Within days after some Pahari leaders claimed that the Union Government has agreed to accept their long pending demand of granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals on Tuesday vowed to fight any such move with tooth and nail.

"We will never accept any move to grant ST status to Paharis because Paharis are not a tribe. We will fight any such attempt-politically as well as legally, at the national level", Anwar Choudhary convenor of the J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Coordination Committee said.

Gujjars and Bakerwals, who are enjoying ST status since 1991, smelt a deep-rooted conspiracy in the move, to deprive them of their constitutional rights.

Gujjar leader
Gujjar leader Anwar Choudhary interacting with media persons at Jammu on Tuesdaysocial media

"As part of a sinister design a fake identity in the name of Paharis is created just to deprive the genuine tribal communities of their constitutional and legal rights", observed Choudhary Anwar.
"ST status is being granted to the tribe as a community but there is no such tribe like Pahari. Most of the people who are projecting themselves as Paharis are upper castes", he said.

BJP promises ST status to Paharis

In its bid to expand its base among Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, BJP has been vociferously supporting the demand of granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Paharis.

J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina along with the general secretary of the party, Vibodh Gupta, and Mohammad Iqbal Malik, lead the campaign in support of Paharis. Recently a top Pahari leader Mohammad Qayoom Mir joined BJP.

Keeping in view the deep ethnic divide among Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Paharis in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, BJP is now focussing on Pahari Muslims to further expand its base in this belt.

J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina with prominent Pahari leader Mushtaq BukhariBJP media cell

Already a prominent Pahari face of Rajouri, Mohammad Iqbal Malik has joined the party and won the election as a DDC member on a BJP ticket.

BJP has supported ST status for Paharies - a community that is a dominant force in Poonch, Rajouri districts of Jammu province, and Baramulla and Kupwara districts in Kashmir Valley. This community has been demanding ST status for decades. There are 9.6 lakh Pahari community people in J&K.

In February, prominent Pahari leader and former minister Mushtaq Bukhari, who was the face of the NC in the Poonch district, left the party over the issue. Although he has not joined the BJP yet, he is in touch with party leaders.

Pahari leader
A delegation of Pahari leaders led by BJP leader Vibodh Gupta meets Amit ShahBJP media cell

Pahari leaders meet Amit Shah

On August 5, a delegation of Pahari leaders led by BJP leader Vibodh Gupta met Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

After the meeting, Pahari leaders claimed that Home Minister has promised to fulfill the demand of granting ST status to the community before Assembly elections in the Union Territory.

They further claimed that Amit Shah has said that the Modi Government is fully aware of the genuine issues of the Pahari tribe and also recognizes the great sacrifices made by this patriotic community for the sake of the country.

  • The Gujjars, who are predominantly Muslim nomads, with low levels of wealth and literacy, are enjoying ST status, which was granted to them in the year 1991. They are opposing ST status to Paharis with the plea that language is not a criteria for granting tribe status to any community.
  • The Paharis, who are predominately Upper Caste Muslims, demand ST status on the bases of their claim that their socio-economic condition is similar to the Gujjars. Hindus living in the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri are also part of the Pahari-speaking people