Shafiq R Khan

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GUJJARS & BAKERWALS of rajauri (Kashmir) राजौरी (कश्मीर)

In Rajouri District about 12% population is comprised of Bakerwals while 23% population belongs to Gujjars. Both the communities are having their common cultural and linguistic heritage. Gujjars mostly rear cattle and they are herdsmen of buffaloes and possess small pieces of lands, kacha houses on the slopes and foothills of mountains in Rajouri District. Number of them is having their Dhokes and dharas on the upper reaches of Rajouri district mostly in Darhal, Budhal, Kalakote and Manjakote area. On the other hand, Bakerwals are the offshoots of Gujjars and they are nomadic tribes. Most of them are landless and houseless. Their livelihood is mostly dependent on sheep and goats for which they have to rear these animals. In search of green pastures for their herds and flocks, they travel from one place to another with their baggage and luggage, flock of sheep and goats, fleet of horses and dogs. Initially, they were rearing goats; therefore they are known as Bakerwals (who rear goats). They are living nomadic life and remain wondering in jungle in their traditional dresses with their own cultural heritage, which is distinct and unique culture. Once Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru when he was at Pehalgam, saw a group of Bakerwals along with their luggage and baggage, he at once named them as the king of jungles.
In these days, these Bakerwal tribes can be seen wondering in the foothills of Peer Panchal range mostly in Rajouri area, which is located in the foothills of Panchal range. In winter season, with the beginning of spring, they shift from Rajouri area and enter the Margs, Lush Green high pastures and Dhokes in upper reaches of Panchal range. Some caravans of Bakerwals of Rajouri district even cross the Valley and reach Lolad, Gurez and Sona Marg on the Eastern top hills of Kashmir. They keep with them horses for riding and transportation, sheep and goats for production of wool, milk and meat. They sell surplus animals and their subsidiary products and buy maize, rice and grocery from the villages for day-to-day consumption. These tribes travel on compact basis with their baggage, flocks of sheep, herd of goats, fleet of horses and dogs. The old tribe-man is generally known as Sardar who leads the caravans. He travels on a mule. After him follows the horses, ladies and children, flocks of sheep and goats and hunting dogs who protect animals from thieves and wild animals. They keep tents with them and live in tented colonies. But their life is very tough and some time they live even in the caves under the shadow of trees and big grass. When they enter the margs and Dhokes, they look like actual ruler of the areas because no law and authority prevails in these Margs.
Their favourite dresses are waist Coat, shalwar, Kurta (long shirt) and lungi (turban) while the women usually bear Sutthan (trouser) kurti (shirt) and Tazakastani cap with cotton shawl. These tribes are very stout, tough and beautiful. The women are hard working. Their hobbies are to conduct fighting of rams and goats. So far as music is concerned, they like Halgoza and jori. Their main folk songs are Chann, Mahia, Dholan, Kanchi and Saif-ul-Malook. One of their favourite folk song is ballod of Noora a worrier. They sing these songs while grazing their flocks in the pastures with Halgoza. They are found of Gur. They like the feast of rice with curd and sugar. They speak gojri language. They are brave hospitable and state forward people. They have their own courts for justice known as kachehries or jirgas. They live natural life and are dependent on those products, which are available on these high pasture altitudes.
HISTORY
The Gujjars and Bakerwals according to the historians originally belong to Rajputana region of Gujara (Kathiawad) and due to famine and other hostile conditions, they migrated to this area. Historians could not trace out their exact date of migration but as per RAJ TARANGNI, the famous history book of ancient Kashmir they were living on the borders of Kashmir in 9th and 10th centuries. After some time they embraced Islam and later on divided into two professionally different sects of Gujjars and Bakerwals.
After detailed and in depth study made by the historians, anthropologists, social scientists, researchers and ethnographers the links of Gujjars or Gurjaras have been traced to the house of the pandvas of Mahabharta, Lord Krishana himself was closely connected with the family of milkman. Study of India History has revealed that Gujjars played a crucial role in making and unmaking the kingdoms and principalities. Essentially a brave and hardy race, the Gujjars and Bakerwals have undertaken adventures, which won them laurels on the battleground. Their role was further facilitated by vast distribution of their population all over the subcontinent.
EDUCATION
Though the government has done a lot for these two categories i.e. Gujjars and Bakerwals in the matter of education by way of permanent and mobile schools, starting of Gujjar and Bakerwals hostels at the District level with free boarding and lodging facilities up to 12th class and reservation in employment and vocational institutions, they are still backward. The Gujjars due to semi-migratory nature of their living are better qualified, financially sound and better place in the social life.
LANGUAGE
The Gujjars and Bakerwals have their own Gujri language, which they generally speak in between them. But they correspond with the other persons in Urdu generally. The Government has given importance to the requirements of Gujri culture, as result of which the Radio Kashmir Jammu and Srinagar are daily broadcasting one hour Gujri programme. Besides this, there is a Gujri section in J&K Cultural Academy, which annually publishes literature on their culture and history and also organizes cultural & literary functions at different places inhabited by the Gujjar and Bakerwals.
FINANCIAL POSITION
During the seventh five year plan, the Government had earmarked an amount of Rs 163 .54 Crores, for the welfare of Gujjar and Bakerwals. During 1990-91 the welfare expenditure amounted Rs 32.44 Crores out of a total outlay of Rs 33.00 Crores. Some of the Gujjars and Bakerwals are quite well to do but the majority of them are of average income.


COURAGE AND BRAVERY
During the Indo-Pak wars, the Gujjars and Bakerwals excelled in bravery and courage as compared to martial races of the rest of the country. In 1965, when intruders indulged in destructive activities, credit goes to these people who gave the first information of their presence in the area. There is huge population of Gujjars and Bakerwals along the line of Actual Control. In sector Gurez, Titwal, Uri, Poonch, Mendhar, Rajouri, Jourian they always stood face to face in front of the enemy and guided, helped and cooperated with Indian Army.
HEALTH AND HYGIENE
Gujjars and Bakerwals understand that water of a new place shall affect the members of their family and cattle directly। Mother nature provides all sort of springs, wells, streams and water falls to these mobile tribes liberally. Mixed with all sorts of herbals, insects, dead animals, dead birds, etc. the open-air sources of water are not hygienic. Mobile tribes of Kashmir Valley, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Kathua and Doda have their own rules for safeguarding health. Whenever, they leave their previous pastures, they carry a handful soil with them and immerse into the new source of water they have to use in new place. They firmly believe that the soil of the previous place shall purify and remove the possible impurities of the water, which they have to take. The wonderful aspect of the ancient belief is that the members of mobile tribe and their cattle often remain free from several water borne diseases. These people consume the purest homemade products.





ETHNIC STUDY
The people of Rajouri District are generally secular, patriotic, peaceful and nationalist. After the independence, the habitants of this track had witnessed three battles taking place between India and Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971. No doubt that they suffered a lot during these conflicts, but they remained cooperative to the forces and loyal to India. Even in the odd hours, these people maintained communal harmony, brotherhood and showed utmost restrain and they never came under the influence of enemy propaganda. Every time, they foiled the nefarious designs of the enemy.
After getting repeated defeats in the conflicts on the border the Pakistan is hatched a conspiracy in 1989 under the name of 'Operation topac' to capture Kashmir by involving the people and exploiting the sentiments of innocent, peace-loving habitants of this area. In first phase, the enemy started its operation in the Valley without touching Poonch Rajouri areas because the ISI was using these tracks for the passage of the militants who were crossing the Line of Actual Control from this area and operating in the Valley and Doda. From 1989 to 1994,only 29 militants were killed, 17 surrendered, 246 arrested and only 2 civilians were killed during this period which reveals that militancy remained at a low profile in Rajouri area up to 1994. But after 1995 when the ISI realized that they would not get success in the Valley, they directed the militants for operations in Rajouri-Poonch area also. The main organizations operating in this area were Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahidin, Peer Panchal Regiment, Harqat-Ul-Insar and Jesh-e-Mohammad. 90 percent militants operating in Rajouri area are belonging to either Pakistan or Afghanistan and other countries. They moved in a group of 5-7 along with sophisticated weapons in inaccessible areas and they took shelters in the houses, which are located near the forests and beyond the range of the belt forces. They harassed the people, took meals in their houses and often of times, they used the innocent people for their protection also. They struck on the forces as well as the habitants. From 1995 to 2K, 520 militants have been killed, 55 surrendered and 282 arrested. On the other hand, these militant groups have killed 212 innocent people in the villages. They struck in minority-populated villages like Sawari, Kotedhara and Baljaralan to create terror among the minorities so that they may vacate the countryside. On the other hand, they have killed large number of innocent Muslims in the villages blaming that they are informers. 22 persons have been beheaded and killed brutally in these incidents. Due to their inhuman acts, the people of this area have started hating them and now they are passing all available information to the forces regarding their presence in their areas. Therefore, forces are striking on their objects due to which, 60 percent of the militants operating in Rajouri area have been killed and the rest are on the run.
During the recent past number of people of this area have gone to Gulf Countries especially in Saudi Arabia and therefore, huge money has been pumped in these villages. The Government has also provided employment opportunities to skilled and unskilled persons and services to the educated youths. At least one family member is employed either in state Govt. or in belt forces. Due to decentralization of district plan, almost all these villages are getting proper share of funds and facilities like power supplies, water supplies, schools, health institutions, training centres. Old-age pensions are also being provided to the public. Under Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub-Plan (SCA to TSP), Border Area Development Programme (BADP), District Plan and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), the public is getting full benefits of these schemes.
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