Luv Puri

Jammu: Gujjar Muslims have strongly attacked the statement of separatist leaders that Muslims in Jammu do not want to live with Hindus of the region. They have described it as an attempt to drive a wedge between communities bonded with each other by language and culture for centuries.

The separatist leaders had also reportedly said that the Hindu majority areas of Jammu were free to separate from Muslim majority areas.

Haji Mohammad Qasim, who had led the first organised civilian revolt against militants in Poonch district, says, “We are touring various parts and trying to spread our message of secularism. Ethnically and linguistically we are closer to our Hindu brothers of Jammu. We cannot shun these ties and this is the message we have. We do not accept this argument that we want to separate from Jammu Hindus. This is a relationship of centuries and this cannot be severed.”

Gujjar Muslims made history in April 2003 when they launched a full-fledged assault on militants holed up in the Hill Kaka tract and neighbouring hills situated in the Marrah area of Poonch district.

It was the first operation in the State when the locals rebelled against the militants and played a key role in counter-militancy operations.

Haji Aslam, a leader of a group of Gujjar Muslims, says, “I think the separatist leaders do not know about the history of Gujjar Muslims in the last 20 years. We are still on the hit-list of militant groups and are getting threatening calls from them. Do they expect us to support the separatist cause? They are badly mistaken.”