In view of lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, the nomadic Gujjars have been advised to suspend the bi-annual migration of their sheep and cattle to high pastures in the union territories of J&K, Ladakh and also the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh.
In an appeal, Dr. Javaid Rahi, a noted tribal researcher and founder of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, on Sunday advised the tribal population to follow social distancing and avoid all type of religious, cultural and social congregations and rituals to avert the spread of Coronavirus.
He asked the nomadic Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes to suspend their bi-annual seasonal migration for time being to upper reaches and follow Government’s advisory strictly.
Thousands of tribal families along with their cattle-heads in a massive exercise migrate in summers to high mountains from the plains and return before onset of winters.
Rahu appealed the tribal population to delay their sessional migration at least up to 14 April in view of the lockdown and stay home for their safety and security.
As per tradition surviving for centuries, they start summer seasonal tribal migration in the first week of April every year to reach their destinations within a span of 40 to 45 days of the trek.
Meanwhile, Rahi sent a letter to Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu requesting him to direct the concerned agencies to formulate a comprehensive plan in consultation with the local tribal elders to address tribal migration issues.
He pointed out that the temperature is on rise in the plains of the Jammu region and the nomadic Gujjar, Bakerwal, Gaddi and Sippi tribes, as per their tradition, are set to start their seasonal migration with their herds of buffaloes, cows, horses, goats and sheep towards the upper reaches of the Shivalik, Pirpanjal and Trikuta mountains in greater Himalayas. Some of them have to migrate within their native districts, some have to move inter-district and a majority of them have to cross over to Kashmir and Ladakh to spend 5 months on pastures.
The letter pointed out that for inter-province migration, tribes adopt migration routes, including the Jamiya Gali, Gora Batta, Nanansar, Ropadi Dharhal Pass, Banhal pass and Mughal Road. For migration towards Himachal Pradesh they use Kukdi Top, Doda, and other routes.
He informed the Lt. Governor that if tribal migration does not start in time, there is apprehension that hundred of thousands of sheep, goats and other animals might die as they cannot bear the hot weather. Some might starve due to shortage of fodder.