August 3, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Union should grant ST status to Paharis and Paddaris in J&K. We also look at Mumbai’s record property registrations, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Should the Union grant ST status to Paharis and Paddaris in J&K?
A shared, collective identity is often the basis of the pursuit of visibility and resources in Indian politics. Are groups formed around a historical vocation different from groups based on a shared religion? A precursor to such competition is perceived deprivation. It can turn neighbours into foes, and allies into rivals. As the unfolding events may tell us, diversity and competition are two sides of the same coin.
On July 26, the Centre tabled The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023. It proposes to include Gadda Brahmins, Kolis, Paddari Tribe, and Paharis in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the union territory. But the Gujjars and Bakerwals are not happy. Their protest calls out the Centre for engineering vote banks. With both sides entering the identity assertion ballgame, is the Centre making the right move?
The cultural fabric of Jammu and Kashmir enfolds communities of myriad faiths, caste associations, and ethnic identities. The Anthropological Survey of India, through its People of India project, has found one hundred and eleven such ethnic communities.
Kashmiris live in the valley bottom, Dards inhabit Gurez Valley, while Hanjis dwell by water bodies. The Gujjars and Bakarwals roam the Kandi lands. They’re the third largest ethnic group after Kashmiris and Dogras, and the state’s most populous scheduled tribe. They comprise 20% of the population.
In 1991, the Gujjars and Bakarwals were granted ST status. That came with 10% reservation in government jobs and education, alongside the Gaddis and Sippis. In a landmark move in 2019, they were politically empowered with a 10% political quota for STs in Lok Sabha and Assembly seats.
The Paharis encompass Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Kashmiri settlers in the Pir Panjal districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Among them, one finds upper-caste Hindus and people displaced from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Paharis have long since demanded an ST status. In response, the Farooq government established an Advisory Board for Pahari Speaking People. But obtaining ST status proved elusive despite repeated efforts. A 2012-13 study supporting their cause was forwarded by the PDP-BJP government under Mehbooba Mufti. But the Centre denied the request, citing the non-ethnic status of the Paharis.
Though a 2014 Bill proposing a 5% quota was vetoed, the Paharis secured a 4% reservation in jobs and education in 2019, during Governor Satya Pal Malik’s tenure. Additionally, the Justice (retd) GD Sharma Commission report recommended granting ST status to Gadda Brahmins, Kolis, Paddari Tribe, and the Pahari Ethnic Group.
Paddaris inhabit the remote Paddar region of Kishtwar district. The Paddari language and culture unite the Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims who comprise the group.
Arguably, Jammu’s Pir Panjal region is one of the few where caste faultlines exist due to the Gujjar-Pahari divide. In 2021, the districts became the main battleground between the BJP and the Abdullah-led National Conference. In the District Development Council elections in 2020, the BJP performed well in Jammu, but not in Kashmir. The Pir Panjal was seen as an opportunity.
When Amit Shah and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders began offering open assurances of reservation to the Paharis, the Gujjar-Bakerwal communities didn’t take too kindly to that. They put up a fight.
Their protests are articulated in a language of identity assertion, of positioning themselves as a culturally cohesive group with origins as goatherders and shepherds. Echoed by J&K’s political class, they accuse the Centre of doing irreversible damage to the relations between the Gujjars, Bakerwals, and Paharis.
Will the Centre’s new Bill stoke faultlines set in 1992 again?
VIEW: Empowerment can’t hurt
Let’s not forget that the Bill will empower the Paharis and Paddaris who inhabit backward and tribal areas in the union territory. Inclusion in the ST list has been a long-standing demand by the linguistic group due to their fear of relative deprivation compared to the Gujjar-Bakerwals. This was solidified in 1991 when the latter was notified as an ST group. Pahari leaders, like Mirza Abdul Rashid, and Pahari delegations, have been vocal about their demands in recent years.
Paharis argue that they inhabit the same backward and remote areas as the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities. They face similar difficulties in accessing healthcare, education, electricity, and other basic privileges. The GD Sharma Commission recognised and accepted their claim that Paharis be included in the list of STs.
According to some experts, though the group may historically have been bound together on linguistic grounds, it doesn’t negate the fact that the Paharis have emerged as a politically conscious group. Their claims have also been endorsed by an elected government, not just the present dispensation. In 1989, the Abdullah-led government recommended Paharis’ inclusion in the ST list.
COUNTERVIEW: Threatens the social fabric
Gujjars and Bakerwals argue that the Paharis are a privileged class. Though they may reside in the same areas, they aren’t a backward group and their historical advantages allow them greater access to resources and state facilities. There’s some truth to this claim in the political arena too. Some experts argue that the Paharis are more politically visible. Consider BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir President Ravinder Raina and his Deputy, Vibodh Gupta. Both belong to the Pahari Ethnic Group.
The second area of contention is awarding groups an ST status based on language. It’s why Gujjar-Bakerwals are especially opposed to an ST status for Paharis and Paddaris, whom they believe do not constitute an ethnic group. They are a mixture of people who speak the same language. There’s another technicality involved. Zahid Parwaz Choudhary, President of the Gujjar-Bakerwal Youth Welfare Conference, stated that even if they achieve an ST status, they won’t receive political reservations since the 2011 census doesn’t recognise them as an ethnic group.
While the BJP at the Centre may accrue political dividends from appeasing the Paharis, it may prove disastrous for the relations and harmony between the communities. That the move is electorally motivated is evident in the language adopted by the Centre, which promised Paharis an enlarged role in politics upon begetting an ST status. Talib Hussain, a founder-member of the All Reserved Categories Joint Action Committee (ARCJAC), said that the Centre wishes to reproduce Manipur-like divisions in J&K, where it’s attempting a hail mary in a background of increased discontent among the people.
- The Arrival and Origin of Gujjars and Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir State – Indian Journals
- Who are the Paharis and Paddaris, proposed for ST status in J&K? – The Indian Express
- The Peak Fault Line – Kashmir Life
- Pir Panjal emerges key electoral battleground to capture power in J&K – The Hindu
- Reservation For Paharis: Will It Cut Into The Shares Of Gujjars And Bakerwals In J&K? – Outlook
- A Critical Analysis of Pahari Speaking People’s Movement for Scheduled Tribe Status in J&K – IRJMSH
- ‘Manipur-Like’: J&K Gujjars, Bakerwals Threaten Protests Over Bill to Grant ST Status to Paharis – The Wire
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Union Government should grant ST status to Paharis and Paddaris.
b) The Union Government shouldn’t grant ST status to Paharis and Paddaris.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
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For the Left:
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🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Road safety force (Punjab) – With Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s approval of the uniform for the new road safety unit, the state is all set to launch the Sadak Surakhiya Force (SSF). The first phase of this road safety unit will have 144 dedicated vehicles on the road. This is a first-of-its-kind specialised force to enforce road safety by checking rash driving and streamlining vehicle movement.
Why it matters: The government hopes this new unit will reduce the burden on cops at police stations. According to official data, Punjab records 5,000-6,000 road accidents every year. In 2021, a total of 4,589 people died in road accidents in the state. Traffic research found that 75% of accidents happen on national and state highways and major district roads.
New lithium-ion battery plant (Karnataka) – Battery manufacturing giant International Battery Company (IBC) will set up a new manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Bengaluru. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed for a ₹8,000 crore investment. The new plant will build equipment, parts, and other products related to electrification and decarbonisation technologies.
Why it matters: This will be the second such unit in the state and paves the way for Karnataka to become a leader in Li-ion battery manufacturing in India. The government wants to increase electric vehicle adoption to reduce pollution. Previously, the state government cleared a proposal from Elest Pvt. Ltd. to set up an electric vehicle plant and a ₹6,339 proposal from Hubballi-Dharwad to set up units to make lithium-ion batteries.
Upgrading railway stations (Odisha) – The government will upgrade 57 railway stations in the state under the Amrit Bharat station scheme. The selected stations under the East Coast Railway (ECoR) zone will be upgraded with improved passenger amenities and infrastructure for ₹547.7 crore. The work for some major stations has already begun under the first phase. Among these are the Sakhigopal, Mancheswar and Damanjodi stations.
Why it matters: The hope is that the chosen stations, once upgraded, won’t be congested but will also look nice. The Amrit Bharat scheme was launched to upgrade and modernise over 1,300 stations. Its main objectives are to improve infrastructure, integrate it with multi-modal connectivity services and provide passenger amenities like free Wi-Fi, waiting halls, better toilets, and landscaping.
Mumbai’s record property registrations (Maharashtra) – Property registrations in Mumbai from January to July 2023 were the second-highest on record, with over 72,000. Registration revenue collection was about ₹6,500 crore, according to Maharashtra’s Inspector General of Registrations and Stamps (IGR). Mumbai’s residential market continues to grow as people look for larger homes and property prices have increased.
Why it matters: The rise in registrations has resulted in significant gains in revenue for the state government. It’s the result of higher value properties registered and increased stamp duty fare. February and March saw higher numbers due to high-value transactions. The 2023 budget imposed a ₹10 crore cap on reinvestment of capital gains from the sale of long-term assets. Over the past few years, the number of transactions above ₹1 crore has seen an upward trend.
Development threatens big cats (Arunachal Pradesh) – The push for infrastructure development in the state to counter China’s expansion could harm tigers in the Kamlang and Namdapha tiger reserves. The National Tiger Conservation Authority said development has caused the fragmentation of their habitat that could lead to their extinction in the region. There’s also the threat of poaching and the invasion of weeds in their natural habitat.
Why it matters: The Dibang River and its tributaries have green energy potential. Several hydroelectric projects have been planned for the region which is close to the Dibang wildlife sanctuary. Authorities have released a proposal to notify the sanctuary as a tiger reserve and wanted more mitigation measures to ensure the tiger population is undisturbed.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
88% – According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), 88% of ₹2,000 notes have been returned so far, valued at ₹3.14 lakh crore.