Furthering the political subjugation of subjugated Nomadic tribe

Historically elite groups or economically well off land owning classes in Jammu and Kashmir, who had occupied the public spaces until now, are openly threatening the vulnerable tribal Gujjar-Bakerwal community through normalising the popular vocabulary of past loaded with stigmatized idiom.

When a tribal community is getting political reservation, for the first time, most of the elite  groups are pressing them through polarizing the low classes among themselves and using them as a tool for making their unrealistic and non-historical demand.

In late-1990s, when some of the limited benefits and spaces were (re)claimed by the tribal Gujjar-Bakerwal community in the form of reservation in certain jobs by facing a lot of barriers like mental trauma, militancy, social and political exclusion, it resulted in creation and reclaiming of spaces. The present insecurities of upper classes and their derogatory remarks against whole tribe is a reflection of true sociological behaviour of the past, which was a normal of that time.

The ‘gaze’ through which upper class people had/have defined the Gujjar Bakerwal tribal community has its own historico-anthropological vocabulary, narratives, discourses and stigma. Even a whole tribal community is defined, redefined and interpreted where the gaze was ‘absorbed’ by the tribal population on ‘community level’ as well as individual level, whose memories are a mental and psychological trauma itself until now.

For instance the Turban or Lungi in vernacular vocabulary, which was the sign of Gujjar Bakerwal identify turned into a sign of backwardness. And interestingly the same Gujjar Bakerwal community transformed through, to which I call ‘healing of  the socio-cultural wound’ caused by the elite gaze by gaining knowledge, contesting political and public spaces and redefining their own ‘identity’, independent of elite gaze.

In the present time the same turban, which was historically a symbol of  backwardness because of its association with Gujjar Bakerwal identity is used by the those heterogeneous linguistic groups which were looking down upon the same turban. So here we can observe that a “superficial identity” creation is happening where tribal symbols, culture and traditions are borrowed and adopted by the historical dominant groups for creation of their ‘new’ identity more relatable with Gujjar Bakerwal tribe.

Because of absence of media persons in Gujjar Bakerwal tribe, the narrative or more accurately propaganda of vocabulary is repeated by the local media to such a level that  term tribe or Qabila is uttered so many times with ‘Pahari’, which is(are) a heterogeneous linguistic group(s),is normalised in the popular vocabulary, for which there is no any historical justification with sound anthropological evidence (s).

In the uplifting of Tribal community, the reduced definition of ‘self’ was challenged by the community through creating various spaces and mediums. For instance the orality was transformed into ‘literary traditions’, particularly Siharfi tradition, where “lamentation” as a theme is profoundly rooted in the popular experiences of community as a whole and individual as well. Later on there was the creation of visual presence, which people like Dr. Javaid Rahi through programmes like Mahri Awaz created, to which I call ‘assertion of tribal Identity on visual platforms’.

This same presence of Gujjar Bakerwal identity in public and political spaces is insecurity for the upper class elite groups, who have subjugated the Nomadic tribe and historically never gave them access to the fertile lands, resources  and public spaces. The long  association of tribe with forests is also problematic for the exhausted minds who are sitting there in Urban spaces and visualising the trauma of a Nomadic tribe as a happy vacation like thing in meadows.


The author is MPhil History student at the University of Delhi.


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Barkat Hussain Shaheen

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