Gujjars and Bakarwals on Sunday sought a “compact tribal policy” for Jammu and Kashmir and asked the state government to rehabilitate nomadic tribes as they have been landless and homeless for centuries. The demand was raised at a function organised by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, a frontal organization of Gujjars and Bakarwals in the state, to discuss tribal issues.
The participants stressed upon the Mehbooba Mufti-led government to rehabilitate nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals, enabling them to have access to education, health, health and other facilities properly. The programme was presided over by well-known researcher of the Gujjar community Dr. Javaid Rahi and was attended by a number of tribal elders and youth.
Speaking on the occasion, Rahi sought development of tribal communities without disturbing their way of life. He asserted that only a well-defined tribal policy would help in eradicating illiteracy, economic instability, and cultural shyness in nomads. “Such a policy, if formulated, can pave a way for grant of rights on forest and other ancestral lands for other tribes residing in different states of India,” he opined.
Other speakers on the occasion said J&K tribals were facing a number of hardships and listed issues like dispossession of land, violence, poverty and loss of identity. They urged the government to notify a comprehensive and visionary policy for tribals that would restore the confidence among these communities.
The participants said due to the lack of a policy for protection and development of STs in a holistic manner, the tribes, especially Gujjars and Bakerwals, who constitute more then 80 per cent of J&K’s tribal population, were lagging behind in every field of life.
A majority of Scheduled Tribes continue to live below the poverty line, have poor literacy rates, suffer from malnutrition and disease and are vulnerable to displacement, they said. Scheduled Tribes, in general, are repositories of indigenous knowledge and wisdom in certain aspects which must be preserved immediately, the particiapnts added, listing out measures to be taken to preserve and promote tribal culture and languages.
The Gujjar and Bakarwal leaders hailed the PDP-BJP coalition as “pro-tribal” in view of it being the first government to establish a Tribal Ministry in the state, which is headed by Choudhary Zulfkar Ali. Prominent speakers who attended the event include Mohammad Din, Ishtiaq Misbah, Dil Mohammad, Alam Din Choudhary, Dr Nafees Ahmed and Zahir Ahmad Khatana.