Gujars and Bakerwals are important part of our society treat them as ours
By: Sheikh Arshid Ahmad
The Bakarwals and Gujars are mostly muslim community, nomadically they are always on the move I,e they move from one place to another place in search of food, shelter and pasture land for grazing their livestock.
They are traditionally goatherds and shepherds. They reside in the entire Kashmir region between India and Pakistan and in the other regions of Afganistan.
Bakarwals and Gugars speak a variety of languages like Gojri, Pashto and Urdu.
Specifically all bakarwals are Islamic religion based, claim a common ancestry from the ancient tribe.
Many Bakerwals and Gujjars migrated from the Valley to Punjab due to famine and unresponsive policies made byJ&k Govt.
Bakarwals and Gugars are goat or sheep keepers and they are meant for their keeping, rearing and breeding . Essentially, they live on high-altitude to graze their live stock.
The Bakarwals have the same ethnicity characters with the Gugars and they do inter-marriages.
The social structure among the Gujjar-Bakarwals is that they are divided into three groups. Each have their numbers and describe their grazing of live stock. Some of them came into existence when a person establishes an independent household, which happens normally after his marriage and gets established as family.
This establishment carries on when up grow progeny especially son gets married to establish a new family. Usually established family consists of five to six members. There is s proper division of labour among the members of the household on the basis of sex and age.
Females perform the domestic tasks of cooking, washing, fetching of water, upbringing of children, collection of wood, and spinning and making of woolen garments. On the other hand, males perform tasks like herding of flock and cattle, repairing of tools and equipment, collection of grass, herbs, deer-musk, hunting of wild animals, ploughing and harvesting of crops.
The household is, thus, a primary economic unit. A nuclear family is the production and consumption unit. A joint family which is generally large cannot survive on the meagre pasture resource as the transhumance are on the move during the whole year.
The elders want the eligible married youngsters to shoulder the responsibility of looking after the flock of sheep and goats independently. This would ensure greater security to the herds and sharing all responsible jobs by the adult members.
The Bakarwals and Gujars allot pastures to the lineage and not to the individuals. In a lineage, there may be about two hundred persons. Usually, a Gujjar-Bakarwal father divides his property (animal wealth) among his male children as and when they get married.
The lineage, thus, consists of several generations and includes cousins and distant relatives. They share the common pastures. The lineage unit is quite powerful administrative unit. Each lineage has a head who is responsible for the socio-economic and political activities of his group.
Traditionally these are engaged in other forms of economic activities like agriculture , animal husbandry, fishing etc but Their economy is primarily based on the rearing of sheep and goats. To fulfil day to day need a bakerwal tribe do business of sheep and goats with the Mutton traders in the local areas .
Bakerwals use skin of sheep and goats to store foodstuffs during their migration and transport this on the back of their Mules.
The Bakarwals are the original inhabitants of a j&k but despite this historic reality, these aboriginals are forced to live like refugees in their own territories. They have little or no political space just like other communities , financiIly they are backward and are dealt with biased way and discriminated in inhumane way.
In present modernisation the Bakarwals and Gugars are Educationally backward. Govt has arranged fascilities to their upliftment in Educational field but they are not sufficient as one teacher is provided to 60 students teachs every subject like maths , science and teaches other class as well. It is not known that whether it is capturing of students or Educating them.
At many regions the Bakarwals and Gugars are hit with violence with which they are being marginalised and pushed out of the society. This results their girls are being targeted by loafers and gangsters and are sexually harassed even few incidents happened in deaths and their voices have been raised publicly even media has done their part ok’d but no action has been taken by any authority and now they feel insecure owing to repeated threats and attacks. Most horrific incident took place when 8 year old Asifa got gang raped and beastly she has been thrashed and raped continuously and got killed on the spot. Who came to help the accused family , purposely for vote banks many leaders came but only gave orall speeches without any kind help.
Their sufferings have also increased when their families become army targeted and killed many Bakarwals and Gujars. The houses of these nomads were burnt in retaliation and many were openly slaughtered not only this they were also gangraped by army men.
Under article 370, most of the reservations, that benefit the tribal community in other states, are not given here this is the major reason for the backwardness of the Tribal community in Kashmir.
Most of the Gujjars and Bakerwals are economically very poor and their health condition is also pathetic. They face food issues. Most of them lack access to basic amenities. The larger part is nomadic or migratory. Government policies are exclusively for the settled people and these communities are deprived from basic policies. They live in shabby and stinking conditions their of houses, they have basic right to use state land for stay or for grazing of their livestock but this right has also been snatched by local sarpanchs and panchs. They demarcated this state land for their own purposes.
The people of the tribal community have always faced hardships. They are the least privileged and most discriminated they lack basic fascilities. Their health condition is also at worst level they don’t have hospitals and Dispensaries where they can consult the doctors to keep themselves healthy, fit and hygienic.
Before few days an inhumane incident took place when a Gugar lady was at the verge of delivery , due to severe pain of labor she has taken by relatives on litter to Kalaroos hospital after clearing ten to twelve kms through heavy Snow covered dilapidated roads . From this hospital they shifted them to kupwara hospital but due to non availability of labor fascilities they referred them to LD hospital srinager when approached to concerned doctors they aimed proper care and treatment but doctors have shown biased approach and due to complete negligence the Gugar lady delivered her dead baby on road after returning hopeless at night. Even doctors have used slang and abusive language when these Gugars hopefully waiting for proper treatment. This kind of approach is inborn in our society as these Gugars and Bakerwals feel insecure due to our disreputed approach from very beginning of historic times and people sidelined them in every respect. Officially no action has been taken to nab the culprits as we don’t loss humans but humanity.
Govt of J&k need to hear them, provide basic daily use fascilities so that they can’t be targeted with inferiority complex in any way. Also ensure the policies so they are not criminalised, scandalised, scapegoated, and discriminated in the public for being different than us. The policy makers and planning commissions can realize tribals are people too and feel them as Human beings not beasts even if they live on backs of mountains and hills.
So everyone has the sole responsibility to sensitize these issues and find out the remedial and concrete measures to feel them as human beings.
Author is PhD scholar a resident of Kuchmullah TRAL in South Kashmir
Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Valley Online’s editorial stance.