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Muslim Gujjars, the formidable herders of J&K trusted by Indian army

Last Updated on October 5, 2020 at 6:51 pm

Muslim Gujjars have traditionally remained a help to the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir working against terrorists in hostile conditions.

Migratory Gujjars have to undergo a seasonal movement through high mountain passes that are incidentally also the route of infiltration of Pakistan backed ultras. The Gujjar community in J&K has a population of about 10-11%. 

While seeking support from the community members in 12 different states, the Gujjar community of J&K has demanded a full-fledged Gujjar regiment in the Indian Army. The Gujjars demanded that like Jat regiment, Rajput regiment, and Dogra regiment the army should have a Gujjar regiment.

The struggle for a separate regiment of Gujjars in the Indian Army was going on since 1940. An NGO for the community Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation has also put forth the demand of the Gujjar community for a regiment.

Gujjars have also expressed their anger over the delay in raising the Gujjar regiment which they claim had already been approved in J&K. Javaid Rahi, Secretary of Tribal Foundation said that “a Gujjar committee had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and demanded the formation of Gujjar regiment in the Army”. He further said that a proposal to raise Gujjar Scouts like the Ladakh Scouts has been put forth and the committee asked about the problem of implementing it.

On 27 November 1940 Department of Defense of India wrote a letter to Gujjar Kshatriya Sabha, Meerut City according to which Central Government of India was planning to raise a Gujjar regiment even in 1940 but to delay the community is still struggling for a separate regiment. 

According to many researchers, the Gujjar community of Jammu is genetically linked to the Pashtuns from Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to them, India has been a center of migration, and many Gujjar people have come and settled in India.

There is historical and cultural evidence that proves that the Indian Gujjars have some connection with the nomadic tribes of India’s north-western neighbors. Though the Gujjar community is found in different states of India like Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, the experts made a research on the Gujjar people residing in Jammu only.

Gujjar people help the Indian army with the intelligence about the Pakistani-backed terrorists who cross the mountain border to enter India. 

The demand for a battalion has also increased since the killing of a Gujjar Riflemen Aurangzeb by terrorists. Aurangzeb’s family has been serving in the army for many years. Aurangzeb’s father Mohammad Hanief, a retired army soldier, said “My son’s martyrdom is not the first by a Muslim Gujjar for the Country. People from our community have died in the past too while fighting for the country. Our people also get killed in cross-border firing by Pakistan in Rajouri and Poonch. It is the Muslim Gujjars who are fighting against Pakistan not the Kashmiri Muslims”.

He further said that the Kashmiri leadership has suppressed Gujjars since 1947. He also feels the need for Gujjar representation. Another Bakarwal-Gujjar Mohammad Din Jagir alerted the Kashmir Police about the Pakistani Army movement before the 1965 Indo-Pak war and was awarded Padma Shri in 1966.

The Gujjar Community in J&K plays an important role as informants for the Indian Army. The community is able to freely move with their herds on the heights of Pir-Panjal mountains along the Line Of Control (LOC). From there, they gather information and then report the same to the Indian Army in J&K.

According to Retired Captain Khalil Ahmad Choudhary from Poonch “A Gujjar can never betray his country where he is currently living”. Khalil has served 28 years of his life in the Army and is now working as a member of the State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjars and Bakarwals.

In 2015 Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation also supported the Gujjars in Rajasthan in their protest against the government to create a separate Army regiment for the Gujjar community like the Jat and Rajput community. The demand for this has also been raised in the past by many famous Gujjar leaders like Shamsher Hakla Poonch.

According to a former additional director-general of police in Jammu and Kashmir who also belongs to the Gujjar community in 2004 the community has played an important role in Sarp-Vinash, an operation by the Indian Army in the hills Poonch to kill large numbers of terrorists who are hiding there. He said that the Gujjars not only provided information to the Army but also took part in the operation. After the army ended their operation, the houses of these Gujjar were burnt down by the few remaining terrorists. Even before the 1999 Kargil war, the Gujjars who were grazing their sheep informed the Army about the infiltration by the Pakistani soldiers.