Tribute to a legendary Gujjar leader Haji Buland Khan,
By.Dr Javaid Rahi
A man of multi-faceted interests – Haji Buland Khan created awareness among his people about politics which prompted them to struggle for their political rights. He traveled to the length and breadth of the Jammu and Kashmir during the early decades of the 20th Century to streamline the Gujjar community and the response was quite encouraging. As a result he succeeded in framing Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar and Bakerwal Conference.
In 2005 a mammoth rally of Gujjars and Bakerwals was held under his Presidentship at Laddadhar, Patnitop , Doda in which 70,000 Gujjars participated and the occasion proved a milestone in the self awareness struggle of Gujjars and Bakerwals of the state.
It was under his leadership that the Gujjars steeped in the field of Education and Socio-Economic development, which ultimately led them to self identification. He always struggled against illiteracy poverty and social inequality.
Born in a remote village of Dist. Reasi which is surrounded by Shivalik range of mountains in sub-Himalayan terrain, Haji Buland Khan had dedicated his whole life for the welfare of down trodden people. As representative of masses, he was active in politics for about half a century. During the early days of his association with mass movement, he was confined to prisons with Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. But he continued his struggle against exploitation and injustice and it is quite consoling to note that at last his services were recognized and he led the mass movement from the front. Represented his community in J&K Legislature, was Minister of State for several years and served Gujjar and Bakerwal community as Vice Chairman State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjar and Bakerwal Community. Haji Buland Khan was a simple, sympathetic and a multidimensional personality. In addition to these qualities, he was a warrior as well. His first fight was against feudalism in his own area, i.e., Gool-Gulabgrah. The people of the area used to be exploited by feudalists even after the independence. Haji Sahib fought against the system and the people were given their due in that area. Later he joined Plebiscite Front of Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. He had a vision to give political, social, educational and economic freedom to downtrodden community of Gujjars and Bakerwals. In this connection, he established an organization which later took the shape of Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakerwaal Conference. The Gujjars and Bakerwals were united under one banner and this was the organization which organized ralies and demonstrations in every district headquarter. Under the dynamic leadership of Haji Buland Khan, Gujjar and Bakerwaal conference emerged as a platform where all leaders of State fighting for the cause of Gujjars were united. The problems faced by Gujjars and Bakerwals were highlighted, discussions, seminars and conventions organised.
In my opinion, J&K Gujjar Bakerwaal Conference is a semi political organization which has worked for social and political awakening among the Gujjars in the 21st century. Keeping in view the performance of Gujjar Bakerwaal Conference, it was thought that it will emerge as a big political force in the state but owing to ill health of Haji Buland Khan, he could not fulfill his cherished dream to see this organization flourish.
The last fight which Haji Buland Khan fought was with his ailing health, but despite of his bad health, he used to meet with the delegations of the people and held negotiations with the leaders of national repute. Before his death, he participated in the Round Table Conference (RTC) convened by the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh at New Delhi. He discussed various matters of immense importance with Chairperson UPA, Mrs Sonia Gandhi as well.
Haji Buland Khan started his career as an active political worker. He represented his community in state legislative assembly and council as well. He was associated with Gujjar And Bakerwal Advisory Board for about 12 years and as Vice Chairman of the said board, lead it as an umbrella organization for the welfare of the Gujjars and Bakerwals. Many important decisions were taken during his tenure which include rehabilitation of Gujjar and Bakerwal's educational and economic prosperity and establishment of new Gujjar hostels for nomadic students.
Haji Buland Khan was a man of many qualities. But one quality which needs proper mention is that he was very tolerant. Come what may, he was very gentle and soft spoken. I have never saw him angry, he always controlled anger. The second quality he had was that he was a good administrator. He had the quality of connecting with people and leading them to fight for their genuine rights, though he was a resident of District Reasi but had his influence over almost all the areas of the state and he was revered and regarded personality of respect in every community.
I had been associated with Haji Sahib for over 15 years. When he established J&K Gujjar Bakerwal Conference, he desired that I may work Publicity Secretary of that organization. But owing to my preoccupations, I was not in a position to accept any such responsibility. Despite of that I was associated with Khan Sahib and participated in many rallies and demonstrations.
There used the occasional meetings with Haji Buland Khan. He had a solid and firm way about Gojri language and problems and difficulties being faced by Gujjar and Bakerwals. He was of the view that unless and until Gujjars are not educationally forward, they will not achieve their goals or political, social and economic justice. Haji Buland Khan was a great preacher of Gujjar Culture and in order to uphold their identity he used to stress upon the youth to work hard for establishing their identity.
Owing to the sad the demise of Haji Buland Khan, the Gujjar movement has suffered a loss which is very difficult to fill in. Gujjar's feel that this vacuum will last for quite sometime till a new leadership emerges to fight for the cause of legitimate rights of Gujjars and Bakerwaals, which was a cherished dream of legendary Gujjar leader Haji Buland Khan.
(The author is working as Editor-cum-Cultural Officer in Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and can be mailed at email@example.com.)
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