Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Gujjars, Bakerwals Protest Inclusion of Paharis in Schedule Tribe List

The communities said that the Constitution (J&K) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill will dilute reservation and defeat the purpose of empowering tribal communities. 
Gujjars and Bakerwals protest at Srinagar’s Press Enclave on Tuesday.

Gujjars and Bakerwals protest at Srinagar’s Press Enclave on Tuesday.

Srinagar: Scores of Gujjars and Bakerwals protested at Srinagar’s Press Enclave on Tuesday against the move to provide Schedule Tribe (ST) status to the region’s Pahari community.

The Centre will place the Constitution (J&K) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Constitution (J&K) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the J&K Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, during the ongoing Monsoon session. The Bills, if passed, will give ST status to Paharis, Gadda Brahmins and Koli in the Union Territory.

Terming the move “illegal” and “unjustified”, the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities said that the Bill will dilute reservation and defeat the purpose of empowering tribal communities. 

The Srinagar protest was held days after a similar demonstration organised by tribal rights bodies in Jammu city was attended by scores of members and representatives from the two communities. 

Tribal rights activists accused the BJP of “using the move to further its own political agenda in the region”.

The Gujjar and Bakerwal communities and the region’s political leadership allege that the Paharis are a non-tribal population with higher social and hierarchical status than the STs.

Several criteria need to be fulfilled for getting tribal status; these communities do not fit even one. They are upper-caste Brahmins and Rajputs and have held powerful positions for centuries,” an activist Talib Hussain told Newsclick

Hussain alleged, “It seems that the ruling party is trying to engineer a demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir for the sake of electoral gains that will not be realised.” 

Calling the Centre’s move “an attempted cultural imperialism” and terming the Constitution (J&K) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, “illegal”, he said, “If the Bill is passed, it will be a blow to the Constitution. We are not against Paharis, who are our brothers, but it will set a wrong precedent and other ethnic groups like Kashmiris can raise a similar demand.” 

J&K has 15 lakh Gujjars and Bakerwals, according to the 2011 Census. They were included in the ST list in 1992 after years of demand. The Delimitation Commission reserved nine Assembly seats for the STs. The Pahari-speaking population, around 9% of the region’s total population, has also been demanding reservation, backed by various political parties earlier. 

Several protesters accused the BJP of working against tribal communities and playing along the fault lines by pitching one community against others. 

Narendra Gujjar, a non-local and member of the Akhil Bhartiya Veer Gurjar Mahasabha, warned of a nationwide agitation.

The country’s Gujjar community, whether Hindus or Muslims, stands with our brothers in Jammu and Kashmir. If the Gujjar community’s rights here are violated, we will launch a countrywide agitation,” he said. 

The protest comes at a time when Kashmir’s political parties have expressed concerns about the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which empowers the lieutenant governor to nominate members to the State Legislature, and termed it undemocratic. 

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram