Union Home Minister Amit Shah began his three-day Jammu and Kashmir visit on Monday, amid unexpected support from the Pahari community for whom he may announce a “bonanza” of sorts.
The speculation is that Shah will grant the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the community during his rallies in Rajouri and Baramulla on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
The Pahari community has been nursing a deep wound against Kashmiri regional parties for not granting them the ST status, unlike to the Gujjars and Bakerwals decades ago.
The two communities are neighbours in the hilly area, but there has always been a silent strife between the two.
Over the past few months, amid the news of Shah’s visit, Pahari leaders, irrespective of party affiliations, have been silently calling upon their supporters to participate in huge numbers in the rallies.
The murmurs about the ST status for Paharis, leading to reservations in government jobs, scholarships, college and university admissions, have worked up the Gujjars. They think it will put them at a disadvantage as Paharis are doing better than them in terms of jobs, economy and exposure.
J&K | Union Home minister Amit Shah arrives in Jammu pic.twitter.com/htpiRZf3hr
— ANI (@ANI) October 3, 2022
The likely “empowerment” of Paharis has triggered a dissension of the cadres in the National Conference (NC). While the Paharis are looking forward to Shah’s visit and openly supporting him, the Gujjar tribe is peeved.
In Shopian, some Gujjar members asked the government not to fiddle with the ST status of the community. Guftar Chowdhary, a young Gujjar leader from Pir Panjal, told News 18 that Centre should rethink about the proposed move and not gift the status to the “well-off” community and pull the Gujjars down.
“Why should the Guptas, Vermas, Syeds, Mirzas who ruled the region in the past be given ST status,” he asked, adding “the creamy layers of society” should be excluded.
While the Gujjars are sulking, the Paharis seem to be in a celebratory mood. Khafil ul Rehman, a senior NC leader and former MLA, in a meeting with his supporters, exhorted them to participate in the rally at Baramulla on Wednesday.
“We all should join the rally and show our collective strength. I want you to be in the front row of Amit Shah saheb’s rally. If we don’t achieve ST status today, we will never get it,” he told the gathering at Tangdhar, a constituency that is near the Line of Control and has a mix of Gujjar and Pahari communities.
— Ashish Sood (@ashishsood_bjp) October 3, 2022
With inputs from News18