Pahari Speaking People-Introduction
Commonly, Pahari speaking people connote, literally the people living in high mountains and speaking their local language, with common language, with common socio-economic conditions and traditions, common origin and psychological features, common distinctive dress pattern, common tradition, organization in basic institution of marriage, family and kinship, lower positions in socio economic scale and distinctive isolation from mainstream society, common physical features etc. tantamount to make the Pahari Tribe as an ethnic group.
Who are Pahari People?
Primarily, the elite social group, comprising of its political power, money and intelligence from the area of twin border Districts of Poonch and Rajouri, managed to forward and promote the idea of Pahari speaking people and started in early 70’s when All J&K Pahari Cultural and welfare Forum was framed. Pahari Tribe, having compact population and major concentration, was found along foothills of Pir Panchal range with major concentration in Poonch, Rajouri, Baramulla and Kupwara. Their habitation was also found in Kulgam, Shopian, Budgam, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Anantnag and Bandipora Districts.
Their much-organized struggle led to formation of All J&K Pahari Cultural Welfare Forum in 1969-70, establishment of Pahari Section in J&K Academy of Art, culture and languages in 1978, Pahari Programme and News from Radio Kashmir Srinagar on 2-10-1979, vide Govt. Order no. GAD-1439,1989 Pahari Advisory Board was formed, passing of resolution in J&K Assembly and Council for grant of Scheduled Tribe status to Paharis, passing of Reservation Act to Pahari speaking people in 2014, Pahari Reservation amendment Bill 2018 and grant of 4% reservation in J&K from 2020, construction of Pahari Hostels etc. are the result of their long perpetual struggle.
Later, various Prime Ministers, be it Late. Smt. Indira Gandhi, H.D. Deve Gowda as also Late. Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee recommended the case of Pahari Speaking People for grant of Scheduled Tribe status on the recommendation of successive Chief Ministers as also Governors Sh. G.C. Saxena and General K.V. Krishna Rao on the reports of several committees formed on the subject which inter-alia recommended that due to cultural distinctiveness, vulnerable, socio economic conditions and isolation of Pahari Community from other mainstream society, ethnic groups etc, Paharis need be granted Scheduled Tribe Status.
Why Chenab Valley deserves the Pahari Status?
It is heartening to point out that all along the struggle of Pahari Speaking People for 5 decades, several cabinet Ministers from the Chenab valley rule the roost but the strangely did not feel slightest inkling about what was happening in the power corridors about the Pahari language and the attempt to grant Sch. Tribe status to them simply on the ground of their being socially, economically and educationally backward, marginalized, endangered community with cultural distinctiveness.
Here it is pertinent to mention that entire Chenab valley has several communities with different languages being spoken by various ethnic group , be it Paddaris, Bhaderwahi, Siraji, Pogli, Gojri as also Assar etc. as has been subscribed as such in first ever Dogri-Dogri dictionary with a message from then Chief Minister in 1979.
It contained the words of the name languages being spoken in their respective area with 90% below poverty line clearly depicting that they are socially, economically and educationally backward, with harsh weather conditions, hardest living conditions and most isolated in terms of mainstream society. Under these circumstances, it is beyond our sanity to understand as to why these so called “bad pockets” of entire Chenab Valley be not included in Pahari Tribes and schemes in their social uplift be extended to them as well?
It is apt to mention here pertinently that in a meeting of consultative committee of Parliament in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, had informed the committee that S.T. status has not been granted to Pahari community because Registrar General of India was of the view that Paharis were linguistic rather than ethnic.
In this regard the Government of J&K responded and constituted S.L. Bhat Committee, Professor Dr. Pirzada Mohd. Amin Committee who gave references of various census reports and recommended to the Govt. that going to the cultural distinctiveness vulnerable socio-economic conditions and isolation of Pahari Committee, there is desperate need to mainstream this community by bringing them within the ambit of positive discrimination as governed by the constitutional principle of affirmative action as applied to other marginalized communities of the country.
Conclusively, when it is unequivocally clear that the people living in the higher reaches of the rural valley and speaking local dialects, as subscribed by the then Chief Minister of J&K as recognized by the academy of Art, Culture and Languages, J&K, that Pahari people speak a distinct language and have a cultural distinctiveness, vulnerable-socio-economic conditions and isolation from other well off sections of society.
The people speaking Bhaderwahi, Paddari, Siraji, Gojri, Pogli or the language being spoken by the people living in Dudu-Basantgarh, Assar, Banhag, etc. have deep similarity with the Pahari speaking people of Poonch-Rajouri or others in upper reaches of Kupwara, Baramula, Shopian, Budgam, Anantnag and Ganderbal etc.
In respect of the harsh living conditions, agriculture a sole mode of livelihood, socio-economic backwardness, inaccessibility, lowest literacy, Below Poverty Line, SC/ST population, distinct traditions in marriage and local festivals and thus in no case they be ignored while granting Schedule Tribe status to Pahari speaking people.
Beyond doubt it is exhorted upon all the Thinkers, Scholars, Advocates, Professors, Legislators and Ex-Ministers as also Politicians of all political parties to rise above their positions and considerations and launch a meaningful struggle for declaration of ST status at par with Pahari speaking people in view of the harsh living conditions and other similarities mentioned above failing which our future generations will not absolve us from the sin of our slackness and deep slumber.