Dr. Javaid Rahi
After partition , when Assembly Segments were constituted in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the tribal Gujjar Community emerged as a significant political force. Being Tribal ethnic group, they were united behind imagination, therefore, it embossed as an important vote bank which was very difficult to ignore or surpass by the political parties of the state. In short, the role being played by Muslim Minority vote at national level politics , the same role is being played by Gujjar votes in J&K state.
Gujjar vote bank is deciding factor in a number of Assembly segments in J&K state. As per to 1931 census , Gujjars were the third largest linguistic group and second largest ethnic group in the region. If language is criteria , then after Kashmiri and Dogri, there is maximum population of Gujjars in the state. Ethnically , they have second largest population after Kashmiri where as Rajputs both Hindu and Muslim form third largest ethnic entity of the state. This fact is also relevant even in today's politics of Jammu and Kashmir. As far as the history is concerned , Jammu and its surrounding districts were covered by Gujjars and had emerged as a significant political, social and cultural force even before 1947. There were many habitation of Gujjars in main towns and cities besides the surrounding areas of Jammu region. It can be analysed that in RS Pura alone, near 85 villages were inhabitated by the Gujjars and their names were after the name of Gujjars clans like Kohlyan, Gaiyan, Phalisran, Makhanpur Gujran etc. But the partition of the state saw massacre and migration of this community which changed the demographic character of Jammu.
After partition , to recognize Gujjar as an important and significant political force was tedious one. After Independence various races and groups tried to emerge on socio-political scenario of the state but Gujjars who were pushed to remote and far flung areas lacked behind in all walk of life. All linguistic and ethnic groups progressed in a big way during past 55 years but this was not the case with Gujjars .
After various recommendations by a number of commissions and panels constituted by the central and state government from time to time for amelioration of the lot of weaker sections of society in India, the Government of India had sanction a funds for the development and upliftment of the Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir in early seventies. Cogress and Mrs. Indera Gadhi took keen interest in the political vote bank of Gujjars and organised big rallies and conferences. A department was also established to look after Gujjar affairs. Former Minister Ch. Mohd . Shafi Khatana was entrusted the job of betterment of Gujjar and Bakerwal community and he was given a post of Advisor to Government of Jammu and Kashmir for Gujjars Affairs in 1971-72. This is for the first time that political importance of the Gujjars was recognized in order to achieve maximum gains. At that time, a good chunk in the budget outlay of the state specified for the development and welfare of the Gujjars in the state. During 1971-72, funds were also earmarked and placed at the disposal of District Development Commissioners of different districts for the development of this down trodden community.
The Gujjars politics has mainly influenced by Mian Family of Wangat Kangan, Kashmir . Since 1952, after Mian Nizam-ud-din (RA) and Mian Bashir Ahmad, Mian Altaf Ahmad is representing Gujjars in the State Legislative Assembly.
This family has been associated with National Conference regime as well and Congress has many a times sort assistance from Mian family for achieving their political targets with the help of Gujjar vote bank.
Apart from Mian family, a good leadership has emerged among the Gujjars in Poonch, Rajouri ,Udhampur, Baramulla and other districts of J&K which include Ch. Mohd. Shafi Khatana, Ch. Mohd. Aslam (both are nearest relatives of Mian family). Haji Buland Khan , Ch. Talib Hussain , Ch. Mohd. Hussain, Ch. Lal Mohd. Sabir, Ch. Gulzar Ahmad , Ch. Fateh Mohammad, Ch. Mohammad Shafi, Ch. Bashir Ahmad Naaz, Ch. Mohammad Hussain of Jammu ,Ch. A.R. Badhana, Ch. Taj Mohi-ud-din , Ch Aijaz Ahmed, Ch. Javaid Rana, Master Tasaduq Hussain and many more.
After establishing State Advisory Board for the Development of Gujjar and Bakerwals in the state in 1974-75, the central govt. released a special assistance of Rs. 13 Crores to the state for the upliftment and betterment of Gujjar Bakerwal community. A few many special plans including opening of Gujjar Hostels, scholarships to the Gujjar children of the state , rehabilitation of the Gujjar nomads were initiated. This was a great step towards recognizing the Gujjars as an important and significant vote bank by the Congress and National Conference. As per routine , the members of Gujjar Board are mainly nominated by the party in power. They belongs to such areas where party in power has to oblige the Gujjar lower level leadership like Mukadams, Choudhries , Sarpenchies and Panches and others to oblige Gujjar vote bank besides the Gujjar workers are given possible perks to work for the party. This board is of state level but it has also formulated its district bodies which help the District Administration to implement the various development plans for the Gujjars.
In 1975-76, when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah came into power , the first ever Gujjar Bakerwal Advisory Board was framed and Gujjar found its place in National Conference hierarchy as well. Begum Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the first Vice Chairperson of the Board. She through medium of Gojri Language and by working hard in Gujjar areas succeeded in gaining the attention of all the Gujjar leadership and they steadily and gradually joined National Conference. Owing positive steps of Gujjar Board, it was a new era for Tribal Community . Lacs of Gujjars joined National Conference and it was due to efforts of Gujjar leadership that National Conference remained in power for a long time. When Congress saw that Gujjar vote bank is slipping out of their hands then Mrs. Indira Gandhi , the then Prime Minister intervened herself into and pursued Gujjar leadership including Mian Family (Mian Bashir Ahmad) to join Congress. It is worthwhile to mention here that differences were emerged between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Mian Bashir Ahmad on some important issues of Gujjars.
To corner Congress on political front and to oblige Gujjar vote banks, the National Conference regime recommended for a grant of Schedule Tribe status to Gujjar and Bakerwals in the state in 1988-89. To answer this move, the coalition in center in which Congress a major partner granted Schedule Tribe Status to Gujjars and Bakerwals in 19th April, 1991. It was tried that Gujjar Vote Bank shall be for Congress but it proves vice-versa. Later Mian family joined National Conference and this party won the elections in 1996 with thumping majority. Main reason for this topple was that in 1991 when tribal status was granted to Gujjars and Bakerwals of the state, The Congress could not consolidate, exploit and propagate its achievements among Gujjars of the state.
From 1996 to 2002, when National Conference was in power, the Gujjar leadership pressed hard to govt. to be sensitive in affairs of Gujjars and Bakerwals of the state. It was demanded that there should be political reservation for Gujjars besides formulation of Tribal Ministry/Deptt. and Deptt. of Gujjar Affairs and implement the Schedule Tribe Status in its true spirit. But National Conference govt. could not gain this opportunity and it resulted in the defeat of National Conference. Another major cause of slipping Gujjar Vote Bank from the hands of National Conference was its so called Autonomy Report. The same report opposed the schedule Tribe status granted to the Gujjars by the centre in 1991.
The Gujjar vote bank once again shifted to Congress and they were also inclined towards Peoples Democratic Party which was alliance partner of Congress in 2002 elections. National Conference was shrinked to 28 Assembly seats in 2002.
Now PDP and Congress coalition is in the power for the last four years but they are unable to take steps forward for overall development of the Gujjar Tribe. A few routine meetings of Gujjar Board took place. Certain things discussed, but there is lack of coordination at the gross root level.
Gujjar vote bank is eyeing towards all the three leading parties including Congress , National Conference and PDP. As far as the PDP is concerned , it has no interest in community base politics. There is no body within the party /cell to listen the apathy of Gujjars.
This is a fact that since congress come to power for last one and half year, it was hoped that their leadership will take keen interest in the affairs of Gujjars as per party's history which include the steps to remodel the Gujjar Board keeping in view the changing world scenario and new challenges faced by the tribal Gujjar community. Besides, giving a serious thought to provide the much awaited political reservation to tribal communities including Gujjars for the state. But nothing seems to have been done to accommodate the aspiration of Gujjar Vote Bank.
Issuance of SRO 294 has also created confusion , chaos and panic among SC, ST communities including Gujjars and they are seriously are thinking to change their political approach towards all these three leading parties.
As for as National Conference is concerned, its Gujjar affairs are confined to a few meetings of Gujjars in rural areas or a few press conferences by prominent Gujjar leader Mian Altaf Ahmad and Mr. Javiad Rana , MLA and Congress is tanging the fruits of power but reality is that the Gujjar Vote Bank is slipping of their hands.
Jammu and Kashmir State has substantial Chunk of Tribal Population which plays a big role in political process and power formations. There are 21 Assembly constituencies where Gujjar constitute 25% to 50 % of franchise. Besides there are nine Assembly segments where Gujjar Candidates won elections which includes ,Havali, Surnkote, Mendher, Rajouri, Darhal, Ghulab Ghar, Arnas, Kangan and Uri. In other 13 constitue
ncies , Gujjar Vote can turn the tables include, Kalakote,Kupwara, Karnah, Riasi , , Nagrota, Inderwal, Noorabad, Shopiyan,Kokernag, Shangs, Tangmarg, Pahalgam
and Langate. Except Leh and Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar live in every corner of the State and each Assembly as well as Parliamentary constituencies in the shape of substantial Vote bank. This is the only community of the State who take part in elections in Militancy effected areas despite the threat perceptions.
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