Economy has always proved to be the foundation stone of Politics. This not an exception with the Gujjar Tribe, however, there has always been an exploitation components with Gujjar politics which is related to this poor economic condition of this down trodden community . In order to examine the impact of Gujjar Economics over Politics and vice- versa, it would be in the fitness of things, in case we examine the basic characteristics of Gujjar Economy ;
1. Labour Class
2. Agriculture Class
3. Service Class
4. Business Class
a)Dealing with Milk and Milk Products
b)Dealing with Mutton and Woolen products
c)Other business related Activities
5. Artisans Class: The people associated with professional handicrafts, handloomand all semi-skilled activities.
About 60% of Gujjar population earn their livelihood from labour and related activities. They are engaged with such activities for the whole year. A brief session with their agricultural lands and in winter they migrated to Punjab and other surrounding states. They are also called Migratory labourers. A very low percentage of Gujjars also work out side the country and they are mainly from Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu districts. The trend to earn livelihood from out side the country was established 1980-82 and mostly these labourers prefer to go to the Gulf Countries . The main difficulty and shortcoming in Gujjar labour class is that they are mostly unskilled and non technical. Therefore, there are less chance of their advancements in this sector as whole.
There are substantial number of labourers engaged with Agricultural sector but owing to the non availability of furtile Agricultural land they are not in a position to cultivate such agricultural lands to its optimum capacity. They restrict themselves to only one crop per year from such agricultural lands rest of the period they spend doing hard labour in other agricultural lands belonging land lord (Zameendars) non Gujjar class.
The business class among the Gujjars may constitute a very minimum percentage. The business in Jammu , Kathua and Udhampur and Doda markets is in the hands of Dogras and Kashmiri's , while is Poonch , Rajouri ,Paharis and in Baramulla, Kupwara and other districts the business activities are mostly run by Kashmiris and other non Gujjars like Punjabi, Pahari speaking people. Of course there are a few shops in Gujjar dominated villages which belong to Gujjars.
a) Business based on Milk and Milk Products
b) Business based on Mutton and Woolen products
The Gujjars engaged with the business of milk and milk products belong mainly to Jammu, Udhampur, Kathua and Doda districts. They are also victims of exploitation and non availability of required infrastructure and formalities. They are not having the required number of milk giving animals, contrary they are having maximum number of animal who are not worth milking. For example if any Dodhi Gujjar have 10 buffalos , approximately three are pregnant "GHABAN" , four are worthy milking "MALANALI" one is suffering from any diseases and rest have crossed age of milking or fertility called " KHANGHAR" . The income received from marketing the milk and milk products is spend on feeding the animals. The rate of milk and feed are contrary to each other and Dodhi. Gujjars find it very difficult, rather impossible to make the both ends meet, it has drastically effected the economical potential of Dodhi. Gujjars and are in the same position which they were hundreds of years before .
Since the time immemorial the demand for mutton and wool was met mainly by Bakerwal Gujjars but during the last 25 years it has declined drastically and maximum people associated with the process have all along shifted to new professions. This is mainly because even today 80% of demand for Mutton and Woolen products is met by the imports from the outside of the state. The mutton and Woolen products of Bakerwal Gujjars have market in Leh, Kargil and other far flung areas of the state only.
The middle men called "Kothidar" who purchase mutton from Bakerwals often exploit these simple and illiterate tribesman, therefore, this section of Gujjars which was supposed to be economically viable, is beaten by exploiters and ill planning.
After 1974-75 the Gujjars saw a new change. This was time when Mrs. Indra Gandhi , the then Prime Minister of India , sanctioned a package Rs 13 crores for the State and for the upliftment of this down trodden tribe .Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who was Chief Minister of state, at that point of time appointed his wife Begum Akbar Jan as vice Chairperson of Gujjar and Bakerwal State Advisory Board. A University could have bee errected from Rs 13 crores but it ended with the construction of a few Gujjar hostels. During 1990-91 Central Government granted Schedule Tribe status for Gujjars , besides nomad Gujjar children got Scholarships and Mobile school facilities which resulted in encouraging educational trends . The Gujjars emerged as a vibrant political entity and slowly and gradually it is yielding results and today there are 2 IFS offices, 3 Sr. KAS officer, 25 Jr. KAS Officers , and around 50 to 75 Gazetted officers. There is only one Under Secretary in J&K civil Secretariat. Only 0.01% of the Gujjar populations is working in central and state govt. services which include a maximum chunk of those who are employed in security forces including police while school teachers also form part of this statistics.
There is dearth of trained Gujjar artisans in various handicrafts. Therefore, they constantly dependent on the items needed by them from the market and the Barbers, Blacksmiths, cobblers and other artisans also move with them to various locations. These people have adopted their own way of life and Gujjars have accepted them as part of their social group.
Impact of Economy over Gujjar Politics :-
From the above statistics, it is evident that 90% to 96% of Gujjar population is economically backward and in the given circumstances it is not difficult to exploit Gujjars politically, by the National, Regional Political Parties and other elite Groups of the area. Since the Gujjar labour class is not having proper skill so they are exploited by Contractors/ Maids and middle men. The Contractors/ Maids and middle men are having affiliation with Political Parties, therefore, Political exploitation to labour class is immanent. The elected members to the state legislators from Gujjar dominated areas are having the background to be the Government /Army/MES Contractors/ Maids . These 95% legislatures/ Political activists from all Constitutes of Poonch , Rajouri , Karnah , Uri and other Gujjar dominated areas are professionally Contractors or / Maids . Further the Gujjar dominated areas are having Muqadam, Sardar, Chowkidars and Peers who are also associated with Political parties as a workers and by the way of close dominance over the Gujjar labour class they continue to exploit the Gujjar vote bank.
The person having sound financial footing among Bakerwal and Banharas Society is their Mukdum or Sardars they also dominate the Business Class associated with Milk, Mutton and Wool in respect of Gujjar Vote Bank .
A new trend for the last 25 years has emerged where the Gujjar Service Class also actively dominate Gujjar vote bank in rural areas because of the poverty illiteracy , and bad economic condition the Gujjars are guided by emotions, sweet dreams and hallow commitments.
The agricultural class though some what politically conscious is mainly dominated by land owners called "Zimindar/ Zaildar or Chakidar in far flung areas. This class is now a days instrumental in creating in establishing political trends among the Gujjars and they are the people mainly influence the Gujjar politics .
Owing to lack of elite class among the Gujjars, they are unable to harness the required results. They are not much able to dominate their own factions and yield from various sections of Gujjars and non Gujjars. The business class in Gujjars is driven by non Gujjars. The relations of buyer and seller constitute a sensitive relation and they influence each other. Since the Gujjars are economically backward therefore, they often lend cash and other item from market which is dominated by non Gujjars. During the election time , these poor Gujjars are influenced by their transaction with businessmen and use their voting power as per the wishes of non Gujjars.
To conclude, if the Gujjar leadership has to be Winner or Decider in the power politics they have to think in terms of making Gujjars economically viable so that they are not depended on the other communities which oftenly exploit them during elections. The service class among the Gujjars is expending too and in near future they are going to be the main policy framers for Gujjars in rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, they must think in terms of making Gujjar economically cautious , Politically vibrant , this would be key to success.
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