See their long pending demand of getting ST status getting finally fulfilled
Home Minister Shri Amit Shah’s three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, beginning on October 3, has created lot of buzz in the Union Territory. Besides addressing two massive rallies in Rajouri and Baramulla, the Union Home Minister will inaugurate and lay foundation stone to many developmental projects in both Kashmir and Jammu regions of the UT.
What is generating massive response to Shah’s visit is the enthusiasm among Paharis who are very confident that the Home Minister will make an important announcement regarding granting of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Paharis. The Pahari community leaders including politicians cutting across party affiliations and other influentials are making massive efforts to mobilize people for Shah’s public rallies in both Rajouri and Baramulla. They are setting the bar high for Shah’s visit by giving a warm reception to the home minister and at the same time pinning high hopes with Shah for having their long pending demand of getting ST status fulfilled. The former deputy chief minister and senior politician Muzaffar Hussain Baig too dived into this and made a fervent appeal through a video message to his Pahari community members to make Home Minister’s public rallies a grand success. Mr Baig sounded very hopeful that Home Minister’s visit will end the injustice with their community.
The BJP too is buoyant with the massive response from Paharis. They are expecting unprecedented crowd in the Rajouri rally because of enthusiasm among Paharis who have considerable population in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. This will be Shah’s first visit to Rajouri as Home Minister of the country.
But the talk of Paharis getting the ST status has set the political grapevine rolling in J&K. While Paharis is a deserving community for getting the tribal status owing to them fullfilling all prerequisites like being backward, living in hilly, tough terrain of border area and also are part of seasonal migration every year, Gujjars and Bakerwals, who already enjoy ST status, oppose them. This shows the issue could snowball into a major political slugfest in the coming days.
Both Paharis and Gujjars form strong political groups that different parties eye in J&K. With their presence in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions, they are vote-banks for parties from both regions that cannot be ignored. This is for the first time that any of the two groups have launched a direct attack against the other.
While BJP has already placated around 15 lakh Gujjar and Bakerwal population of J&K by nominating a lesser-known political worker from the community to the Raja Sabha, Home Minister’s likely announcement of granting ST status to Paharis is seen as a political move to turn this community also in the saffron party’s favour. So Home Minister’s twin rallies on October 4 & 5 in both regions of J&K can be seen as Shah’s masterstroke ahead of assembly election in the Union Territory, which are likely to be held anytime from now. He wants to ensure that both Paharis and Gujjars who are the main voting poeple in any election in J&K should be on the BJP’s side, which could be vital for the efforts of the ruling party at centre to set its own government in J&K too.
The Paharis are receiving support from other political parties too in J&K. These parties are seen probable allies of BJP in pre or post election scenario of J&K. Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Lone has demanded the inclusion of the Pahari community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) status while arguing that granting them the reservation is a “matter of right and not a matter of charity.” “It is inconceivable to exclude a huge section of the society from all walks of life. In the context of reservation for electoral seats, they can’t even contest from nine ST seats despite having a sizeable Pahari population,” Lone said in a statement.
Lone warned that the failure to fulfil the demand of the Pahari community and debarring them from contesting would have ‘far-reaching consequences’ and prove to be the “mother of all disasters”.
In its initial draft, the Delimitation Commission, constituted by the government to demarcate new constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir,
proposed seven additional Assembly seats for Jammu and Kashmir, six in the Jammu division and one in Kashmir valley. The commission proposed a reservation of nine seats for STs and seven seats for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community. The Paharis, a social minority community in Kashmir, have been battling for the ST status for decades following assurances from successive governments in the erstwhile state of J&K.
Keeping all these considerations in view, it is very prudent to grant ST status to Paharis. And Home Minister will not only be doing justice with Pahari community by granting them ST status, but will also be saving the UT from any disaster in future. Remember Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has already promised Paharis that their long-pending genuine demands will be fulfilled. Granting of ST status to Paharis will be a step in that direction.