Kashmir Gujjars Go Rajasthan Way

16 July 2008
Kashmir Watch

Srinagar: Following their counter parts in Rajasthan, Gujjars in Kashmir today protested in Srinagar as police baton-charged and arrested dozens of them including state president of Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Maha Sabha, while the lot was heading towards Raj Bhawan for presenting a memorandum to state Governor. Earlier the Gujjars held a sit-in protest at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, pressing their demand for a special package for the community. Gujjars alleged that the successive governments have ignored this community during past 60 years which has led to its backwardness. “We have been ignored in past 60 years with the result we have lagged behind from the rest of the state. We request government to take up the issue with the central government and ensure a special package for this nomadic community,” said Ishfaq-ur-Rehman Poswal, state president, Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Maha Sabha. Later the Gujjar protestors took out a rally and started heading towards Raj Bhawan to present a memorandum for the fulfillment of their “long-pending demands”. However, they were stopped by a posse of policemen near Poloview. Police also resorted to mild baton charge to disperse protestors and arrested dozens of them. Earlier during their sit-in, the Gujjar leaders demanded reservation in state Assembly claiming that the community comprises a huge vote-bank in almost 25 Assembly constituencies. “The Schedule tribe (ST) status gives us reservation only in education and employment schemes but not in economic and political spheres,” Poswal said, as he claimed the community plays an important role in the formation of the government but “despite that there is no reservation for us in Assembly”. Accusing that the tribal funds meant for the community were being misused in the state, Poswal demanded “a high-level inquiry and CBI probe for the misappropriation of funds by certain vested interests in non-tribal areas.” He also demands compensation for the land occupied by the Indian Army in frontier regions and demanded that the compensation be disbursed immediately to the Gujjar community. Gujjars also alleged the Central government of ignoring their community while allocating funds to the state. “Every package which Prime Minister announces in Kashmir, the Gujjar community is left behind,” said Poswal.