Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday said that Paharis in Jammu and Kashmir will get reservation as Scheduled Tribes on the pattern of Gujjars and Bakerwals.
Addressing his first-ever public rally in Rajouri, which was attended by over one lakh people from both the Gujjar-Bakerwal and Pahari communities, at new bus stand, Shah said that Justice Sharma (G D Sharma) Commission, in its report to the Central Government, has recommended “reservation to Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis”.
“I have come here to tell you that Prime Minister Narendra Modi intensely desires that after the completion of administrative procedures about these recommendations, the Gujjars, Bakerwals, and Paharis get the benefits of reservation,” Shah said.
He cautioned people that some persons who do not want peace in the region (Pir Panjal region) have started instigating the Gujjars and Bakerwals by spreading rumours that their share of the reservation will decrease. “I can assure you that even after including Paharis, there will not be any decrease in your quota of reservation even by one per cent,” he said.
In the past few days, the Pir Panjal region of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed tension between the Gujjar and Pahari communities over the expected plans of the Home Minister to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the Paharis. On Monday, Gujjars and Bakerwals held demonstrations in Jammu as well as Shopian in Kashmir, joined by BJP leaders.
However, Tuesday’s announcement brought cheers to the Paharis and the Gujjar-Bakerwal communities who started chanting “Modi, Modi..” In reply to the applause, the Home Minister said that it was a befitting reply to those who used to say that rivers of blood will flow after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. “By abrogating these Articles, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened the doors of reservation and justice for all of you,” Shah added.
While Paharis said that their long-standing demand has been fulfilled, Gujjars and Bakerwals expressed satisfaction that the reservation already available to them will not be touched.
Shah also acknowledged the sacrifices made by people of Rajouri and Poonch districts in defending the country’s frontiers. “In other parts of the country civilians pay homage to Army personnel for their sacrifices. Here the Army pays homage to the civilians for making the supreme sacrifice for the unity and integrity of the nation,” he added.
The Gujjars and Bakerwals were declared Scheduled Tribe by the Centre way back in 1991, and accordingly, they got 10 per cent reservation on government jobs and admissions in professional colleges.
This made the Paharis demand the same status as they live as the Gujjars and Bakerwals, in the tough and backward terrain of Pir Panjal region, besides Baramulla and Anantnag districts.
The Gujjars and Bakerwals, who got a political reservation in 2022 following the reservation of nine assembly seats for STs in Jammu and Kashmir, however, contested Paharis getting the ST tag, mainly on the ground that the latter are not an ethnic group but a conglomerate of different religious and linguistic communities.
The Gujjars and Bakerwals, who follow Islam, constitute 40% of the population in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, with the rest living in these areas identifying themselves as Paharis.
Earlier in the day Amit Shah paid obeisance at Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine. He will be inaugurating various development projects in Jammu before flying to Kashmir. He will address a public rally at Baramulla on Wednesday and hold a security review meeting with top brass of police, paramilitary and security forces in Srinagar during the day.