“Gujjars and Bakerwals” and the difficult issues that confront them
By Khan Shabir
Tribals represent an important element in Indian society which is integrated with the cultural mosaic of our civilization. Tribals make up 8.6 % of India’s population. Gujjar and Bakerwal are the third largest ethnic group after Kashmiris and Dograsin Jammu and Kashmir constitute more than 11.9% of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir (Census 2011). Gujjar and Bakerwal are the most backward of all tribes of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Gujjar and Bakerwal tribe of Jammu and Kashmir in this Era of Modernization is still educationally, economically, and socially backward which is a matter of concern. The Gujjar and Bakerwal Tribe mostly reside in the far-flung, hilly, and mountainous areas near forests hence lacking basic facilities like road and Electricity connectivity, absence of medical and educational facilities, safe water for drinking, etc which put them in lots of hardships and troubles.
EDUCATION REMAINS A DISTANT DREAM FOR TRIBAL CHILDREN
Education is important for any society. It provides a direction, social status, worldly knowledge, and the ability to creative thinking and decision making
Gujjar and Bakerwal Tribes always remained backward in the field of education due for various reasons
- Lack of proper guidance from their family in their childhood as the first school of every individual starts from his home.
- Lack of proper nutrition as poor nutrition in early childhood can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients and hence affect their education from their elementary schooling. The best nutritious food is milk and its products but unfortunately due to financial instability, they sell it to overcome the financial needs of their family.
- Gujjar and Bakerwal follow their centuries-old tradition of summer migration to the mountains (Dhoks) for cattle rearing and hence the education of their children is badly affected, they remain out of reach from their schools for two to three months.
- Whenever any family is plunged into financial distress it has a direct impact on their children’s education and hence they get engaged in family activities to ramp up their family income, leaving aside their education.
- In this Era of Modernization and Technology, a tribal family can’t even afford to Purchase a digital device for their students to attend online education hence the students remain distant from the online world and cannot compete with other community students and always remain a step posterior in the education sector.
- Mostly the tribals are engaged in small-scale agriculture and cattle rearing for their sustenance, and sometimes they send their children to look after the cattle by remaining absent from their school.
- Child labor is common in our Gujjar and Bakerwal Tribe, due to financial issues some children have to work from their childhood, but now it had become a tradition and our tribal youth without any reason are going in this side in the need of money and hence going towards drugs and other bad traits. There is a proper need for guidance and counseling for our young tribal youth regarding the bad effects of drugs and child labor.
- I personally have seen a majority of students reaching the class 10th facing two major problems a) How to balance between the family’s financial conditions and further studies and hence end up with the decision to work for their livelihood and hence become a reason for early marriage. b) Lack of proper counseling for further studies after class 10th, our students have very little exposure to the rest of the world, they remained always in an uneducated environment and hence lack the ability of decision making.
Mostly the idea of education in our tribe is limited to doing a govt job after studies, the students are never taught the real impact of education in shaping one’s life. I am from a very backward village in Subdistrict Tral, I always observed that tribal students always facing a major problem of discrimination in educational institutions, when students came out from their localities towards high school and onwards, they always feel a sense of lower status in comparison with other community students and it directly has an impact on their education and they always remain backward in the field of education. There is a need for awareness programmes about the importance of education and parenting in this modern era.
According to WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Children in our tribe from the very beginning lack proper nutrition and healthcare. The complex living structure, inadequate access to potable water, and lack of personal hygiene and sanitation make tribals suffer illnesses of greater severity and duration, with women and children being the most vulnerable to diseases. This is compounded by the lack of awareness about the measures needed to protect their health, their distance from medical facilities, the lack of all-weather roads and affordable transportation, financial constraints, and so on. There is a need to raise their health and sanitation awareness and improve their accessibility to primary health care. Lack of emergency transportation for any medical emergency is also a major concern.
A tribe is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect. A tribe possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity. Gujjar and Bakerwal tribe is unique in their culture and coordination but still face very unethical stereotypic discrimination, Tribal students in their education and other institutes are seen with a different perspective, and many times they are discriminated against only on the grounds of their community.
The constitution of India is giving various provisions to end discrimination like Article 46, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.” Article 17, “Abolition of untouchability”, etc. We All are the same and equal to the citizens of India we should not discriminate against any marginalized section of society on the basis of their caste, race, etc. This is an inhuman and unethical act. This type of discrimination is affecting our tribal youth to come forward.
This is our obligation to stop it and help society to promote equality and fraternity.
There is a need for the socio-economic, educational, and cultural upliftment of tribals and also the need for awareness about their rights.
The author belongs to the Gujjar Community.