Gujjar is the name of an important community recognized as backward community throughout the country. Gujjar community inhabits not only in India but in countries like Pakistan,Afganistan,Iran and Russia also. Though in different countries the word “Gujjar” has come to be known differently but yet it has not changed altogether e.g. “Gurjar”, “Gojar”,” Gorjar”,” Godar” and “kochar” or “Gorj” etc. The past of this community was so bright that it cannot be compared with other communities Centuries ago, after fighting wars against outside invaders, when there was a great setback to this community, it was thought that perhaps in future history, there would be no name as Gujjars. However, these people have withstood the vicissitudes and made sacrifices as to exist for ever. No doubt, Gujjars belong to different beliefs and religions but belonging to different religions cannot weaken their national integrity and blood relations and this is the proof of the fact that the unity of Gujjars is significant. To Gujjars unity of the country precedes all other considerations. Unity of Gujjars is a proof of their greatness. But if we want to have an idea of the greatness of the past of Gujjars then we will have to go through the pages of history of this community. Apart from that in different countries of Asia, various names of cities, towns and localities are based on the names of Gujjars. It shows that wherever these people have gone they gave their names to those places and those places have become famous of their names only.
The first and foremost thing is to find out the origin of tribal people especially Gujjar and Bakarwals. Actually Gujjar and Bakarwals are the tribe of Jammu and Kashmir state that has spread out to whole State. The word Gujjar in the literature of India is maintained to have occurred in the 7th century A.D. The word “Gujjar” is believed to be the derivation of Gur + Ujjar. Gur means enemy and Ujjarmeans destroyer, in combine word means destroyer of the enemy. While as Bakarwals is derived from the Indic language terms, bakara meaning goat or sheep, and wal meaning “one who takes care of”. Essentially, the name “Bakarwal” implies “high-altitude goatherds/shepherds”. These tribes are rich in cultural heritage and they are interacting to each other easily on the behalf of their traditions. Literally both are spread from north Himalaya of Pir Panjal region. However, shifting from the hilly area to lower area or vice-versa in search of pasture, rearing of animals and to carry out the people of reared according to season. According to 2011 census, the Schedule Tribe of J&K records the population of 14,93,299 comprising 11.90% of the total population.
Geographically, we divide our J&K into 2 parts namely Jammu & Kashmir. There are Twenty ( 20 ) districts in our J&K. Gujjars are to be found in each and every District of J&K. But majority of the Gujjars dwell in POONCH and RAJOURI Districts.
In overall population of J&K, Gujjars are living in lakhs of numbers in J&K and are divided in three tribes:-
(3) Homeless Gujjars.
(1) SETTLED GUJJARS:- The settled Gujjars are those who are settled at one place and staying in villages and they do agriculture pursuits.
(2) HALF SETTLED GUJJARS:-Half settled Gujjars are those who though live in villages and do agriculture profession but for six months of summer they leave for Peer Panjal with their cattle where pastures are available to graze on. From centuries these people are living in the laps of hills, and on the banks of rivers. Some of Gujjars of Jammu and Kathua are big farmers.
(3) HOMELESS GUJJARS:-The homeless Gujjars can be divided in two tribes:
a) Dodhi Gujjars
b) Bakerwal Gujjars.
(a) DODHI GUJJARS:- In Jammu and Kashmir one tribe of Gujjars is known as “Dodhi’’ or ‘Banyara’ Gujjars. These people keep buffaloes and lead a nomadic life. In summer season, these people stay in Reasi, Udhampur and Kathua’s lower areas. Some Dodhi Gujjars go upto Pathankot and Gurdaspur also. When the summer sets in, these people start moving to the heights of where green grass is available sufficiently for their cattle. They sell milk and ghee for their sustenance.
(b) BAKERWAL GUJJARS:-The other tribe of the homeless Gujjars is known as Bakerwal Gujjars. These people mainly keep sheep and goats besides other animals and these are their main sources of livelihood. As this tribe mainly rears sheep and goats, hence it is named as Bakerwal.
*LIFE OF BAKERWAL GUJJARS:
In appearance these people are well built and handsome and they are also brave and hospitable. Previously, all these were homeless but now, some of them have their own houses and have started to lead a life with permanent settlement at a place. The sub-castes of these Gujjars are also same as the other Gujjars are having like Hakla, Bajjar, Kohli, Chechi, Khatana, Badhana, Bagdi, Goosi, and Kalas etc. These people lead nomadic life. For example, when these people move from one place to another place, they form groups in such a way that they will remain together. There will be one group of Khatana, the other group of Hakla and the other one of Kohli and so on. Every person likes to remain with his own tribe. Their feuds and litigations also take place on clan basis. They are full of oneness and friendship.
They are quite confident about friendship and enmity. Bakerwals do not construct a house to live permanently in them. Whatever may be called their house is tent only. They take their clothes and household articles from one place to another by loading on horses. Mostly, each family keeps about 400 sheep, 100 goats, 6 to 8 horses 4-5dogs and 2-3 hens. Bakerwals oftenly do not keep buffaloes and cows. Women of this tribe wear home stitched caps. These people wear the shoe of quite a strong type which is called ‘Jooti’ fixed with iron keels at the bottom and are quite weighty.
*LIFE OF SETTLED & HALF-SETTLED GUJJARS:
As far as the life of settled and half settled Gujjars of J&K State, is concerned, they construct their houses permanently and stay in them but they do agriculture and after winter months, they leave for Peer Panjal along with their belongings as there they can have sufficient grazing fields for their cattle. These people live different life from Bakerwals. In all fields of life, Gujjars are quite behind. During this period of Science & technology, when communities are taking active part in the developments, these people are lying far behind due to illiteracy and backwardness, because these people are living far away from the life of civilization on the heights of hills. They are also the victims of lack of self confidence, and do not proceed forward in the field of development along with other section of society. They benefits of education have not reached them. They are also not well versed with the modern ways of looking after the cattle and agricultural pursuits. Thus the way of living is of older days and backward.
*LIFE PATTERN OF GUJJARS & BAKARWALS OF J&K :
(1) JERGA: Gujjars possess their own panchayat which is called ‘Jerga’. This is a body comprising some old, honest and responsible persons of the community. They are chosen on the basis of their stature in the community, sense of the fair play and oratory skills. They decide their matters, keeping in view the welfare and prosperity of their tribe. Most of the litigations are based on grazing fields and women and off and on the incidents of theft and murder are also being reported. Sardars are the only recognized administrative heads in the Gujjar and Bakarwal community and even today, they resolve nearly all disputes among their clan members. Each sardar works with a couple of informally appointed salahkars or advisors who are consulted, along with other elders and prominent men of the community. The control exercised by the sardar over his clan members is absolute, however clan is wielded in a humane manner and all effort is made to resolve conflicts and end pervading tensions.
(2) DERA: The basic unit of social structure among the Gujjar- Bakerwal is the dera unit. A dera usually comes when a person is married and wants to have independent upon five to six members according to their age and sex. There is division of labour among them. The women of this caste are busy in domestic tasks of cooking, washing, fetching of water, upbringing of children, collection of wood and spinning and making of woollen garments. The males are busy in rearing of cattle, collection of grass, ploughing and harvesting of crops. Several deras (households) constitute a lineage (dad- potra). The pastures are allotted to the lineage and not to the individuals
(3) SOCIAL: Gujjar and Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir are socially much backward in comparison to other communities of state. The Gujjar and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir state lives a simple life are settled in houses made of wood and mud with paddy and forest grass roof. The social life of Gujjar and Bakerwals are mostly linked to their religious life. They perform their important task such as marriage, death, etc. in simple manners on the basis of religion in service of Maulvi (priest). They are indeed colourful people and are free from evil or guilt. The community have faced all kinds of modifications of nature but the government of state have taken no step to amend their politico-economic and socio-culture life. The community revolve under the flagellum of poverty and backwardness. The Gujjar and Bakerwal people are tall with conservative mind inhabited in the mountainous area. The Gujjar and Bakerwals can be rightly called ‘ NATURE’S TRUE COMRADE ‘ due to their love and affection towards nature.
(4) CULTURE: The cultural aspects of Gujjar and Bakerwals are same as well are varies in many aspects of his life. The Bakerwals migrate to the high altitudes during summers but in Gujjars are not. It is required by the rule for Bakerwals to put on warm woollen clothes. But both the Gujjars and Bakerwals are wearing a typical head wear called “lungi,” with shirt and shalwar. The Gujjars also wears a colourful turban with unique style of wrapping. The aged Gujjar man wears a top called as “Afgani hat”. Culturally Gujjar and Bakerwals are very much depicting able by dancing, religious rites and customs etc. The life style of Gujjar and Bakerwal community is quite different from other community of Jammu and Kashmir State, their requirements and problems are also different from others. The way of talking of the community is different from other community and is educationally, economically, politically and socially backward.
(5) LANGUAGE: The Gujjar and Bakerwal community of Jammu and Kashmir state speaks the Gujari (Gojri) language comes from the Rajasthan, having influence of other languages such as Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi and Phari. The Gujjar and bakerwal people interacts with each other because of the language Gojri. The Gujjar and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir State demanding inclusion of Gojri in the 8th scheduled of the Indian constitution because of widespread speaking language throughout the Indian sub continent. As a popular language (Gojri) ten radio and television stations of India and Pakistan broadcasts and telecasts programmes in Gojri language. The Jammu and Kashmir state constitute the Gojri speaking people as the third largest linguistic group after Kashmiri constitutes the first and Dogri constitutes the second position respectively.
The Gojri of Poonch and Rajouri districts continues to hold the prestige of being the standard variety which is used in mass media and literature.
Gojri folk lore is in fact the real and only available link between ancient Gojri and the present day Gojri language in J&K. Out of political consciousness, by 1920s Gujjars started reorganising themselves for the overall development of the community. The leaders involved in the task were among others “Choudhary Wazir Mohammad Hakla”, “Ch. Ghulam Hussain Lassanvi”, “Mian Nizam-ud-Din Larvi”, “Ch. Dewan Ali”, “Mehruddin Qamer”, “Haji M. Israil Khatana”, & “Ch. Fateh Ali Sarwari Kassana”.
(6) FESTIVALS: Festivals have special appearance among Gujjar and Bakerwals. Gujjar and Bakerwals have special faith on religion and celebrate their festivals with great faith, charm and prosperity. They praise all the celebrations with unbelievable celebration and energy. Gujjar and Bakerwals celebrate these festivals with unique songs and food, traditions and culture. The main religious activities and festivals observed by the Gujjar-Bakarwals are five times prayers, fasting in the month of Ramzan.Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Nauroz, and Baisakhi. They start their upward journey after the celebration of Baisakhi festival in April. During the course of annual migration, they pass in succession many shrines and the graves of Pirs (holy men). If a death occurs during the migration, the dead is buried somewhere along the route. They heap up stones on the grave and every year as they pass through the route they pay respect to the departed soul and light a lamp on the grave.
(7) RELIGION: Religion underlines the integrity of the family as the foundation of the faith, and recognizes that the key to family integrity is maintaining traditional roles for women. All the Gujjar Bakerwal of J&K belong to Islam religion. Most native Kashmiris hold the Gujjar and Bakarwal to be strict Muslims of a deeply religious nature.A larger number of the Gujjar and Bakarwal grow their symbolic beard and moustache. They seem to be rather proud of these external statements, caressing their beards lovingly or decisively every now and then. The Gujjar & Bakarwal hold fast to their religion but their outlook is secular.
(8) DRESS PATTERN:Gujjar wear mostly their traditional customs and jewellery. Gujjar men typically wear PAGH/ QAMEIZ & TEHBAND while Women folk wear shirt dotted with varieties of buttons and embroidery on it with CHORIDAR SHALWAR & JOOTI, duppata with multiple colours and round cap with a trial of course over thread. They wear black and blue coloured clothes,shalwar and qameez of blue,black and green colours.Some Gujjars wear trousers and loincloth(tehband ) of the same colours. They wear turban of white or dark-brown colour on their heads. Women wear necklace with a triangular pendant, dotted with a beautiful stone in the centre. It has religious importance, represents evil eye and mainly uses to prevent bad luck.
(9) FOLK GAMES: The Gujjars being a brave and hardworking society, their sports also denotes their bravery and love of nature .Almost all the games are outdoor ones and require a good muscle Power and sense of struggle. Many of their sports have like with annual Tribal folk-festivals, marriages or certain occasions.Gujjar and Bakerwals mostly play the games according to their manners. They play numerous games like BUGDER ( Stone/ Weight lifting), BEENI PANJO (Arm Holding),CHHING (Wrestling), PANJHGEET, KHINNU (The Ball), CHHITO, Horse Race , Animal Fights and so forth.
(10) FOLK INSTRUMENTS: The Folk instruments are typically made of wood, animal skins, clay, metal or other material. The popular folk instruments used by nomadic Gujjar & Bakerwal are JODHI/ DO NALL, BANJLI, BISLI, CHUHUNG, YAKTARO, DHOL, SHARNAI, CHIMTOO, SAARGI & GHADHOO/GHODHOLI.
(11) FOOD HABITS: Maize is the staple food of the mountainous peoples particularly Gujjar and Bakarwal as it gives the warmth and strength which is needed by body especially in winter. Maize is grown in the hilly and mountainous areas and it is a tropical crop in this region. The cultivation of the maize is done by the Gujjar and Bakarwal community as it is grown in mountainous areas and majority of the nomads are settled in these areas. Other crops like rice, wheat etc need irrigation which is not so much developed in the tribal areas of Jammu and Kashmir. So they left the only option to cultivate the maize. Gujjar and Bakerwals are mostly dependent on milk products, cereals, wheat and maize. They are vegetarians and non vegetarians. Maki ki roti, ganhar, sarsoon ka sag, lassi, kalari, etc are favourite dishes of Gujjars.
They simply cannot do any work without daily doses of Noon Cha or the salt tea. About a decade ago the Gujjar and Bakarwal drunk only Noon Cha and not tea with the sugar (called lipton cha by the Gujjar and Bakarwal) but now there is a small but growing demand for the regular tea with sugar. However, while for the majority of the Gujjar and Bakarwal favourite tea as remains noon cha some of them have started to enjoy the occasional pleasure of sweetened tea.
(12) OCCUPATION : Gujjar and Bakerwals herd animals like sheep, goats and buffalo. They migrated to upper parts of Himalayas with their cattle during summer season and came back to plains during the winters. There is a lack of skilled worker who practices some trade or handicraft. Gujjar and Bakarwal are mostly dependent on the rearing of cattle and their products. This community has preserved and maintained its originality from end-to-end.
(13) EDUCATION LEVEL: After having a closer look at the district wise distribution of literacy among Gujjar and Bakerwal in the below table, the high literacy is found among the Bakerwal population in the districts of Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu which has 30.8%, 20.5% and 23.5% educated population of them respectively. Whereas among the Gujjars Jammu has 39.00%, Poonch 34.60% and Rajouri 32.94% percent literate population. These are most literate districts as far as the literacy among the Gujjars is concerned. Among the general population all the districts have more number of educated peoples than the Gujjars and Bakerwal.
Gujjar and Bakerwal are highly marginalized and illiterate in comparison to General Population of the state. Gujjars and Bakerwals is a tribe which has the lowest enrolment in school education in Jammu and Kashmir. In many Gujjar and Bakerwal areas, there is no school available at all, and in other areas, enrolment is only 20 to 30 percent. Education is the myth to sedentarisation or the permanent settlement of the nomads, their education problem is due to the transhumance practice and these problems will disappear in the near future when they will be settled permanently.
If we have a close look at the level of education in the different age groups of the sample households, 46.7 % are below primary, 27.5 % are up to middle, 14.9 % up to high, 7 % up to higher secondary and 3.9 % are graduates. Huge chunks of Gujjars and Bakerwal are below middle. As far as the male and female population is concerned, 29.1% males are below primary in comparison to 17.6% of the females. 18.1% males are educated up to middle in comparison to 9.4 females. Males have a larger share in higher education in comparison to the females.
(14) POPULATION: According to 2011 census, the Schedule Tribe of J&K records the population of 14,93,299 comprising 11.90% of the total population. Gujjars and Bakarwals is the third largest community in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. They constitute 8.1 percent of the total population in the state according to the census of India, 2001. Gujjars and Bakarwals population is highest in the Jammu region followed by the Valley of Kashmir. The districts which are highly concentrated by the Gujjars and Bakarwals are Poonch, Rajouri, Anantnag, Udhampur, Kupwara and Srinagar. Kupwara district has 3 percent of the Bakarwals population followed by the Rajouri district having 2.72 percent of the Bakarwals population according to the census of India, 2001. While Udhampur has 1.31 percent of the Bakarwals population. If we have a look at the Gujjars population, the highly concentrated districts as far the Gujjars population is concerned are Poonch with 39.34 and Rajouri 30.31 percent population. Udhampur 11.16 percent and Anantnag have 7.14 percent Gujjar population. In Rajouri and Poonch they are highly concentrated because these districts have more pasture lands which favours for their livestock for grazing purposes, In Jammu region they are more in number than the valley of Kashmir because Jammu region is mostly a mountainous area with many pasture lands on the Siwaliks and its PirPanjal ranges which attracts the Gujjars and Bakarwals to settle here. While the district Leh and Kargil has the lowest Gujjar and Bakarwal population.
About 34 lakhs Gujjars & Bakerwals live in Jammu and Kashmir. Gujjars & Bakerwals can be found in Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar Districts of Jammu Division and Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Baramulla & Ganderbal Districts of Kashmir Division. But they are in majority in District Poonch and Rajouri. Bakerwals are about 10 lakhs in whole State and Gujjars are about 24 lakhs. In the past, general census were conducted by the Govt. during 2001 & 2011 in summer season but during that time, some of the Gujjar Bakerwals along with their families and livestock moves towards the hilly mountains (Dhoks) of J&K state and because of this reason, whole population could not be enlisted.
In all aspects of life, the position of Himalayan Gujjars is quite pitiable and they are also economically very backward. Though some steps have been taken for the development and prosperity of these people but no economic change has appeared in their lives so far. Their profession is to feed the animals and sell milk and ghee to subsist upon. To improve their economic position and to change the same to prosperity urgent attention has to be paid to their problems. There is a need of Cooperative Centers which should be opened in their areas from where they could purchase their requirements on reasonable rates and they could also sell their product on proper rates.
This article is written by SHAHID AHMED HAKLA . Views expressed are personal