J&K: Grazing Land Should Not be Converted, Demand Gujjar Bakarwals
Image for representational use only. Image Courtesy : The Indian Express
Gujjar and Bakarwals, a nomadic community in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, February 25, demanded that their grazing lands must not be converted for any purposes in the state. The demand was raised at a program organised by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation held on the same day.
The program highlighted issues of nomads and stated that the government should “immediately come up with a law, and restrict conversion of grazing land, including its change of title/ownership of the land in the state.” The main speaker of the program, a noted Gujjar – Bakarwal researcher and activist Javaid Rahi said, “Such conversions are adversely affecting the tribal migratory culture and nomadic way of life of Scheduled Tribes who are already facing tough times in the state.”
The Gujjar and Bakarwals follow a migratory pattern of lifestyle, especially Bakarwals, who trek upwards to mountainous areas, like Gurez, among others in summers, and in winters, travel downhill to the regions of Jammu. Being an animal rearing community, Gujjar and Bakarwals are solely dependent on the grazing land. It has been alleged by the community that the grazing land was used for other purposes. The speakers in the program stated that the grazing land should strictly be kept for the use of the tribal community.
Speaking to NewsClick, Javaid Rahi said, “The grazing land has been used for other purposes which should not be the case. The grazing land is used by Gujjar and Bakarwals to rear their animals. They also grow their crops at times. However, time and again, they have used this grazing land for other purposes. If someone wants to build a school, they will use grazing land. If there is a proposal for a university, they will use grazing land. If you have no space then use grazing land. Around 1,200 kanal of grazing land has been given to Jammu University from Mendhar. In Rajouri region, around 800 kanal of land has been put in use for Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah university.”
The nomadic community has planned to launch a protest if their demands are not accepted. “Before launching a protest, I would like to meet the Governor and highlight the issues of tribal community. I would also go to the court. If everything fails. We are ready to launch a protest. Grazing lands are shrinking fast due to rapid conversions for different purposes and the large number of tribals who are dependent on these lands are feeling helpless,” added Rahi.
The speakers said after “implementation of Roshni Act in J&K in last decade – whereby government vested ownership of land to the occupants - the grazing/free government lands have been occupied by influential people leaving the tribe, landless people aside, which needs a probe.”
The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants Act, 2001, popularly known as Roshini Act was scrapped recently in November. The act was envisioned to fulfill the twin objectives of “generating resources for financing power projects and conferment of proprietary rights to the occupants of the state land.”
The scrapping of the act had triggered anxiety among Gujjar and Bakarwals, who constitute the state’s landless community. Following various irregularities in the act, it was said to have favoured the business class than the tribal communities. The speakers had said a “big chunk of grazing land wa given to offices, NGOs, Universities, colleges but tribals were not consulted and they were thrown out.”
It should be noted that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has not been extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the state is accorded with special status by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
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