Gujjars for safeguarding tribal identity, demand more rights

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Jammu, Sep 23: Gujjars – Bakerwals -the main tribal groups of Jammu and Kashmir Sunday demanded that their socio-political and ethno-cultural identity and individuality as tribes of state be safeguarded immediately by providing identical rights to them which were granted to other ST communities in India. The participant further urged that the Government should protect our unique identity like other state saved their tribes.
They were participating in a function organised by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation-a frontal organisation of marginalised groups, held under presidentship of Dr. Javaid Rahi -noted Gujjar scholar, on the topic ‘Tribal Rights in India -an over view of state of J&K State ‘attended by tribal dignitaries, youths others.
Dr. Javaid Rahi, in his presidential address stated that the tribes of Jammu and Kashmir practising old traditions of sessional migrations and animal raring as such they deserved to be treated at par with other tribes of India. He stated that the tribal culture, ethnicity and age old heritage is dying down rapidly which require early conservation/ preservation at all level.
The speakers said that Tribes of J&K state are very less empowered as compare to ST communities of other states in India. They said that there is no special Article / rights/ provisions, mention of tribal groups in our State Constitution. The other states of India gives special rights to nomadic/tribes to protect the distinctiveness, they said.
They said the Indian Constitution gives special rights to Tribal like ‘Political Reservation- under its Article 334, Forest Rights Act -2006, The SC/ST prevention of Atrocities Act -1989, Rehabilitation Act -2013 and Conservation Act -1980 to empower tribal communities but these Acts still wait extension to J&K State.
They urged for identical Act/ Provisions of its own like other Indian States have, the tribal status granted to 12 J&K ST communities is weakest in India.
The tribal are not treated separately in J&K as whole world treating them exclusively to them in their own nomadic lifestyle to establish their separate identity, and provides share in all type of developments, they said.
They said, the J&K Constitution empowered Scheduled Casts community as 7 MLA seats in J&K Legislative Assembly are reserved for them but there is no mention of word Tribal in it and Indian Constitution treats SC and ST as equal.
In J&K -the Reservation Act provides only 10 percent reservation to STs in jobs and promotions since 1991 but no other rights were provided to them.
The Gujjars – Bakerwals constitute 20% of State population and constitutes and comprising of 85 of total population of Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir.
Those who spoke on the occasion included; Qammar Choudhary, Ishtiaq , Shabnum Ahmed, Ali Hussain Khatana, Bashir Bajad, Haneef Lodha and others.