Gujjars for Minority Status

Dr. Javaid Rahi comments on the discrimination Gujjars face in the society. Every pluralistic society is comprised of religious and ethno-lingui...

Dr. Javaid Rahi comments on the discrimination Gujjars face in the society.

Every pluralistic society is comprised of religious and ethno-linguistic minorities. They may be landless nomadic communities, migrants , indigenous racial entities or others. The major peculiarity of minorities is that they are indifferent in ethnographical characteristics, cultural legacy, economic condition, or racial approach from that of majority in a particular area, state or region. From times immemorial the tug of war between majority and minority is going on as the former has edge over the last being large in number or dominant in hierarchy. In advanced society the rights of all sort of minorities have been accepted world over. To protect their rights and identity various countries enacted different legal provisions but in India our planners have conceived the idea of "Minority" only on the basis of "Religion".
In order to provide opportunities to various religious minority to participate in the mainstream a, National Commission for Minority was also set up by the Central Government way back in 1993. The Main objective of setting up the commission was to provide constitutional safeguard to different religious Minorities in India, and enforce law to avoid discrimination and inequality, as well. Another aim of this Commission was to promote the secular ethos of India. Besides this a Union Ministry of Minority Affairs headed by a Union Ministry (presently Sh. Abdul Rehman Antulay) was also established and is working in the centre.
Being a third largest linguistic group of the State after Kashmiri and Dogra, the Gujjars are losing their identity as tribe gradually because they are not getting the opportunity to explore them before Society. The Kashmiri Society attached a stigma with the word "Gujjar" . For tribals this is considered as an intolerable act. With this type of hateredness between Gujjars and Kashmiris a bay is emerging in Muslim Society of Kashmir.
The recent land row in State saw Gujjars isolated in both region. In Jammu they are being targeted by extremists as Muslim Minority and set up fire dozens of Gujjar Houses in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districs of Jammu region. Similarly in Kashmir valley the Gujjar tribe was humiliated by protesters through the way of shouting slogans and jingles against government and Ghulam Nabi Azad. The slogans were "Gujjar Gujjar Hai Hai………..Nab Gujjar Hai Hai…………..! Nab Gujjar Sinz Qabar….Kashiriy Nabeer Nabeer.
In the backdrop of above, the Gujjars of Jammu of Kashmir demanding before the State government to categorized them as religious minority in Jammu and ethno- linguistic minority in Kashmir by providing them the rights to exist".
Gujjars being Nomadic Tribe, they deserves safeguards and other facilities under the Constitution of India which defines the "Scheduled tribe" as are deemed under article 342 to be scheduled tribes for the purposes of the constitution. Articles 15, 16 and 17 guarantee the rights to equality as the fundamental right. Under cultural and educational rights, article 29 protects the interests of the minorities including their language and culture.
It is a linguistic human right to learn one's mother tongue but our Universities are not ready to adopt The language of Gujjars called Gojri which is at the verge of extinction .The alien culture onslaught on tribals of Jammu and Kashmir is continuing unabatedly through various means stations of Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan.
Gujjars, which constitute more than one fourth of 11 million population of the state are thus completely ignored by Radio Kashmir and Doordarshans "Kashir channel" , Universities, State Board of School Education and other related institutions as no representation is given to their art, culture, languages, customs and centuries old ethos for which they are known all over the world.
In Schools Gujjar children are forced to learn the alien languages on the name of mother tongue as the State Board of School Education is yet to prepare the curriculum in Gojri and they are being forced to listen and view the Programme in unknown languages which is a cultural invasion against Tribal Gujjars.
Gojri is one of the oldest and significant language of the South Asian sub-continent enough qualified for its inclusion in the 8th Schedule as there is an adequate provision and facilities in our constitutions for linguistic minorities .
Traditionally Kashmir has been a multilingual multi ethnic society. Every community and tribe has contributed significantly to Kashmir and versatility. To protect the variety and versatility it is responsibility and duty of majorities to bridge the divide. Need is to live in a harmony. Let there be no disparities.

(The author is National Secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural foundation and can be mailed at javaidrahi@gmail.com)

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