The Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday extended an exclusive invitation to Congress general secretary and Lok Sabha MP from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi to visit the State and to stay with them in their tribal huts and nomadic “Dharas.”
The community, in a letter sent through the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation (TRCF) a premier organization of Gujjars, invited Mr. Gandhi to be a part of their toughest nomadic life for at least a day and a night.
TRCF national secretary Javaid Rahi said an invitation was extended to Mr. Gandhi to “feel the plight and dilemma of our tribal life which is identical to the life of Dalits in India, we urge Rahul to visit us.”
“Our tribe is in trouble since last two decades of turmoil. No one visited us till date. This is another unfortunate part of our life that we — the Muslim Gujjars — are living a marginalized and stigmatized life since 1947 in this Muslim majority State,” the letter said.
“Our glorious tribal identity is facing a great threat of vanishing and our language, Gojri, and our culture is on the verge of extinction which needs a re-look from you [Rahul Gandhi],” the letter further said .
The Gujjars also reminded Mr. Gandhi that the former Prime Ministers of India Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had a strong footing among Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir but the links were broken during last few decades. This needs immediate revival they felt.
According to the letter, lakhs of nomadic Gujjars in J&K are landless, shelterless and lack basic education, health, communication facilities and other amenities. That is why they feel alienated and neglected.
Because of heavy loss of lives and properties of the Gujjars and the Bakerwals during the turmoil, and resections on nomadic movement in the upper reaches of the Himalayan region the Gujjars are facing a devastating impact on tribal life and economy resulting in recurrent declines in tribal migrations in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Scheduled Tribe Muslim Gujjars and Bakerwals which constitute around 20 per cent of the total State population are mostly nomads with primitive cultural traits.
They have been migrating along with their livestock to the upper reaches of the Himalayas since time immemorial, through seven major tribal migration routes. It takes them as many as sixty days to reach these meadows. During the summer, they move from one meadow to the other. They generally travel in pairs but sometimes they do so alone or in larger groups. They are accompanied by their dogs, the famous Bakerwal dogs, and their pack-animals.
The TRCF said if Mr. Gandhi wanted to visit them like he visited a remote village in Shravasti district in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, sharing meals with the Dalit villagers and spending the night there, the Gujjars of J&K were ready to host him.