Zabeer Ahmed Bajjar
Haji Buland Khan, a staunch political figure of Jammu and Kashmir State for four decades preceding his death in 2007, was a crusader of downtrodden masses in general and the marginalized Gujjar and Bakerwal in particular. A social stalwart, was born at village Thuru in Gool-Gulabgarh in 1933. After receiving his formal education, Haji Buland Khan joined services in J&K Co-operative Department as an Auditor in the year 1955 and during the service he contributed tremendously in making co-operative movement vibrant and a great success in remote and far flung areas of Pir Panjal Region against stiff resistance by the business community of that time enjoying political patronage. Moved by the pathetic conditions due to abject poverty compounded by exploitation perpetuated by those in power of that time in Gool Gulabgarh, he resigned from his service in 1960 and resolved to fight against intimidation and humiliation and jumped into social activities to bring some relief to the suffering people by raising his voice. Deeply touched by the miseries and desolation of his community, he launched his political struggle. For the first time he was elected Chairman of Panchayat Halqa Thuroo and remained so for 9 years. Meanwhile he joined Plebiscite Front in October, 1963 at the request of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and was elected President for Reasi and retained this post till 1973. During this period as a Plebiscite Front activist he was detained in special Jail and Central Jail, Jammu. In the year 1974, he was elected Vice President of Plebiscite Front for Jammu Province.
Haji Buland Khan was elected to the State Legislative Assembly from Gool Gulabgarh constituency for the first time in 1977 and was re-elected in 1983 and 1987. He also worked as Member of the Central Working Committee of the National Conference and as Vice President for Jammu Province. He was made Vice Chairman of the State Advisory Board for the development of Gujjars and Bakerwals in 1986 where from he resigned in 1990. For his outstanding contributions, he was nominated to the Upper House of State Legislature as Member of the Legislative Council in the year 1996. He was again appointed as Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board for the development of Gujjars and Bakerwals, in 1997 and continued on this post till his last breath.
A multi-faceted personality, after quitting govt job, he had remarkably worked to transform socio-educational condition of weaker sections particularly his own community, the gujjar and bakerwal. Haji Buland Khan also made his people aware about politics which prompted them to struggle for their political rights. He had widely travelled and was well conversant with the plight of neglected clan. During the second half of the 20th Century, he became much admired leader and he reached out to the people of his community at each nook and corner of Jammu and Kashmir State. He was daring leader who fought from front for the plight of Gujjars and Bakewals and thus also received an overwhelming support of his community in streamlining the socio-political system of Gujjar community. As a result he had also founded an organization J&K Gujjar and Bakerwal Conference for the social emancipation of the tribal communities and was elected its president. In 2005 a mammoth rally of Gujjars and Bakerwals was held under his Presidentship at Laddadhar, Patnitop, Doda which was attended by more than 70,000 Gujjars and the occasion proved to be a turning point in the self awareness struggle of Gujjars and Bakerwals of the state.
Immediately preceding his demise, he participated in the Round Table Conference (RTC) convened by the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh at New Delhi. He had discussed various matters of immense importance with Chairperson UPA, Mrs Sonia Gandhi as well.
It was under his stewardship that the Gujjars steeped in the field of Education and Socio-Economic development, which ultimately led them to self identification. He always struggled against illiteracy poverty and social inequality.
Born in a remote village of Dist. Reasi which is surrounded by Shivalik range of mountains in sub-Himalayan terrain, Haji Buland Khan had dedicated his whole life for the welfare of down trodden people. He continued his struggle against exploitation and injustice throughout his life and it is quite consoling to note that at last his services were recognized and he led the mass movement from the front. Often talked about him that he was a simple, soft spoken, sympathetic, tolerant, able administrator and a multidimensional personality. In addition to these qualities, he was a warrior as well. His first fight was against feudalism in his own area, i.e., Gool-Gulabgrah is the testimony to his brave and upright personality. The spirit of unity among the Gujjars and Bakerwals was inculcated none other than Haji Buland Khan. They were united under one banner and this was the organization which organized rallies and demonstrations in every district headquarter. Under the dynamic leadership of Haji Buland Khan, Gujjar and Bakerwaal conference emerged as a platform where all leaders of State fighting for the cause of Gujjars were united. The problems faced by Gujjars and Bakerwals were highlighted, discussions, seminars and conventions organised.
At some time, J&K Gujjar Bakerwal Conference, a semi political organization which had worked for social and political awakening among the Gujjars, in view of its performance, was thought that it will emerge as a big political force in the state but owing to ill health of Haji Buland Khan, he could not fulfill his cherished dream to see this organization flourish.
To talk of some important decisions taken during his tenure, pertinent to mention here are rehabilitation of Gujjar and Bakerwal’s educational and economic prosperity and establishment of new Gujjar hostels for nomadic students.
Haji Buland Khan was also a great preacher of Gujjar Culture and in order to uphold their identity he used to stress upon the youth to work hard for establishing their identity.
His demise in 2007 caused a serious jolt to the Gujjar movement and it became very hard to fulfil his cherished dreams. But it is very important to note that he was such a visionary personality, that during the time of his active political life, he also focussed to prepare the second line after him to transfer the rich political legacy .
There are many answers when considering the political legacy of Haji Buland Khan. During his political career as legislator for more than two decades and then Vice Chairman of State Advisory Board for the development of Gujjars and Bakerwals, he championed numerous causes like educational & Socio-economic development of common masses in general and the marginalized community in particular. His primary influence on State politics was simply the fact that he got things done; he was known, and remained known, as beloved leader of poor and downtrodden.
Haji Buland Khan championed the idea of total transformation and upliftment of his community which is evident from his scintillating struggle for this during his entire life. After his demise, there was dire requirement to further his people friendly struggle. Thanks God, Khan’s legacy of decorated political leader of Gujjar and Bakerwal community did not end with his demise, but the mentoring of his duo sons Ajaz Ahmed Khan and Mumtaz Ahmed Khan at his hands transmitted his hardcore ability to his sons (Khan brothers) whose political talent has overshadowed others in the Lower House of J&K State Assembly.
Zabeer Ahmed Bajjar