Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir

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.