Press Trust Of IndiaJammu, Oct 21:
Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday demanded equality, justice and pressed for rights that are granted to other tribal communities in India.
The demand was put forth by the community at a meeting organised here by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation (TRCF) - an organisation founded by noted Gujjar scholar Javaid Rahi.
The programme was held to discuss identity formation viz-a-viz Gujjars and Bakerwals. The event also discussed the issues of equality, justice, preservation and documentation of centuries-old socio-cultural, behavioural, linguistic, ritualistic and primordial traits of J&K tribes, the TRCF said in a release.
Maintaining that the scheduled tribe status granted to Gujjars and Bakerwals in April 1991 played a key role in their identity formation, the TRCF said it, however, was not enough to lead the tribal communities on the path of development.
"Though reservation has significantly changed the Gujjars and Bakerwal society but a large chunk of tribal population is still reeling under the grip of poverty and backwardness which requires immediate attention," it said.
The TRCF said culture was a powerful tool to highlight the vibrant ethnicity of tribal communities, especially Gujjars and Bakerwals, and there was a need to document their heritage.
It said Gujjars and Bakerwals were still waiting for the grant of rights of political reservation to Scheduled Tribes and extension of Forest Right Act, 2006 and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to Jammu and Kashmir.
The TRCF demanded inclusion of Gojri in the The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, education for nomadic Gujjar-Bakerwal children, adequate representation in civil administration and police, enhancement of reservation for Gujjars and Bakerwals in professional colleges.