Reyaz Rashid

Members of Gujjar-Bakarwal community hold protest against giving reservation benefits to ‘non-ST people’

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Baramulla: Scores of people from the Gujjar-Bakarwal community on Saturday staged a protest here alleging that the government was mulling to include non-Schedule Tribe (ST) people into the ST category which would be an injustice.

Without specifically naming Pahari people, the protestors under the banner of Gujjar-Bakerwal Joint Action Committee (GBJAC) assembled at Cariappa Park Baramulla to express their resentment against granting them St status and later took out a protest march towards the Deputy Commissioner’s office.

“We are here to stage a peaceful protest. Our people are living in tents and as nomads, yet our quota is being compromised. If the government wants to give quota to any other community, they should provide them a separate quota but including non-STs in the ST category will affect our lives and identity which won’t be tolerated,” said Rafiq Balote, a young Gujjar leader from Uri.

“This is being done for vote-bank politics while our community is being marginalised. Through this protest, we want to give a message to the government that we won’t accept this under any circumstances. If they want to increase the quota for non-ST people, we have no issue but they should not do it at our cost,” he added.

Another protester Guftar Ahmad Chowdary said, “We aren’t fighting against the Pahari community but against the ‘upper castes’. The government is conspiring to include them into the scheduled tribe so that it helps a particular party to win the upcoming assembly elections here,” he said.

The demands of GBJAC include that no ST status should be given to those castes which “do not deserve such reservation”, Backward Commission be reconstituted, that G D Sharma Commission’s recommendations be shelved.

The protest march comes in the backdrop of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s J&K visit earlier this month in which he announced that Pahari community would be granted Schedule Tribe status soon on recommendations of G D Sharma Commission.

Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir government changed the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Rules-2005, in which words ‘Pahari Speaking People (PSP)’, have been substituted with ‘Pahari Ethnic People’, and initiated measures to accord reservation benefits to the community.

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