Gujjars -A Tribe in Trouble
BY: Javaid Rahi
In 1990 when gun were raised by certain elements in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the instant soft targets were religious minorities. Initially after stray incidentce of violence it turned towards general massacres. With various incidents of killings of Kashmiri Pandits, Bihari Labourers and that of Sikhs, which resulted in mass exdous of thousands of families from Valley, Doda , Poonch, Udhampur and Rajouri to other parts of State and outside the state, and the process continues. It was during this turbulent period that ethnic cultural minorities of the majority community as well, and the sword loomed at the third largest cultural identity of the state i.e. Gujjar and Bakerwals.
During last 14 year ,in different villages and regions, the Gujjars having wisdom and firm conception were targeted so much so that Mian Altaf Ahmed the son of prominent Gujjar Leader Mian Bashir Ahmed who was also a cabinet Minister of State during National Conference regime was once attacked in 1995 with IED where he has a miraculous escape. In this incident Mian Altaf Ahmed was seriously injured and recovered in three months time. It is interesting to note that no outfit has claimed responsibility of the incidents occurred in Gujjar localities. Even if responsibility was claimed it proved to be fake . On public level no Bandh/strikes were observed on the mass killing of Gujjars, no hue and cry was raised and no Human Rights organizations took note of these gruesome incidents. It is also interesting to note that under SRO-43 Government jobs were provided to the victims of militancy due favourtism, Gujjar proved to be a neglected lot.
It is irony of the time that Gujjars are treated as second class citizens across the border but at the same time it is strange that this tribe is meeting the same type of treatment in our state. In across boarder , they have been enlisted as Indian informers and in India they are neglected because they belong to Muslim community. Due to this two way traffic they are becoming fodder of guns.
Some Major Massacre of Gujjars up to the end of 2004
1. March 2000 5 Gujjars Killed at Pathribal Anantnag
2. January 2001 15 Bakerwal Gujjars Killed at KoteChadwal Rajouri
3. February 2001 5Gujjars killed in Bhandrai Taryath, Udhampur.
4. March 2001 8 Gujjars Killed at Atholi Doda
5. May 2001 7 Gujjar Killed at Darasangla Surankote Poonch
6. May 2001 10 Shepherds were killed near Kishtwar Doda.
7. August 2002 7 Gujjars Killed in Kupwara
8. May 2003 5Gujjars killed at Pati Aragam Baramulla
9. May 2003 6 Gujjar Killed at Keri Rajouri
10. April 2004 6 Gujjars Killed at Chitti Bandi Bandipura Baramulla
11. June 2004 12 Gujjars Killed at Marah Surnkote Poonch.
Gujjars, mainly live nomadic life and are vulnerable to bullets but how they can be saved from this typical situation ,nobody has pondered over it. When mass killings of Gujjars took place . The incidents is reduced to media hype only and its effect get diluted in a few days. As far as village Defence Committee are concerned initially they were restricted to religious minorities , but afterwards ethnic minorities were also included in the list. It was indeed an encouraging step but the weapons supplied to VDC members were obsolete , old and in-effective. It resulted in killings of VDC members but now the time has come to re-think over the formations of VDCs and steps taken to strengthen them by way of cofidence building measures at various levels. As for as the worst suffering lot i.e. Gujjars are concerned the following steps may be taken to avoid their mass killings:-
Proper training to Gujjar youths to fight against gun yielded miscreants.
Modern and effective weapons for Gujjar and Bakerwals who happened to be the member of self defence committees.
Establishing of Gujjar Scouts on the pattern of Ladakh Scouts, which would result in confidence building among the Gujjars.
The Gujjars be rewarded for vigor and bravery.
Providing possible protections to Gujjar localities.
These are the steps which would build sense of security among the tribes. The research reveals that this faction is most effected lot after 1947 partition. Their fertile agricultural lands fall near LOC and due to shellings and plenty of landmines, the agricultural land has become useless. In 1947, 1965 and 1971 the Gujjars become cannon fodders and thousands of Gujjars last their lives. This is the reason that they do not want to involve themselves into any conflict but it is now felt that fear of gun is dragging them to become a party in the conflict. The recent massacre of 12 Gujjars at Marh, Surankote on June 26,2004, The Gujjars find themselves in anguish and helpless state of affairs and this feeling will brust any day with for reaching consequences. As already stated the loss of precious lifes are not taken so seriously by our various agencies .
No dissident organizations issue any statement nor political leader openly condemn the act. The Human Rights Organisations are also keeping mum and our security agencies have failed to frame any strategy to prevent the killings. It is being felt that this nomadic tribes has been isolated and nobody listen to their apathy. The nomadic tribal ever admitted that when any tribe is trapped in such a situation where their life as well as their identity in danger then they go to any extent to save their identity.
In certain countries and in India and Pakistan itself the tribal movements came to existence under such unfavourable circumstances. They disposed off their precious properties to procure weaponry and became a big danger for humanity.
Therefore, it is need of the time to understand this type of tribal psyche and use their power in a proper and for the development of humanity and for soil. They should be made understand that they are important part of society. History reveals that the Gujjars have fought many wars for their soil and to save their identity during the past 1500 years and perhaps. It is this psyche that they have adopted nomadic lifestyle and are putting up in jungles and upper reaches. We have to learn lessons from the history and from the past. If firmly steps are not taken, it is being believed that new type of war will broke out with gun against gun and bullet against bullet. This situation will lead us to which destination , it is to be pondered over….?
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