Our tribal property being razed say Kashmiri Gujjars

JAMMU - Nomadic Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir are anguished over what they call “devastation of our tribal properties” along the old Mughal era road, which is being developed as an alternate link between Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley.

The Gujjars forming 20 percent of the about 11 million population of state alleged that government was “intentionally destroying the tribal properties and other historic monuments alongside the Mughal Road”.

“We have asked them through a legal notice to stop damaging and destroying the nomadic assets and initiate steps for restoration of all the Sarais and other temporary shelters along side the Mughal road being used by the nomadic Gujjars within a month’s time, otherwise we will move the court of law with a public interest litigation (PIL) in this matter,” said Javaid Rahi, national secretary of the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation.

Gujjars have raised strong objection to the “damage caused” to more than a dozen Sarais (roadside inns) and other places.

Rahi said: “The property was deliberately ruined during the last few years. It is located on the tribal migration routes, at the side of under-construction road coming up as an alternative link between Jammu and Srinagar through Pir Panjal.”

Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation of Gujjars has served a legal notice to Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC) and other related parties asking them to stop “razing of historic and traditional monuments and initiate immediate steps for conservation and preservation of cultural heritage sites”.

The Mughal Road connects Jammu region to Kashmir Valley from mountainous Poonch and Rajouri district. The Mughals are said to have taken cue from the nomad Gujjars and constructed this route to travel to Kashmir during the 16th century. Hence this road has now been named as the Mughal Road. It is 84 km long and passes over Pir Panjal mountain range, at an altitude of 11,500 ft.

Rahi alleged: “Local land mafia is also involved in destroying the tribal properties constructed under Gujjar Bakerwal sub-plan on tribal migration routes.”

The Gujjars, a Scheduled Tribe, in the state are mostly nomads and migrate along with their livestock to upper reaches of the mountains in summers and come down to the plains in winters. They move to and fro through seven major tribal migration routes, including the route known as Mughal Road.

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