Demanding a separate Pir Panchal region or area and a Tribal Hill Council in Jammu and Kashmir, the Gujjars and Bakerwals, both Scheduled Tribe communities in the State, on Sunday urged for strong recommendations from the three-member team of interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir — in their report to be submitted to Prime Minister of India — for an irreversible provision along with constitutional guarantees to reserved categories while deciding the Kashmir issue.
In a meeting with eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, head of the interlocutor team, and others, members of the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities pressed for the grant of social, cultural, economic and political empowerment to their members, who reside in far-flung and difficult areas of the State.
The delegation, led by Javaid Rahi, secretary of the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, met the team of interlocutors at the Government Guest House here.
The delegation said that the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities being suppressed deserved special attention from the State and the Union Government. Mr. Rahi claimed that though Gujjars constituted 20 per cent of the State's population, their presence in State affairs was negligible.
The delegation told the team that since the community possessed a different identity, ideology and culture, the Gujjars were demanding a separate area/region and a tribal council within Jammu and Kashmir so that their tribal uniqueness could be protected and preserved. They also spoke about other problems that they faced in the State.
A six-page memorandum was submitted to the team of interlocutors seeking its help — through special recommendations — in the implementation and strengthening of the community's Schedule Tribe status in Jammu and Kashmir by giving them the much awaited ‘political reservation.'
Other demands were for recommendation to relevant quarters and for the provision of shelters and land to nomadic Gujjars, who have been landless and houseless and living below the poverty line in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947.
The delegation also called for the inclusion of the Gojri language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
The community demanded that the Centre conduct a special census of lakhs of nomadic and shelter-less Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir, who are currently under seasonal migration to the upper reaches of the Northwestern Himalayas.