Separate State for Gujjars in J&K
Problems and need of Gujjar Bakarwal are quite different from other communities of the J&K state. Language and culture of Gujjar community is also different than those of other communities of this state that is why community has its own peculiar position. Gujjar Bakarwal community is different and as such the community has a distinct identity.
Gujjar community mostly resides in far flung, hilly mountainous areas near forests and on the Indo-Pak Line of Control. They are originals from Rajputana, Gujarat, and Kathiawar. They migrated from there due to famine. Historians could not fix exact date of their migration. But some historians are of the opinion that there is some description of these Gujjars in Raj Tarangni, the famous history of Kashmir. They are mentioned as living on borders of Kashmir in 9th and 10th centuries. After some time most of them converted to Islam were divided into two sects’ viz. Gujjars and Bakarwals.
Far from being a dividing line, the well known range of Gujjar region is in fact the major linking range of hills and mountains around which the saga of heroic Gujjars and Bakarwals is woven from times immemorial. Strange as it sounds, this watershed has bound together rather than distanced the two climatically and topographically varying regions of the State, viz. Kashmir valley and Jammu Division.
In a sense, Pir Panjal is the westward extension of the Shivalak Hills though in their totality, geographers consider it among Himalayan ranges. Here on and around these mountains of the Pir Panjal- many historic events of Kashmir history took place. It was almost a fortified place, a citadel where fleeing kings and princes, rebels and insurgents sought refuge. Here was the kingdom of Queen Dida of Rajatarangini and her faithful Gujjar warriors who were both a support and a threat to the kingdom of Kashmir. The queen was connected by blood to the Shahi rulers of Udhbhanda, the Waihind of ancient Gandhara and modern Kandahar, in Afghanistan. To these foothills came Mahmud of Ghazni in the early years of the eleventh century where Tungauna the commander of Kashmir army faced him but with little success. Here again appeared the troops of Timur during their retreat from Kangra. It was the present Gujjars and Bakarwals of the area whose ancestors saw those great dramas being enacted on the slopes of the mountains on which they lived. They were active participants in these high dramas, fighting, winning, losing yet marching onwards with a vibrant and dynamic life.
Gujjar Region, the southern mountain ranges of the J&K State, are continuous series of ranges from Jawahar Tunnel towards Uri to the west. On its southern side we have the Districts Poonch and Rajouri including tehsils of Mahore and Gulab Garh of Reasi District and tehsil Gool of Ramban District.Towards its north and north west lies the valley of Kashmir and the Gujjar regions beyond. Between the parallel ranges of these mountains, there are narrow valleys and gorges carrying in their laps streams and nullahs of pure cold water from the snowy peaks of the mountains. Among the high places of the range are Tata Kootian, Neel Kanth, Keeran, Haji Pir, Ganga Choti and Atoli Pir. The Pir Panjal carries a number of passes connecting Kashmir valley with the northern and north-western areas of Poonch and Rajouri. The more known passes with which the local people are acquainted are Gali Haji Pir,Dawar Gali, Gajan, Jamian Gali, Noorpur Gali and Pir Gali. Gujjars and Bakarwals are fully acquainted with these passes because they cross and re-cross them with their herds and flocks to arrive at vast pastures.
There are a number of health resorts along the Pir Panchal towards Poonch district, and if developed properly, these could be of tourist attraction. People from other parts of the country would love spending some time at these picnic spots. Among the more known sites are Ali Abad Sarai, Loren, Moesar, Jabitoti, Bafliaz Poshana, Girjan, Bahram Gala, Neel Kanth, Mandi, Rajpura and Thana Mandi. Likewise, there are attractive health resorts and retreats of great scenic beauty on the other side of the Pir towards Kashmir. These are Jajinar, Shopian, Hirpur, Yus Marg, Tsrar Sharif, Chaina Marg, Tosh Maidan, Dhaanwas, Gulmarg, Khilanmarg and Booti Pathar. There are wooded highlands in whose laps lie attractive grass fields. For the most part of the year, the higher reaches of these mountains remain covered under the silvery sheet of snow. The tops are snow covered round the year. However, during summer months, snow at lower altitudes melts under the heat of the sun giving rise to streams and nullahs of icy water.
On Poonch-Rajouri side, we have a number of roaring stream formed out of the melting snow of Pir. Streams are providing water for irrigation and drinking purposes. Some of the more prominent streams on Poonch-Rajouri side are Buddhal, Betar, Mandi Sawjian, Gagrian and Loren streams and Poonch river. The source of Poonch river is Katori sar. Rising from the lake, its waters flow to Bahram Gala where it forms in the famous waterfall of Noori Chhamb, 7500 feet in height. Noor Jehan the queen of Jehangir Badshah had, during one of her royal visits to Kashmir, encamped at this spot. Chamb in local terminology means a Waterfall.
There are a number of natural lakes in the higher reaches of the Pir Panchal and these are called Sar in the local dialect. More prominent among these lakes are Nandan Sar, Chandan Sar, Katora Sar, Lo Sar, Neel Sar and Bhag Sar. These are ancient lakes and have been mentioned in ancient historical works like Nilamata Purana and Rajatrangini, besides Mahatamyas, of the lakes mentioned above, Nandan Sar is the largest one mile long and half a mile broad. Girjan is the largest and most popular pasture of the Pir in Poonch District. To the west of the Darhal pass, lies the famous and scenic lake Bhag Sar. Bhag Sar, Kokar Sar, Luk Sar and Kal Dachhni, the beautiful lakes also fall within the grand Girjan pasture.
The pastures (bahak in local dialect) of the Pir Panjal a Gujjar region are perhaps the finest and the largest pastures of hilly ranges in the country. These have been the mute witness to Gujjars and their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle moving to and fro for centuries without interruption. These flocks are nurtured by these mountains, on these pastures, beside these lakes and amid these valleys and gorges. Here the Gujjar Bakerwals tend their cattle, graze their sheep, raise families, live the mobile life, decay and pass away in the lap of nature to their eternal abodes. The most fascinating among these pastures are those of Panjtari and Sari Mastan.
One marvels at the scenic beauty of these superbs pastures and meadows of verdant growth and crystalline water, of alpine slopes and transparent lakes and gushing springs. Almost all villages and hamlets skirting the Pir Panjal are gifted with springs of pure water. On Poonch-Rajouri side, Sari, Lunga Buzi, Noorpur, Baranari, Jamian, Hillkaka and Chandi Marh are the famous enervating pastures of the Pir. The Pir Panjal is breath-taking as one views it from the top of Bandi Chechian scanning Poonch city and Rajouri town. Lower reaches of the Pir abound in thick forests of kail, cheel, siar, duar, rear, chikhri, akhoor and branchhar etc. These are all local names. From the heights of Pir Panjal, the entire valley of Kashmir is visible and presents a panoramic view.
The ancient Mughal route which crossed the Pir Panjal in present day has been completed. Being alternate motorable link between the two divisions of the J&K state, this road will bring about radical change in the economic life of the people particularly of Poonch and Rajouri Districts. At the moment, it has been completed in all respect and has been opened for traffic. Pir Gali links Poonch- Rajouri with Kashmir. The shrine of Hazrat Pir Ahmed Shah, a greatly venerated saint at Pir Gali, perhaps lends the name to the pass. Gujjars Bakerwals who regularly cross and re-cross the gali or pass, believe that Pir Panchal range also derives its name from the very saint. However, historian and geographers have a different story to state. Be what-ever it is, the history of Jammu and Kashmir is to a great extent the history of Pir Panchal Gujjar Region, its passes, its pastures, its gorges and valley and above all its inhabitants, the Gujjars, Bakarwals and highlanders whose saga of bravery and heroism, sturdiness and gift have made them into a living legend.
In present era, if the terrorists try to cross the border at LOC and somehow succeed in crossing the border and come into mountainous or forest areas, the Gujjar-Bakarwal can play an important role in eliminating them. But they always fought for the national cause and rendered their services for the same right from PAK raiders invasion in 1947. They worked shoulder to shoulder with army and security forces and many laid down their lives in 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars. Besides many Gujjars and Bakarwals were eliminated by the terrorists during the ongoing turmoil but they did not yield and supported the national cause always.
The lapse of over 25 years since their grant of schedule Tribe status the state government of Jammu and Kashmir could not implement it in letter and spirit to give full benefit of Schedule Tribe status to Gujjar-Bakarwal community of J&K which is still socially, educationally, economically and politically lagging behind and backward.
Keeping in view the aforementioned circumstances and to ensure the all round development of Gujjar & Bakarwal community of J&K state, a separate state under the name of “Gujjarsthan” must be created, under the constitution of India.
It would be only then that their economical, educational, political and social backwardness could be removed and this community Gujjar Bakarwal may get due justice this way only and towards which their eyes are firmly focused.