Chopans Demand ST Status, Say They Are Two Lakh Landless Illiterates

SRINAGAR: As the Government of India is planning to give Scheduled Tribe  (ST) status to Pahari community in Jammu and Kashmir, the Kashmiri Chopans who work as traditional shepherds protested on Tuesday in Srinagar and demanded that their community be also included in the ST category. They have appealed to Home Minister Amit Shah to look into their issue with a human heart.

Traditional sheep-herders of Kashmir with their locally made grass slippers.
Chopans are traditional sheep-herders of Kashmir who usually graze sheep herds of others. In this twentieth century photograph, they are seen wearing their locally made grass slippers.

Chopan Welfare Association members assembled in the Press Enclave on Tuesday and held a peaceful demonstration against granting ST status to Paharis. Chopans usually rear sheep of other people and are locally called Pohal (plural: Pahel).

“We are a downtrodden community, educationally and economically backwards as well. We are only 2 lakh people across Jammu and Kashmir having no land at all and our literacy rate is not even 30 per cent. Don’t we deserve to be STs,” said a protestor Basharat Chopan from Watrihail Budgam

The Chopan Welfare Association has been fighting for the ST status for their tribe for the last 26 years and got a resolution passed by the erstwhile legislative assembly in 2000.

“The file for grant of Scheduled Tribe status to Chopans  was put forward to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs Government of India  by the then Chief Minister through Social welfare department on October 10, 2000,” Abdul Ahad Chopan senior leader of Chopan Welfare Association said. “The Ministry of Tribal affairs is now seriously looking at our demand. We were shocked when we came to know that Paharis are being given ST status and we are being dropped. This is injustice with us. We appeal Home Minister Amit Shah to look into our issue with a human heart as we are only two lakh people in J&K and Paharis are more than 10 lakh in number with good socio economic status.”

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