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JAMMU — Police detained several members of Gujjar and Bakerwal communities on Friday as they tried to march towards Raj Bhawan to protest against the inclusion of Pahari tribes in the Scheduled Tribe list in Jammu and Kashmir.

As per the news agency KNO, demanding justice with the community and no dilution of ST reservation status, the protesters, including students along with their livestock consisting of goats and sheep, started the protest march from the gate of Jammu University and tried to move towards Raj Bhawan via Gujjar Nagar and Circular road.

However, when the protesters reached Gujjar Nagar bridge, police used mild lathi-charge and force to disperse the mob. The protesters staged a sit-in for around two hours and choked the entire traffic, resulting in severe jams at various junctions of the city.

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The Gujjar-Bakerwal community, the third-largest ethnic group in Jammu and Kashmir, expressed their objection to the inclusion of upper-caste Paharis in the Scheduled Tribe list.

They said that the Paharis fail to meet the five criteria set by the Lokur Committee (1965) for identifying Scheduled Tribes, which include primitive traits, distinct culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness. “Granting ST status to the upper caste Paharis is an injustice and a constitutional blunder,” a protestor said.

The ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament has added urgency to the matter, as a bill to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Scheduled Tribe Reservation Act 1989 has been listed. “Various groups of Paharis, along with some members of the ST Morcha of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are in Delhi advocating for the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha,” said a protester.

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The Gujjar-Bakerwals highlighted their struggle against marginalisation and oppression, with some members still residing in and around jungles and facing a literacy rate below 30% despite nationwide efforts to achieve 100% literacy.

“In the Pir Panjal region of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a history of Tribal oppression, the political motives of the BJP are being closely scrutinised. The Gujjar Bakerwals are determined not to let political interests supersede justice and fairness, especially for a heterogeneous group like the Upper Caste Paharis,” a protestor said.

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