July 2004 News

Brave Men In Hills

22 July 2004
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: The recent armed encounter in Marh in Surankote hills of the Jammu region in which the members of the Gujjar community valiantly stood up to the militants bears testimony to the courage of the men inhabiting these remote areas. They are not scared at all. They have proved that given a little help in terms of modern weapons they can take care of the most evil of the marauders. Over the years they have established beyond a shadow of doubt that they constitute the defence line of the nation. They have not only stood by the Army in the frequent wars but also helped in weeding out subversive elements penetrating into their territory. Their timely alarms about clandestine infiltration of the enemy are proverbial and have prevented the emergence of what could have been dangerous situations. Of course, they have suffered heavy casualties in the process but that has not deterred them from doing their duty by their country. By their bold and brave act they have made a case for replacing their old and obsolete arms that have been given to some of them as the constituents of village defence committees. The Gujjars are one of the proudest people inhabiting our far-flung and arduous hilly terrain. Hardy and hard-working, they have a distinct linguistic and cultural identity and, unlike in other parts of the country, they are the followers of Islam in this State. Their liberal ethos and the level of emancipation of their women is exemplary. Of late they have been making systematic efforts to coalesce themselves into an organised group for raising their social and educational standards as well as getting recognition for their melodious language in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. This shows their rare zeal to catch up with the rest of the world by carrying the less fortunate along with them in this praiseworthy journey. As an article on this page has recently highlighted, there seems to be turmoil within this community following the Surankote encounter. It is because of the intense feeling that despite their sacrifices they were not being treated as they ought to be. The revelation that they are not covered under the requisite government order providing jobs to the victims of the militancy is shocking. If true, it is a serious lapse and needs to be undone without any delay. However, any such suggestion that the community is viewed with suspicion by many - it has been unambiguously stated in this article - is far-fetched. Nobody has ever raised a question about the patriotism of the Gujjars which has all along been admired and appreciated by one and all. In this behalf, one is constrained to emphasise the need for observing restraint: it is one thing to given vent to anger and anguish but quite another to twist it out of context. All other threatening noises are also best avoided as they are too hackneyed and have the inbuilt mischief of diverting focus from the genuine grievances. No member of the Gujjar community should develop fear of being neglected. It is not possible to ignore their rich all-round contribution and anybody doing so will only invite his own isolation. There can't be two opinions that their security requirements should be met at the earliest. Proper training must be given to all young men in the border areas to guard themselves against gun-totting hoodlums. There is a system of rewards for those performing acts of bravery and the part played by the Gujjars in this respect should be duly acknowledged. One major problem of the border inhabitants along the Line of Control and the International Border is that their agricultural fields become nearly redundant because of frequent shelling and landmines. They should be adequately compensated on this score. So far as the Gujjars are concerned their valuable assets also include cattle that have to be carefully looked after because of their difficult environment. They should be provided necessary help in these matters. On their part the Gujjars should continue to work for their advancement, particularly in the field of education. Bullets have failed to force them into submission. The other hindrances will disappear the moment they occupy their rightful place in public life.

 

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