In a significant move, the Scheduled Tribes Gujjars-Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir Sunday demanded the status of “Primitive Tribal Group” with a separate share under reserve ST category.
The demand has been projected in a memorandum, signed by all the dignitaries of community, which was sent to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi through Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation – a frontal organization of Gujjars.
The community, through memorandum pleaded that they should be fortified with more special rights and extra constitutional safeguards in the state. This was disclosed in meeting chaired Dr Javaid Rahi, Secretary of Tribal Foundation.
In his address Dr Rahi informed the meeting that as per the law any ST group whose livelihood is based on primitive agriculture, forest, milk products- a low-value economy are entitled to get ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ (PTGs) status with bifurcation of their share in reservation and development.
So far eighty-five tribal communities in India have been identified as PGTs from different States and in J&K no group fall in this category, he said.
The speakers on the occasion said through memorandum have pleaded that the Gujjars and Bakerwals who constitute 80% of tribal population of Jammu and Kashmir. Being marginalized among STs “they deserve special attention and a fair deal from the Centre and state”.
The memorandum pleaded that the Gujjars and Bakerwals are not as forward as to compete with other 12 tribes especially those eight tribes lives in different districts including the Ladakh region. They feel marginalised among tribes, the memo said.
The memorandum reads that the Gujjars-Bakerwals were granted ST status in 1991 in J&K and they are sharing 10% reservations under STs with other 10 communities of State. They are still on edge in all field like education, health and employment sector as they are facing hard competition among Tribal groups of the State, the memo said.
The memorandum reads that the Gujjars who constitute 80% among STs and are getting less than 30% of total employments under Schedule Tribes category in the state as the other ten tribes who are socially alert, economically sound and educationally for ahead of Gujjars and Bakerwals get maximum employment share.”
The memorandum reads that even “Economic Survey of Jammu and Kashmir 2010 to 2013-14 and on words ” – a government document tabled in state Assembly every year says that around 40 to 42% population of Scheduled Tribe population majority of them belongs to Gujjars and Bakerwals lives under Below Poverty line fall under low economic zone.
Further Justifying the demand, the memorandum said that a sizeable Gujjars-Bakerwals population lives in cloistered, exclusive, remote and inhospitable areas such as hills and forests, the memorandum reads.
About their distinctive culture and language, the communication said, the Gujjar community has developed their own distinctive culture and language. “As we the Gujjars- Bakarwals are fulfilling all requisite formalities, may be categorized under ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ of India on priority,” the communication asserted.