Gujjars Demand Law To Protect ‘Jirga System’ In J&K

Gujjars Demand Law To Protect ‘Jirga System’ In J&K

23 December 2013
Kashmir Times


Jammu: Urging for a distinct law to protect centuries old tribal judicial system ‘Jirga’ popular in Gujjars-Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir, the community today appealed to law makers of country to provide legal safeguards to hundreds of “tribal courts” by making them constitutionally valid through an Act at national and state levels. In a fresh letter to Union Minister for Law and Justice Kapil Sibal sent through Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation-a Frontal organization of Gujjars, the tribal dignitaries apprehended if timely steps were not taken by the union government for the preservation and protection of tribal courts “Jirgas” active in mountainous ranges of North-Western Himalaya, these time tested and aged old traditional law institutions, would become extinct. Secretary Tribal Foundation Dr Javaid Rahi, while giving details about the communication, said, “The Foundation wrote to Union Law Ministry and Justice that this oldest popular system of justice is facing multi-dimensional threats from all sides and this tradition needs immediate legal recognitions otherwise this tradition will go extinct in next few decades.” In the letter an appeal was made to Union Law and Justice Minister for an enactment of an Act for protection of Jirgas to be extended to Jammu and Kashmir and other North-Western States of India where Gujjars reside. The letter further reads that lakhs of Gujjar-Bakerwals in Jammu and Kashmir and other North-Western states still believed and practiced traditional Jirga system which is headed by “Muqadams” an elderly tribal who takes decisions on various issues by consensus. Some Gujjar women called “Mahries” also head Jirgas in some remotest pockets of the state, it was stated in the letter. It was stated that these tribal courts are very much effective, powerful, prompt, inexpensive and available at doorsteps but lack legal sanctity. Due to un-availability of legal protections the Gujjar-Bakerwal Jirgas did not interfere into criminal cases but they would decide almost all other major disputes pertaining to land and assets, family disputes, theft cases or other issues related to tribals only. In J&K and adjoining states the Gujjars-Bakerwal Jirga can award punishment, social boycott or expulsion from the community only. “Tribals Gujjars-Bakerwals who constitute 20 percent population of J&K state are bound to respect Jirga and if any party or parties fails-fail to comply with or respect a Jirga decision, they are liable to be ousted from community. Jirgas are very powerful in maintaining law and order in upper reaches and difficult to reach areas and tribal believes that this is irreligious to defy the decision of elders,” it was further mentioned in the letter.