In October this year, Jammu and Kashmir Government included 15 more castes in reservation for socially backward classes. The move provided for 4 per cent reservation in jobs and other sectors.
The social caste list was redrawn on the recommendations of the Jammu and Kashmir Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission which was constituted by J&K Government in 2020. Former High Court Judge, G. D. Sharma headed the three-member panel.
The other significant change which was made in the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Rules was that the words ‘Pahari Speaking people’ were subsisted with ‘Pahari Ethnic people.’
Other social castes included in the socially backward classes were Waghey (Chopan), Ghirath/Bhati/Chang community, Jat community, Saini community, Markabans/Pony Walas, Sochi community, Christian Biradari (converted from Hindu Valmiki), Sunar/Swarankar Teeli (Hindu Teeli along with already existing Muslim Teli), Perna/Kouro(Kaurav), Bojru/Decount/Dubdabay Brahmin Gorkans, Gorkhas, West Pakistani refugees (excluding SCs) and Acharyas.
Long pending demand met
The government’s decision to include Pahari speaking people in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category fulfilled the long pending demand of the community to bring them at par with the members of Gujjar and Bakarwalcommunities.
After Pahari speaking people were provided the reservation, some groups of Gujjars and Bakerwals announced the start of a “Tribal Bachao Yatra” (Save Tribals protest). This yatra was started to oppose the government’s move to grant ST status to the Pahari ethnic group.
A few groups of Gujjars and Bakerwals claim that Paharis getting ST status would dilute their rights. They have been terming the report of Justice (Retd) G. D. Sharma Commission “against the interest” of Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and deprived sections of the society.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his J&K visit in October this year had made it clear that Paharis will get reservation but Gujjars and Bakarwals won’t lose anything.
Gujjars and Bakarwals, who are agitating, need to understand the reservation for Paharis has got nothing to do with them. The government’s decision has not diluted their rights even by one per cent.
Some people with vested interests are spreading rumours about the new reservation policy. They are making an attempt to foment trouble to derail the peace and progress which J&K has been witnessing after August 5, 2019, when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate its special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
History stands testimony to the fact that members of Gujjar, Bakerwal and Pahari communities have played a crucial role in J&K’s development. The government on many occasions has acknowledged their contributions towards the society by describing them as the prime movers of progress. The community members have taught everyone the values of co-existence, oneness, harmony, and sustainable living.
Members of tribal communities, including Gujjar, Bakerwals, Paharis and others, were exploited to the hilt by the politicians for 70 long years. They were used as vote banks and dumped after elections.
Dreams transformed into reality
After decades of wait, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has transformed the dream of social equity and justice into reality. It has brought a fast and radical change in the lives of tribal communities and paved the path for socio-economic growth.
People, who exploited them in the yesteryears, are unable to digest that members of tribal communities have been empowered and they are being treated at par with others. They are trying to create confusion by pitting members of Gujjar and Bakarwal communities against Paharis.
During the past three years the government has laid special emphasis on beneficiary-oriented schemes and welfare infrastructure with priority to road connectivity, power supply, drinking water, modern tribal villages, self-employment, healthcare, skill development, scholarships and education.
Apart from Forest Rights Act, several infrastructures like transit accommodation, boys and girls hostels, Eklavya model residential schools, mini sheep farms, new dairy units, smart card and trucks for migratory population, Pradhanmantri Aadi Aadarsh Gram Yojna, Coaching programmes for NEET/JEE, UPSC, technology-enabled education scheme, tribal research centre have been created.
Tribals no more second fiddles
For erstwhile political regimes in Jammu and Kashmir members of tribal communities were just second fiddles as the dispensations led by the politicians never made a sincere attempt to uplift these communities.
Abrogation of Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution, changed their destinies.
In January 2020 the then J&K Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu approved various amendments in the reservation rules to ensure that Pahari speaking people living in the Himalayan region get equal opportunities and a fair chance to improve their lives.
The reorganisation of the erstwhile J&K State into two Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh, led to enactment of Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Act, 2004, due to which it became imperative to rationalise the reservation percentage available to different categories so as to include Pahari speaking people into the category of socially and educationally backward classes.
In the erstwhile J&K State the Scheduled Castes had eight per cent reservation in direct recruitment, Scheduled Tribes (10 per cent), weaker and underprivileged classes (two per cent), residents of areas adjoining Line of Actual Control/International Border (3 per cent), residents of backward areas (20 per cent), besides horizontal reservation of 6 per cent to ex-servicemen and 3 per cent to physically challenged persons.
After rationalisation of percentage reservation of different categories in direct recruitment, the residents of backward areas were given 10 per cent reservation, Pahari speaking people (4 per cent) and Economically Weaker Sections (10 per cent).
In early 70’s, “All Jammu and Kashmir Pahari Cultural and Welfare Forum was constituted with an aim to fight for justice. When J&K was under Governor’s rule in 1993, the then Governor of the erstwhile State, General K. V. Krishna Rao in his communication vide DO No GS/GOV(C) IG 193 dated December 26, 1993 to Sita Ram Kesri, then Union Minister of Social Welfare Department had made a strong case for early inclusion of Paharis among Scheduled Tribes.
The then Prime Minister H. D. Dev Gowda in Feb 1997, in public meetings in Uri and Rajouri committed for ST status but his government couldn’t keep up the commitment.
The present dispensation led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, studied the case of Pahari speaking people in depth and the Union Home Ministry led by Amit Shah ensured that this ethnic group gets its due share.
What they couldn’t get for 70-years they got in just three years. Their struggle for equality and equal opportunities has reached its logical end. They have understood the difference between mere lip-service and addressing the needs of the aspirations of the people.
LG Sinha’s appeal
J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has urged members of Gujjar and Bakerwal communities undertaking “Padyatra to return home.”
While addressing a function in Jammu, LG Sinha reiterated that Prime Minister Modi was working tirelessly to fulfil dreams of members of tribal communities. “I urge people not to fall for those instigating people on reservation. The Union Home Minister has assured Gujjars and other community’s interests will be protected and there will be no decrease in their quota,” LG Sinha said.
“I urge those undertaking Padyatra to return home. Some people with vested interest are spreading rumours on reservation. They are the same people who do not want peace and progress in the region,” the Lt Governor said.
Who are Pahari speaking people
Pahari speaking people of J&K are ones who belong to the Pahari community, clan, or tribe having distinct culture, ethnic and linguistic identity to be identified in such a manner as may be prescribed and by such authority as may be appointed by the Government on this behalf.
According to the population survey of the Pahari Speaking people census 2011, they are concentrated in the Poonch, Rajouri, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Budgam and Ganderbal districts.