Jammu, January 23
As the demand for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the Pahari community has been growing, Bakarwals and Gujjars are worried as they are in no mood to share the ST reservation benefits. The pastoralists believe that Paharis are comparatively affluent.
The Pahari community too is concerned as the Delimitation Commission has recommended reservation of nine seats in Jamp;K for the STs. Paharis believe that if seats are reserved under the ST category, they will become invisible from the political map as the regions they inhabit are dominated by Gujjars and Bakarwals.
Rajouri, Poonch, Kupwara, Baramulla and Anantnag districts of the UT have considerable number of Pahari speaking people. The areas have significant Gujjars and Bakarwals who are also a major political force in Jamp;K.
In Rajouri and Poonch, many Pahari Muslims have joined the BJP in the recent times to impress upon their demand to get the ST tag for Paharis. Political delegations of Paharis recently met Union Minister Amit Shah in this regard.
Pahari activist Mohammad Iqbal Malik, who is also a BJP leader from Darhal in Rajouri district, says the Paharis have been demanding the ST status since Gujjars and Bakarwals got the same three decades ago (in 1991). “During the time of ex-CM Mehbooba Mufti, a report on the condition of Paharis was sent to the Centre but nothing progressive could be achieved. However, the BJP may soon come out with a solution,” he adds.
BJP’s Jamp;K president Ravinder Raina, who too is from the Pahari community, held a tour of Pahari dominated areas in December and assured that their demands would be met.
Javed Rahi, noted researcher on Gujjars and Bakarwals, says the community believes that most of the Paharis hail from affluent class so do not require reservation. “They say Paharis already have reservation under the Resident of Backward Area category and also 4% reservation in recruitment under the Pahari category,” Rahi says, adding that the literacy rate among Paharis is high, but it is only 50% in case of the ST people.
Kuldeep Raj Gupta, ex-vice chairman of the Advisory Board for the Development of Pahari Speaking People, says, “We want the ST status for the Pahari community like Gujjars and Bakarwals.”