Gujjars, Bakerwals Demand 'primitive Tribal Group’ Status

Gujjars, Bakerwals Demand 'primitive Tribal Group’ Status

9 December 2012
Kashmir Times


Jammu: The Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir today demanded the status of “Primitive Tribal group” in the state with a separate share of reservation in the category. The demand has been projected in a memorandum, signed by majority of dignitaries of community, sent to the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh through 'Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation’ –a frontal organization of Gujjars. The community pleaded that it should be given more special rights and extra constitutional safeguards in the state. Dr Javaid Rahi, Secretary Tribal Foundation said, “We have pleaded that the Gujjars and Bakerwals who constitute 80 percent of tribal population of Jammu and Kashmir, being marginalized among Scheduled Tribes (STs), deserve special attention and a fair deal from the Centre and state.” In memorandum, the community members vigorously pushed for bifurcation of their separate share of 8 percent out of total 10 percent reservation available to 12 Scheduled Tribe (ST) groups with the plea that Gujjars and Bakerwals were not as forward as to compete with other tribes especially those eight tribes lives in different districts including the Ladakh region. The memorandum mentioned that the Gujjars, Bakerwals got ST status in J&K in 1991 and were sharing 10 percent reservations under ST category with other 10 communities of State but they were still on the margin in all field like education, health and employment sector as they were facing hard competition among Tribal groups of the State. It added that the Gujjars and Bakerwals were getting less than 30 percent share of total employment provided by the State to Schedule Tribes as the other ten tribes were socially alert, economically sound and educationally far ahead of Gujjars and Bakerwals. The community members pointed out that as per the Constitution of India, under the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category those were identified as more backward communities among the tribal population groups were categorized as 'Primitive Tribal Groups' (PTGs) by the government at the Centre and their share in reservation was bifurcated from other Scheduled Tribes (STs) enabling them to grow independently. So far eightyfive tribal communities were identified as PGTs in different States of India. They further argued that Economic Survey of Jammu and Kashmir - a government document tabled in the State Assembly every year says that more than 42 percent population of Scheduled Tribe population, majority of which belongs to Gujjars and Bakerwals, lives Below Poverty Line in J&K. Justifying the demand, they stated that Gujjars, Bakerwals deserved to be under Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs’) category as their sizeable population lives in cloistered, exclusive, remote and inhospitable areas such as hills and forests. They said that their livelihood was based on primitive agriculture, a low-value closed economy with a low level of technology that leads to their poverty. They were lagging behind in terms of literacy and health indices as well, they added. About their distinctive culture and language, they pointed out that the community developed its own distinctive culture and language.