Home Minister Amit Shah Announces ST Status For Paharis In Jammu And Kashmir: Here's Why It Is A Significant Move
Paharis were demanding an ST status for four-decades.
During his visit to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Home Minister Amit Shah announced Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the Pahari community on Tuesday (4 October).
The announcement was made in his address at a public rally in Rajouri. He said that Justice GD Sharma Commission has recommended reservation for Paharis, Gujjars and Bakerwals and after completion of the administrative process, these communities will get reservation benefits.
However, scores of students belonging to the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities protested when the move to grant ST status to Paharis in Jammu was being speculated.
The two communities were already benefitting from 10 per cent reservation in jobs for STs in J&K. They feared dilution of their quota on inclusion of Paharis and said ST status should not be granted on the basis of linguistics.
Amit Shah was well aware of this discontent as he met delegates from the three communities yesterday on his arrival in the UT. It is believed that he addressed their concerns before making the announcement today.
In his address too, he said that those who don't want peace in the region were inciting Gujjars and Bakerwals. Shah assured that after the inclusion of Paharis in ST category, the reservation benefits of the other two communities will not get diluted.
Who are Paharis
The Pahari community is a linguistic group mainly residing in the Pir Panjal valley. They are concentrated mostly in the mountainous regions of Poonch-Rajouri area, Mirpur, and some parts of Kashmir Valley including Baramulla, Kupwara and Uri.
They constitute of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and make up around 10-11 per cent of the population in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that they have an influence on eight assembly seats.
Their mother tongue, Pahari, is an offshoot of Pothwari language with varying dialects and their own unique culture. They usually reside in rural areas and are majorly involved in agricultural and cattle activities.
They were demanding an ST status for four decades, given their concentration in economically and socially disadvantaged regions. The Gujjars and Bakerwals were granted ST status in 1991, while the Paharis were left.
The political impact
Political observers say that granting ST status to the Pahari community is part of the BJP's efforts of making a breakthrough in the Pir Panjal area.
The delimitation process was recently completed in J&K where nine seats have been reserved for the ST community. BJP can consolidate votes on these seats owing to the announcement.
It is expected that Election Commission will publish the electoral rolls on 25 November. After that, the elections can be announced and be held earliest by April-May 2023.
Shah gave political flavour to his address by targeting "the three dynasties that have ruled J&K till now." He requested his audience to get rid of the three dynasties and give BJP a chance in the region.
The announcement is expected to create a disruption in various political parties. While People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti had earlier called it BJP's attempt to pitch Gujjars against Paharis in the Jammu region, an internal rift can be seen in National Conference (NC).
NC leader Mushtaq Ahmad Shah Bukhari resigned from the party's basic membership in February after a 'heated argument' with Farooq Abdullah over the issue of ST status for Pahari-speaking people.
A three-time MLA and senior NC leader Kafeel Ur Rehman joined Amit Shah's rally at Baramulla with hundreds of people. He said on Monday, "Biradari comes before politics. This is our chance to show strength and get ST status. If we fail this time, it will be very difficult then."
Similarly, former Deputy CM Muzaffar Hussian Baig said, “I appeal to people to participate and join the rally of Shah sahib. His visit is a welcome sign. People should make it a success and place their demands before him for justice. I am hopeful the long-pending demand to have ST status for Paharis will be granted.”
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.