Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Among the Many

Javaid talks of aspirations of a minority in a land which has yet to come to terms with pluralism and diversity

(Dr. Javaid Rahi is the National Secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation.)

Gujjars: identity, apprehensions and demands

Every pluralistic society comprises many religious and ethno-linguistic minority groups. They may be landless nomadic communities, migrants, indigenous racial entities or others. The major peculiarity of minorities is that they are different in ethnographical characteristics, cultural legacy, economic condition, or racial makeup 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 later by dint of numbers or domination in hierarchy. In advanced society the rights of all sorts 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 minorities 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 safeguards to different religious minorities in India, and enforce laws 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 was also established.

It was also mentioned in the goals of the Ministry and Commission that this shall look after the interests of various ethno-linguistic minority groups residing in India from the times immemorial but as the word Minority is dominated by the notion of Religion only it put a limited the effect and functioning of the Commission. Conceiving the idea of Minority on the basis of religion only and following the footsteps of the Central Government, 15 States in India setup their own Commissions for minorities headed by twelve Muslims, one each from Parsi, Sikh and Christian denominations. In Jammu and Kashmir State, where Muslims are in majority this thought is considered as not needed.

The National Commission for Minority does not have the jurisdiction over the State of Jammu & Kashmir, however, some members of the commission visited J&K from time to time on the personal invitation of respective Chief Ministers and other dignitaries of the State. Besides meeting the high official in the State Government the Commission visited refugee camps and held detailed discussions with members of the "Kashmiri Migrant" community at Jammu.

Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir, as a religious entity are considered as a part of majority Muslim community dominated by Kashmiri speaking people of State. But except religion, Gujjars are not sharing any other thing with Kashmiris. Their history, language, folk-lore, philosophy, economy and social structure are different than that of Kashmiris. Duo Muslim communities have only few examples of inter-cast (Gujjar-Kashmiri) matrimonial relationships. Because of language and cultural barriers the Gujjars feel as strangers in Muslim majority State, although religion is a big binding force for them.

Being a third largest linguistic group of the State after Kashmiris and Dogras, the Gujjars are losing their identity as tribe gradually because they are not getting the opportunity to work on their identity. Unfortunately there is a kind of stigma attached to the word "Gujjar" in the Kashmiri society. For tribals this is considered as an offending act. With this type of relation between Gujjars and Kashmiris a wedge is getting created between larger Muslim Society of Kashmir.

The recent public mobilisation in the State saw Gujjars isolated in both the regions. In Jammu they are being targeted by extremist Hindu Rightwing as Muslim minority setting up dozens of Gujjar houses in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu region. Similarly in Kashmir valley some slogans, although aimed at G. N. Azad, contained intemperate remarks about Gujjars.

In order to express themselves fully and save the community from getting marginalised, Gujjars of Jammu of Kashmir need to be considered as ethno- linguistic minority, and their rights established accordingly. Gujjars being a nomadic tribe, they deserve safeguards and other facilities under the Constitution of India as a scheduled tribe. Articles 15, 16 and 17 guarantee the right 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 basic 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 mounting offensive on tribals of Jammu and Kashmir is an unabated process through various means of mass media.

Gujjars, which constitute more than one fourth of 11 million population of the state are thus ignored by Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan, Universities, State Board of School Education and other related institutions as no representation is given to their art, culture, language, customs and centuries old ethos which makes their peculiar identity.

In Schools Gujjar children are forced to learn the alien languages replacing their mother tongue; State Board of School Education is yet to prepare the curriculum in Gojri.

Gojri is one of the languages under the threat of extinction. Being considered as one of the oldest and significant language of the South Asia it has been included in the 8th Schedule as there is an adequate provision and facilities in the constitution for linguistic minorities.

The demand for minority status in both regions of the state seems to be genuine in the given circumstances; granting this status Gujjars will be able to protect their rights. With the help of this status, minority institutions shall be opened for Gujjars, steps would be taken for protection of their cultural legacy and language.

Traditionally Kashmir has been a multilingual, multi ethnic society. Every community and tribe has contributed significantly to Kashmir and its versatility. To protect this variety and versatility it is the responsibility and duty of majorities to create sense of oneness among religious and ethnic minorities. Nomadic Gujjars are integral part of the State; protect and respect them, so that they don’t feel alone, insecure and marginalised in Jammu and Kashmir.

No comments: