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Expressing anguish over the Central government’s move to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Pahari speaking population in J&K, leaders of Gujjar and Bakerwal communities on Wednesday announced to boycott the upcoming visit of Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda.
Leaders of about a dozen organisations of these communities told media persons here today that they were not in favour of the report of the commission that has recommended ST status for Pahari speaking people and various other communities.
Union Minister Arjun Munda is expected to visit Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur and certain other places later this month.
They urged the community members to wear black bands and hoist black flags as a mark of protest during the minister’s visit.
Anwar Choudhary, convenor of All J&K Gujjar Bakerwal Co-ordination Committee (AJKGBCC), said that massive protests will be held in all tribal localities during the visit of the minister to oppose the move of granting ST status to ‘mainstream society’ under the canopy of Pahari speaking people now converted to Pahari Ethnic People. He asked the people to share videos of the protests on social media.
The tribal leaders stated that STs of J&K are opposing the grant of ST status to Pahari people as they belong to the affluent class of the society. They are socially upper classes, economically well off people with the highest literacy rate, they said.
The leaders stated that if these communities comprising more than 60 castes come under the ambit of ST, they will elbow out the genuine tribes from the competition as being weaker sections facing poverty, illiteracy, and social discrimination.
They also criticised the move of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) which recently cleared the case of granting ST status to Pahari speaking people.
They alleged that the NCST cleared the case without conducting any field survey, research or data analysis.
The tribal leaders warned the community’s political leaders asking them to avoid meeting the Union Tribal Minister. Otherwise they will face a ‘social boycott.’
They appealed to the ST community youth activists to be peaceful during protests as “our struggle is to defend our tribal identity and stop the dilution of ST status. We are not against any person or community.”