by Yawar Hussain
SRINAGAR: The Gujjar Bakarwal Joint Action Committee has suspended their march from Baramulla to Kathua against the inclusion of Pahari and other communities into the Scheduled Tribe (ST) fold.
The decision was taken after the union government assured the Gujjar-Bakerwal community that the Paharis and others would be accommodated into a separate ST block which wouldn’t affect their existing reservation quota.
Gujjar leader Talib Hussain said the community had got assurance from Home Minister Amit Shah that their quota wouldn’t be affected and that Pahari, Gadda Brahman and others would be accommodated in a separate ST block.
Gujjar-Bakerwal Youth Welfare Conference President Zahid Parwaz Choudhary said that the community was assured by the union Home Minister Amit Shah that Paharis and other communities would have a reservation separately but under the same head.
“We haven’t ended our march. It has just been suspended after the government came to talk to us. They (the government) said that you can either talk or continue the march. We talked,” Choudhary said, adding that the community is now seeking legal opinion on the HM’s assurance.
“We have to see whether it is legally possible. We are also seeing as to what would happen to the facilities including Gujjar-Bakerwal hostels and others if the Paharis are brought in the fold but in a separate block.”
He said that they aren’t averse to reservations for Paharis or any other community but that can’t be done by declaring them as STs.
“We are also talking to our community members and would decide what we need to do in the future.
Last month, union Home Minister Amit Shah, while on a three-day visit to the Union Territory, had said that the Paharis would soon get reservations while the Gujjar-Bakerwals won’t see any decrease in their quota.
However, Shah’s assurance then hadn’t pacified the already protesting Gujjar-Bakerwal community member who soon began a foot march from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Kathua district in Jammu division.
Following, Shah’s announcement the Jammu and Kashmir government changed the official terminology defining the Pahari community from Pahari Speaking to Pahari Ethnic suggesting that the new reservation for the community would not be on a language basis.
The National Schedule Tribe Commission had also accorded its assent to the G D Sharma commission recommendations on the inclusion of the Pahari, Kolis and Gadda Brahman communities in the ST fold. The Gujjar-Bakerwals had denounced the commission’s decision.
The Pahari community currently has a 4 per cent reservation in Jammu and Kashmir which was given by the central government for the first time before 2019 while the Gujjars-Bakerwals have a 9 per cent reservation under the ST status which the given to them in the early 1990s when the former community was excluded from the ST fold.