Altaf Hussein Janjua
The Pahari tribe of Jammu and Kashmir is as if anchored in a mosaic of collective traditionalism and reflected by its common origin, its common language, its distinctive dress pattern, its distinct eating habits, its common psychological make-up, its similar physical feathers, its traditional organization in the basic institutions of marriage, family and kinship, lower positions in the socio-economic ladder and relative isolation from mainstream society, equivalent to making the Pahari tribe of Jammu and Kashmir a ethnic group.
The struggle for recognition of the endangered cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity of the Pahari tribe began in the early 1970s when the “All Jammu and Kashmir Pahari Cultural and Welfare Forum was formed. As the Pahari tribe has a compact population, significant pockets are found among the foothills of the Pir-Panchal chain with significant concentrations at Poonch, Rajouri, Baramulla and Kupwara. Besides these four main pockets, their dwellings are also found in the districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Budgam, Ganderbal and Bandipora.
Constitution of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir Pahari Cultural Welfare Forum (1969-70), Karnah Cultural Club (1973), Creation of the Pahari section at the Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages ​​of Jammu and Kashmir (1978), Pahari Program and Kashmir Radio News from the Srinagar Era (October 2, 1979), establishment of the Pahari Advisory Council under ordinance number GAD-1439 (1989), twice unanimous resolutions of the Assembly and Board of J&K for ST in Paharis. Pahari Speaking People Reservation Act passed in 2014. Pahari Reservation Amendment Bill 2018 and 4% reservation granted in Jammu and Kashmir from 2020, construction of Pahari hostels is the result of the Pahari tribe’s five-decade struggle for status which is still pending.
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir took Cabinet Decision No. 159 of 8-8-1989 identified and recommended to the Government of India the name of the Pahari tribe at serial number one with other various groups for ST status , but the Indian government denied them ST status on the grounds that they did not meet the required criteria. Apart from this, the Pahari tribe also believe that their request was rejected by Pilot Rajesh who himself was a Gujjar chief and Union Minister of the Interior at the time. On February 6, 1993, the then state governor, GC Saxena, wrote a letter to Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan, then Union Minister of the Interior, urging him to accept the recommendations of the government of the State regarding the granting of ST status to the Pahari tribe. State Governor General KV Krishna Rao in his empty communication DO No GS / GOV (C) IG 193 dated December 26, 19993 to Sita Ram Kesri, Union Minister of the Department of Social Welfare, pleaded for the early inclusion of the Paharis among the listed tribes. . The Governor reiterated the view of the state government that the Paharis and Gujjars / Bakarwals are culturally and racially similar and face the same problems arising from socio-economic backwardness. Prime Minister HD Dev Gowda in February 1997 at public meetings in Uri and Rajouri pledged for ST status, but his government did not last long because it failed.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee at a public rally in Karnah in 1998 assured ST status to the Pahari tribe. This can be verified from the unstarred question Rajya Sabha # 2399 of 13-08-20001. On May 29, 2011, the then Chief Minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir wrote to the Prime Minister requesting the granting of ST status.
The Chief Minister drew the Prime Minister’s attention to the assurance given to the Paharies by the late Prime Minister Indra Gandhi and A. B. Vajpayee. It was also mentioned in the letter that the paharis are socio-economically very backward and bear the brunt of being inhabitants of the Line of Control. In 2007, this issue was discussed at the meeting of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee for the Ministry of the Interior. The Minister of Tribal Affairs had informed the committee that ST status was not granted to the state’s Pahari community because the Registrar General of India (RGI) had not accepted their claim to be a tribe. The RGI believed that the Paharis were a linguistic rather than an ethnic group. The Registrar General of India raised seven questions and requested their response from the State of Jammu and Kashmir via a communication on March 16, 2001. In response, the State Government. Appointed SL Bhat Principal Secretary of the Department of Social Protection of the Government) who answered questions from RGI empties the letter n ° PSSW / 03/261 of 23/06/2003 and justified the ST status for the Paharies by referring to various census reports and engagements from time to time.
In 2012, the Home Secretary suggested that the state government could set up a commission to look into the matter and make appropriate recommendations. A detailed socio-economic survey was carried out under the direction of the committee of Professor (Dr) Pirzada Mohammad Amin, which was approved by the J&K government cabinet and sent to GOI. The Peerzada Amin committee report in its recommendations categorically stated that due to the cultural specificity, vulnerability, socio-economic condition and isolation of the Pahari community, there is a desperate need to integrate this community by bringing it into the field of positive discrimination as it is governed. by the constitutional principle of affirmative action and applied to other marginalized communities in the country. It was observed during the macro-field study that the people of the Pahari community in the state of Jammu and Kashmir largely resemble a stock of people with primitive traits such as traditional marriage practices. , the dress model, the timidity of contact, the hairstyle. etc. People in mountainous and border areas live in close proximity to nature and still depend on it for their basic needs such as food, fuel and energy. Agriculture and related agricultural activities are their main occupation. A remarkable underlying resemblance to the models of social organizations, culture and way of life can be found between them and other tribal communities in the state.
It is relevant to mention here that the Kaka Kalelkar Commission, Gajendragadkar Commission, Sikri Commission, Wazir Commission and Anand Commission have been constituted for different purposes by successive governments and none of the commissions recommend ST statute nor for Gujjar. / Bakerwal nor for the Pahari tribe. For the first time in 1989, Cabinet decision n ° 159 of 8-8-1989. The government of Jammu and Kashmir has recommended to the Indian government the name of Pahari, Gujjars, Bakerwal as well as other communities. As part of the reservations of the EWS / RBA / ALC categories, the Gujjar / Bakerwal tribe also enjoys advantages in addition to the ST category.
The case of the Pahari tribe is stronger for ST status than any other community, as it has been recommended by different commissions, committees that may from time to time include the SL Bhat report, Judge Sagheer’s report, the interlocutors, the Institute of Peace and Conflict, the report of the Pirzaad Amin committee and from time to time the recommendations of J&K Govts. The S.LBhat report is worth mentioning here as it clears many doubts and justifies the ST claim
In the 1901 census, Pahari and Gujjari were considered to be languages ​​of respective communities with Kashmir, Dogri, Punjabi, etc. No distinction was made between the two with respect to their tribal or non-tribal character. Additionally, the Gujjars were treated as a caste rather than a tribe, along with other social groups like Hajjam, Lohar, Mochi, Teli, etc. Bakarwali is not even mentioned as a language and the Bakerwal community has not returned as a tribe.
With regard to the report of the Commission of Judge A. S Anand and its recommendations, it concerns socially backward communities in terms of education. This commission was formed to eliminate flaws in the rules that governed reservation in appointments and promotions of listed castes and backward classes, as they were in vogue at that time. It did not have the mandate to identify the communities eligible or not for the granting of the status of listed tribe. It is not correct to claim that even the Anand Justice Commission did not consider Paharis to be entitled to affirmative state action.
SL Bhat in his report clarifies the position of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir regarding the status of the Pahari tribe ST No census since 1901 has referred the Gujjars, Gaddis or Bakarwals as tribes. Not even the people from the Ladakh region. The exceptions seem to be the 1987-88, which followed the declaration of political intent to declare certain groups as ST and was the prelude to the declaration of these groups as ST, therefore, the issue of the Paharis not having been listed. like tribe does not arise and it is irrelevant.
All censuses treated the Paharis, Gujjars, Bakarwals and others who received ST status as linguistic and social groups rather than tribes in the classical sense. There have been some stray references to the Bakarwals as nomads. But there is no such description in favor of the Gujjars. In fact, many census reports have described the Gujjars as a sedentary group and the Paharis as those who migrate in search of employment opportunities.
Denial of ST status to Paharis in neighboring states cannot be a valid reason for denying a legitimate request. The Gujjars / Bakarwals and the Paharis share common social, economic and geographic handicaps and are more or less at the same level of development. If the Gaddis who are not nomads but highland shepherds have been treated as Hindu counterparts to the Bakarwals, there is no reason why the Pahari tribe should not be treated the same as the Gujjars with whom they have a lot in common.
Initially, the Registrar General of India / GOI was not convinced of the merits of the Gujjar and Bakarwal request for ST status. Therefore, they were not included in the initial notification issued in 1989. They were included in the subsequent notification after reconsideration of their request. RGI treated Gujjars and Bakerwals as a marginal case. The same consideration must be given to Paharis.
The Pahari tribe has as strong a claim to List Tribe status as any other ethnic group that has been notified as a List Tribe. The Indian government, at the level of the Prime Minister, has repeatedly given assurances that this request will be accepted. In order to satisfy the genuine aspirations of the Pahari and honor the political commitments made by the country’s leaders, it is absolutely essential that the Paharis obtain List Tribe status.
(The author is a lawyer at the High Court of J&K)


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