The Save Tribal March (STM), a street agitation launched by Gujjar and Bakerwal activists, was called off on Monday after passing through 12 districts in J&K in protest to the government’s move to include Paharis, a linguistic minority, in the Schedule Tribe (ST) list recently.
“A delegation had gone to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. I was not part of the delegation. They have been assured that a special legislation will be brought so that inclusion of Paharis does not impact the current quota of STs,” Gujjar leader Talib Hussian, who led the Tribal Bachao March on November 4 from north Kashmir’s Kupwara, told The Hindu.
Gujjar and Bakerwals are opposed to G.D Sharma Commission’s recommendations to include Paharis in the ST list. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has also given a go-ahead to the inclusion of Pahari ethnic people, a linguistic minority of J&K, along with Paddari tribe, Kolis and Gadda Brahmans in the ST list. Paharis, unlike Gujjars and Bakerwals who are Muslims, comprise a mixed population of both Hindus and Muslims.
Members of the Jammu-Kashmir Gujjar Bakerwal Joint Action Committee, during their meeting with the Home Minister, had expressed fears that the government’s move to include upper castes in the ST category “will deprive them of their rights in education and jobs”.
“The joint committee has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Shah for an effective move to protect the reservation of existing 12 tribal groups,” the spokesman said.
Gujjar leader Mr. Hussain said the Gujjar-Bakerwal delegation had met Mr. Shah at New Delhi in the presence of Union Home Secretary A.K. Bhalla, Member of Parliament Engineer Ghulam Ali Khatana, senior BJP leader Sunil Sharma and tribal researcher Javaid Rahi recently.
Gujjars and Bakerwals, who were included in the ST list in 1991, constitute 14% of J&K population.