How Frederic Drew understood Gujjars

Dr Javaid Rahi
Frederic Drew (1836-1891), an English geologist, studied Jammu and Kashmir over 150 years ago and published a book titled ‘Jumoo and Kashmir Territories- A Geographical Account’ in 1875. In this book, he offered an opinion on practically all of the races and castes that inhabited within the geographical limits of J&K at the time, including Kashmiris, Dogra, Gujjars, Bhadarwahi People, Rajputs, Gaddis, Botos, and others. He expressed his opinions and insights on a variety of subjects on Gujjars as well, thereby making the book useful for learning about the Gujjar people of Jammu and Kashmir. The book was published by Edward Stanford, 55, Charing, South West, in the year 1875 from London. In this book, he discussed the Gujjar people he had encountered in a variety of settings. Even after almost one and a half-century, Federic’s observation is still very much relevant. Some of observations, made by him in his book, are reproduced below :
Gujjars- the identity-conscious people
Frederic made the observation that Gujjars are identity-conscious people who do not interact with strangers without a compelling reason to do so. After around 150 years, this is still something that should be considered, accurate. They (Gujjars) do not interact with people of other groups often and resides in isolated places with their communities. In areas with steep terrain, the majority of Gujjar and Bakarwal women are afraid to talk to strangers and would rather cover up their faces with veil. They always try to make an effort to protect themselves from the openness that characterizes metropolitan life and society. Drew in his book stated, “a large portion of Gujjars are involved in the production of milk products and live near urban areas as well, but yet, in order to keep their culture and heritage alive, they live with their own people.” Even today this tradition is still in practice that originates from cultural ideas that place an emphasis on discretion and personal space. In order to preserve this, Gujjars also engage in gender segregation and restrict the amount of interaction between men and women who are not or less related to one another.
In his book, Frederic writes that “They (Gujjars) are rather surly in disposition, having that kind of independence which consists in liking to be left alone and to have as little to do with other races as possible.” However, when one does come into contact with them, they are not difficult to deal with at all, Drew observed. They ( Gujjars) even today do not want any other group to share anything with them including their lands, pastures, or cultural treats, or traditional properties in any way. They always live in their own clusters and maintain an independent identity, which distinguishes them from other communities despite the fact that the majority of them are Muslim.
Origin and appearance of the Gujjar
Drew in his book made an assertion that the Gujjars are an Aryan race. He added, “I agree with Sir George Campbell that they (Gujjars ) are an Aryan race; however, their countenance cannot be called high Aryan.” Drew was referring to the appearance of the people. The Aryan idea, which gained a lot of traction in the 19th century, postulated that the nomadic people known as the Aryans were the ones who brought Indo-European languages and cultures into existence. The theory of Drew has been subjected to a substantial amount of criticism from contemporary academics and researchers. The Aryan theory itself is one of the most significant areas of disagreement, despite the fact that it has been thoroughly discredited and rejected by contemporary academic institutions. Studies in genetics and archaeology have indicated that the Aryan migration concept is far more complicated and multifaceted than was initially claimed and that it cannot be traced to the creation of a single Aryan race. This contradicts the original hypothesis.
Regarding the manner in which Gujjars present themselves. According to Drew, the Gujjars have a tall and slender frame, and they move somewhat slowly most of the time. The lower part of their faces are the same size, but their noses always have a bit of a curve to them, similar to what is commonly seen in Aryan cultures. Their forehead is somewhat thin, and they covet the well-defined brow of the more refined races. He went on to say that even though they are an Aryan race, as Sir George Campbell pointed out, the Gujjars do not have a particularly high Aryan countenance.
Demography of Gujjar
Drew made an observation regarding the demographics of the Gujjar people. He in his book stated that Gujars are a people group that can be found all over the northwestern region of India between Delhi and the Indus. In the regions, they, with their animals dwell in the hills that are located over the mountain ranges. They also scattered here and there among the lower hills, and in certain valleys that are located among the higher mountains. They might be the only inhabitants of a village at times, or they may share it with other people, but regardless, they always continue to exist as a separate entity. Even though they own some land, they do not depend on it for their living because they are a nomadic pastoral community that searches for pastures for their herds in various places at varying levels and survives primarily off the produce of their cattle. Even though they do own some land, they do not depend on it for their livelihood since they are a nomadic pastoral group.
Tribal migration of Gujjars
When discussing the way of life and means of subsistence, Frederic Drew wrote, “Though holding some land, they (Gujjars) do not chiefly depend on it for sustenance, for they are a migrating, pastoral tribe, who seek for their herds pastures in various parts at different levels, and live mostly by the produce of their cattle.” Although the Gujjars do own some land, they do not primarily depend on it for their survival.
He went on to say that “Everywhere I have met the Gujars, I have found them to be possessors of herds of buffaloes, and to drive these, as the spring and summer advanced, into the higher mountain pastures”.
No Life in Gulmarg
Gujjars used to call Gulmarg, their -Dhok –the grazing pasture in the past which, is now the most popular tourist site. Drew in his book stated, there is no one living there. He said the only people that live there during the summer are Kashmiri Gujjars because the area is not constantly inhabited. Traditionally, the Gujjar people have been nomadic herders. During the summer months, they move their cattle to higher altitudes in search of greener pastures for their animals. The Kashmiri Gujjars move their herds to Gulmarg during the summer months since the area has an abundance of grassland for them to graze on.
With respect to the Panjal Pastures
In his book about the lower Himalayas and the Panjal range, Drew stated that there is no human habitation on these hilly ranges and that during the summer, people, particularly the Gujars, take their flocks and herds high up on the mountains from both sides of the Panjal, which is left unfrequented. This is because the Panjal range is considered to be a wilderness area. This text provides additional evidence that the word “Pir,” which is currently appended to the word “Panjal” (Pir Panjal), was not in use prior to the year 1875.
The Term Bakerwal
The term “Bakerwal” did not come into usage until 1875. The Drew who met with Gujjar shepherds observed that Gujjars herd their sheep to higher elevations during the summer.
Drew also mentioned the language of Gujjars in his book and stated that they speak a different language with certain unique terms, some of which are similar to words used in Panjabi, Dogri, and Pahari as well.
(The author is Tribal researcher working on Gujjars -Bakerwals and other pastoral groups.)