asgar etc. The Govt has arranged mobile schools for them which move with them in hilly pastures in summer and return with them in winter. It has also arranged Gujjar and Bakerwal Hostels in each District Headquarters in the whole state where students are provided with food.They are given stipend also.Students belonging to these castes can have their education upto 12th in these schools.Gujjars and Bakerwals have their own Gujri language which is generally spoken whereever they settle.One hour’s Gujri programme is also broadcast from Srinagar and Jammu Radio Stations.J&K State of All India Radio.Cultural Academy (Gujari Section) publish every year literature on their culture and history.It also arranges functions on Gujjars programmes from where poets and learned persons get guidance.
On April,19,1991 the Govt. of India while recognising the backwardness of Gujjar Bakerwal community of Jammu and Kashmir State declared them as Scheduled Tribe. The President of India granted Scheduled Tribe Status by way of Ordinance No.3 of 1991 under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution to them.It would be appropriate to mention here that all the efforts made by central Govt for the development of Gujjar and Bakerwal community of Jammu and Kashmir state, have been deliberately obstructed by the state Govt. for the past many decades which resulted in their utter political , social, economically and educational backwardness.
In the state of Jammu and Kashmir there are thirty one state Assembly segment and two Lok Sabha segments which are mostly inhabited by Gujjar by such segments must have been deserved for Gujjar candidates but due to indifferent attitude of state Govt. the community stand deprived of this political right .
Two Lok sabha segment in Jammu and Kashmir namely Jammu, Poonch and Baramulla, Kupwara of Kashmir which are 40% (forty %) Gujjar-Bakarwal electoral.
Even after the laps of over 25 years since their grant of schedule Tribe status the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir could not implement it in letter and spirit to give full benefit of Schedule Tribe status to Gujjar-Bakarwal community of J&K. The community is still socially, educationally, economically and politically lagging behind and backward.
Keeping in view the aforementioned circumstances and to ensure the all round development of Gujjar & Bakarwal community of J&K state, a separate state under the name of “Gujjarsthan” must be created, under the constitution of India population of which is inhabitated by majority of Gujjar Bakarwal community. It would be only then that their economical, educational, political and social backwardness could be removed and this community Gujjar Bakarwal may get due justice this way only and towards which their eyes are firmly focused.
Shamsher Hakla Poonchi